2017 10 – Parliament And World War One

Parliament And World War One

by Dick Barry


17 January 1918

Mr. GILBERT asked the hon. Member for Sheffield (Central Division) if he can state the number of German prisoners detained in this country on 31st December last; and if he will state what number of the total are employed in agriculture or other industries?

Mr. HOPE (Lord of the Treasury) The total number of combatant prisoners of war in this country on 9th January was 49,817, but of these only 31,541 were available for employment, the rest being exempted by rank or personal disability. The number actually employed on necessary camp duties and services of national importance was 28,050, while the whole of the remainder have been already allotted to such services and only await the necessary accommodation.

Mr. G. FABER asked the hon. Member for Sheffield (Central Division) whether Captain von Müller, late of the “Emden,” and Lieutenant von Tirpitz were both. or was either of them, among the German prisoners of war recently returned by us; and have they been returned to Germany or to Holland for internment there?

Mr. HOPE Both of these officers are now interned in Holland under the provisions of The Hague agreement.

Mr. FABER Will the hon. Member tell me who were received back in exchange for those two German prisoners?

Mr. HOPE I am afraid that my hon. Friend has not quite taken in the provisions of The Hague agreement. Officers interned in Holland go there not in exchange at all, but solely according to the time they have been in captivity. There is no question of setting one prisoner against another. Those officers who have been in captivity for a certain length of time have a right to go, just as certain of our officers have a similar right.

Mr FABER If we have an officer of high rank in a corresponding position, will he come home or be interned in Holland as a matter of course?

Mr. HOPE Certainly. He will not come home, but be interned in Holland.

Major HUNT What is the length of time?

Mr. HOPE The length of time for an officer to be eligible for internment is eighteen months’ captivity, but those who are eligible take their turn in priority of captivity.

Mr. FABER Do the Germans recognise this practice of ours the same as we do and treat it as automatic?

Mr. HOPE Yes; I think they do. I cannot say absolutely that it goes date by date, but certainly all our earliest prisoners, so far as my information goes, have gone to Holland now.

Mr. FABER Can the hon. Gentleman say, if and when it suits Germany, whether Germany holds back any people who may be of special value to her?



23 January 1918

Mr. LYNCH asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will place in the Library of the House a copy of the contract whereby the Dowager Duchess of Coburg is paid a large annual pension; whether he will state the exact amount; whether he will make it clear whether this contract was made with the Russian Government or with the lady herself; whether, if made with the Russian Government, it is still valid in spite of the disappearance of that Government; whether, if made with the lady personally, he will indicate the consideration, as, for instance, the services rendered by her to this country; whether since that date he has been made aware that she is herself an active agent of the enemies of this country, and that her son is lending troops against this country; and whether, in view of the effect on the public mind of such subsidies granted to alien enemies, he will take steps to stop the payments?

Mr. BALFOUR The hon. Member will find a copy of the treaty on which the question turns in the Library, No. C. 901 of 1874. I think this will supply him with all the relevant facts of the case. As regards policy, I must refer him to the reply returned by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the lion. Member for Roxburgh on 18th November, 1914.

Mr. LYNCH Is it also a fact that this lady is a conspicuous enemy of the Allies, and that she also is being subsidised by the British Government?

Mr. BALFOUR I am not going to argue the question. We have a treaty obligation, and we keep it. The reasons for keeping it were stated by the Prime Minister. I have no more to say in answer to the question.



24 January 1918

Mr. LEES-SMITH asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the decision of the Government to take no action against the Labour party for its refusal to obey the new Regulation 27c of the Defence of the Realm Act Regulations and to submit its memorandum on war aims to the Censor, the same policy will be followed in the case of other organisations which refuse to obey this part of the Regulation?

Sir G. CAVE No, Sir. The question is one to be determined in each instance according to the merits of the case.

Mr. LEES-SMITH Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Labour party refused to obey this Regulation as a challenge to him, in order to show that he would only carry it out against small and weak organisations; and will he either accept that challenge or withdraw the Regulation?

Sir G. CAVE I am certainly not aware of that. I understood that the omission was inadvertent. If I had understood that it was a challenge to me, I should have taken a different course.



06 February 1918

Mr. SPEAKER I have further to acquaint the House that the Lord High Chancellor, being one of the High Commissioners, delivered His Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament, in pursuance of His Majesty’s Command, as followeth: My Lords and Gentlemen , Since last I addressed you great events have happened. Within a few weeks of that occasion, the United States of America decided to take their stand by the side of this Country and Our Allies in defence of the principles of Liberty and Justice. Their entry into the War, followed by that of other neutral States, has united practically the whole civilised world in a League of Nations against unscrupulous aggression, has lent additional strength to Our arms, and inspires fresh confidence in the ultimate triumph of Owe cause.

On the other hand, Russia, distracted by internal dissensions, has not been able to persevere in the struggle until the fruits of her great sacrifices could have been reaped: and for the present has ceased to bear her part in the Allied task. The negotiations opened by her with the enemy have, however, served but to prove that the ambitions which provoked this unhappy war are as yet unabated.

These tragic events have added to the burdens of the other Allies, but have not impaired the vigour and the loyalty with which one and all continue to pursue the common aim. Amid the confusion of changing events the determination of the democracies of the world to secure a just and enduring peace stands out ever more clearly.

