§ Order for Second Reading read.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
I am sure that we shall all feel regretful that the Prime Minister who has only just returned from a brief and very well-earned rest, has to take upon his shoulders so arduous a duty as that of which we have with deep regret heard at Question time to-day. We have controversy with the Prime Minister, but no controversy which in the slightest degree prevents us from gladly affording to him all the laurels which were accorded to him by his fellow countrymen on the occasion of the celebration of Peace. He has exhibited a skill, an energy, and an indomitable optimism in the darkest days for which we are all very grateful. We desire also to join in the tributes which he has paid to those who have assisted him throughout the very arduous and difficult duties in connection with the carrying of the negotiations for Peace to this the first stage, because, of course, they have not gone very much further than that. I may be forgiven, as a House of Commons man, for paying another tribute on the part of all of us to the Leader of the House, the Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Bonar Law). While the Prime Minister has been away, his duties not only here but in Paris have been of unexampled difficulty, and all the while he has, as we know, borne the burden of a private grief which is heavy on his heart. Not for one moment, however, has he slackened in his attention to this House, and his tact, his courtesy, and his ability has been one of the real assets of the House of Commons. I do not know whether I may just infringe one of the rules of the House to say in one sentence bow much the whole country is indebted to the King and Queen for all that they have done for us during these dark days.
It is not for me to pay, or to attempt to pay, a tribute, inadequate as any words of mine must be, for what the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force have done. There is no oratory which has been used throughout the history of the world that can be anything but a weak paraphrase of the passionate feelings of gratitude in our hearts for what these men have done. 952 No one who watched that wonderful procession on Saturday last could have been other than deeply moved to the very centre of his being as the Allied forces and their representatives passed the monument to the glorious dead. I can only think of the-glorious words of John Bunyan when he spoke of the departure of Mr. Valiant for-Truth. Each one of these men was a Mr. Valiant-for-Truth.When the day that he must go hence was come many accompanied him to the river side, into which, as he went he said Death, where is thy sting? And, as he went down deeper, he said, Grave where is thy victory? So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.The War has been won, and we are thankful from the bottom of our hearts that two, at any rate, of the great objects for which we unsheathed the sword have been accomplished. I should like to remind ourselves of what, I think, will be the classic words which wore spoken by the then Prime Minister, Mr. Asquith, as to the objects for which we entered the War—We shall never sheathe the sword,he said,which we have not lightly drawn until Belgium recovers in full measure all and more than all that she has sacrificed, until Prance is adequately, secured against the menace of oppression, until the rights of the smaller nationalities of Europe are placed upon an unassailable foundation, and until the military domination of Prussia is wholly and finally destroyed.I am sure everyone would wish, apart from these Debates, to say a word of recognition—everyone, on both Front Benches and Members of all parties, would like to pay tributes to the great labours of Mr. Asquith, Lord Grey, and Lord Kitchener. Democracy has won this War. Are we getting or likely to get a democratic peace? That naturally is a question which I have addressed to myself in asking whether or not I will vote for the Second Reading of this Bill. I have no hesitation in answering that question. Of course I intend to vote for the Second Reading, but I have had to put to myself one or two questions, and the first is this: Who signed the Peace? After all, Democracy has signed it. The Prime Minister signed it, and I am not sure I am not right in saying that he is Prime Minister of the most democratic nation in the world. Then we have the President of the United States—the latest expression of democracy on the greatest scale by means of a settled written constitution which the world has 953 known. I will only mention two more names, those of General Botha and General Smuts, in addition to the Premiers of our own self-governing Dominions. I mention those two names especially because not so many years ago both these men were our enemies in the field, and they, having gone through the whole of these long and toilsome days came to the conclusion that it was their duty to sign this Peace. There are many points of gloom, as well as, I am thankful to say, of brightness in this document. I am quite sure that one of the best of them is Clause 13, dealing with the question of labour. For the first time in the history of the world we have had laid down by the solemn consent of responsible representatives of the powerful nations who have signed this document, conditions to which they have pledged themselves, and which if only partially, and to some extent substantially carried out, will change the face and conditions of international labour all the world over.
Let me pass on to the questions of reparation and indemnity, matters which must inevitably cause considerable debate to-day and in the future, as they have undoubtedly done in the past. As far as I am concerned, I say that no money or material recompense can ever wash out the inexpiable crimes of Germany. I fully realise that. But there are some points with which I would like very briefly to deal. I fully recognize—and I saw something of it myself in the last week of the War—I fully recognise that many of the acts of spoliation—to put it mildly—carried out by the German arms in the last stages of the War were equal in their devilry to many things that happened in the first onrush of the Armies into Belgium and Northern France. That makes it more difficult for me to fully comprehend the cold-blooded calculation with which they set about, as far as they could, to destroy any opportunity for years to come of the economic revival of parts of the territories which for the time being they had in their possession. I say these things in order that I may disabuse the minds of Members of any idea that I am not fully conscious of the cruelties and wickednesses of our enemies. But after all we have to look at these things, not only from the point of view of meting out justice, but also from the point of exacting reparation and of getting some indemnity. The first charge obviously 954 must be in favour of Belgium and Northern France before any of the Allies have a chance of getting anything from Germany.
A great and national prejudice exists against trading with Germany. But how are you to get payment unless you do trade with Germany? One of the criticisms which I feel compelled to make with regard to the Treaty is this, that in an attempt to fulfil obligations which are undertaken there have been imposed on Germany terms which in themselves, in their necessary operation, will prevent her from giving that immediate reparation and making that swift payment of some of those indemnities which she ought to be compelled to make at the earliest possible moment. The money must be got, but opportunity must be given for the debtor to pay, and I think it would have been very much better if our representatives and their colleagues could have seen their way to fix a definite sum instead of leaving the whole thing indeterminate, say, for fourteen, fifteen, or perhaps twenty years to come. How are you going to raise your £20,000,000,000? The vista before us is indeed dark and gloomy in the position in which we now find ourselves, and there is this additional trouble, that to enforce these tremendous payments we shall have to lay upon ourselves a military and a naval burden which I very gravely doubt our capacity to bear. We must give to our debtor some hope, not only of being able to pay his way and to support himself, but also to pay a clean-cut definite sum within a real, clear well-defined period. Every business man knows that that is the way to get your debtor to make good his obligations. If there is no hope of recovery little is done to meet or bear the burden.
These questions are inextricably inked up with those very important parts of the Treaty of Peace which relate to the subjects of trade and commerce. I will, for a moment, ask the Prime Minister's attention to points which I shall raise more definitely in Committee. I am referring to Sub-section (2) of Section 1 where power is given by Order in Council made under this Act to provide by the imposition, by summary process or otherwise, of penalties for breaches of the provisions therein contained. As it stands at present it looks like a prospectus of D.O.R.A. Unlimited, and perhaps the Prime Minister will give me some reply on that point when he speaks later in the Debate. We have had enough of D.O.B.A., and I may tell 955 the Prime Minister I am quite sure that the House will be very chary of giving to any Government power by Order in Council to create a large number of new offences punishable by penalty in connection with trade or commerce over the whole wide range, the extraordinary range, of the provisions of this Treaty. I hope when we come to the Committee stage we shall have some inquiry into that, and got to know exactly what the Government means by the use of these very wide words. We all know that Orders in Council are laid on the Table of the House which has to say "Yes" or "No" to them; and some provision should be put into the Bill whereby the House can amend them, and after Amendment discuss and notify its assent or dissent, as the case may be. Now let me say a word or two on provision 227 relating to the trial of the Kaiser in London. As far as I am concerned—and herein I differ from quite a number of my Friends I have no hesitation at all in saying that I support the trial of the Kaiser. I said so at the election and I say so now.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I am going to speak on that later. There is no reason at all why this man who, as far as we can see, has been personally responsible for some of the grossest acts of cruelty which have disgraced the War—there is no reason why this man, who has been rejected by his own people and now is no more than any other ordinary person, should not in the adequate words of this Section be brought to "fair and solemn trial." Where I do dissent from the statement made by the Prime Minister on the last occasion on which he spoke here is the proposal that the trial should take place in London. The people in this country want no Roman triumph. That would not be worthy of the dignity and suffering of this nation. Why should we bring this man here? Why should we not let him be tried in some neutral State—in, I will not say obscurity, but in surroundings not so dignified as would prevail here in the heart of the Empire? We do not want to give him any halo or allow him any chance of encouraging a movement among his own people in revival of their interest in him. So far as I can have any authority in those matters, I tell the Prime Minister very respectfully that I do 956 not think public opinion really supports the proposal that the Kaiser should be tried in London.
I now turn to the question of the regrouping of some of the nationalities of Europe. On the 4th August, 1914, the map of Europe was rolled up. It is unrolled to-day. But we must bear in mind, because I think we are very likely to forget it, that the present Treaty before us is only part of a whole—an important part, but, nevertheless, only a part. We do not know as yet what is to be the position with regard to Fiume, or the settlement between the Italians and the Jugo-Slavs on the Eastern shores of the Adriatic. Bulgaria is still fighting. Generally speaking, there is the question of the settlement of the Balkans, the whole question of the destiny of the Turkish Empire and the fate of the Armenians, and the question of Hungary and the Government of Bela Kun. With regard to these, only two points are to be taken as already settled. There is the question of the Polish corridor. I do not know whether military operations are going on there still or not, but quite recently they were. It might have been necessary at the moment but it is a very dangerous experiment. Take even the question of Alsace-Lorraine. You had extraordinary unanimity as to the justice of the restoration of Alsace-Lorraine. It is complicated, unfortunately, with very difficult questions regarding the Saar Valley. The whole of the Near East is still politically a seething cauldron, full of the gravest dangers and difficulties. What is the real factor which is going to decide the question there? With all submission, I say it is not so much Germany as Russia. Russia, friendly or hostile—that question is one of vital importance to us. Russia affects the Polish question, the whole Balkan question, the Turkish question, all the vast range of Asia and the confines of our Indian Empire and our interests in China. The question is whether we are going to have in two or three years a hostile or a friendly Russia. It may have been impossible—I do not know; it is not for me to assume to know the facts—but at any rate, the Government has suffered, and will continue to suffer until it is settled, through no definite policy with regard to Prussia. There have been overtures first to one side and then to the other. The Prime Minister a couple of months ago made a speech in this House on that question, with every 957 word of which I heartily agree. The whole range of his speech on that occasion dealt with that point, as I thought, in line with the lessons of history and with statesmanship. He dealt with the present problem, and was full of hope as to the future. I hope he has not gone back on that.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Lloyd George) indicated assent.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I am glad of that assurance, because if we are going to link ourselves up to reaction in regard to Russia, whatever we do in Central Europe, our future outlook must be unsatisfactory. Perhaps I have drawn a rather gloomy picture of this part of the Treaty. There is one part which is not gloomy, but which is a bright and shining hope. That is the League of Nations. This document will be debated a thousand years hence as to the policies which inspired it and the difficulties which its negotiators had to overcome. But I feel quite confident that as they look back on it, and write of it, someone may say: "Never mind! In the beginning was the League of Nations." We, as Members of the House of Commons and as citizens of this country, desire to pay our full, warm, and hearty tribute to the work which the Noble Lord, the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) has done in connection with that great matter. Our future depends upon what our real attitude is as a nation and as an Empire—whether it shall be revenge or regeneration? That is the real question we have to decide morally and spiritually. If we decide it on lines of revenge, we shall swing back to the horrible past. On the other hand, if we turn our faces the other way, there is more than a chance of all the sacrifices having been worth while. I am not sure that the noblest words of this War were not spoken by a woman—Nurse Cavell. She knew what German infamy was, and for years—at any rate, for many months—shehad known the atrocities Germany had committed, and she herself fell a victim to their lust for cruelty and revenge. But what did she say at the end of all?I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.As far as I am concerned, I confess that that is a counsel of perfection, but, undoubtedly, it is the right ideal. If, in the main, we so work together at home and abroad in that spirit, some day or 958 other—it may be distant; I daresay it will be—we shall have lifted the whole life of humanity one step forward towards the achievement of the ideal that one day judgment between man and man shall run down like many waters and righteousness—international righteousness—as a mighty stream.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I join with my right hon. Friend who has just sat down in his words of praise and acknowledgment justly offered concerning those whose labours are more or less completed by the Treaty which the House has to consider this afternoon. I am sure the House will not begrudge me the right of adding a word of praise to the very large number of unnamed and unknown men who have also done their share in the War—I refer to the general body of the working classes, of this country. I am sure the House will not at any time allow itself to forget the great contribution of our big industrial population because of any occasional lapse into wrong-doing or error that may stand to the account of a section of the workers. I, therefore, recall the fact that just as the workers are the greatest sufferers by war, they are perhaps the greatest contributors to the victory which this country now enjoys. Before there was a Conscription Act compelling them to serve, many millions of them had voluntarily joined the Colours. As we have heard very much in this House during the past few days about coal, may I recall the fact that our first experience of a coal shortage, two and a half or three years ago, was due to too many miners having walked out of the pit and into the trenches in defence of their country. If we set aside the inevitable fact that a number of the working classes did incidentally profit by service on munitions, it still remains that the great majority of the masses of our people, who in a material sense, in the sense of possessions, land, or property, had no country to fight for at all, went out and fought for their country as valiantly as any man.
I am asked to present to the House a few considerations from the Labour party standpoint in regard to this Treaty. I want to approach it in the spirit of my right hon. Friend who has just sat down. We must not give a vote to this Treaty because of certain blemishes in it. We must balance the great gains now enjoyed—which I hope will be perpetuated for the benefit of mankind—as expressed in the Treaty, against the defects that we may 959 consider are within that Treaty. On balance, we must all feel the immense sense of relief that the world has secured by the victory of the Allied arms and, consequently, by the defeat of the military spirit, which itself was the cause of this War. I cannot leave out of account what I know to be the feelings of a very large body of working-class opinion in relation to this Treaty. I believe that spirit has been very eloquently expressed by a man who himself played no small part in the conduct of this War—I refer to General Smuts. Only a few days ago, in regard to this Treaty, he wrote:I have signed the Peace Treaty not because I consider it a satisfactory document, but because it is imperatively necessary to close the War, because the world needs peace above all, and nothing could be more fatal than the continuance of the state of suspense between war and peace.We, therefore, wish to have pence concluded, in order to begin the new era which we trust this Treaty symbolises, and to come immediately to all those opportunities for that urgent work of reconstruction which this House has specially elected to take in hand. The Labour party has had an opportunity of considering this Treaty, and at the Southport Conference a Resolution was unanimously passed which expresses the views of the party in relation to this Treaty. It declares:That the Conference is of opinion, now that Germany has decided to sign the Treaty of Peace, thereby opening up the opportunity of co-operation with the democracies of the world, that its speedy admission to the League of Nations, and the immediate revision by the League of Nations of the harsh provisions of the Treaty, which are inconsistent with the statements made on behalf of the Allied Governments when the Armistice was made, are essential both on grounds of honour and of expediency, and it therefore calls upon the Labour movement in conjunction with the International to undertake a rigorous campaign for the winning of popular support to this policy as a first step towards the reconciliation of peoples and the inauguration of a new era.The Labour party does not speak in these terms out of any feeling of friendliness for the German people or the German Government. It takes many countries and many different peoples to make a war, and we can put ourselves in a position at times of too great righteousness by considering that we alone are an influence for good, and that all others in every part of the world are influences for harm, and what we are afraid of in respect of this Treaty is that in the moment of our victory we 960 have committed some of the blunders of victors of previous wars whose battles were well conducted, but whose peace arrangements only laid the foundation for further struggles, and the question we ask ourselves is, "Will this Treaty make in any other part of the world any other Alsace Lorraine for the generations of the future?" We trust it will not, because we can turn to the League of Nations as the international machinery which in the years ahead of us will be able to deal with the blemishes of the Treaty, and acting, as we can see it will, under the influences and the pressure of a more potent democratic body of opinion than has ever previously existed, the defects; of this Treaty may in that way be diminished or entirely removed by the machinery of the League of Nations. We are conscious that the crime of the German Government was a colossal one. We are equally conscious that the penalties imposed upon certain sections of the German people may be too heavy for the particular offences for which they were responsible, and we look with some degree of concern and fear upon the fact that the Germans have been parcelled out and put under the authority and government of other Powers, and that the principle of self-determination has not been jealously applied and followed carefully in every one of these instances. If self-determination is so good a gospel as to cause us to preach it as we do, it should be recognised in the case of considerable portions of German territory and of the German people just as well as of the people in any other land. I have here a communication which to-day reached me from the offices of the Labour party from a body of German workmen, and I do not fear to read it to the House. It is from the Birnbaum Workers' Council. It states that the council represents an almost exclusively German town. It protests against the town and the neighbourhood being ceded to Poland. The town is five kilometres from the proposed frontier:We claim the right of self-determination. According to vote there are ninety per cent. Germans who wish to remain united to Germany in her present need. We socialists and democrats ask you to help us to protect our new political and social gains.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The Birnbaum Workers' Council. I have said the Labour party's attitude in relation to this Treaty is in no 961 way determined by any considerations of tenderness for the German people themselves. Their crime has been so enormous that the penalty naturally must be severe. But the truer statesmanship will be found in making this Treaty acceptable to all who are affected by it, and therby preventing the development or growth of that spirit of revolt or revolution which was naturally developed in the case of France, following the German victory in 1870. We can make the mistake of committing excesses now against standards of self-determination and just treatment to a vanquished foe. They must pay for many years to come a heavy and bitter price for the enormity of the offences of which they were guilty. We hardly need to strengthen their case by inflicting any kind of territorial or other injustice upon masses of people who, collectively or individually, have been in no sense the offenders. I have heard it said in connection with the League of Nations that we must look upon it with suspicion because it has been set up by the victors. It is just for that reason that I think the League of Nations will be all the stronger and all the more welcome to the musses of mankind. The countries of the Allies could have avoided this method of preventing differences between Governments or countries in the years ahead. I am glad this country has played such a leading part and such an effective part in the institution and development of this League of Nations. As an instrument for providing, through the medium of International Courts and international action, an opportunity for considering differences as they arise, it offers to mankind the greatest hope of avoiding future conflict which has ever been afforded to it. If I may single out by name any one man more than another to whom Labour is indebted for a great part played in the de-velopent and building up of this international structure, it is the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil). If he has at any time run the risk of forfeiting the good will of Labour, he may feel confident that the great work he has done in this regard entitles him to the respect, and, I hope, the confidence, of the working classes in connection with any public labours in which he might indulge in the future.
But we want to consider how soon this League of Nations can get to work and carry out the great labour for which it was created. It must not be a League of come nations. It must not be a League of victorious nations. A band of conquerors 962 acting together in a league would not at all serve the purposes for which it was intended. I have read somewhere that the representatives of Germany who eventually were delegated to sign this Peace Treaty publicly declared that in doing so they meant to sign in the most real sense possible, and honourably to carry out their undertakings, and they referred to their desire to be admitted to the League of Nations. Probably the right hon. Gentleman is fully aware of all their statements on the matter, and we should like to ask when can we be informed as to the admission of the representatives of the German Government to this League? We believe they ought not to be kept out for any mere purposes of vindictive treatment, and that as soon as their Government is composed enough, and as soon as their representatives can act in a responsible manner, the gates of the League should be widely opened to them, and we therefore trust that every inducement, and every invitation, if necessary, will be held out to the representatives of these former enemy nations, in order that this League may be made the real and potent force for international peace that we desire it to be.
