20 DECEMBER 1935, Page 7


COMMENT on the international situation written, as any commentary here must be, before the debates in the two Houses is necessarily restrained. And in any case it is only possible to touch lightly on one question which none the less cannot be ignored altogether. That is the part played in the Paris agree- ment by the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, Sir Robert Vansittart. It is a very proper rule that civil servants should not be criticised in the Press because their position debars them from defending themselves. But the suggestion that the permanent officials of the Foreign Office and the Quai D'Orsay have a policy of their own by no means necessarily identical with that proclaimed by the Foreign Ministers at Geneva—to put it briefly, the " Stresa Front" policy —is so serious that it is not at all improper to ask for definite assurances on the point. Of course, Sir Samuel Hoare takes full responsibility for anything the. Per- manent Under-Secretary may have said or done, but public anxiety, and rather regrettably public suspicion, has been violently aroused by the events of the past fortnight, and the visit of a Permanent Under-Secre- tary to a foreign capital is so rare an event that it is not surprising that attention should be centred on this visit and its sequel—if not its consequences. Perman- ent officials are experts and Ministers amateurs. Obvious dangers may arise from that fact.