In all the theatres of war, My Naval and Military Forces have displayed throughout the year a noble courage, a high constancy, and a fixed determination, which have won for them the 2294 admiration of My people. In France, the enemy has been repeatedly and successfully thrown back, and I await with assurance the further progress of the conflict. In Palestine and Mesopotamia the most revered and famous cities of the Orient have been wrested front the Turk; while in Africa the enemy has lost the last remnant of his Colonial pm-sessions. In all these fields, the forces of My Dominions and of the Indian Empire have borne their full share in the toil and in the glory of the day.

During the year the representatives of My Dominions and of the Indian Empire were summoned for the first time to the sessions of an Imperial War Cabinet. Their deliberations have been of the utmost value, both in the prosecution of the War and in the promotion of Imperial Unity.

Gentlemen of the House of Commons , I thank you for the liberality with which you have made provision for the heavy expenditure of the War.

My Lords and Gentlemen , I have been pleased to give My consent to your proposals for the better Representation of the People. I trust that this measure will ensure to a much larger number of My subjects in the United Kingdom an effective voice in the government of the country, and will enable the National Unity, which has been so marked a characteristic of the War, to continue in the not less arduous work of reconstruction in times of peace.

The settlement of this difficult question by agreement leads me still to hope that, in spite of all the complexities of the problem, a solution may be possible in regard to the government of Ireland, upon which a Convention of representatives of My Irish people is now deliberating.

The successful prosecution of the War is still our first aim and endeavour. I ham watched with a proud and grateful heart the unvarying enthusiasm with which all sections of My people have 2295 responded to every demand made upon them for this purpose, and, as they face the final tests which may yet be required to carry our efforts to fruition, I pray that Almighty God may vouchsafe to us His Blessing.



12 February 1918

Mr. SPEAKER (standing at the Table, in the Clerk’s place) I have to acquaint the House that this House has this day attended His Majesty in the House of Peers to hear His Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament in pursuance of His Majesty’s Commands, and of which I have for greater accuracy obtained a copy.

My Lords, and Gentlemen, The necessities of War render it imperative for Me, after but a brief interval, to summon you again to your deliberations.

The aims for which I and My Allies are contending were recently set forth by My Government in a statement which received the emphatic approval of My peoples throughout the Umpire, and provided a fair basis for the settlement of the present struggle and the re-establishment of national rights and international peace in the future.

The German Government has, however, ignored our just demands that it should make restitution for the wrongs it has committed, and furnish guarantees against their unprovoked repetition. Its spokesmen refuse any obligations for themselves, while denying the rightful liberties of others.

Until a recognition is offered of the only principles on which an honourable peace can be concluded, it is Our duty to prosecute the War with all the vigour that we possess. I have full confidence that My forces in the field, in close cooperation with those of My faithful Allies, will continue to display the same heroic courage and My people at home the same unselfish devotion that have already frustrated so many of the enemy’s designs and will ensure the ultimate triumph of a righteous cause.

Gentlemen of the House of Commons, You will be asked to make suitable provision for the requirements of the combatant services and for the stability of Our national finance.

My Lords, and Gentlemen, The struggle on which we are engaged has reached a critical stage, which demands more than ever Our united energies and resources. I confidently commend to your patriotism the measures which will be submitted to you, and I pray that the Almighty may bestow His blessing on your labours.



13 February 1918

Mr. KING During the course of his speech just now the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, challenged my accuracy when I said that Lord Curzon had criticised severely the Anglo-Russian agreement about Persia of 1907, and he advised me to look up my references. I told him I would do so, and I informed him that I intended to raise this matter on the Adjournment. I regret, therefore, I cannot see him in his place. I shall not trouble the House long, but I have looked through the Official Reports of 1908, when this Treaty was discussed in the House of Lords. It was discussed on two occasions. The first was on the 6th of February, when Lord Curzon made a speech which occupies twenty-six columns of the OFFICIAL REPORT, in strong criticism of this Treaty. I do not intend to give even one quotation from this ponderous oration, but, on a later occasion, on the 6th of June, 1908, Lord Curzon again criticised this Treaty, and on that occasion he used these words: We cannot congratulate His Majesty’s Government on their diplomacy. Then he said again, a little later on, I have no great admiration for this treaty.”  He said also, Though the main objects of this treaty are admirable, as for the terms I think them bad. Yet, in spite of quotations like these, which I can multiply, the Noble Lord, who presumably knows something of the history of diplomacy, the history of his own Department, and of foreign affairs, says that Lord Curzon never criticised this Treaty at all adversely. I will trouble the House with one more quotation of his Lordship upon this Treaty, a quotation so sweeping in its condemnation and so appropriate to the present time that I commend it to the attention of the House. Lord Curzon used these words: I am almost astonished at the coolness, I might almost say the effrontery, with which the British Government is in the habit of parcelling out the territories of Powers, whose independence and integrity it assures them at the same time it has no other intention than to preserve, and only informs those Powers concerned afterwards of the arrangements when the agreement has been concluded. That is the way in which Lord Curzon spoke of this Treaty of 1907, and which the Noble Lord says his colleague at the present time never criticised adversely at all. Let me point out that this quotation about having the effrontery to parcel out territories of Powers with which it presumably is in alliance, and then telling them that it has done so is just what we have done, or, if I may put it otherwise, just what the treaties have done, because I declare that neither this House nor this country would ever tolerate these treaties for one moment if they were ever put openly before them. It is what we have done with respect to our obligations to Serbia, to Montenegro, to Greece, and I believe to other parts, and therefore it is with particular satisfaction that I call the attention of the House to the opinions of Earl Curzon on our traditional diplomacy in days when he was in a position of greater freedom and less responsibility.