I cannot leave the subject of the League of Nations without referring to that part of it which is exceptionally welcome to our industrial population. The industrial and economic structure within the League of Nations, as part of the League of Nations, affords Labour in this and other countries a means for making more uniform, and I hope more humane, the industrial and working-class conditions of this great mass of population in different countries. Whilst we could not consider my right hon. Friend (Mr. Barnes) to be an officially appointed Labour representative at the Peace Conference, we have the greatest admiration for the work he has performed. We know of no other man, if it came to a choice of men, who could bring to bear such capacity, such experience, and such sympathy and knowledge as he possesses for a work so delicate and so important as this. I am sure the working-classes of many lands in future generations will bless the name of our right hon. Friend for the great work which he has done.
The provisions in this Treaty will be viewed with a great deal of suspicion by the masses of the industrial population unless very soon their minds can be made quite composed and clear upon two points. 963 One is Conscription, and the other is armaments. We have by this Treaty killed Conscription in Germany. We have insisted upon the German Army, such as it is, being raised upon a voluntary basis. We have limited it to a very small number. All these things are the penalties which a defeated foe must suffer. This country at length accepted Conscription as a dire necessity, as the last item in the balance that was to turn the scale in our favour. The House will remember that organised Labour reluctantly consented to a condition of Conscription as a matter of the greatest urgency in view of the military situation then existing, but it accepted Conscription with the clear understanding that it would be for the duration of the War only, and that it was not to be possible in any way so as to become a permanent part of our military system. The Prime Minister, on account of his business elsewhere, has not been so closely associated recently with opinion in this House or with working-class feeling in the country, but I can assure him that there is a profound suspicion and distrust of the Government arising from this one question alone. The workers joined for the duration of the War, and, though the Armistice was arranged last November and though Peace was well on its way in the early part of this year and everything pointed to the physical impossibility of Germany being able to resume anything like a fight, the workers did not find themselves liberated from the conditions of enforced military service. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Ireland?"] Ireland, I am sorry to say, has no part in this Treaty. Therefore, it is outside my theme. I hope during this Debate that the Prime Minister will be able to reassure the working-class men upon this very disturbing point.
Finally, I want to touch on the second of these two important matters, namely, armaments. A great deal of distrust of the Government and misunderstanding as to a War like the one we have gone through is arising because of the fact that so much of our armements in this country were provided at an immense profit to those who manufactured them. I hope I have not fallen so low in my estimate of mankind as to believe that any class would trade in the making of armaments for the purpose of profit and having no other motive in their business than that of seeking wars in order that they may increase their profit. I have never shared that 964 view, but I say with regret that it is a view widely held. Accordingly, we of the Labour party have reached the conclusion that so far as armaments in a country are necessary for such purposes as future conditions may require—for even the League of Nations, I conclude, will require some strength and some form or manner of physical force behind it, so as to make its decrees effective—no matter to what degree armaments in the future are required, it is essential that they should be made alone under the responsibility and control and ownership of the Government, and not of any private firm. We have in relation to armaments as well as in relation to Conscription, ourselves expressed to Germany a doctrine which I hope the Prime Minister, if he is to speak in this Debate, will not entirely ignore, and I should like to draw his particular attention to it. In the 12th paragraph of the Allied Note in reply to Germany that was published some weeks ago, we speak to the Germans in this language:The German reply also ignores the immense relief that will be caused to her people in the struggle for recovery by the enforced reduction of her military armaments in future. Hundreds of thousands of her inhabitants who have hitherto been engaged either in training for armies or in producing instruments of destruction will henceforward be available for peaceful avocations and for increasing the industrial productiveness of the nation. No result should be more satisfactory to the German people.If that is a doctrine which it is good to preach for the benefit of the German nation, it is a doctrine which cannot be bad to preach and practice for our own nation. It expresses the whole philosophy of how much a nation can benefit in material wealth resulting from the energy, the hand and the brain of her people by following what are termed peaceful avocations and the production of the ordinary needs of existence, instead of wasting their energies in the barrack yard, in the armament factory, or in any other way such as a condition of war has always compelled men to do. Therefore, I would like this gospel to be more commonly preached by our principal statesmen, and by public men in this country. It would do no harm if the Prime Minister, either on the floor of this House or on any platform in the land, would explain and emphasise this truth. Indeed, it would help as much as anything to turn the minds of the country to that great work of reconstruction of which so little has yet been done.
I said at the beginning that we have had to balance considerations in relation to 965 this Treaty. Our view is that with all its defects, with all its blemishes, it is the work of men who, in the circumstances which surrounded it, must have acted with motives of the highest patriotism and with the highest and noblest considerations for human government. We have stated what may seem to some to be rather narrow points of criticism, but I can assure the House that that is not our view. We want not merely our class, but the whole human family to be saved by future provision from any awful and ghastly state of things such as we have recently gone through. We do not begrudge our word of praise to those who seldom are praised from working-class platforms. I refer to the well-to-do-men, the favoured, the rich, those who have land, power, authority and affluence, and who sot them all aside, turned their backs upon a life of ease in the early months of the War and went out and led our men and found soldiers' graves, just like the men in the ranks. These things but show how the great needs of the nation called forth equality of sacrifice and got equality of service. That ought to show all of us now that the War is over, that as the War lasted five years, and in that time all classes fought and struggled together for a common purpose, that if we can only last together for the coming five years, if all classes would think, in the main, in the terms of their country, and be moved, in the main, by those inspirations of real patriotism which caused our men, rich and poor alike, to offer the highest that man can offer—their life for their native land; if only for five years we can allay differences and unite for the purpose of repairing all the ravages of war, we can then, perhaps, begin in a much more enriched condition, certainly in a much more secure position, to engage in those narrower class struggles and, perhaps, selfish demands which both poor people and rich people at the present moment are, in my judgment, pressing too far. We ought not to entirely lose the lessons of this War, and that sacrifice of the men who can only be honoured by silence or by the spoken word should be a signal sufficient for us to begin now to march on and on towards the light, to avoid the calamities which have befallen other countries, and to unite as well as we are able for the welfare of our native land, and to make it a place far, far better, especially for the masses of the people, than it ever has been up to the present
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. G. BARNES
(Minister without part-folio): My task is an unenviable one, following the speech we have just heard from my right hon, friend. I think the House and the country, especially Labour, can be congratulated upon the fact that the right hon. Gentleman was sent to this House. If Labour platforms resounded to such speeches more often I venture to think that the position of our country would be different and better than it is to-day. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman (Sir D. Maclean) pay a well-merited tribute to the Prime Minister. It would ill-become me to add a word in regard to the tributes paid to the Leader of the House and others in high places; but it would not be out of place if I referred to the Prime Minister, because it was my good fortune to be in Paris for five months and to take a small part in drawing up the great Peace document, and I know how that great document is largely the work of our Prime Minister. No man worked harder and no man worked more effectively than he did, and it is not too much to say that the document we are discussing to-day, or the document to which effect is to be given by this Bill, is largely the work of the Prime Minister. I was also glad to hear the tribute that was paid to the unnamed men and women of the working-class ranks of this country by my right hon. Friend who has just spoken. As he spoke, my mind went back to the autumn of 1914 when men from all parts of the country, young, and with all life's prospects open to them, left that life, with all its prospects, and went to the War. Some of them had never thought of war. War was far from their minds, and they were content to go on working for an honest living and adding to the wealth of the community. These men left the workshop and the factory and went to the War, and they have maintained with credit the great traditions of our Regular Army. It might be thought that those men who were un-organised for war, and had no mind for war, might be found lacking in the qualities which were necessary to carry it on. On the contrary, those men went forward into the Army and did everything which was humanly possible to win the War. I was also glad to hear the reference made to the pylon in Whitehall, the monument to the other unnamed men who made the supreme sacrifice in the War. The right hon. Gentleman applied a classic reference to it, but I think better than any classic refer- 967 ence was a statement which I saw in one of the newspapers, which was said to have been made by a woman who went to Whitehall and stood against the monument because she said she wanted to see Haig and Beatty salute her Jim. Judging from the speeches which we have heard from the light hon. Gentleman opposite, our little Bill is going to have an easy passage.
§ Mr. BARNES
My hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh may have something to say about it, but so far as the discussion has gone up to the present there is very little to reply to, and as I have been put up to reply to what has been said, as well as to refer to my own particular corner, I find but little to go on with. There was something said about the reparation Clauses which I think was uninformed. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir D. Maclean) referred to what was claimed from Germany. I quite agree with much of what he said about the reparation Clauses, but I am not aware of any provision in the Peace Treaty that requires Germany to pay £20,000,000,000, and moreover, whatever the terms of the reparation Clauses may be, and whatever may be the requirements from Germany, I venture to say two things. The terms are quite within the limits of justice, having regard to what the Government of Germany have done, and, further, modifications may be made in practice as Germany shows good will and gives guarantees for the due fulfilment of the terms of the Peace Treaty.
§ Mr. BARNES
I am glad to say that there is some little indication of change of heart. I have read speeches which were made a week or two ago, one by President Ebert, and one by Dr. Muller, and then we had a proposal made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the gentleman who is acting in that capacity in Germany. He has made proposals for a very stiff tax on capital, and, judging by these speeches, I should say that there are at all events large numbers of people in Germany who are disposed to shoulder the burden. I hope that, if they go on showing that spirit, we shall resolve to meet them half-way, and admit them into the happy family of nations as soon as possible, and I might say, having regard to our own particular, 968 corner of the Treaty, the Labour part of it that the Labour organisation has now got authority from the Big Four to admit Germany into the organisation of Labour, even before she may be admitted into the League of Nations.
But I should like now to offer a few observations on the Labour aspect of this Debate. My mission in Paris was to get some provision made for the special protection and advancement, of Labour interests. After what has been said by my right hon. Friend who has just spoken. I am very glad that what I have done has met with his approval, and I hope and believe with the approval of the great mass of labour throughout the length and breadth of the country. At the same time I should have preferred—I say it quite honestly and frankly—if organised Labour, as part of the Government, had been represented in Paris, and if Labour had decided that way nobody would have been more keen than I to support any nominee they would have chosen. They decided otherwise, and it fell to my lot to fill up the gap. I have filled it to the best of my ability: at all events, I can say this, that I went to Paris with my mind fully-made up as to what was wanted. In an interview with the representative of the "Daily Chronicle" several months ago I saidI advocate some kind of international machinery which would set up and maintain decent standards of life. I do not say that they would be identical for all countries because conditions differ. What I do say is that every worker in every country should be guaranteed fair conditions of pay and fair conditions of work.I further said at the same time that I agreed with Mr. Samuel Gompers, who had put forward the general principle that Labour should not be regarded as a mere commodity, but should be treated on fair and square terms. What Mr. Gompers and I had been flunking had during this War become the current thought of the world. We found that our own Civil servants here in the Home Office and the Ministry of Labour had not only been thinking the same as we had been, but also had been applying their minds to the question how best to give practical effect to these teachings. We also found that the trade union leaders had been thinking along the same groove, and we had their views, which were freely given to us when we asked for them. Representatives from other countries were also brought in, be- 969 cause, as it will be remembered, the Peace Conference remitted this matter of labour organisation at its first sitting to a Commission, and the result is the chapter of Labour which now appears as part of the Peace Treaty.
That chapter, as hon. Members will know, opens up a new era as regards the international regulation of labour conditions. It is true that there have been in times gone by conferences sometimes of representatives of a few Stales, sometimes of workmen's organisations or organisations representing other interests, which have put forward schemes of a far-reaching character or made demands of a sectional character. But the difficulty has been that there has been no machinery to give effect to what has been decided on. That has been the weakness in times gone by, and therefore little practical result has been achieved. This is the first time, so far as I know, that any attempt has been made to embody in a Treaty of this kind practical conditions that apply to all people. Treaties in the past have been limited to countries and classes. This time we are endeavouring to include all countries and classes in a common effort for the common good. There are two causes which seem to me to be contributory to this. First, there are the new ideas and impulses which are surging through the minds of people of all countries, and, secondly, there are the practical difficulties inseparable from the task of one country trying to raise itself above other countries in the general scale of wages and labour conditions. I will just say a word or two on each of those points before proceeding to say anything in explanation of the Labour chapter in the Peace Treaty.
In regard to the first, I want to make an appeal as earnestly as I can for the co-operation and good will for all men and women in our country. I know something of the early struggles of the working classes and how those struggles have affected their mentality. I know of their long hours of work sometimes and their lack of work at others. I know of the privations of workers in times gone by, and how it has made the iron enter into their very soul, and I am afraid has diminished production and diminished comforts. We have all been going round a vicious circle which has brought ill results to everybody, but the present is not the time for harbouring those memories.
970 It is the time for meeting one another more than half-way. After all, hard conditions of life are not due to any conscious cruelty on the part of any class or any individual. They are rather due to fundamental causes which can be removed only by the co-operation of classes. To say that if one class is poor, therefore there ought to be a class war between that class and other classes is a notion that I never did believe in, but I say, as a result of recent experience, that to put that notion forward now is little better than criminal lunacy on the part of anyone who does so.
Class war has engulfed all classes in Russia in universal ruin and starvation. Class war, to the extent to which it may be applied anywhere—and when I say anywhere I include both Yorkshire and South Wales—is bound to have exactly the same results, and scarcely less insane is the fanatical advocacy of straight-laced economic theories as the only remedy for our ills. It is a mistake to believe that out of any atmosphere of ill-will and friction and strife an economic system could be set up which could bring good to anybody, and what we have got to do just now, above all times, is to pull together as a team, so as to make good the ravages of war. If we go forward in this spirit I am convinced that there are no wrongs in this country which cannot be righted, but if the spirit of aggression gets hold of people, if foolish advice be followed, then we shall only have got rid of war abroad to get in its place civil strife at home. What it seems to me is needed is the application of that larger social sense, which, I am glad to find, is growing up among us, to the peculiar needs of our life. That is just what is aimed at in our Labour chapter.
That brings me to my second point, namely, the difficulty of one country rising in the scale of wages and general labour conditions above another. How often have I heard the plea from employers about foreign competition! It may not be a good plea. I do not express any opinion on it, although I am inclined to think that good wages and high conditions of labour pay the employer as well as the employed, and that they pay the community as well. Still, we have heard in days gone by and still hear a great deal about this foreign competition. Employers in this country have told us that they cannot afford to pay high wages because high wages are 971 not paid in Germany, or France, or somewhere else. Employers in Germany and France have said that they cannot afford to pay high wages because of the better industrial organisation of this country. America has said she cannot afford to pay higher wages because of the low conditions of Europe; and then they all say they cannot afford to pay higher wages because of Eastern competition. Whether those pleas are valid or not, the way to take the" sting out of this plea of foreign competition is to get concurrent advances in all countries. That is what we have tried to do by this Labour chapter. It does not provide for the enforcement of the condition. I notice the hon. Member for East Edinburgh takes up that point. Let me frankly confess that I went into this matter in the same frame of mind as he appears to be in now. I thought we might set up a sort of super-Parliament, which would issue decrees and somehow or other compel all countries to fall into line. The time may come for that, but it will not be in my day or generation; and happy is the man who can do a little towards mobilising the forces of humane public opinion throughout the world, and making that public opinion effective by persuasion, by publicity, and by education.
Having now, I hope, conveyed a right impression of the principles upon which this Labour chapter is founded, let me say a little in explanation of its machinery. It will consist of a conference of delegates, an executive body which we will call a governing body, and a permanent Labour office. It is part and parcel of the League of Nations. It includes all the members of the League of Nations, and also Germany at any time that the Conference decides that Germany should be brought in, before she is admitted to the League of Nations. It will be financed by the League of Nations and will have its headquarters at the capital of the League of Nations, and its conferences and Labour offices there, although special conferences or meetings may be held elsewhere if there is some special reason why that should be done. The Conference of Delegates will be, of course, the supreme authority, and the conferences will be held once a year. There are to be four delegates to the Conference from each country, two representing the Government and two representing the employers on the one side and the employed on the 972 other. Each of the delegates will be entitled to take advisers—it maybe one or two advisers on each topic appearing on the agenda. Moreover. we have decided to introduce a rather novel form of voting. Each delegate will be entitled to vote "on his own," although it is most probable that the two Government delegates may vote together, because we hope that before these Government delegates go to the Conferences they will have been given some sort of instruction or mandate. That is part of our scheme. We do not want the Conferences to be a sort of sounding-board for re-echoing pious aspirations; we want them to yield practical results. All the other delegates can vote independently of one another, that being for the double purpose of promoting a spirit of internationality and also of enabling Labour in this or any other country to make common cause with Labour in all countries.
Objections have been raised, I know, that Governments are over-represented as compared with Labour and with employers. I want to say again that that is part of our scheme. It has been said that, if the Governments are there, there will be a sort of sprag on the wheel. That is based on an entirely wrong conception of the organisation. We do not want this organisation to be simply an addition to the many propaganda international organisations set up in days gone by. We have endeavoured to set up an organisation for practical results. We aim at this—that the State shall be represented in such proportion that it will feel itself morally bound to give effect to the decisions reached. We hope that quite responsible persons will be sent to represent States, possibly—even probably—that Cabinet Ministers and people of that sort will be sent. Just think of what would be the case supposing we gave the Governments the same representation as Labour and employers. The consequence would be that probably Governments would not feel themselves under any moral obligation to give effect to the results of the conferences. In that event our machinery as a whole would gradually, and perhaps rapidly, fall into disuse. Conferences for propaganda purposes are necessary. We want the conferences to get industrial questions brought down from the clouds and into the arena of practical affairs.
There has been another objection, raised by the womenfolk. I have been waited upon in Paris, and in London since I 973 came home, by bodies of women, or representatives of organised women, both industrial and political, and they have made the claim that women should be specially represented at the conferences. No one would be more glad than we should be if women were to find a place at the annual conferences. We have stipulated that women shall not only be eligible as delegates to the Conferences, but we have made it a condition that women shall be employed in the International Labour Office, and shall be eligible, just as is a man, for any office that has to be filled. But it is quite another thing to say that women shall be sent to the Conference by the Government. After all, it is a question of getting the most suitable persons—that is to say, the person who has had most experience and is most directly representative of Government. Women must recognise that that cannot be said of them today. There is one provision we have made. Each delegate is entitled to take along with him advisers upon the topics on the agenda. For the special Conference to be held this year there are upon the agenda questions directly affecting women—the question of the maternity benefit, provision for exempting women from industrial employment for some weeks before or after childbirth, questions about exempting women from night work. It would be the most proper thing for a delegate, if ho happened to be a man, when these questions came forward, to change places with his advisers on those particular topics, and therefore, although no special provision is made for the inclusion of women as delegates, yet at the same time it is the proper and the right thing that the delegate, whoever he may be, should exchange places with his women advisers when these questions come on.
The Conference will draw up what we call Conventions. Each country will be free to accept or reject those Conventions with certain exceptions. Of course it will have to put the Convention before its competent authority, which in our case will be the House of Commons. The exception is the Federal Governments. We were up against this difficulty, that there are some Governments which have no right to make bargains of this kind on behalf of their constituent States. The United States of America provided a case in point. They have no power to enter into bargains in regard to labour conditions m their constituent States. They have no 974 power even to say that those constituent States shall put a Convention of this kind before their competent authority. Therefore we had to decide that in regard to those Federal Governments Conventions should be simply passed on by the Federal Governments to their constituent States, leaving those constituent States to adopt them or not as they think proper. We have made one provision which is something in the nature of coercion, and that is this; I have already said that States will be under a moral obligation to submit to their competent authorities whatever is decided on at the Conferences. But we have gone a step further than that, and we have said that if that State does not submit the Convention or recommendation, as the case may be, to its competent authority, then the League of Nations can be brought in to the aid of Labour; further, that if the State, having submitted a Convention or recommendation to its competent authority, and having got it endorsed by that competent authority, does not give effect to it, then, again, the League of Nations can be invoked by Labour to see that effect is given to it.
