HC Deb 03 July 1919 vol 117 cc1214-6

Take the Territorial terms. In so far as territories have been taken away from Germany, it is a restoration. Alsace-Lorraine—forcibly taken away from the land to which its population were deeply attached. Is it an injustice to restore them to their country? Schleswig-Holstein—the meanest of the Hohenzollern frauds; robbing a poor, small, helpless country, with a pretence that you are not doing it, and then retaining that land against the wishes of the population for fifty or sixty years. I am glad the opportunity has come for restoring Schleswig-Holstein. Poland—torn to bits, to feed the carnivorous greed of Russian, Austrian, and Prussian autocracy. This Treaty has re-knit the torn flag of Poland, which is now waving over a free and a united people; and it will have to be defended, not merely with gallantry, but with wisdom. For Poland is indeed in a perilous position, between a Germany shorn of her prey and an unknown Russia which has not yet emerged. All these territorial adjustments of which we have heard are restorations. Take Danzig—a free city, forcibly incorporated in the Kingdom of Prussia. They are all territories that ought not to belong to Germany, and they are now restored to the independence of which they have been deprived by Prussian aggression.

I should like to say one word before I quit the problem of Poland, because there has been some discussion about it. However unjust it was to take Polish populations and put them under German rule, it would have been equally unjust to take German populations and place them under Polish rule—and it would have been equally foolish. Whether for strategic or economic reasons, it would do nothing but produce mischief in Europe. Europe has the lesson of Alsace-Lorraine, and it would be folly on our part to create any more Alsace-Lorraines in Europe. It would have been a wrong not merely to Germany but to Poland; it would have been a wrong to Europe. Perhaps in fifty years' time Poland would have had to pay the penalty of the blunder committed by the Allies in this year. For that reason the British Delegation—and I have no hesitation in claiming a share in it—resolutely opposed any attempt to put predominantly German populations under Polish rule. I think Poland will have good reason to thank us for the part which we took in that action. But take all these territorial adjustments. I ask anyone to point to any territorial change we made in respect to Germany in Europe which is in the least an injustice, judged by any principle of fairness.

I come now to the question of reparation Are the terms we have imposed unjust to Germany? If the whole cost of the War, all the costs incurred by every country that has been forced into war by the action of Germany, had been thrown upon Germany, it would have been in accord with every principle of civilised jurisprudence in the world. There was but one limit to the justice and the wisdom of the reparation we claimed, and that was the limit of Germany's capacity to pay. The experts of all the great Allied countries examined with very close attention that question, and they arrived with fair unanimity at the approximate limits of the reparation which could be recovered from Germany, and under the Treaty we have never exceeded nor fallen short of their verdict. We have set out certain categories of damage which Germany has to repair; damage to property on land and sea; damage for loss of life amongst civilians—that includes the damage sustained by the relatives of those gallant sailors who lost their lives in the merchant shipping of this country; damage for the loss of shipping and of cargoes; and also the damage which is represented by the pensions and the separation allowances paid by each country in respect of casualties in the War. Is there anything unjust in imposing upon Germany those payments? I do not believe anyone could claim it to be unjust. Certainly no one could claim that it was unjust unless he believed that the justice of 'the War was on the side of Germany.

I come to another condition— disarmament. Having regard to the use which Germany made of her great army, is there anything unjust in scattering that army, disarming it, making it incapable of repeating the injury which it has inflicted upon the world?