HOW BRITISH DELINQUENTS PREPARED FOR THEIR WAR ON GERMANY:  FROM POLITICAL DIARY OF C.P.SCOTT – by Donal Kennedy 

Lord Loreburn had been Chancellor from 1905 to 1912 and had been kept in the dark.

On October 23 1914 Scott dined with him:

“He started off directly after dinner to tell me ‘the whole story’ of the relations of the Cabinet to Foreign Policy since he became a member of it……

The crisis came at the time of the Agadir affair in August 1911. Lyttelton (Conservative Colonial Secretary 1903-1905) happened to be on a visit to (the Liberal) Loreburn and remarked it was a good thing that at least on foreign affairs the two parties were united.

He then went on to speak of the Unionist leaders having been approached and asked if their support could be relied on in the event of a war with Germany, assuming that Loreburn as a member of the Cabinet must know all about it.

This was the first that Loreburn had heard of it (although he took care not to let this appear) and it afterwards appeared that everything had been arranged for the landing of a force of 150,000 men on the French coast down to the minutest detail of the time and departure of trains and the stations at which they should get refreshments. This had been arranged by members of the Committee of Imperial Defence*……

Loreburn was furious and consulted Morley and Harcourt. The same information had reached Harcourt. Neither had been consulted though Morley was a member of the Committee of Imperial Defence.. It was decided at once to bring the matter up in the Cabinet and

Morley as the senior member of the Cabinet was chosen which he did, Loreburn said, very well. Practically there was no defence, though every effort was made to divert the discussion to the merits of the action taken and take away from the fact of its concealment. Finally as the meeting was breaking  up Loreburn remarked that he took for granted that it was agreed nothing of the kind should ever occur again. Churchill rather hotly demurred. Then, said Loreburn, clearly we must meet again and have the matter out.

In preparation for this,  two resolutions were drawn up together with a statement of the facts which had given riser to them. A long and unpleasant discussion took place in which Loreburn again pressed for an answer to the question ‘Why were we not told?’

Asquith went as white as a sheet but no answer was forthcoming.  Finally both resolutions were accepted without dissent. The first, which was the material one, was to the effect that no military conversations with any foreign power should in future take place without the previous knowledge of the Cabinet. ‘Pevious’ was insisted upon. ‘You are very suspicious’ said Asquith. ‘We have every reason to be’ retorted Loreburn. The other resolution Loreburn could not recall – he had mislaid the documents!  Then the statement of facts was initialled as correct by the delinquents Asquith, Grey, Lloyd George, Churchill. –  I am not sure about Haldane . Throughout this discussion Grey remained silent. As he got up he said, almost as it were abstractedly ‘I always said we ought to be fair to the Cabinet.’

After this Loreburn put it to Morley and Harcourt whether they might not all three resign as a protest. Morley declined, as also did Harcourt……Loreburn reluctantly acquiesced. It was his intention to have brought forward in the Cabinet resolutions laying down certain lines for our foreign policy, but soon after that he became seriously ill, and, under doctor’s orders, was compelled to resign.”

*Committee of Imperial Defence set up secretly by Arthur Balfour Prime Minister in 1904

** Haldane was Minister for War

 

 

 

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