I said a little while ago that we had not attempted to set up a super-Parliament, but at the same time there are ways and means by which a country, if it elects to paddle its own canoe irrespective of anyone, can be left to its own devices. Therefore we have made a provision that the League of Nations can, first of all, on complaint being made either that the country has not submitted the Convention or recommendation to its competent authority, or having submitted that Convention or recommendation to its competent authority, and having got it endorsed, has not given effect to it, set up a Court of Inquiry selected from a body we have provided for. That Court of Inquiry makes investigations into the complaint, which may be made either by employers or by workmen's associations or by the State, or it can be set in motion by the Governing Body itself, and if, after inquiry, the State in question is still stubborn and will not do as suggested to it by the League of Nations, then the League of Nations can advise the members to apply such economic pressure as the League thinks proper in the circumstances. That is the machinery so far as giving effect to conventions or recommendations is concerned. The time may come when further coercion 975 may be necessary; I do not know. But, at all events, we must make a start under the conditions in which we find ourselves living, and, looking at the matter as common-sense men, and remembering that politics is the science of the possible, we must have regard to the fact that States jealously guard their own rights, and we cannot, at this stage of the world's history, cut into those rights. We have done the next best thing. Let me say a word about the Governing Body. The Governing Body will be a permanent body for giving effect to the decrees of the Conference and also for arranging the agenda of Conferences. The Governing Body will consist of twenty-four members made up in the same proportion as the Conference—that is to say, half of the representatives being State representatives and the other half representatives of employers and of workmen. Eight representatives of States will be from the States of the greatest industrial importance, and four will be representative of smaller States chosen by the delegates of those States at the Conference, and this body will have under it an International Labour Office, which in the future will, I hope, be the eyes and ears of sympathetic Governments and sympathetic peoples to investigate labour conditions all over the world, and to throw light into dark places, wherever such may be found to exist, and to ascertain where there is sweated labour and where there is oppressed labour, and, wherever such be found, to bring all the resources of mobilised public opinion to bear in order that that labour may be relieved and helped. It will be under the direction of men selected for the purpose by the Conference. We have at present a body sitting to make arrangements for the first Conference, which will be held this year at Washington, and the arrangements are fairly well advanced for the holding of that Conference. There is now a committee of seven, six being representative of the States which were represented in Paris, the seventh being a Swiss representative to bring in the neutral nations, and that committee has done a great deal already in collecting information for submission to the Conference at Washington. The agenda for that Conference is already made up, but the agenda for all future Conferences will be made by the Governing Body when set up, and will be made up from items sent in by the affiliated States themselves. In order that we should get the fullest practical concurrence 976 in whatever may be agreed to at the Conference we have decided that any one of the affiliated States will have the right to object to any item which it finds on the agenda, the agenda having been submitted first in draft to all the affiliated countries at the Conference. The Conference, after objection being taken, may decide by a two-thirds majority to discuss that particular item at the next meeting of the Conference when it is held.
Such is the scheme which will, of course, be ratified as part of the Peace Treaty. I believe it starts with the good will of all well-wishers of Labour as well as with the assent of the Peace Conference. I know that it was drawn up in collaboration with men and women of experience, first of all in this country and then in Paris. It was designed to deal with practical questions. It will, I firmly believe, help to mobilise the moral forces of the world, and to straighten out existing tangles in the interests of labour as well as in the interests of permanent peace. I hope and trust that it will be taken full advantage of by Labour in this and other countries. It does not enter into competition with any existing organisation. International conferences have been held from time to time, convened by sometimes sympathetic Governments and sometimes by voluntary organisations. In so far as international organisations may call such conferences in the future we have nothing to say of thorn but words of good will and good luck; in so far as they can contribute to a sane and humane view being taken of life, and in so far as they may formulate schemes for the advancement of labour, we have nothing to say against them. But we do say this, that, after all, little has resulted from conferences of that sort and kind. They have met and they have passed resolutions, and they have recorded their pious aspirations, and, as a rule, but little has followed. We hope that now, when for the first time the forces of Governments are being brought in to aid an organisation of this kind, and when for the first time Governments have put a chapter of Labour into an international Treaty and made labour conditions a matter of international agreement, that the opportunity will be seized by both hands by Labour of this and other countries. I believe, if Labour does that, that this organisation will be found to be one that will lift labour from the low position it has occupied, and give it a better chance and a better place in the world than it has had in the past.
§ Mr. SEDDON
We have listened, I am sure, with very great interest not only to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who have just spoken but also to the two speeches which preceded it. I consider it will not be out of place if I join with the other speakers in paying my meed of tribute to those who were responsible for the Treaty we are discussing. I think it can be said with full truth, whatever may be the points in it upon which we may differ, that the good intentions and largeness of view expressed in those documents are testimony to the statesmanship and wisdom and heart of those who have been responsible. As to my right hon. Friend the Member for the Gorbals Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes), I am quite sure, whatever may have been the jibes from certain sections of the community in this country, he may take it as an assurance that that organised and that sane element which is the backbone of the trade union movement were not only delighted that he was there to represent them, with his experience and his services to Labour, but delighted also with the fruition of the work in which he has taken such a valiant and noble part. With regard to the first two speakers, as I listened I was wondering whether it was a matter of playing for place or whether it was merely trying to put a position which would have to be further elucidated as the Debate proceeded. With reference to the Leader of the official Liberal Opposition, he certainly gave his blessing, but I find, on looking at the Order Paper, that he docs not speak even for the small group under ids leadership at present, and I will look with interest to the proposed opposition to his view which will come from the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) and the hon. Member for Hull (Lieutenant-Commander Kenworthy). With reference to my right hon. Friend the Member for the Miles Platting Division (Mr. Clynes), I would say that I echo and endorse to the full the sentiments he expressed at the close of his very able and eloquent speech. Those sentiments, in my opinion, are the child of this great struggle we have gone through. Hitherto it has been taken for granted that each class of the community were justified in glaring at each other. In August, 1914, had there been no war, I am profoundly convinced there would have been a great clash between capital and labour which would have been disastrous to the commerce of this country.
978 Whatever the War may have done in destroying our material wealth and taking the best blood of our race and flower of our manhood, it has certainly had this one effect, that a large number of those who hitherto belonged to one class of the community and looked glaring at the others, recognise in common suffering and sorrow that there is something to be said for the other side as well as the side they stand upon. Therefore, it is to me a source of infinite pleasure that my right hon. Friend has had the courage to express in this House those sentiments which are to a very large or to some extent being repudiated, while opposite sentiments are being expressed by his own Friends of the party with which he is associated, and so brilliantly associated, at the present time. I hope that, as he has moved this House with those sentiments and lofty ideals, he will use his great personal power with the Labour platforms which to-day seem for the moment to be dominated by a certain section who prefer revolution to reconstruction, and that he will use not only his weight and influence, but will insist that the sane voice of Labour shall not be drowned by the clamour of such revolutionists, who, if revolution were to come, would be the first to scuttle away and leave the people to face the guns and barricades. After all, Labour dose occupy a fundamental and important place in the nation find in (he industrial comity of this country. We see obvous signs of unrest which I think may be described as due to some extent to the tension through which we have passed. Most people have got grievances, real or imaginary. The workers for five years past have given of their strength, and they feel some little irritation, but I think it is only a passing phase. On Saturday those who were responsible for that magnificent pageant were wise in their day and generation when they not only gave the opportunity of seeing those gallant men and women who marched through our streets, but also in giving an opportunity whereby the toiling millions of London might have some social intercourse and pleasure in our great parks. I hope the Government will take a lesson from Saturday, and I may say in passing that I hope they will have something on the subject to say to the First Commissioner of Works. Evidently he had his eye upon £ s. d. rather than the convenience or the pleasure of the community, because I find that when visiting Hyde Park the people of 979 London were asked to pay 6d. for a penny seat, and if he had been there—I did see him walking along the road, but evidently he was not known to many people—
§ Mr. SEDDON
I am glad to know we have one person here who knows the Rules of Order, if there is onèwho does not, and also the rules of courtesy as well. I was pointing out that in the Peace celebrations, from one end of this great City to the other, the people came out in their hundreds of thousands to pay tribute to our mighty Army, and their joy was increased by the common association and amusement which was provided for them; but so far as the First Commissioner of Works was concerned, I condemn him root and branch for allowing 500 per cent. profit to be made out of the chairs, a profit which was coming out of the pockets of many of the poor people, who could ill afford 6d., although they were prepared to spend it in showing their joy and their pleasure at the great victory which we have achieved. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Opposition, referring to the Kaiser, said that he did not want him tried in this country. I do not know that he could have a better country to be tried in. For centuries this country has been a by-word for fair-play, and I am quite sure that he would get as much justice in London as in any other country. But why should we ask other people to have a disagreeable job put on them? Why should we say to neutrals, "We are afraid of consequences, but you can take them, and if there is any odium in trying the Kaiser it will be on the country in which he is tried, and that will not be England?" For myself, and I think I speak for the great mass of the people of this country, they ask that the Kaiser shall be tried, and they do not care a hang whether it is in London or elsewhere. All they are anxious to know is that the penalty shall fit the crime, and if that happens, the next consideration is where shall his remains go to, because they will not want him here. [An HON. MEMBER:" Put them on the pictures!"] It will be a gruesome picture, and—
§ Mr. SEDDON
The hon. Member probably knows something about commissions; I do not. With reference to the-right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Labour party, I take exception to one remark he made. He pointed out, rightly, how the workers of this country flocked in their millions to fight the battles of their country, but he said people without a country, and I take the strongest exception to that.
§ Mr. CLYNES
My hon. Friend is not accurately representing what I said. I said they were without a country in the sense that they had not land or property, or any of those material possessions of other people.
§ Mr. SEDDON
I accept the correction, but it only adds to my argument. A country does not merely rest upon possession of either land or money. The sacred spot in this country is that which contains the remains of one nearest and dearest to me, and what applies to me applies to thousands and tens of thousands of others. They went out to fight because this country was the grave of their sires, because this country was the expression of liberty and freedom won by their sires, and I say there was no concern either of material land or possession; they went at the call of the spirit within them and the love of the country that had given them birth.
§ Mr. SEDDON
I am very glad that my right hon. Friend and myself agree, but I think it did want a little bit elaborating, because the impression he left on my mind, and the impression that I am sure will be taken by some of his colleagues on the platform, will be that because a man has not got so many roods of land he was a fool to fight for the country to which he belonged. I want briefly to deal with the proposals outlined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals. I hope I am still an optimist, but I still recognise that we are living in a world of realities, and although he has seen signs of a change of heart on the part of Germany, I am sorry to say that I have not, and I happen to be one of those who believe there can be no association until the German people have shown outward and visible signs of inward repentance. So far as the League of Nations is concerned, I think it will be a 981 long day before the mass of this people and the mass of other countries who have suffered the same as we have are prepared to take them at face value. The right hon. Gentleman said the League of Nations was going to be a kind of cure-all, and that if federal States, never mind countries, disagree upon the findings of this Labour Convention that is going to meet, I suppose, in various countries year by year—it will not always sit in Washington; I assume it will take country by country in order.
§ Mr. BARNES
They will sit at the League of Nations capital unless it is otherwise specially arranged.
§ Mr. SEDDON
Not knowing where that is, I assume it to be wandering about, but it will sit for the first meeting in America. There are forty-eight States in the United Stales of America, and the Federal Government has no power to impose upon them the conditions contained in these Labour Clauses. Supposing that forty-six States agree and two disagree, and the two happen to be in the South, what will be the action or the attitude of the League of Nations? It is said that economic pressure will be brought to bear upon them. Suppose forty-six States in America refused to accept the findings of the League of Nations, and economic pressure was brought to bear upon them, and it happened to be the South instead of the North, what injury would you do to those States? You would simply give them a better opportunity for improving trade, because, as a matter of fact, the great fight of the trade union movement in America is to lift the wages in the South to the same rates as they are in the North. But I leave that point. No one wants the consummation of the League of Nations more than I do, but I want it to be put into its right place. My right hon. Friend, speaking of it, said it was the greatest conception that humanity had ever had. I want to know what Christianity has done in this. For 2,000 years we have had if preached, and if you take all the points of the League of Nations you will find that the ideals and ethics of that system stand even higher than the Fourteen Points or the Treaty which they are based upon. Why did that break down? Because the early disciples made the same mistake as a good many people are making about the League of Nations. President Wilson had fourteen points, but 982 he should have remembered the fifteenth, and that is human nature, and I have not yet seen that human nature is going to be changed by the adoption of the principles of the League of Nations. I am prepared to give it all the blessings I can—[MR. BARNES: "Hear, hear!"]—but I take the facts as they are presented to my mind. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorbals says, "Hear, hear !" but does he know that human nature is not yet changed in Yorkshire, that human nature is not yet changed in Glasgow, that human nature is not yet changed in any part of the world? And if he is so noble-minded and altruistic as to think that all the rest of the world is different from this country, then I am afraid the has not learned many lessons in his short career upon this earth. After all, it is human nature you are dealing with.
I have referred to the United States, and now I will come to the East. No one will deny that Japan has been ranking rapid strides as an international competitor. No one will claim that the standards in Japan are anything to be compared with the standards in this country. I saw, the other day, in one trade, the difference of wages paid in Japan from the wages paid in America, and I have the parallel figures for our own country. The Japanese workmen have to work twelve hours for the same wage as the American workmen, at the same industry, get in one hour. In this country it was something like seven and a half to eight hours for one hour's pay. I want to back up as strongly as I possibly can, not only the right hon. Gentleman's hopes and ideals, but the proposals that are laid down for bringing the different nations together and levelling up the general standard of the people of this and every other country. No one will begrudge the great tribute paid to the Prime Minister on Saturday as he passed through the streets of London. That was a full-throated, a deep-chested, and a warm-hearted appreciation of the people of this great City. No one for a moment, in this House or in any other part of the country, will deny the great part he has played. No one will deny that the Treaty that we are discussing is a great monument of patience and sagacity. But, while we are making these observations, let us never forget that there are all the elements in this country and every other country of a backward movement instead of a forward 983 movement unless we bear in mind the realities of the situation. I am sure the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) deserved also all credit for what he has done in this matter. But while I accept not only fully but appreciatively all they have tried to do I am reminded of a great name that made history in this country, who was certainly a valiant champion of our liberties, and who in deciding the fate and destiny of this country, while he had great faith, gave utterance to that memorable sentence that probably will live as long a the language. He said, "Trust in God and keep your powder dry"; and even though we must support this Treaty of Peace, although we may be supporters of the League of Nations, let us never forget that we are the trustees not only of a great estate, but the trustees of the mighty dead, and in our desire for peace do not let us make their sacrifice vain. Let us remember that they died for a cause, and if that cause even means that we shall modify the League of Nations in the interests of justice and righteousness, then we should be prepared to modify it. We in this House are entrusted with the responsibility, and I hope those who speak for the Government and those who have been responsible for the Treaty will at least assure us that, whatever conclusions they have come to, they are not unmindful that behind the good will that may have been expressed in Paris during the Peace Conference there is still throughout the world amongst all the belligerents a desire to keep each in front of the other, and as long as that spirit lasts it will pay us well to be cautious before we take the momentous steps that we may have to take arising out of this Treaty.
§ 6.0 p.m
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
The hon. Gentleman who has just concluded his speech made an eloquent appeal at the end to the patriotism of this House and of the country. I feel quite confident that the experience of the last four years is entirely reassuring that, whatever other dangers may threaten us, dangers arising from want of patriotism are not amongst them. The right hon. Gentleman who began this Debate, and several others, spoke in appreciative terms of the labours performed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at Paris. I venture very respectfully to associate myself with everything 984 that has been said in that respect, and I venture to add this, that I do not think anyone who was not himself in Paris, and who did not see the terrific strain under which the work there was done, can hope to appreciate to its full value the labours and the service for his country which the Prime Minister has performed. As to the Treaty which has resulted, I think the first thing that must strike anyone who has attended this Debate must be that there is no doubt at all in the mind of any of us as to the broad lines of this Treaty. We all know that on the territorial side, an independent Poland, the retrocession of Alsace-Lorraine, the retrocession of the German parts of Schleswig and the taking from Germany of her colonies—all those things are matters on which none of us has any doubt. We are all prepared to say with the utmost confidence that the broad lines of the Treaty are right.
But I do think there are two quite different ways in which the consideration of this Treaty may be approached. You may look at it as a Treaty of the old kind—that is to say, an attempt finally to settle the future of the European countries, to lay down for all times certain provisions, certain territorial arrangements, and then you may say that, added to them, has been the conception of the League of Nations as a kind of safeguard for the rest of the provisions of the Treaty. If that is the way the Treaty is to be regarded, I must say—and I should not be dealing honestly with the House if I did not say—there are several provisions in it about which I have some misgivings. I trust my light hon. and hon. Friends on the front Bench will believe me when I say I am not making any charge against them. I know the conditions under which this Treaty had to be negotiated, and nothing I can say is intended as any criticism of their actions. But, take the territorial settlement—I am not going into it at length—I admit there is a great deal to be said for what the Leader of the Opposition calls the "Polish Corridor," and perhaps something to be said against it. But I must say I regard the division of East and West Prussia as possibly right—I will not say it is not—but as a kind of arrangement which is likely to lead to trouble in the future. Take another provision—the occupation of the bridgeheads over the Rhine and of the Saar Valley for fifteen years. There, again, I am not for a moment questioning the justice of the arrangements. But to put 985 German territory under an International Government of a temporary character is a novel experiment, and one which, I am afraid, may lead to trouble in the future. I recognise that every precaution which skill and ingenuity could invent to make that arrangement work has been taken. At the same time, I do recall also that prolonged occupation of territory after a war has generally not been among the most successful expedients which have been adopted by belligerents.
A word about the question of reparation. There, again, there is no dispute as to what was wanted. We are all agreed that Germany ought to be made to pay the uttermost farthing of which she is capable of paying. There is no question about that. At the same time, I must say that I have my doubts as to the wisdom of an indeterminate amount. It means hanging over Germany, and, to some extent, over Europe, an economic cloud. No one will quite know where they are. No one when they come to enter into financial transactions, which must take place during the next fifteen years, will quite know what are the liabilities and the powers of the different countries which make up Europe. And, in order to do this, it has been necessary to set up this Reparation Commission, which is to have very extensive power, so far as I understand it—I think the words are a little obscure—of passing legislation in Germany, to sit in secret and to issue its orders as to what has to be done. Though I have no kind of complaint as to the justice of these provisions, I admit I have some doubt as to whether they will prove workable in practice. There is one thing I should like, if it is possible, my right hon. Friend to give us some reassurance about, and that is the provision for the retrocession of 140,000 milch cows. I am not for a moment saying that, as a matter of reparation, that is not amply justified. The Germans took a much larger number of cattle—I do not know, but I can quite believe they did—and there is no question merely from that point of view, and no injustice whatever, but I do wish to submit to my right hon. Friend for his consideration—and possibly he may be able to make some reassuring statment upon it—that there is no doubt whatever that in large parts of Central Europe, including some parts of Germany, the children, the babies, are actually dying from want of food and want of milk. I do not believe that can be questioned. It does appear to me, at 986 first sight, unless there is some explanation of which I am not aware that the-right thing to have done under those circumstances was to do the best for the whole of that district with whatever resources you have, and, if that interfered with perfectly just reparation, then make other provision for reparation in some other way. However, these are small matters. As to the trial of the Kaiser, I have always held—and I have frequently said in this House—there is no doubt whatever that the Kaiser ought to be punished. I said so in 1915, I have repeated the observation more than once, and T hold it as strongly as ever I did. Whether the actual machinery devised is the best possible is another question. The Kaiser has been tried by the public opinion of the world and has been condemned. I am not quite certain that you will add to the certainty of the condemnation by bringing him again for trial.
Those are the relatively small criticisms which I should pass upon the Treaty if I were to regard this Treaty as a treaty of the old kind, but, for my part, I do not think that is the way to regard it in the least. I regard this Treaty, as was said, I think, by General Smuts, as a liquidation of the War situation. The great thing, the essential thing our representatives in Paris had to do was to get peace, to get a cessation of hostilities and to set Europe and the world to work again. That was their great task. This Treaty has done that, and it has fufilled its main purpose, whatever one may think of the kind of relatively detailed matters on which I have ventured to trouble the House, and if it turns out, as I think it may turn out, that this or that provision is hot altogether the best that could have been made, then we must trust to the League of Nations for the final pacification. I do not hesitate to say that I do regard the attempt to establish the League of Nations as the most important international experiment that has been made in our time. And I say that it can only succeed, in spite of my hon. Friend (Mr. Seddon)—if he will allow me to say so—if we make an effort to establish a new conception of international relations. I quite agree with him that if you loot at the nations of the world and their past histories, the attempt may appear a little difficult to accomplish. I know quite well there are many who maintain what I venture to call the jungle theory of inter- 987 national relations—that every nation is marching about through an impenetrable jungle, seeking how it may devour every other nation. A very ingenious and convinced supporter of that views goes so far as to say that, in his judgment, war is only intensified peace, by which, so far as I can make out, he means that all nations always, even at times of most profound peace, are really in a condition of potential war, and that war is only making actual what was always potential.
I say quite frankly, if that view is to be the accepted view of international relations, I see no hope for the world. It really is not a question of whether we think that desirable or undesirable. There is absolutely no chance, so far as I can see, for the existence of European civilisation unless we really do something to put an end to that conception of international relations. Is it rational? Cannot we have some better system? I cannot help feeling that, looked at rationally, and apart from prejudice, all nations are part of a larger whole. I very much welcomed the citation of my right hon. Friend of the celebrated observation of Nurse Cavell, "Patriotism is not enough." It is quite true, it is not enough. It is essential that it is not enough. We must be patriots in the sense that we must desire to do, and do, our utmost to promote the prosperity, the welfare of our own country.
We must be prepared to die for it. But, in doing so, do not let us forget that it is no part of the duty of a true patriot to desire misfortune in or the downfall of another country. On the contrary, properly considered, and considered in anything like a logical spirit, the prosperity of every country is the prosperity of each. This really is the converse view to the view of the jungle theory in international relationships. It is only right to say that this is the view which Labour has adopted in this country, at any rate, more readily perhaps than other classes of the community. They have seen—what indeed is quite obvious—that there can be no sound, real, and lasting progress in Labour in one country unless there is equivalent progress on the part of Labour in all countries. The great work which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Gorbals Division (Mr. Barnes) has done was merely an effort to make real and actual 988 what was the opinion and idea of his fellow countrymen, and, if one may say so, of his class throughout the whole world.
I should like to try to explain, if the House will allow me, in as few words as I can what the Covenant of the League has done towards making possible this new spirit in international relations in the first place, I myself attach the most importance of all to the fact that there is an explicit recognition of the necessity of international co-operation. Not only in Labour matters—upon which I shall not dwell, as my right hon. Friend has already done that—but take such a question as the native races; there you will find in the Covenant an explicit recognition that it is part of the duty of the whole of the nations of the world to promote the welfare, safety, and freedom of the native races. They are to co-operate to prevent the reckless distribution of arms, to co-operate in putting down the evils of the liquor traffic. Above all, we have established the system of mandates—at the suggestion, I think, originally of that great statesman, General Smuts—that by which so far as any change of sovereignty takes place in any of the countries inhabited by these nations, that country or those countries for the future shall be held in trust for all the nations of the world. That branch of the instrument is really fraught with the greatest possibilities as laying down now what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister very justly said has always been the principle of the British Colonial policy—namely, that we hold these countries, not in order to exploit them for the benefit of the Mother Country, but in order to do our utmost for the prosperity of the population they contain. That is the principle laid down. Upon it we have endeavoured to secure the establishment of a Commission in the League of Nations which shall supervise the execution of the mandate. The mandatory will be required to report annually, or whatever may be agreed upon, to that Commission, all that is done in the mandatory country. We have further laid down the general principle of freedom and justice which should mark the government of these countries. All this, to me, is fraught with immense advantage. If it succeeds, who can doubt the system will spread over all these backward races and all these countries? Anyone who has studied their history knows that there is no greater blot on the civilisation of Western Europe than the government 989 of some of these countries. All that we may hope, sooner or later, will be swept away by common agreement, and the new system, and we shall have one of the great blots removed from the record of humanity. I will not go into other matters on which co-operation is to take place—the white slave traffic, the opium traffic, above all trade and communication—the central idea is that a river, for instance, or a railway, that passes through a number of countries is to be used, not for the advantage of one country, but for the benefit of all the countries through which it passes—all these things are provided for in the Covenant, which largely rests upon the principle that it recognises the necessity of international co-operation.
To come to more specific operations, the preservation of peace, say, we have an absolute condemnation of the principle of aggression and annexation. "But the very great difficulty of carrying this out," will be urged. Still there it is, in two Articles in the Covenant that annexation and aggression are condemned by the voice of the whole civilised world. There again the attitude of the mandatory Powers is of great importance. The conception, of the carving out of great blocks of territory, whatever may be the will of the inhabitants, and handing them over from one sovereignty to another—I hope that conception is absolutely at an end for evermore.
How are we going to enforce this? The Prime Minister described this part in the Covenant in his speech the other day. There is no attempt to intervene in a quarrel at the beginning. That we felt was going too far. The world is not yet ready for an absolute decision in a quarrel in which two high-spirited countries might each of them think they were right. What we do say is this: Before you go to war you must submit your dispute to the arbitrament, either of the International Court of Justice or the Council of the League of Nations, and the publication of the matter, so that the world may know exactly what it is in dispute. After the lapse of six months for investigation, and three months for the consideration of the result of the investigation—nine months in all—if you choose, it may be that you will go to war; but we believe the operation of public opinion will be so strong that only in cases of a very, very rare character and of a very, very restricted nature will any war take place if this provision is enforced. 990 That really brings me to mention one other great feature of this document, that for the most part there is no attempt to rely on anything like a super-State; no attempt to rely upon force to carry out a decision of the Council or the Assembly of the League. That is almost impracticable as things stand now. What we rely upon is public opinion. I myself think that is right.
I believe even as between man and man in this country public opinion is a far stronger and far more effective force than the judgment of the police or the Law Courts, and I am quite sure as between one country and another the effect of public opinion is overwhelming. There will be no country who can hope to carry through any policy unless it has behind it, I will not say the whole of public opinion, but a larger part of the public opinion of the world. I believe that has been one of the great lessons of this War. I believe, in the last analysis, what finally brought Germany to complete destruction was that she had offended the public conscience of mankind, and had no support in the public opinion of the nations. That, therefore, to my mind, is a very great thing. The essential part of it is this, that you would have complete publicity in everything that is done before the League. That is of enormous value. Therefore, we have put it that all the proceedings before the Council with reference to disputes should be as soon as possible made public, and we have provided that no Treaty for the future shall have any validity until it has been made public. Those are some of the principles which it seems to me constitute a great advance in the international life of the world. There are two other evils winch I will mention. In the first place, there is the limitation of armaments to which the right hon. Gentleman from Manchester referred. I quite agree that this is the most difficult of all the problems to be faced. It is easy enough to talk about the desirability of limitation of that sort; but let anyone take a piece of paper and write down exactly what he would propose to do, and he will find the difficulties enormous. How are you to measure the reasonable requirements of one country or another in the matter of armaments? How are you to ensure that any limitations laid down will be obeyed—and there are many other practical questions of the kind? Still, I believe something has been done. Really, it depends upon whether the nations of the world are 991 in earnest, whether they desire to try to have an end to this state ox things—and very largely whether this nation is in earnest! If they so frame their policy and their proceedings that they show the nations of the world that they really are in earnest, that they desire this limitation of armaments, then I am not hopeless that we shall have accomplished, or shall accomplish, a great work in this direction.
One other thing. I believe there have been no more fruitful sources of dispute in the past than the theory that all treaties are eternal. It is a fantastic theory. You make a treaty in 1810. He might have been perfectly just and right then, but in 1850 it had almost certainly entirely gone out of date and become obsolete. Yet in theory it goes on. There is no automatic international machinery for its review. Well, I believe there is nothing more desirable than a periodical review of treaties, and their modification to suit the position that has come about after the lapse of time, and the requirements of the time. I hope that that review will be made in the case of this Peace Treaty. I hope it will be done with every other treaty which exists now. A clause has been put in the Covenant making it the duty of the Assembly from time to time to reconsider all treaty obligations and international arrangements which have become either obsolete or un-suited to the conditions of the day. That again, I believe, will be of great value if it is properly carried out.
I do not want to go at length into the machinery which has been established to carry out these things. The House is well aware of it. There is, first, the International Court. The great merits of that Court, if we can get it set up—I believe we shall get it set up immediately—is, that it is to be a permanent Court. We have had, of course, arbitration in times past, but arbitration is an unsatisfactory thing. No one knows who is to be the arbitrators, upon what principles they are acting, what decision they may arrive at! If you have a permanent Court it will establish a tradition, and will create by its own. amour proper a certain tendency towards partiality. Then, I believe, you might have much more international arbitration or international justice than you have ever been able to get in times past. Therefore I myself attach enormous importance to the establishment of a permanent International Court of Justice. We 992 have established for the first time in history a permanent Secretariat. That is of great importance. During the War we found it of enormous value to have international co-operation among the Allies. We found that this value increased prodigiously if you had a permanent Secretariat which kept the thing in being, and we did not merely have conference after conference with no relation to previous conferences. Therefore we have established a permanent Secretariat. I think we have created a permanent body of international opinion which should be of enormous value. Then there is the assembly of the Council upon which I wish to offer a few observations. I have not attempted to deal with criticism because so far in this Debate there has been none. There has been one criticism, however, that has been so frequently put forward that I think I might be allowed to say a word or two about it. It is that all your machinery and ideas are perfectly valueless because they have to be carried out by bodies which have to be perfectly unanimous before their policy can be effective. I think that is a mistake. I do not think it is possible to ask any sovereign State at the present stage to submit, against its will, what it might regard as its vital interests to the decision of the majority. I do not believe this country would have done it, and I do not believe any other country would have done it.
I do not, however, attach very great importance to it. The great weapon we rely upon is public opinion, and if we are wrong about it then the whole thing is wrong. I believe that we are right. If you do not rely upon public opinion the decision of the assemblies ceases to be of the first importance. If you have a decision in the assembly of overwhelming opinion on one side or the other it matters very little whether it is unanimous or not, because the whole course of public opinion will fasten round the great mass of the overwhelming majority. I believe that is the way it will work, if it works at all. You will find that when these questions come up before the Council they will be discussed and considered in public, and when, as a result of that discussion, it appears clear that one side is right and the other side is wrong, then you will get the whole weight of public opinion behind the one side, and you will find, I think, that the nation that is in the wrong will not persist in the course which has been publicly and overwhelmingly condemned. That is my 993 view. I do not attach much importance to the criticism which says that the Council will not be able to do anything because it is too unanimous. I believe it will be able to do everything if it acts honestly and fairly and if its members are animated by a desire to make the thing work, provided the cases which come before it are clear on one side or the other. If they are not clear, then it is evident that international action would be out of place.
I have tried only too imperfectly to describe the general skeleton of this document. I believe it will work. I believe this scheme is workable, and I believe if it does work it will be of immense value. I do not deny the enormous difficulties with which we are faced, but the whole essence of its success is that it should receive the support of the peoples of the world. I know there are large sections of the people who are openly opposed to this idea. There are the militarists, and I am afraid I came to the conclusion at the Peace Conference, from my own experience, that the Prussians were not exclusively confined to Germany. There is also the whole tendency and tradition of the official classes. I have the highest possible opinion, and I think I have said it before in this House, of our own officials' service, but, at the same time, however high your opinion may be, you cannot avoid the conclusion that there is the tendency among them to think that whatever is is right. It is inevitable under the circumstances. There is the natural conservatism of a great corporation and a great tradition that will be against us.
Then there are Gentlemen who, like my hon. Friend near me, are convinced supporters of the idea, and who wish it success as urgently as I do myself, but who have a certain amount of faint-heartedness in approaching the matter. [An HON. MEMBER: "Caution!" In these days, when we are facing great crises, caution may be the most reckless of all. We have to take some chances. You are threatened with destruction, and if you do not do something to prevent it there is no hope for the future. You have to take some chances, and the chances which the Government ask you to take are those which lie at the basis of the League of Nations. My right hon. Friends are keen supporters of this proposal, and I am sure they are, but I am not sure whether even they will have the power to see that not only is it necessary for them to support it by speeches in this 994 House and in the country, but by really making an attempt to make our policy conform to the spirit of the League of Nations. That is what we have got to do. It is no use talking merely unless you are prepared to do something. It is useless to suppose that anything in the world that is worth having can be had without some sacrifice.
Personally, I believe the sacrifice in this case is more formal than real, because I believe that Peace is the greatest of British triumphs. It may be occasons will arise when popular opinion will be aroused outside and inside this House, and that prejudice will be aroused by some chance of national gain. It will then be for the Government and the country to stand firm and say, "We will not allow the immediate national advantage of this country to be pursued so as to endanger the international co-operation which we believe is essential to the prosperity of the world." That is what I ask not only the Government but the House of Commons also to do. After all, the House of Commons is only the mouthpiece of the most enlightened democracy in the world. Let them truly express the views of their democracy, and I for one have no fear of the result. I believe the people of this country and the world are solid behind the desire to put an end to war. I believe that they are ready to give a fair trial to this experiment, and I believe if they do give it a fair trial there is every prospect of success, and 1 appeal to my follow countrymen to lead, as they have led before, in the great task that is now before us.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I am sure the House has listened not only with great intellectual pleasure but with profound delight to the speech which the Noble Lord has just delivered. I am glad to find that not only have we had a war for high and noble ideals, but that now that we have triumphed in that War those ideals are not to be forgotten in time of peace. I trust I may be allowed to join in the universal jubiliation with which the whole world, I think, is inspired at this moment in the successful completion of the purposes for which these nations went to war. I should T think be the last to withhold from the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister the generous, and I do not think too generous, encomiums which have been passed upon him for his courage, his imagination, his unceasing activity in bringing about the success of this War. But, Sir, I rejoice that now that the War is over 995 we are given an opportunity to find out for ourselves whether the noble precepts that we have written on our banners are to materialise. The horrors of war abroad have ended and with them the agonies at home, and it would be, I think, a solid contribution, or at all events a poor manifestation of our gratitude for the splendid dead who died for these principles if we who represent them in the living flesh are not to see those principles put into operation in our day and generation. For my part I have never hesitated to believe and to act up to the spirit of the belief that this was a war for freedom, and in the early stages of this War I joined with my leader and my party in rendering such service as was possible under the circumstances for an Irishman to give in order to strengthen the Allied Forces, and to enable them to meet that Prussian tyranny and that military system that was waging war upon democracy and freedom in Europe.
I rejoice now that the War is over that we on these benches, the few of us who remain, have been vindicated, and as we thought it was a War for liberty for the world we trusted to find that it would be a War for liberty for Ireland. In the course of the propaganda which has been carried on throughout the Allied nations and in no country more than in England, we have had many declarations as to what the issues were that were involved in this world conflict. I do not know of any man who has more clearly and more completely stated those issues than President Wilson. The Prime Minister of this country I do not think will dissent from any of the written purposes which President Wilson laid down as the inspiring causes that rallied America as well as the Allied countries of Europe in the past. I think at this moment it will not be out of place to bring that to the memory of the Government and of the right hon. Gentleman, in case for a moment it has escaped from his or their minds. What were the issues of this War, and what was the purpose that brought America into the War? In bringing America in upon these issues, President Wilson declared that he acted in union and spirit with all the Allied leaders. This is what he said:We accepted the issues of the War as facts, not as any group of men either here or elsewhere have defined them, and we can accept no outcome which does not squarely meet and settle them.996 The he went on to say:The issues are these: shall the military power of any nation or group of nations be suffered to determine the fortunes of people over whom they have no right to rule except the right of force? Shall strong nations-be free to wrong weak nations, and male them subject to their purposes and interests?I rejoice that the Prime Minister has done us the honour of being here in the House this afternoon. During the last four years we have taken advantage of his hurried, and necessarily hurried, visits to this Assembly, in order to put one or two of these questions to him. No doubt, for good reasons, he was not able to remain in the House to answer them. I want to put a question to him now. I want to ask him, now that he has succeeded: Are we to understand that this principle which President Wilson has laid down is to be applied to Ireland—namely:That the military power of no nation or group of nations shall be suffered to determine the fortunes of peoples over whom they have no right to rule except the right of force.Ireland is being governed to-day by no rule but the rule of force. The right of the people to determine their own destiny is a thing that no member of the present British Cabinet would laugh at. Therefore, I want a clear and definite statement from the right hon. Gentleman upon that point. President Wilson further goes on to say:Shall peoples be ruled and dominated, even in their own internal affairs, by arbitrary and irresponsible force or by their own will and choice?There is no rule in Ireland to-day except rule by arbitrary acid irresponsible force, and there is no free will and choice in the determination of the destinies of her people.Shall there be a common standard of right and privilege for all peoples and nations, or shall the strong do as they will and the weak suffer without redress? Shall the assertion of right be haphazard and by casual alliance, or shall there be a common concert to oblige the observance of common rights?May I call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to another point, if the Whip will allow me, because, after all, the excellent Whip of the party gets many opportunities of talking to the Prime Minister, and we have rarely an opportunity of addressing him from these benches?No man, no group of men, choose these to be the issues of the struggle. They are the issues of it, and they must be settled by no arrangement or compromise or adjustment of interests, but definitely, and once for all, and 997 with a full and unequivocal acceptance of the principle that the interest of the weakest is as sacred as the interest of the strongestThen President Wilson concludes:The impartial justice meted out must involve no discrimination between those to whom we wish to be just and those to whom we do not wish to be just. It must be a justice that plays no favourites and knows no standards but the equal rights of the several peoples concerned.Whatever some of his enemies may say of President Wilson in this country or elsewhere, no one can question either his lucidity of speech or his clarity of thought or his power of expression, and here, in my judgment, he lays down, not only a noble and ideal concept of human freedom for the world, but, inferentially, he delivers a most powerful impeachment of the present system of government in Ireland. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say—I think it is in his interests, and I do not object to its being in ours—that we will clear him of any responsibility for what is going on in Ireland to-day. You have an Army of Occupation there of from 60,000 to 70,000 soldiers governing the people against their will. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman would say to me, "This Army of Occupation would not be there if there were no necessity for them to be there." Is not that a sorry tribute to the ideals for which you went into the War? If you decline to allow these people to be the masters of their own destiny, to conceive the plans and the systems of government best suited to their own genius and to their national power; if you insist that you will impose upon them a. form of government that is against their will; and if, in order to prevent their free will operating, you keep an Army of Occupation in the country, then, I say, that is not an impeachment of Ireland, but it is an impeachment of the system of government that is imposed upon Ireland.
This question of Ireland has ceased to be a purely domestic problem. There is nothing very new in that statement. I beard the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister himself make the statement. We endeavoured to deal with it as a domestic problem. The widespread influence of Ireland to-day has assumed such proportions that, if the question is not solved, it will be bad for the world, and if it is solved it will be good for the world. The spirit of this Debate, as I understand it, has been an endeavour upon the part of anyone who 998 has contributed anything to the joint wisdom of the Assembly to lift up all these great national ideals touching our land at home and touching all nations abroad, to lift them out of the wretched rut of party controversy into the higher arena of noble conceptions. Cannot this England that has made so wonderful a sacrifice for its own liberty and for the liberty of the world, this England to which I, speaking here as an Irishman, must pay the tribute of saying that during the last five years its superb patience and enduring courage and self-sacrifice has been one of the wonders of the world, this England that has risen so high in the fight for human freedom for the world, rise now to the same noble height in dealing with the little sister island almost at its door? It is not that you are dealing only with a little island almost at your door; you are dealing with something else; you are dealing with a race persecuted, downtrodden, landlord-ridden, robbed, plundered. [Laughter.]
This hilarity may well come from Gentlemen who know nothing of Ireland, but I will ask the Prime Minister: Will he contradict me in giving this description of the Ireland that was? Follow my argument if you have intelligence enough to do so. I have no doubt that your predecessors sneered at some Members of Parliament who stood, as I stand here in this House to-day, to put the Irish situation before British Members. But when a speaker was sneered at the facts remained. It was a great English newspaper that amid the horrors of the famine period, when the emigrant ships were carrying millions of the race away to foreign lands and when the children of this persecuted race could find no place for them in the homeland to which they were passionately attached, declared, "The Irish are going, and going with a vengeance," and I have no doubt that intelligent Conservatives cheered that sentiment in this House. What was this Irish race that left Ireland amid the hilarious cries of the Tory newspapers and their Tory friends in Parliament? They were the men whose descendants to-day are in America, in England, in Australia, in New Zealand, in Canada, and in South Africa. Wherever there is a great democratic nation—the mighty republic of the West—wherever there is a great and progressive and powerful Colony of the British Empire, there you will find the Irish giving their Celtic genius, their power for government, their civic instinct, 999 their passionate devotion to great free institutions, and there they are a great and mighty force.
Therefore, when you come to deal with the Irish question, you are not only dealing with four and a half millions of the Irish upon the soil of Ireland, but you are dealing with a great world-wide race, exercising a powerful and, as I claim, a beneficent influence upon the advancement of humane and Christian ideals throughout the world. This question, then, is not a domestic question; it is a world question. There sits the Prime Minister congratulated, and rightly congratulated, upon his services in solving all those problems at the end of a bitter and horrible war. Surely he is not going to admit, after his experiences during the last five years, after he has had upon his shoulders this colossal and almost impossible task of adjusting the countless difficulties that arose in the Peace Conference, that he is not capable of dealing with a question at his door! If he wants the root foundation upon which to build it dealing with that question, he will find it in the declared principles of President Wilson which I have ventured to read to the House. We have not only the declared principles of President Wilson before America went into the War, but we have the declaration of General Smuts after the War was over and when this Peace Treaty was concluded. Will hon. Gentlemen sneer at General Smuts? I would ask them not only to listen respectfully to his words, but also to remember who he was and mentally to examine the analogy that there is between his case and the case of the late Mr. John Redmond. He said in a recent parting declaration which he issued to the people of this country:Most pressing of all constitutional problems is the Irish question. It has become a chronic wound, the septic effects of which are spreading into our whole system, and through its influence upon America it is now beginning to poison our most vital foreign relations. Unless the Irish question is settled on the great principles which form the basis of this Empire, this Empire must cease to exist.That is a very strong declaration. It has added weight coming straight from the source from which it comes, because who has played a nobler part in the great trials and vicissitudes of the last four years than General Smuts? He led an Army as violently opposed to you as the Irish are to-day. He fought bravely and valiantly for the principles of liberty. You conceded 1000 to the nation for which he fought the widest and noblest form of liberty, and when in the hour of your Imperial danger you sounded the bugle for men to rally to your flag he came and he rallied his forces to your support; he contributed the men of his race and his intellectual power and wisdom, and he became one of the most striking and one of the noblest figures of the fight of the last four or five years. Is this man not to be listened to? Is America not to be listened to? Is the voice of Canada to have no effect? Are Australia and South Africa not to be listened to? Wherever free men live, and free men live everywhere where free men fought for freedom, they stand aghast and wonder how it is that this Empire, which has grown and flourished by the concession of the widest freedom to its citizens, refuses to give to a brave and generous race that system of free government which would fructify in Ireland as it has fructified wherever the seeds of freedom are cast and the flowers of liberty grow in the land. I may be told there are difficulties. I know there are. I have never disguised the fact. But the right hon. Gentleman will be the first to admit that, as far as I personally am concerned, I have been ever ready to sacrifice something. May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that, as I understand it, there is only one difficulty, and that is the question of Ulster? I take it that if that difficulty were met ho would be prepared to give Ireland the widest form of freedom given to any other part of the Empire. There would be no reason for giving anything less. He has not altogether been without the Ulster question in other conutries at the Peace Conference. When he had the map of Europe before him, when he was partitioning out the various lands, and saying how they should be settled, wore there no Ulsters? The right hon. Gentleman often must have found in Paris as great difficulties as he has done in Belfast. There were Germans in Poland, there were minorities in Finland, there was a very large German population in Bohemia; all these things had to be settled. I do not know how they were settled; perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us how. I hope, at any rate, that they are settled, for we are meeting here to-day to ratify the solution and to cry "Hallelujah! Peace is proclaimed to the World!"
1001 At all events, the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that there would not be anything very splendid in trying to settle the Irish question if it were a simple mathematical problem. The glory of this problem is that it is a difficult one. Here is a task which the Prime Minister can take upon his shoulders. I believe the reason he has not solved it before now is that he never got quite close enough grips with it. He did not give his splendid Welsh Celtic imagination sufficient free play. He seemed always to treat Ireland as if it were a problem to be settled in a hurry. This is a difficult problem. No one knows it better than I do. And it is because it is a difficult problem that the right hon. Gentleman really must face it with courage and determination. If he finds he cannot settle it, if he finds it even beyond him, I will tell him there is a simple way in which it can be solved—a very simple way, and that is upon the declared declaration of President Wilson and others associated with us in this War. "Let every people determine their own destinies for themselves"—every nation," I should say. [An HON. MEMBER: "Let Ulster!"] Ulster is only a part of a nation. I am an Ulsterman myself, and that is why I am so egotistical. Ulster is only part of the nation, and it must be prepared to make some sacrifices. In the arena of party sacrifices have to be made—political sacrifices, and some of us have made great sacrifices in that arena. The Southern Irishmen made great sacrifices as well as the Northern Irishmen. My late leader died as truly for a noble ideal as if he had died on the field of battle. He took your side in this War; he flung himself and all his genius and energy into the cask of propaganda; he converted Ireland to the cause for which you were fighting; he sacrificed a great deal, and he was sacrificed. Not only did Mr. Redmond sacrifice, himself, but many a man on these benches died for his principles. When he was almost on the brink of the grave Mr. Redmond made an appeal to you. Professor Kettle, with all his brilliance, with all the enthusiasm of youth, with his generous intellect, made his sacrifice, and in a letter addressed to me which was found on him after his death he said, "I fought alone for a great ideal." Dr. Esmond, and sons of members of this party, went out to fight. Many new Members of this House imagine that Southern and Western Ireland did nothing in this War. 1002 But when you come to the records, not only of how almost countless men rushed to the Colours at the commencement of hostilities, you find nothing so wonderfully splendid as the endurance and courage of the Catholic Nationalist soldiers from the West of Ireland, as well as many from my own Constituency.
I ask the House to believe me that I am anxious, as much in the interests of England as of Ireland, to see this question settled. It corrodes the lives of men. It corrodes the relationship between nations. It is the most poisonous thing that can enter into life, and I ask the House of Commons to join us in trying to exterminate this evil thing that is poisoning the. well-springs of common association and of that democratic comradeship that, ought to exist between two peoples who are neighbours. I trust that I have said nothing to embitter the position. But no temporary or trumpery expedient will do. The hearts and imaginations of the people of Ireland and of Irishmen throughout the world must be touched. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn said the other day it was essential, for the welfare of humanity, that America and this country should be friends. I want that sentiment converted into a reality. These two great English-speaking races must, lead the world in everything that leads men to higher things. It is because I believe that the enduring co-operation and strong friendship of America is essential to the solution of this problem in a way that will be satisfactory to America and to the Irish race throughout the world that I address this appeal to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. BOTTOMLEY
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words,this House, whilst gratefully acknowledging the unsparing efforts of the Prime Minister in the cause of a just and honourable Peace, and fully appreciating the difficulties with which ha had to contend, expresses its regret that the Treaty does not impose upon Germany definite and binding obligations to make good to Britain her total financial cost of the War.This Debate commenced this afternoon with two exalted orations from the Front Opposition Bench which breathed into this Treaty a sort of sublime inspiration such as we shall have in a few moments from the Prime Minister himself and which probably will lead us off our feet and make us forget the fact, which I desire to bring back to the attention of the House, that 1003 we are here to consider not the great principles for which we fought, not exactly the new world which we hope will emerge from the War, but the terms which we have to exact from the enemy as a condition of the cessation of hostilities. I, therefore, must beg the House to come down for a moment from the sublime heights in which it has travelled. We have had from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Gorbals Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes) a very learned disquisition on the working of the Labour section of the Treaty, and the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), who has come, if I may say so with great respect, straight from the cloisters at Hitchin to tell us about the provisions of the League of Nations and what he hopes and expects will be realised therefrom, although I am afraid he is destined to a rude awakening before very long. However, I now beg to move my Resolution.
I suppose it presents a sordid aspect of this great question. It is, however, a business aspect, and I am not quite sure there is not behind it just as much imagination, just as much romance, as if we are going to make Britain a land fit for heroes to live in, and if we are going to take off the shoulders of the dependants of those who Have fallen the halter of an almost everlasting taxation. I am not sure if we cannot take almost as exalted a view of the possibilities which will follow the adoption of the principles enunciated in my Amendment as of any other aspects of the case. My Amendment is based on the simple principle enunciated by the Prime Minister himself more than once, that in all these contests the loser must pay. That theory was enunciated by the Prime Minister in very specific language. But there was a qualification introduced into it—it read, "must pay if he says he can." My experience of life is that the loser must either pay or pay what he can and owe the rest. But the Prime Minister says, "No; you must pay only that which you can pay, and we will let you off the rest." That is not business. It is not that which was promised to the men who went to fight for us, and it is not the pledge upon which almost every Member of this House went to the poll. I have looked through address after address issued during the election. The Prime Minister pledged himself—I almost think he must have forgotten it—that we would deliver the bill to Germany, the full bill, 1004 before we came to the question of her capacity to pay. Here is what the Prime Minister said:So far as justice is concerned, we have an absolute right to demand the whole cost of the War from Germany. We propose to demand the whole cost of the War.That is specific, and no amount of argument can qualify the words. It is true the Prime Minister went on to say:We shall have to collect it in a way that will not do us more harm then Germany, and we shall have to have regard to her capacity to pay.The Prime Minister's statement came to this: "We will first present the Bill and obtain an admission of Germany's liability for it, and then we will collect what we can." One hon. Member in a previous speech put the case in a nutshell. He said:It is for us to deliver the bill and to leave it to Germany to find the way to pay it.We should leave that to the German Government, and not worry ourselves about it. The Prime Minister said something more. He said:We must make Germany pay to the uttermost farthing. We shall search her pockets for it.We have not put our finger into the pocket of Germany; we have not even asked Germany what she can pay, but we have asked other people to tell us what Germany can pay. That is a nice way of dealing with the ordinary obligations of this country. We have asked a certain Commission to tell us what Germany can pay. The Prime Minister, speaking at the time of the General Election, said:The fourth point is that the Committee appointed by the British Cabinet believes that Germany can pay.I do not know whether the Committee appointed by the Cabinet has been thrown over. We have the distinct assurance of the Prime Minister that the bill should be delivered, and it has not been; that we would search Germany's pockets for the money, and we have not done it; and that a Committee of the Cabinet have advised that Germany could pay. I am the very last to wish to say a word which sounds ungracious or ungrateful to the Prime Minister. Before these various compliments were paid to him to-day I had put in the terms of my Amendment an expression of gratitude for the splendid and glorious work he has done for us. Nobody denies that. But I want the Prime Minister to be quite candid and toll us this—if he will, thru I am satisfied—"I went to Paris with the intention of insert- 1005 ing in the Treaty an obligation on Germany for the full cost of the War, leaving her to pay it as she could, but other influences were too strong for me." If the Prime Minister says that, I accept the explanation, and will congratulate him on having got something on account, but that must be the only explanation. No one, not even the Solicitor-General, with all his great experience, can tell exactly what are the obligations placed upon Germany in the way of reparation or indemnities. I say that there is no obligation at all to pay indemnities, as we understand the phrase. There is a limited liability for reparation spread over a number of years, which is liable to be postponed from time to time and to be increased up to £6,000,000,000 if the Commission, which is to be appointed, thinks that Germany can pay it. That is really a solicitude for the enemy worthy of some of the most noble and altruistic sentiments which have been expressed today, but it is not the sort of thing we want if this country is to face the financial demands that will be made upon it. Does not the Prime Minister see that if we could have obtained an admission of the obligation, an admission that Germany owes us the cost of the War, that would give us a bond which we could enforce from time to time as opportunity arises? We could then go to President Wilson and say, "There are Germany's thousand millions of bonds which Germany will pay." We should probably get a premium for them for the pleasure of showing the sincerity of the high-sounding sentiments that have been expressed. Another point is that Germany does not know what her liability is. I was amazed the other day to be told in the House that there is no German official version of this Treaty. I know the Germans and Germany well enough to know how they understand French. I do not suppose that the Prime Minister was impressed by the knowledge of French shown by the Germans in Paris. The Germans have signed a Treaty the language of which they do not understand. It has been translated into English. I am not posing as a French scholar—I learned French at school—but I would say that the translation is not particularly accurate. We only get in the Treaty the phraseGermany acknowledges her responsibility for the whole cost of the War.That means, as it is translated, a moral responsibility. There is nothing in the French Treaty which means or was intended 1006 to mean that Germany says, "We are liable for the cost of the War; we admit our responsibility to pay it to you." There is doubt in the phraseology, there is doubt in the provisions of the Treaty itself. The Prime Minister will agree that he has been forced to the conclusion that only something in the way of reparation can be got from Germany. How he has been satisfied I do not know. Somebody has told him so. He is not a great expert in the intricacies of finance. It is true he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, but then he was dealing with high finance and not with German finance. He has accepted somebody's word. I insist on this matter, because one cannot help remembering, as he looks round the world to-day, that Britain has been the catspaw of all the nations in this War. We went into the War with no selfish motives. I really think we won the War. I do not want to offend America. I know that when an American said to an Englishman the other day, "You cannot deny that the Americans won the War," the retort was, "Perhaps not, but who did the blinking fighting?" We have incurred liabilities amounting to £8,000,000,000 or £10,000,000,000. Every one of our Allies is getting some substantial material advantage out of the War. Let us come down from Parnassus to the earth. Belgium is getting—God knows she deserves them !—certain territorial advantages. France is getting enormous territorial advantages; Italy is getting the same. All the Allies will have something to bring to credit in their balance-sheets. When we talk of pounds, shillings, and pence poor Britain becomes the mandatory of the German Colonies. May I compliment the Prime Minister on the great acumen he showed when he secured Britain as the mandatory of the ex-German Colonies, because I believe that before we get on very far with the ex-German Colonies the League of Nations will come to an untimely end, as every experiment of that kind has done. The same thing was tried in ancient Greece and failed, and what happened then will happen now. No Power will enforce their verdict. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) says that public opinion will solve it. He said that public opinion ended the War. I thought it was shortage of ammunition. It is possible that, when we have spent a lot of money and had a few little wars, we shall corns out with the German ex-Colonies to our credit. At present we owe America 1007 £1,000,000,000. Let her take over some of the obligations of Russia to ourselves. Let us see some sincerity in those high principles enunciated so freely on the other side of the water. We have lent money to our Allies. We have an enormous debt round our necks. We cannot place any more War Loans successfully, unless we issue premium bonds, which, of course, we shall have to do. We have come almost to the end of our financial tether. Despite all that the Prime Minister says, someone behind him says, "Do not be too hard on poor Germany." You fix the very period when she is going through a transition stage from chaos and bankruptcy to renewed prosperity as the period to collect the debt. If you took bonds from Germany payable in thirty years' time, she would be able to pay them off on her head. She will soon be in front of us again in many markets of the world. I put it to the Prime Minister that Britain is not coming well out of this thing. I do not want him to rise to great heights of eloquence and say that we cannot consider mere pounds, shillings, and pence in a problem of this magnitude.
From the point of view of restoring the credit of this nation and of relieving taxation, which will crush us as things are going on, and of keeping faith with the men who went out, we must have the indemnity. I say this in all sincerity, feeling very deeply on the subject. It appals me to think that all the men have as the result of their sacrifices is the knowledge that round the necks of their parents, their sons, their fathers and their dependants is this heavy debt, which we shoulder when we cannot afford it, for having taken our part in this War. I urge the Prime Minister to put himself right with the country in this respect. I do so in no spirit of antagonism, but rather of affectionate regard for the Prime Minister and any man who has been much behind the scenes in this War. One wishes in all honesty to see him at the helm to pilot us out of our troubled waters. The public believes that everything the Prime Minister says in this House or at the hustings he will carry out to the letter if he can possibly do it. 1 ask him why in this Treaty there is no indemnity, and why only reparation? Reparation hardly interests this country. It represents only a few broken windows and a few pounds of money. Reparation naturally goes to Northern France and Belgium. This country has really little interest in the Reparation Clause at all. The indemnities 1008 have gone. Germany must pay the bill and must pay in full, and we will rifle her pockets! All that has gone. I imagine that every Member of this House will be in some difficulty when he meets his Constituents with this Clause. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I think so. Hon. Members might with advantage read their Election addresses. I have collated them, and I say there are not more than six Members of the House who have not explicitly pledged themselves to make Germany pay the whole cost of the War. [Hon. Members: "No!"] We hear the six who have not I want the Prime Minister to tell us why the bill is not delivered. Whatever he tells us, I shall be mentally telegraphing to him in his higher flights of eloquence and poetry, "Why did not we deliver the bill, as we promised to do?" I am not one of those who think that in war we can afford to be over-sentimental. We heard something to-day about milch cows. I am sorry to hoar there are children starving, but I had rather they starved in Germany than in Belgium and in France. We have to look war in the face as a grim reality, and I believe with Sadi, the Persian philosopher, who said:Showing mercy to the wicked is doing injury to the good; pardoning the oppressor is injuring the oppressed.I was very struck with a line from Kipling, the other day, which, I think, sums up this aspect of the case:These were our Children who died for our Lands.They were dear in our sightWe have only the Memory left of their Home,Treasured Sayings and Laughter.The price of our Loss shall be paid to our Hands,Not another's hereafter.That is our Right.
Lieut.-Colonel CLAUDE LOWTHER
I beg to second the Amendment.
I thank the Prime Minister for his courtesy in waiting to hear the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of what, I think, is a most important Amendment. My activities in this matter were never directed in any spirit of hostility nor in any obstructionist spirit either to the Prime Minister or to the Government. But I, at any rate, am pledged up to the neck to my Constituents to do everything in my humble way to get the biggest possible indemnity from the enemy countries. However much I may wish to congratulate the Prime Minister, and however pleased and surprised I was with certain of the Peace terms, the Peace terms, as 1009 a whole, are conspicuous by the absence of a clause which would provide for the total repayment of the Allies war debt when and if the enemy countries were in a position to pay. I never for a moment doubted the bona fides of the Prime Minister. Indeed, at the time of my election the walls of my Constituency were placarded, "Vote for Lowther and send the Prime Minister back to the Conference with enhanced powers." I have no reason to doubt his bona fides to-day. I believe, from everything I have heard, that he has been fighting most gallantly against very bitter odds. But I wish I could say I had the same implicit reliance in the bona fides of his counsellors. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take this in the spirit in which it is meant. I mean only one or two of his counsellors, but still men who seem to possess only one gift—the gift of inspiring mistrust; and, surely, in the matter of his counsellors, the Prime Minister stands self-condemned. I am not saying this in order to indulge in an idle gibe at his expense, but to brand a man with the stigma of a diseased imagination—a man to whom he himself had offered high office only a few months before that accusation—cannot show the highest insight into character. May I for a moment take the House into my confidence and throw discretion to the winds, for surely this is the critical moment in the financial history, not only of England, but of the world? I ask hon. Members—whether they have been in the House for four months or for twenty years—whether they are perfectly satisfied, in their own minds, with the absolute honour and integrity of every right hon. Gentleman who sits on that bench or who holds high office? Yet these men have to advise the Prime Minister as to what indemnity should be paid, and whether it should be much or little—men alien by birth, men alien by name, men in no way unprejudiced, men in no way unbiassed, men engaged up to the hilt not in European but in world-wide finance, men who would have had everything to lose if Germany had paid an adequate, just and right indemnity. If the other Chamber can serve no more useful purpose than to provide a theatre for the transpontine melodramas of Mr. Smillie and his tame dukes, the sooner it provides an asylum for obsolete Ministers who are anxious to regild their somewhat tarnished blazons and to obtain a brand-new coat of honour, and incidentally a brand-new patent of nobility, the better.
1010 I never thought for a moment that the enemy countries could contribute very much in the first few years after the War. I am glad to see the Peace delegates think differently. It has, I believe, been proposed that £5,000,000,000 has to be paid in a very short time. Anyone who has studied the assets of Germany must know that that country for a decade before the War was a competitor for the commercial supremacy of the whole world. In many instances she outdistanced Great Britain and the United States in the race for the world's commerce. What enabled her to occupy that position? Nothing but her titanic and colossal assets, of course intelligently handled. Surely these assets cannot vanish into thin air. Where is her coal? Where is her potash? What of her aniline dyes, her chemicals, her agriculture, and her waterways and railways, all admirably linked up and connected with these resources? Surely of a country which has doubled its national income in the last twenty years and quadrupled its revenue in forty years owing to the greatness of its assets, only ignorance can believe, only prejudice can pretend, that it would not be in a position very soon to pay interest on the whole of the Allied war debt, and to discharge the sum, according to the magnitude of the sinking fund, in twenty, thirty, forty, or I do not care if it he fifty or sixty years, provided it is finally paid by the enemy who thrust this hideous holocaust upon humanity. Why should not a clause of this sort have been inserted in the Peace Treaty? Why should not this very proper obligation have been imposed on a remorseless enemy? It is argued by some that her losses are irretrievable. Yet what would have been thought of a politician at the conclusion of the War between the North and the South if he had wished to hypothecate the assets of the South to the extent of £1,000,000,000, or £100,000,000, repayable in twenty, thirty, or fifty years? He would have been howled down as a lunatic. Within ten years the South could have paid back at least £100,000,000, and within twenty years £1,000,000,000, and to-day almost any sum we can imagine. Therefore, again I say these Peace terms are conspicuous by the absence of a clause which should have supplied this provision. After ail, you have done everything that the pro-German Press in this country advised us would be morally and physically wrong. You have established an International Commission. You are, very rightly, holding the strategic 1011 points of Germany by an Army of Occupation. But you deprive this Commission and this Army of Occupation of its paramount function. This is a matter of unparalleled gravity. We find ourselves today in no enviable position; we find ourselves with the National Debt inflated beyond the wildest imaginings of the most elastic-minded Chancellor. We find ourselves with the sovereign worth ten shillings. We find the House and the country split into schisms, caucuses, factions, and parties, yet there is only one wish that we all have in common, and that is to raise the standard of living of the workers of this country. That can never be done while this burden of taxation is upon us. After all, this War was none of our making. It was thrust upon us by a ruthless and brutal race who have earned for themselves from the gentlest of gentlemen the imperishable epitaph, "Brutes they were, and brutes they remain." There are certain things I know they can never make good. Acts of vandalism, acts against civilisation, acts of atrocity such as the world has never seen—for these they can never atone. But for our delegates at the Peace Conference to hesitate for a moment to impose upon Germany the highest monetary penalty savours to me of that signal act of folly which somehow or other throughout the history of the world has always seemed to precede the downfall of mighty nations.
§ Mr. HOGGE
The speeches that have been delivered so far have not dealt with two House of Commons points which I want to put to the Prime Minister. If the House will look at the two Bills which we are discussing, they will notice that in the first Bill, giving effect to the Treaty of Peace, everything has to be done by Order in Council. I do not know of any Treaty of this kind where the House of Commons has been asked to deal with so large a question by the method of Order in Council. It is a habit with which we are familiar in large Bills dealing with social problems. One of the large Bills with which the Prime Minister had something to do—namely, the National Health Insurance—was largely put through by Order in Council. I am strongly of opinion that in carrying out so extraordinary an international weapon as this every step ought to be taken through the process of legislation, and should not be dealt with by Order in Council. 1012 In the second Bill, approving the Treaty between His Majesty and the President of the French Republic, the House will notice that the Bill is set out in a Schedule, and because it is set out in that Schedule the House cannot amend it in any way. Therefore, in the two Bills to which we are addressing our attention to-day we are prevented from getting to the pith of them—in the first place by Order in Council, and in the second place by the fact that the Schedule prevents the House from amending the Bill.
What the Prime Minister is doing in bringing the matter before the House in this way is making the House of Commons merely a registering machine. He has asked that we should get through all stages of this Bill to-day. It is an unreasonable request, but the way it has been dealt with so far makes it clear that he will get it. Five years ago many of us who were in this House went with fear and trembling into this War, which has burdened not only ourselves but the whole world with an enormous debt, and it does seem reasonable to ask for a longer and better and more detailed explanation and investigation of the decision that has been come to. For instance, in the American Senate and in the French Chamber the members of both those democratic Chambers are having infinitely greater opportunity for dealing with these two Treaties than we are. We are practically being asked to shut our eyes and open our mouths and see what the Prime Minister has brought us from Paris, My hon. Friend interjects that the Treaty is on the Table. That is true, but the Prime Minister is asking the House to address itself to the whole question without preliminary investigation at all, and to take every stage of the Bill to-day. That is a House of Commons point which ought to be put and is well worth putting.
In regard to the Peace Treaty itself, it is obviously not a conclusive peace, and the reason I say that is that the word "provisional" is written in every line of it. General Smuts, one of the signatories, actually wrote an apology in signing it. The pith and essence of his letter is contained in one sentence, in which he pointed out that the only hope for the future lay in an immediate and large revision of the Treaty. I think it bears out the fact that the Treaty is inconclusive, if one of the signatories of the importance 1013 of General Smuts finds it necessary to sign with the reservation that it must be revised. What is the machinery for revision? The machinery for revision is contained in the League of Nations. In recollecting that fact we have to bear in mind this consideration, that, although Germany can, sometime or other, be admitted into the League of Nations by a two-thirds majority, every important decision thereafter must be unanimous. In dealing with the League of Nations the only critical speech that was made was by the right hon. Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil), who asked himself some questions about the League of Nations which apparently he did not answer. In my view they are the crux of the whole situation. He came to the point in which he dealt with the limitation of armaments, and, addressing himself to that question, he asked, "How are you going to measure the armaments of other countries, and when you have measured them how are you going to enforce that that is the measure that is going to obtain?" I understand the Noble Lord was the father, to a large extent, of the form of the League of Nations He certainly is one of the believers in the League of Nations, and if it is impossible—and the Noble Lord thinks it is impossible—for the League of Nations to determine the amount of armaments, then surely in much larger questions it will be even more impossible.
Let me put the matter to the test by asking the Prime Minister to answer a very simple question. Will he tell us what his Government intends to do with regard to our own Navy, Army, and Air Force Estimates? I ask that for more than one reason. When we discussed these Estimates earlier in the Session, when the right hon. Gentleman was in Paris, it was pointed out, quite rightly, that the figures were colossal in the meantime, but that we did not know what was going to happen. My right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) asked the Leader of the House whether he would give a promise that later in the Session revised Estimates for the Army, Navy, and Air Forces would be laid before the House for discussion. I do not think a Parliamentary pledge was given, and I am not accusing the Leader of the House of breaking any pledge, but I think it was distinctly understood that that would be done when we knew the requirements of our Navy, Army, and Air Forces. Obviously, 1014 if the League of Nations is the reality that the Prime Minister declares it to be, there can be no need for this country to continue carrying the enormous burden of our present Army, Navy, and Air Force Estimates. If my right hon. Friend is really convinced, as I should like to b, of the efficiency of the League of Nations, will he announce on the floor of this House—if he cannot do anything more—I want to leave him with a fair loophole: I do not want to press him unduly—that before these Estimates are closed they will be revised and that we shall not carry in a financial year the enormous burden that is put upon the nation in that way?
The reason I say that is, that I believe that all the practical provisions, the operative provisions of the League of Nations, reflect no confidence so far as the Prime Minister and those associated with him in the signing of the Treaty are concerned. For instance, if there is confidence in the operation of the League of Nations, can he inform us why the Left Bank of the Rhine has to be in military occupation for fifteen years? Can he tell us why there is any necessity for the Anglo-American Treaty guaranteeing France against the aggression of Germany? I am certain that these do not reflect any confidence in the League of Nations. My right hon. Friend must remember that Clemenceau, in his speech in the French Chamber, in dealing with this question never mentioned the League of Nations, and he did not do so because the foundation of the League of Nations is based on the old diplomacy of the French nation. In the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth century the policy of France was the policy of client States set up in the East to redress the balance of power in Russia. The client States in those days were the States of Sweden, Poland, and Turkey, and that was the balance against Germany. Then Russia became a great State, and instead of that arrangement of client States we had a new arrangement in the Franco-Russian Alliance. We now come to the position in which Russia finds herself weakened. She is out of the picture for some time, and in the meantime France has got back to the policy of client States and the Prime Minister and others have agreed. Something has been said to-day about Poland and the Polish character, and this point is bound to be a running sore between those peoples and Germany for some very considerable time. If my right hon. Friend recollects he will 1015 remember that Alexander when he attempted a similar combination never attempted the cutting-off process that has been attempted now. You have set up three new client States, of Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Jugo-Slavs. The Minister for War, speaking only two night ago, incidentally referred to that when he pointed out that there was only the thin partition of those States between France and Germany. These States are weak and cannot preserve the balance in the East, and for that purpose, and that purpose alone, France has buttressed herself with this new Triple Alliance inside the League of Nations.
Therefore, you have inside the League of Nations a new Triple Alliance—America, France and Britain. I should like the Prime Minister to tell us if there is any truth in the rumour that this is the -only way they could get out of the permanent occupation of the Saar Valley by the French, that the French were insisting upon the occupation of the Saar Valley, and that to compensate them for that and to get what one could out of the Treaty the Prime Minister and those associated with them agreed to this new-Triple Alliance. The position that is left is very unstable. Europe was formerly the great centre of the world's civilisation. The War has left Europe devastated and impoverished, and this peace in the long run makes it impossible for Europe to recover. What is the position of our own country? After all, we have had a great share in the War. Great Britain must be weak if Europe is impoverished. Great Britain has been great because it has been the gateway of Europe to the West. And if the territories of which we are the gateway are impoverished we are bound to suffer. Second, we used to maintain the balance of Europe. That function is passing, if it has not passed, from us to America, as my right hon. Friend knows, and as some Ministers have acknowledged in their speeches. What people do not seem to realise to-day is that the position to-day is fundamentally different from the position in which Great Britain found herself at the end of the Napoleonic Wars a hundred years ago. Then Britain easily recovered because there were no industrial countries out of Europe. But at the end of this War there are two great industrial countries, one in the East and one in the West, both of which have taken part in 1016 the War, neither of which has suffered anything like what we have suffered in the War, and both of which have profited out of the War. And I should have liked to see as a result of the great efforts which this country has made a peace which would have reflected in the League of Nations the possibility of the revision of the terms of peace.
We have just listened now to two speeches which typify the mind of some people in addressing themselves to this problem and reveal an attitude with which I have no sympathy. I quite understand that the Prime Minister and others could not get by a long way all they wanted, and that they might reasonably anticipate looking forward to a League of Nations doing for them in future what they have been unable for many reasons to accomplish now. But that is going to be no good unless the League of Nations is such that you can get unanimity. And, constructed as it is at this moment, we should have to wait long enough before we could get any unanimity out of it. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin made a great point of what will happen in arbitration about going to war. But the real point is how soon can one get the Peace, and one cannot get the Peace so long as Germany is outside the League, and so long as Germany with the other rations have not come to a unanimous decision about the future of the world. But in the discussion of this Peace Treaty, in which there fro these points and others so large that it seems to me that in only giving one day and so little time to criticism from so many points of view of so great a measure we are not addressing our minds to this problem as we ought to have been given the opportunity of doing. It is the completion of the greatest epoch in the world's history, and we are the greatest Parliament in the world, and we are giving less attention to these great measures than we would give to some trumpery little Bill brought in on a Friday afternoon.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HILDER
When I offered, if I might be given an opportunity, to make my first statement in this historic House, I felt like a criminal being brought up to receive sentence, or, perhaps, like a soldier asking permission to be allowed to go over the top for the first time. May I, therefore, ask hon. Members for the usual kind indulgence? The different criticisms that I have heard of the terms of Peace arrived at with the chief of our enemies 1017 have strengthened my conviction that those terms, on the whole, are satisfactory, and, therefore, I cannot support the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney. It may not be a perfect Peace, but it seems to bring home to the human understanding that we have won the War and that it is no drawn fight. I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister deserves the gratitude of the House and of the nation, for the manner in which he has conducted the negotiations. If we may venture to attempt to peep behind the very thick curtains which have hidden so completely from the public view the first great experiment in open diplomacy, I think that we may see our ubiquitous Prime Minister standing between the great leaders of the French nation and the great leaders of the people of the United States and reconciling their views and arriving at what I consider a sound British compromise. Probably our gallant French Allies were a little too near the horrible War, and perhaps our gallant American Allies were a little too far away, but our representatives, at any rate, have taken a middle course. I speak naturally without, any information other than that which every hon. Member has, but I do think this, that we took the best course and that this House has reason to be satisfied with our work at the Paris Conference.
The outstanding feature of the Peace Treaty is that it puts the British Empire at the highest point that it has ever reached as regards territory and world influence. Largely by force of circumstances, and the leading part which our Navy and Army took in either breaking down or destroying the enemy, we have been left with far greater territory and power than at any other period of our race's history. I think it correct to say that we have not sought this increase of responsibility, but that it has come to us because we are best fitted to undertake it. We may take legitimate pride in it, and resolve to do our best to be worthy of it. I welcome the provision in the Treaty for establishing a League of Nations, with the object of seeking to make this the last great war that shall afflict humanity. I had the privilege of serving upon two fronts during the whole course of the War—in Flanders and in Palestine—and I say deliberately that I regard it as a privilege to have been able to do so. But I do not want ever to contemplate the necessity of taking up arms again.
1018 In my election address I put advocacy of the League of Nations in the very forefront. Indeed, long before the War broke out, I was engaged in putting before all who would listen to me a proposal to try to make a great war impossible, by an agreement between the Powers whereby the differences between nations Mere to be settled by the same civilised means as the difference between individuals. But I take it that we shall have another opportunity of discussing this League of Nations proposal. Therefore I shall not now trespass further upon the indulgence of the House except to say that, as a business man, representing what is practically a Labour constituency, I have, so to speak, a foot in both camps, and I find in Labour circles and in business circles alike a strong feeling that the only hope for our civilisation is to try to put an end once for all to this mad business of trying to settle national disputes by means of bombs and poison gas. I cannot conclude without expressing the hope that the right hon. Gentlemen who have the confidence of this House will devote all their ability to laying firm the foundations of another peace. It was unavoidable, I know, that during the last six months they should have given most of their time towards securing a peace among nations. Now the pressing need is to secure a firm and enduring peace among classes.
Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY
I am sure that the House will join with me in congratulating the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down on his eloquent maiden effort. I hope that ho will on future occasions deliver to us addresses equal in eloquence to that to which we have just listened. The Prime Minister, as has been observed, during the last six months in Paris has been faced with responsibilities as grave and as arduous as any that ever confronted the First Minister of the British Crown. And although—as I shall proceed to show in a minute—I am not in entire agreement with every item of the Treaty, I may be permitted to join with other hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in congratulating the Prime Minister on the worthy manner in which he has upheld British prestige and British interests at the Conference which has recently concluded. It has been said on more than one occasion that the House must either accept or reject this Treaty. It is not possible to introduce Amendments into it. If it were the discussion would range over a variety of sub- 1019 jects, and would last a considerable number of days. I ask myself, therefore, whether anything is to be gained by criticising those parts of the Treaty which in the view of some of us are open to objection. In one sense there is no object to be gained, while in another sense I think there is. It might be useful to the League of Nations when that body is set up and put in operation to have before it the views of Members of this Parliament and of other Parliaments on certain terms contained in the Treaty. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin, speaking this afternoon, said that there can be no doubt in anyone's mind that the broad lines of the Treaty are right. With that sentiment I agree entirely. But the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister will be the first to agree that there are Clauses in the Treaty of which no one can hope that they shall be of a permanent character.
I desire to draw the attention of the House—not in any spirit of criticism of the Prime Minister, because I know full well what his difficulties and those of the British Delegation have been—to what in my mind is one of the parts of the Treaty most open to criticism. I refer to those Articles from 156 to 158 which deal with the question of Shantung. I may call to the recollection of the House some of the history of the Shangtung or Kiaochow question. In the year 1808, as the result of the murder of certain German, missionaries, the Germans secured from China a ninety-nine years' lease of the Port of Tsingtao, and the territory of Kiaochow surrounding it. After the outbreak of war—to be exact, on 7th November, 1914—the Japanese, in company with a few British troops, captured Tsingtao, and the Japanese forces proceeded to occupy the city and to continue in occupation of Chinese territory which had been invaded as part of the military operations. In January, 1915, China protested at the continued occupation of this territory, and there then arose the famous twenty-one demands made by Japan on China, to which, in May, 1915. China was obliged to yield. These demands, with which I will not deal in detail, included the right of Japan to dispose of Kiaochow in any way agreed upon between Japan and Germany, and other very important concessions from the point of view of China were wrung out of that country. All these demands were embodied in a Treaty made in the year 1020 1915, and attached to this Treaty was a letter in which Japan promised to restore the German-leased territory to China on condition that China granted to Japan a permanent point of occupation and made payment for public buildings turned over, and gave to Japan joint control of the railways. Those were some of the features of the Treaty of 1915, a Treaty which it is not too much to say virtually involved the complete Japanese domination, military and economic, of Northern China. The Chinese have protested that this Treaty was wrung out of them under duress. When the Conference assembled in Paris, and after the Peace Treaty which is under discussion to-night had beer, framed, China was asked to sign that Treaty. China offered to sign with reservations, and it is as well to draw the attention of the House to that point; but this proposal was declined by the Council of Four. China then offered to sign if certain wording was modified, so that China should not be precluded from asking at some future date for a reconsideration of the Treaty. This offer was also refused, so the Chinese delegates refused to sign at all, and in doing so they protested in words which, with the permission of the House, I will read, in order that they may be placed on record. She said:The Peace Conference having denied to China justice in the settlement of the Shantung question, and having in effect prevented her signing a treaty without the sacrifice of her sense of right, justice and patriotic duty, the Chinese delegates submit their case to the impartial judgment of the world.The Chinese delegates, therefore, at the Peace Conference asked for the revision of this Treaty, just as revision had been demanded in the case of the Treaties of Brest-Litovsk and Bucharest. The point that China has emphasised in making that request is that Kiaochow is Chinese territory which was leased to Germany, that with the Chinese declaration of war against Germany this agreement lapsed, that the territory reverted therefore to China, and that the Japanese capture in the interim of the land in question does not affect the legal position.
In laying China's case before the House I hope I have not trespassed upon its indulgence, but it does seem to me to be of first importance. This small piece of territory that we know as Kiaochow may well turn the future of 100 years. Any hon. Member has only to look at a map and he will see why. In the first place Japan—and I speak with all respect of 1021 Japan as an Ally of ours—holds Korea and Port Arthur, and the railroads of Manchuria reaching round Pekin on one side. Kiaochow, the territory in dispute, gives access to Pekin from the other side, and the German railroad concession which Japan also claims reaches back to the very rich mining land of Shen-si, and, beyond, across the whole of Asia. In this connection one further point seems to me to be perfectly incomprehensible. All the German rights in the territory of Kiaochow are renounced under the Treaty in favour of Japan, and under Article 157 the movable and immovable property owned by the German interests in the territory of Kiaochow, as well as all the rights which Germany "might claim" in consequence of the works or improvements made or the expenses incurred by her. I am at a loss to understand how it was that that provision was allowed to enter into the Treaty. "All the rights which Germany might claim"—how are we to know what rights Germany "might claim," and what limit is to be placed on the rights that Japan may claim under the provisions of that particular Article?
Article 157 on page 76. No one can deny that the question of Shangtung is meantime buried, but it will be resurrected at no very distant date, and, if I may say so, the position of Japan is not an unembarrassing one. Her difficulty relates to her own previous actions with reference to Kiaochow. It is this, that before Japan took possession of Kiaochow by force of arms, she made a demand on Germany to deliver it to her not later than 15th September, 1914, without condition or compensation. With what object? "With a view to the eventual restoration of the same to China." I do not wish to labour this point, but I do think it right that it should be placed on record that opinion in this House, and, as I understand it, in this country, is by no means unanimous in respect to the provisions of the Peace Treaty relating to the territory at Kiaochow. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), in the eloquent speech he made to-day, remarked that one of the advantages of this Treaty as distinct from the treaties which had been made in days of old, was that it provided an opportunity 1022 for a periodic review of the settlements, territorial and otherwise, which were incorporated within its provisions. I am perfectly sure that the provisions in regard to Shantung ought to be reviewed, and at an early date.
May I pass on to what seems to me to be the outstanding advantage contained in the Peace Treaty which we are now discussing, and that is the inclusion of the League of Nations to which such eloquent reference has been made by various speakers this afternoon? I listened very closely to the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 3rd July. He referred to the League of Nations as being the greatest guarantee of future peace. With that I whole-heartedly agree. If the Treaty were in other respects almost wholly bad the fact that the League of Nations Covenant was included in it would make it acceptable to me. If I may, I desire to add a further word in recognition of the labours of the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin? I do so because at one period of the War I was somewhat closely associated with the work the Noble Lord was doing, and I know how great the debt of gratitude that this country, and I may say the world and posterity, owe to the ability, genius, and energy which the Noble Lord has brought to bear on the task entrusted to him. That is true not only of the Noble Lord, but of others who were associated with him, such as Lord Eustace Percy—to mention one name—in the task of framing and creating the Covenant of the League of Nations. I was glad the Prime Minister rectified an omission in the speech of 3rd July by inserting in the Press of the following day a commendation of the work of the Noble Lord. The Prime Minister in that speech, in recommending the League of Nations to the House, appeared to mo to do so with some doubt in his mind as to the popularity of the League. Whatever may be thought of the League of Nations in some quarters of this House, I venture to say that he need have no anxiety at all as to its popularity and its reception by the vast masses of the people throughout the country. The spirit of the Bourbons may still have a resting-place in certain quarters of this House, and in the person, for instance, of the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley), who spoke a few minutes ago, but the people of this country generally are, it seems to me, anxious for the victory of ideals for 1023 which so much sacrifice has been made, and it is largely through the instrument of the League of Nations that they hope to see that victory achieved. The League of Nations has a task of the greatest magnitude before it. Let us hope that it will toe the antiseptic to some of the wounds which this Treaty has inflicted. It is fortunate, may I say, in its first Secretary-General, a gentleman who has done work through this War, as, indeed, before the War, of a most valuable nature, and a gentleman who brings to bear upon his task wide experience coupled with a kindly and genial character, which will go far to help him in the work he has to do. The appointment of Sir Eric Drummond is not only a compliment to the man, but is a compliment of the Allied and Associated Powers to the British Empire of which he is an ornament. As I read the League of Nations, it seems to me that the Council and the body of delegates are or will be for some time, not very much more than ornaments, and that the real work of the League will devolve upon what I may call the pulse of the machine, that is the secretariat under the Secretary-General. This secretariat will have no executive power, but will be in effect, as I understand it, an international information bureau, or, in other words, a world organ of knowledge and of expert thought. In a few years, let us hope, there will be assembled, as the result of the creation of the secretariat of the League of Nations in one central spot for all the civilised nations of the world, a body of experts examining and co-ordinating all the most important interests and activities of human welfare. That international exchange of thought and of ideas will necessarily, as it seems to me, help to develop peaceful as opposed to warlike ambitions, and that will be a great stride forward.
I think we ought to recognise here, and the Prime Minister and the British delegation who have been in Paris would be the first to do so, the great part played by the President of the United States in bringing into being the Covenant of the League of Nations. I am aware that there was very close co-operation between the British and the American Delegations during the Peace Conference. If I had any criticism to make it would be that the co-operation was not closer. I could almost wish that the two delegations had put their heads together and had said 1024 that they were determined to draft a Peace Treaty which would leave behind it-no such territorial sores as are undoubtedly contained in the Treaty which we are discussing to-day. However that may be, one thing is clear, and that is that the future of the League of Nations and the future peace of the world, League of Nations or no League of Nations, must depend very largely upon the close co-operation between the people of the United States of America and the British Empire, and I hope therefore that His Majesty's Government will leave no stone unturned, to stimulate that co-operation and to do all that lies in their power to promote real friendship between the two nations. But there is one thing further that the League of Nations effects, so far as this country is concerned, and no reference has been made to that in any speech to which I have listened this evening. The League of Nations imposes new obligations upon the British Parliament and the people of this country. It is now incumbent upon this Parliament and upon the people of the British Empire to study, to examine, and to take an interest in foreign and international affairs to an extent and in a manner which they have not previously done. They cannot do so under our existing Governmental system, and I would therefore urge upon the Government that the creation of the League of Nations is an additional reason why they should at once undertake the task of remodelling the Governmental system of the United Kingdom in order to leave this Imperial House free to 6tudy, to examine, and to deal with, as I have suggested, the questions of international moment and cooperation that are bound to arise under this Treaty. There are, as I have indicated, some weak points in the Treaty, but perhaps it was inevitable that that should be so, that in some respects it is what we may call a compromise Treaty, but I am reminded in this connection of the statement which was made by that great American, Benjamin Franklin, towards the close of the Convention of 1787. The words seem to me to be so full of meaning and so apposite to the situation that now confronts us, that if the House will permit me I will quote them before sitting down. Benjamin Franklin said:Mr. President: I confess that there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such, because I doubt as to whether any other Convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a 1025 number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with, those men all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does, if every one of us, in returning to our constituents, were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavour to gain partisans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received. I hope, therefore, that for our own sakes, as a part of the people, and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts and endeavours to the means of having it well administered.It is with similar sentiments, it seems to me, that we should accept the Treaty under discussion to-night, and, in accepting, do our utmost, individually and collectively, so to fashion the League of Nations, which is the keystone of the Treaty, as to ensure, so far as humanly possible, that it will safeguard for all time the peace of the world and the progress of democratic principles.
It seems very difficult to realise at the end of almost five years of incessant fighting that the War is over, that the Peace has been signed, and that ratification has now only to follow. The task that has been carried out by the Prime Minister is a colossal one. He was returned as the representative of this nation, and for the nation, to conduct the negotiations at the Peace Conference, and I think it is very much a subject of congratulation that he has assisted to bring these peace negotiations to a conclusion, because the pitfalls that had to be got over and the difficulties of international relations were certainly a great task for any man, especially when we know that there were more than twenty nations, each of which wished to have a voice in the matter and was considering its own interests. I think we may congratulate ourselves as a nation, and congratulate also those representatives of Great Britain who took part in that Conference—the Foreign Secretary as well as the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil). There are points which we should like to criticise in the negotiations and in the result of the Peace Conference, but, taken as a whole, I think that there is little to which we can take exception. Of course, one knows that the question of indemnities is the one that interests the British nation most of all, and, personally, I feel that it was not 1026 our part to find out how much money Germany could pay. In my view the bill should have been presented to Germany, and it would have been for her to let us know how and when she could pay. I think that Germany is very much better able to meet her obligations than many people think, because, in the first place, she has great mineral wealth and a great deal of coal in that country. Could there be a time more than the present when coal is of the greatest necessity to us? Certainly Germany can make a very considerable contribution of coal to our country. Then, again, the work of the German is well known to be admirable. We have seen a great deal of that during the War regarding great German prisoners, and it is an extraordinary tiling the amount that the Germans can turn out, whether it be piece-work or skilled labour. I much regret to say it, but I think that the German workmen can give the workmen in this country points in the amount they do. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not in fighting!"] That has been proved, and it has been the case with the German prisoners who have been working in this country. They put their backs into it, and certainly they do as much in the time as any man could do. I think they do more than the British workmen at the present time, because they put their backs and their hearts into it.
Then we know that all the German industries will be started again as once. Their country has been untouched by the hand of war. All their machinery, all their industries, are ready to start again, and I think it will be found that in the near future everything will be going full steam ahead in Germany, and they will be competing in the world's markets, Remember that they have no handicaps such as many of the European nations have—for instance, Belgium, where much of the machinery is ruined, and will take long to re-establish, while Germany is free to enter into competition with the world. Germany, we know, will have to trade with us again. She must trade, otherwise she can never pay her debts. But none of her goods that she sends to our country must be able to compete with the output of our own manufactories and our own industries. I should like to know, when considering the indebtedness of Germany, why German bonds payable in thirty, forty, or fifty years were not given to us in payment, or as security for the payment, of her indemnity to us. I cannot see why 1027 Germany should be free of debt after any given number of years. She has got to pay us for her indebtedness, and all the damage she has done in this War, and, however long it may take for that indebtedness to be paid, I think Germany should be under a bond and an agreement to us to pay that indebtedness. Most of us who sit in this House, if not all of us, were elected because we insisted on Germany paying an indemnity, and I think that it is the duty of every one of us to insist that she shall pay until the last penny is made good. That is my view. Then the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) spoke of the question of a number of cows being handed over to the Allied nations in place of those the Germans had taken from France. The Noble Lord said that the babies in many parts of Germany were suffering from lack of milk. I should like to ask what is happening to the babies in those parts of Franco where the cows were taken by the Germans. Surely if it be a case of babies starving from want of milk, I say without a shadow of doubt the German babies have got to starve first, and long before the French or Belgian babies.
We have heard about the League of Nations, and I hope the League of Nations is more than a pious hope, because if it is workable it is the only means by which armaments can be kept down, by which large standing armies can be kept down, and by which matters can be settled which have been formerly settled by arms. It would mean that the armaments in this and all other countries could be very largely cut down, and I think by that means much could be done, though I am strongly against Germany being accepted in the League of Nations until we have proof—and very good proof—that she is fitted to be accepted in the comity of nations. We heard the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Devlin) quoting the League of Nations and making it applicable to Ireland. We heard him talk about our own Dominions, and the question of Home Rule for them. He quoted President Wilson on more than one occasion, and he quoted his Fourteen Points as being points applicable to Ireland. But I should like to ask, are we able to rule ourselves, and to legislate for ourselves, or do we require President Wilson to do it for us? I think the question of Ireland is a question for ourselves to decide. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Russia?"] Nobody would 1028 be more delighted to see the question of Ireland settled, provided it can be settled satisfactorily to the North and to the South. Let us all do what we can to make the League of Nations workable. It is the duty of all of us to assist in every way that is possible, to see that war is stopped for the future, and that this League is made a living thing by which international matters can be settled, so that the world in the future can live in peace.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
During the Debate to-night we have had extremely lucid and interesting speeches on a very high level, and, it I may say so, the last two were completely up to that level. Nevertheless, I have never been more alarmed during the last five years, not at having to address this in this House, but at the way in which these two Treaties have been treated by our representatives in the House of Commons. I think the time has come for plain speaking, and for a protest to be made, and I would like to add a small protest to that made by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge). The Treaties that we are discussing to-night are of first-rate importance. I suppose they are the most important Bills that any of us here are ever likely to see introduced into this legislative Chamber. They were long debated in secret. We were refused all information about them. They were finally presented to us after the German people had had them some weeks, or at least, I speak now of the Peace Treaty. Now we are given one day in which to discuss them, in spite of the interpolation, from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles, on this subject. The Government in regard to these two Bills has ignored the House of Commons. To-day the House of Commons has swallowed that affront. These are hard things to say, but I think they ought to be said, and said as plainly as possible, and with them other things. I propose to say them to-night. At the time of the Napoleonic wars, and the settlement afterwards, our whole foreign policy was debated and re-debated in this House. The speeches made at that time were historical. They actually swayed Governments. So far as I can gather we have fallen very far from that estate; yet more than one Member speaking to-night has spoken of ourselves as being representatives of the greatest democracy in the world. I repeat it, it shows the decline of the House, and one can only protest against it and pass on.
1029 We were given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Gorbals Division (Mr. Barnes) a very interesting speech, chiefly concerned with international labour legislation. I am sure we all welcome the proposals of the Treaty for raising the level of international labour. But I would very much like an answer, when the Debate is wound up, by the member of the Government who speaks as to the fact—if it be a fact—that Japan and India, have been excluded from the international Labour Clauses. If that is the case, a great mistake has been made. Those two countries, in which admittedly the labour standard is much lower than in Europe, might have been admitted with reservations. It is a blot that that has not been alone. In the future that fact alone, I am afraid, may go far to wreck international labour legislation, which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Barnes) has worked so hard to get incorporated in the Treaty. I am speaking now on the Peace Treaty proper, and in no party or carping spirit whatever. I am speaking with very great seriousness, and also with great diffidence. I wish, at the same time, I had more experience and wisdom in these matters, and, above all, more powers of oratory; but 1 do claim a hearing in this House, and for tour reasons. The first is, that with the possible exception of two hon. Members of this honourable House, I have been most recently in actual touch with the electorate, and have been through the ordeal of election. I, therefore, claim in that sense to have as good an idea of what the people of this country are saying and thinking as any other Member. The second leason—a small one, unfortunately—is that I took some slight active part in the War. I wish it had been more. That is not my fault—I did what I could. The third reason is, that I am trying to speak for a very large body of opinion outside this House which certainly disapproves of the whole course of the proceedings in Paris, and of the way these Treaties have been presented to the House, and certainly disapproves of the lack of critical, careful earnest examination by this House. The fourth reason is, that with many other Members of this House, I dare say, I share the blessing of having sons who in twenty years, if we make blunders now, may have to pay for them.
In times gone by we were told again and again—I will not say ad nauseam, because some of these words could not be repeated too often—we were told we were 1030 fighting to make the world safe for democracy. A flood of memories, come as I utter these words. The War was a war to end war. It was a war that right and justice might prevail in the world over might. It was a war for the sanctity of treaties. Members of the Government on many platforms again and again used very line language in giving utterance to these sentiments, I want to speak respecting some of these statements. Let me quote, to begin with, one or two sentences from our own Prime Minister. On 7th January, speaking to the Trade Union Delegation at the Central Hall, Westminster, the Prime Minister said:We are not fighting a war of aggression against the German nation. Their features have persuaded them that they are fighting a war of self-defence against a League of Allied Nations bent on the destruction of Germany. That is not so.Further on the right hon. Gentleman said:We have never aimed to break up the German peoples or at the disintegration of their state or country. Germany has occupied a great position in the world. It is not our wish or intention to question or destroy that position for the future, but rather to turn her aside from the hopes in her scheme of military domination, and see her devote all her strength to the great and beneficent tasks of peace.And again:Our point of view is that the adoption of a really democratic constitution by Germany will be the most convincing evidence that the old spirit of military domination has indeed died.There are many more such expressions. We must all have read them. They inspired hundreds of thousands of men of our race and hundreds of thousands of men, not of our race, who have fought with us in this struggle. The fine idealism of 1914 and 1915 has got to be recaptured if the national unity that everyone pleads for in the next five years is to be brought, about. I say that these fine ideals have been lost sight of in the documents we are debating to-night. The Treaty is looked at differently by different schools. The first of those who have spoken to-night think that the terms are not severe enough. They are particularly exercised on the question of reparation and money. I have every sympathy and respect for that point of view. They consider that we will be in danger of reviving Germany in the future, and therefore Germany should be utterly crushed, and made as weak as possible, and kept so. That is quite understandable. It is soldierlike. I repeat I have great respect for that view. 1031 I can understand it. I rather prefer it to some other classes of thought the exponents of which talk very much in the air; when it comes to facts we find they have not carried out their fine promises. The second of those of whom I speak—a very small number—are those who entirely agree with the Peace Treaty. Not one of the speakers I have heard has said that he agreed with it entirely. There must be some persons who agree with it even as a document. The third are those who disagree with some of the Clauses in it, but who are prepared to accept it, particularly because it embodies the great idea of the League of Nations. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord It. Cecil), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. Clynes), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) are three good representatives of that point of view, and they accept the Treaty because of the League of Nations. Fourthly, there are those who take exception to certain Clauses, but they also object to the way the League of Nations idea has been worked up, and, although they consider the League is a beginning, they think that the Treaty is such that it will never come to fruition, and it is that school of thought I wish to speak for.
I would make a few criticisms of the League of Nations as we have it embodied in the volume of the Treaty of Peace. The first criticism I have to make is that thirty or forty small nations are to be represented by four members not elected by themselves but nominated by the big Powers. This, in the future, may be an entirely artificial distinction, like the classes which prevailed in England in the Middle Ages, a system which has now broken down. You have four large Powers at the top as a result of this system, and thirty or forty nations representing the lesser Powers at the bottom, including such countries as China, Russia, and Germany. That is an invidious distinction, and it will not lead to wholehearted co-operation on the part of the small nations.
My third criticism of the League is that we ourselves in this country have no voice in the appointment of the officials of the council. I agree with the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Lieut.-Colonel Murray) who paid a tribute to the First Secretary-General of the League. As far as I know he is a very admirable choice in every 1032 way, but we have no voice in his appointment, and he might have been the most unsuitable person possible. We have no voice in the matter except through our Government, and that is wrong. The nations, through their Parliaments, should have a right to elect by free and open vote their representative on the council and the Assembly of the League. The criticism that there is no real attempt to immitarmaments was very ably met by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin, who pointed out the great difficulty of limiting armaments, and he said, "Who can say what a nation needs for their own security?" I think the Noble Lord missed the whole point. As things are now, it is practically impossible to limit armaments, and we have left aside, the only real way, and that is, complete disarmament all round, with a strong international police force. That is the only way to keep both internal and external order, and if you are to have armies in all these little nations, you will never be free from the danger of war.
My next criticism is that the beaten Powers are not admitted, and their cooperation is wanted for making up the ruins of Europe. I would like to refer to the criticism made by the United States, because I think that should receive a certain amount, of examination in this House. Article 10 of the Covenant is as follows:The members of the League undertake to respect and preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all members of the League. In case of any such aggression or in case of any threat or danger of such aggression the council shall advise upon the menus by which this obligation shall be fulfilled.I have no tread the whole of the criticisms made in America since, but I think they take the point of view that you are attempting to stereotype continuity in a changing world. In some of the nations of the world, such as the southern parts of Europe, you have a continuity which extends over many generations, and that is one of the causes of war in the past, and it is also one of the things which the League of Nations will have to legislate for. Certain areas become depopulated and others overcrowded, and the League has to find some solution of this difficulty. We are asked to stereotype existing conditions, and this shows that the League requires to be drastically amended before it meets the needs of the world. I consider that if we do not make this League a success general ruin will overtake the world by further wars. These things can be remedied now, 1033 and I consider that we are making a mistake in ratifying this Treaty. If this House and the country could assert itself the Government would realise certain defects must be made good, and it would be a tremendous step forward in international and internal peace in this country. It has been said that if we do not remedy these things war will break out again. We are now at peace with Germany, and we know that, although she has been urged to continue the War, she refuses to fight. Every effort has been made to make her fight, but the Germans know they are beaten, and will not fight. We could, therefore, at once quite safely set to work and remodel the objectionable parts both of the Covenant of the League and the Peace Treaty itself. No one criticises the Clause dealing with Alsace-Lorraine or the return of Schleswig-Holstein to Denmark. I think we made a mistake by trying to incorporate the Germans with the Danes in the first attempt at settlement. The Danes in their wisdom refused to accept the first frontier laid down on the grounds that it violated the principal of nationality. They refused purely German territory. I am quite certain that the statesmen in Paris with their representatives and their staff had made a mistake perfectly honestly. Does not that show that other mistakes may equally well have been made?
When the Prime Minister spoke in this House in March he spent a great deal of his speech criticising very adversely a Noble Lord who is a Member of another place—I refer to Lord Northeliffe—and he mentioned his Peace terms that were issued to all the world at the time of the Armistice. He treated them lightly; in fact, almost with contempt. Those peace terms in a great many respects were infinitely better than these Peace terms which we are asked to ratify. In those Peace terms Lord Northeliffe laid it down that the boundary between Poland and Germany should be settled by a mixed Polish and German Commission. That was a statesmanlike proposal. What a pity it was not done! What a pity it would have been if the Danes had accepted the proposed frontier for Schleswig. The demand for the reparation of France and Belgium, for compensation for our murdered seamen, and for the payment of the damages of the War no one really criticises. These are not the weak points that have been attacked. No one suggests that the Clauses with regard to the indisputably 1034 Polish territory are unjust, nor are the Articles of the Treaty regarding punishment for the War attacked at all. The criticisms which have been heard to-night refer to the Saar Valley, which, of course, taken by itself could be justified. The Germans destroyed the French mines, and therefore the French are entitled to the German mines. The prospect before Poland, I agree, is terrible. In twenty years' time Poland may find herself wedged in between two hostile countries, namely, Germany with 60,000,000 inhabitants and Russia with 170,000,000 inhabitants. If Poland is not on good terms with those two nations, her position will be impossible. We have there the seeds of a future war.
Every one of the economic conditions can be justified taken by itself, but we have well justified complaints by our own manufacturers of our own Government control. What is it going to mean to Germany, which has to work to recover in order to pay its just debts, if it does not have control even by its own Government, but control by an Allied Commission? The proposal regarding German shipping can be justified taken by itself. They sunk our ships in a perfectly illegal way, and the proposal taken by itself is perfectly right. The whole of the German Colonies are alienated, and she loses three-quarters of her iron and one-third of her coal. She is allowed no agents or banks in foreign countries, and no foreign security. She is to pay £5,000,000,000 on account and the remainder as is to be determined, and that in addition to the live stock that she has to give at this time. All these things taken together, with others which I will not mention, are crushing, and condemn generations of Germany to economic slavery. I quite agree that the transferring of Shangtung from Germany to Japan is a great blunder and a great violation of the rights of self-determination.
Proof of the failure of this Peace Treaty is afforded by our necessity to keep an Army of Occupation on the Rhine for fifteen years—an army bigger than, our original Expeditionary Force. That, added to the maintenance of necessary armies in other parts of the world, will be an intolerable burden in the years to come. We have great difficulties in our own administration, there is discontent in the nation, and this burden will hit us extremely hard. The whole of Europe is tottering on the brink of bankruptcy at the present time. Every available man, 1035 every skilled workman, every available machine in Europe is required to produce, and every distributive agency is required to distribute goods. Germany can only produce the goods absolutely necessary to save Europe from chaos and anarchy if she can get her industries going. That is the weakness of the position taken up by hon. Gentlemen when they talk about having crushed a trade rival. Co-operation in the world is required now, and every German skilled workman should be working overtime to produce goods. If the Germans can produce goods cheaply for the devastated areas of Europe, we should be only too glad.
I criticised just now the alienation of the whole of the German colonies. Taken by itself, that is a perfectly just judgment upon them, but you now find a great country—because she is a great country, as regards size, natural resources, and number of inhabitants—cut off altogether from the outside world. If we had been far-seeing and statesmanlike, she would have been given a mandate over one of her old colonies. It is true that she treated the native inhabitants badly, but I am sorry to say that two of our Allies, Portugal and Belgium, in the past have treated the inhabitants of their colonies badly. We did not deprive them of their colonies, and it is sheer hypocrisy to bring that forward as a reason for depriving Germany of her colonies. That, taken with other Clauses, means that you are going to keep the nation in economic slavery.
We are faced in this country with a grave industrial crisis. We have all listened with great approval to the words of the right hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Manchester (Mr. Clynes), when he pleaded for a little liberalism in dealing with the claims of different classes. The great need now is for cooperation between different classes in our own country, and if you hold out to them the example of this Peace Treaty being forced upon a beaten foe by the force of arms, you are simply setting them a bad example. How can you expect the miners to modify their demands if you have such a spirit abroad in the world? It is the spirit which is responsible for the twenty-three wars now being waged. It is a spirit which will bring into this country great industrial unrest. You will not stop these twenty-three wars between small 1036 nations, you will not prevent general anarchy, chaos, and revolution, and you will not get that co-operation between classes which is absolutely required if this Treaty is to be ratified now without amendment. Why not listen to the Germans in council, as was done at the close of the Napoleonic wars? If you do not meet them in conference now we shall be answerable for the future. If this House takes the responsibility of blindly voting without revision the terms of the Treaty, I am afraid that this country will suffer, and Members of this House who are trying to shout me down will be responsible.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I have no intention of standing between the House and the Prime Minister, and when the right hon. Gentleman comes in 1 shall immediately sit down. But I feel that every private Member—and very few have spoken this evening—has a right in this important Debate to announce his views. I do not think the hon. and gallant Member who has just resumed his scat had any reason to excuse himself for explaining his views. He had a perfect right to do so. But do not let him think for a moment that I share his views; indeed, I think I may go so far as to say it is doubtful whether any Member in the House agrees with him. I should like for a minute to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Devlin). I cannot admit the analogy that he drew between the case of Ireland and that of certain other small nationalities that have been brought within the scope of the Peace Treaty, but I can without reserve acknowledge the magnificent part which many of the men whom he leads played in the War.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Then I can acknowledge the magnificent part played by the late Mr. John Redmond, and I can assure the hon. Member that, so far as I am concerned, I am just as anxious as he is for the settlement of the Irish problem. I would ask the President of the Board of Education to inform the Prime Minister when he returns to the Front Bench that there are many Unionist Members who regard the Irish question as urgent as does the hon. Member for Belfast. I would also like him to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the need not only for an expression of pious opinion but for an attempt seriously to grapple with this problem before the end of the Session. Many words have 1037 been said in congratulation of the noble part the Prime Minister has played in the conduct of the peace negotiations. May I, as a humble Back Bench Member, share in those congratulations, and may I also express my satisfaction with a fact not yet noted, that every one of the Peace Delegates who acted on the part of the United Kingdom at the Peace Conference was a Member of the House of Commons. It is the first occasion on which that has ever taken place. May it be a significant augury of the increasing interest in and growing control of the House of Commons over the conduct of the foreign affairs of this country.
During the course of this Debate criticisms have been made against the Treaty and made with full sincerity. They seem to have centred upon three points. In the first place it has been urged that the Treaty places too heavy a burden on Germany. Secondly, it has been urged by the right hon. Member for one of the divisions of Manchester in a very noble speech that the Treaty does not go far enough in the matter of disarmament, and, thirdly, it has been urged that the Treaty fails in applying fully the principle of self-determination. Let me, with all deference, suggest to the hon. Members who have made these criticisms that they are confusing two different phases of the situation through which we are passing. In the first place we are liquidating the old world, and in the second place we are creating a new one. Both of these actions have to be taken separately. You cannot, in my view, create a new world until you have liquidated the old one. You cannot obtain the new dispensation until you have destroyed the old. Organisations and governments which have in the past debased the standard of international relations have to be destroyed, and in the same way the men who made war possible and who brought war to Europe, have got to be punished. Therefore the Treaty has to liquidate the old world, and when it has done that it can then proceed to create the new world. On that account I agree with the provisions of the Treaty under which punishment, reparation and indemnity are exacted. But I do so with this one reservation—that I hope the Prime Minister when he comes to reconsider the question of the trial of the Kaiser will incline to the view that the trial should be one undertaken by the Permanent Court of Justice of the 1038 League of Nations, rather than by a body that must be partial sitting in London. I am most anxious that we should not turn a criminal into a martyr.
Secondly, just as I approve of the punishment of the guilty and the exaction of reparation and indemnities, so I also approve most sincerely of the steps that have been taken under the Peace Treaty to break up the old bad Governments of the past; for instance, the bad Hohenzollern Government, the essence of materialism and imperialism; the old bad Hapsburg Government, the essence of bureaucratic unscrupulousness and anti-national intrigue; and 1 hope also the old bad Ottoman Government, the essence of religious persecution and mediaeval corruption. These old organisations have got to be broken if the new world is to come into being. What, gives me to think is that there are still men—I am afraid many men—of the old Hapsburg and Hohenzollern Empires who are determined to piece together again the old machine and to make it again function. On that account I fully agree with the safeguards that have been taken in the Treaty to make the machinations of those men impossible—safeguards such as the Treaty that we and the United States have made for the mutual guarantee of France. In my view, a guarantee of that kind is absolutely necessary if the new world is to come into being with a chance of success. Moreover, I have this confidence, that the Treaty does not merely concern itself with guarantees and safeguards against the old dispensation, but that in the League of Nations it provides an organisation under which the now world can come into being with success. On that account I was most glad to hear the eloquent words delivered by one who is the most qualified to speak on the League of Nations, my Noble Friend the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil). To me the League of Nations is not some visionary assembly of a new Jerusalem, but a practical body, sitting continuously, working upon concrete problems, and in direct touch, not only with the Foreign Offices, but with public opinion in each country which is represented. For the success of that League I look, not only to the British Empire, but to the British Empire assisted by the United States of America. To me, the League of Nations, both in its conception and in its constitution, is an Anglo-Saxon creation and an Anglo-Saxon 1039 ideal. Let not, then, the United States entrench itself in the Munroe Doctrine and retire to its own continent; let not, also, the British Empire content itself with the self-development of its own resources, but let both together make the one organisation that is going to make the new world possible, and ensure the League of Nations, not only as a theory of a few politicians, but as a political organisation for making a new and better world.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I think the Government, and I think I might also add the Peace Conference, have every reason to be gratified with the discussion that has taken place to-day upon the Treaty of Peace. There has been no fundamental criticism. There has been suggestions made; there have, been one or two sections of the Clauses of this gigantic document which have been subjected to some slight criticisms, but, in the main, it has struck me that the House as a whole—I do not know that I can make any exception—has accepted this Treaty. In that respect I think they reflect public opinion outside. One right hon. Friend of mine suggested that the House of Commons ought to devote itself to a very close scrutiny of the whole of this document. I should have thought that that was the worst use to which the House of Commons could put its own powers. It is not merely that it is absolutely unprecedented. It would ha quite impossible for the Government of this country to enter into negotiations with other lands under conditions of that kind. If the House of Commons wanted a closer scrutiny and wanted move time to examine the various clauses of the Treaty, of course the Government would have been only too delighted to make the necessary arrangements. The course of the discussion has covered not merely the Treaty of Peace with Germany, but also the Treaty which has been entered into between this country and America and France. I am not aware that that has been challenged by any section of this House. I believe that one speaker asked for the Government's action in entering into a treaty of that kind, instead of relying entirely upon the provisions of the League of Nations. I gave my reasons for that when I laid the Treaty on the Table of the House, and I am quite prepared to repeat the statement which I then made. It is no reflection upon the League of Nations. It is no proof of our want of confidence in it. It is no proof of the want of confidence of the 1040 French people in it, that they should desire a separate guarantee of this kind, that the power of Great Britain and the power of the United States of America would be behind them if Germany repealed the attacks of 1870 and 1914. We must take into account the natural anxiety and nervousness of France in the face of this terrible menace that has devastated their fair land twice within the course of living memory. The League of Nations is an experiment. My Noble Friend, to whom we owe so much in the negotiation of this great document, would be the last man in the world not to admit that it is in an experimental stage. In fact, he pointed out himself that the success of tire League depended upon the action of the various covenanting parties, whether public opinion supported them, whether the Governments of the various countries sincerely tried to operate them. A treaty or an organisation to which those observations apply must necessarily be treated as a great experiment and France, which has been so cruelly trampled upon, which has suffered such gigantic losses, not merely in property bur. in life, which is sore and bleeding, says, "I believe in the experiment. We shall do our best to carry it out, but until it is an established success, we should like to feel that behind us, if this crime is repeated, is the might, the power, and the majesty of Britain and the United States." That is no reflection upon the League of Nations. It is casting no discredit upon it. It is throwing no suspicion upon it. On the contrary I believe the fact that we have a guarantee of that kind will in itself conduce to the success of the League of Nations because, although in the main I agree that public opinion is what you have to depend upon, nations that trample upon treaties must feel that they have to deal with something besides public opinion. They must know that there is a public opinion in nations which is prepared if necessary to use force in order to ensure respect for solemn covenants and treaties, and it is because you have this document, to which provisionally I subscribed my name on behalf of the British Government, and the British nation, subject to the ratification of this House, that the League, of Nations will have a better chance of establishing itself as a permanent organisation in the world whose decrees will be feared and respected.
I come now to the more important and the more permanent document, because 1041 this guarantee to France is provisional in its character. On the face of it it is a guarantee that lasts until France feels that the League of Nations is sufficiently established that she can depend upon its working. The criticisms so far as they went—and they have been very moderate and very slight—are self-destructive. One set of hon. Members criticised it on the ground that we have gone rather too far. We have exacted impossible indemnities. Other hon. Members think we have not gone far enough. We ought to have been sterner in our demands. I came to the House two or three months ago, at a time when the Treaty was being criticised by people who had never seen it and knew nothing about it, before it had ever been, formulated, and I challenged any of those critics after the Treaty had been published to publish side by side with it the declarations and the pledges which were given at the election. I have not seen it successfully copied. Therefore, I take it that no enterprising journalist thought the contests was sufficiently conspicuous to make it worth his while to print these collateral columns.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am afraid I missed it. Some hon. Members think we have not been severe enough on Germany. The hon. Member (Mr. Bottomley) gave line impression that in the indemnity or reparation Clauses of this document Britain was getting nothing except compensation for broken windows. I am afraid he did not read his own copy of "John Bull." If ho did he would have known that that was not even a remotely accurate account of the Treaty. The compensation that Britain gets out of this Treaty is of a very substantial character. All the ships which have been sunk—compensation is to be paid for those. All the sailors who suffered—compensation is to be paid in respect of Jives lost, and injuries sustained by them. All the damage in respect of air-raids and bombardments, which is very considerable I am sorry to say. But more than that there is a very substantial item which the hon. Member does not seem to have heard of. Compensation is to be paid in respect of all the pensions and allowances, which amount to a very considerable 1042 annual charge upon the taxes of this country, and the only limitation there is that the compensation should be based upon the French allowances and not the British. It was quite impossible that you should have one scale of compensation for the loss of a French life, another for a British life, another for a Colonial life, and another for an American life. Therefore, it was decided that you should take an allowance which, on the whole, represented something like the mean between the various charges which were made.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It is not the lowest. The Italian is very much lower. It is a very substantial scale of allowances. It is not as high as ours, I agree, but at any rate it is a very considerable figure, and if our hopes are realised and we secure from Germany the payment of all these sums in respect of compensation which are included in the category of the damage, this country will receive very considerable sums of money which will relieve the burden of taxation. When there is criticism of the Clauses of the Treaty, inside or outside the House, I hope very good care will be taken to state the real facts of the case.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
They are not future charges. They are charges which are going on at the present moment.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am coming to the cost of the War. My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) says that we have not secured payment for the cost of the War. The very first Clause in the indemnity section is a recognition by Germany of her liability in respect: of the whole cost of the War. She admits it. She admits it in the Treaty she has signed. Now I come to whether there was the remotest chance of our exacting that gigantic sum from Germany. The total cost of the, War for all the Allies would come to an aggregate of, at least, £30,000,000,000. That means, with a sinking fund, that Germany would have to find £1,800,000,000 a year. Not £1,800,000,000 a year paid inside her own territory. Everybody knows the difference between making a payment inside your own country and a payment across the border in another land. Can anyone tell me how Germany is to pay that] It is no use 1043 talking about her war loans; you cannot cash them at the Bank of England. It is no use talking about the soil of Germany. You can only pay by so much of the produce of Germany as you can get outside and turn into cash. This question was examined by the ablest body of experts that the Allied nations could gather together. It was one of the first questions for which a Commission was set up. Each country chose its own experts. They were all the countries that had an interest in the matter. If we are burdened with debt, so is France and so is Italy burdened with debt. Belgium had her reparation; Serbia, Rumania—they had all their burdens, it was to the interests of all these representatives of the various countries to exact the uttermost farthing out of Germany. Does anybody doubt that they would have done it if they had found the means. They were men of great financial repute. They were men of great financial experience, and they were not going to make representation in a solid body to the Peace Conference which they knew could not be realised. Our action was taken after consultation with all these experts, and the conclusions are embodied in the Peace Treaty. It is a very considerable sum. There has been a criticism by my right hon. Friend opposite (Sir D. Maclean), who made a very fair and well tempered although a searching examination of the Treaty. He complained that the figure was indeterminate. I think my Noble Friend (Lord E. Cecil) also rather supported that view. If it is indeterminate, it is not our fault. Germany complained that the figure was indeterminate, but it is her own fault. How can we determine it? The reason why the figure is indeterminate is that no one can tell you what the damage is. The devastated regions extend over about 400 miles. There are about 400 miles by about 30 miles of the devastated region, and there is no living man who can tell at the present moment what the damage is. If we fixed a definite amount we should simply have been transferring the uncertainty from Germany to France. Would that have been fair to France? No doubt it would have been better for Germany if we had fixed a definite amount. No doubt it would have been better for Europe if we had fixed an amount. But would it have been better for France? We do not at the present moment know the amount of the damage, and you cannot tell 1044 at the present moment what it would cost to repair it, because the cost of material and the cost of labour have gone up. No one knows whether it is going up or going down. It is quite impossible to fix the amount. What we have done is this. We have given Germany the opportunity of sending its surveyors through the devastated regions and making their own estimates. They can submit that estimate within the next four months. If it is a fair estimate France will accept it. But at the present moment no one can tell, and that is the reason why the figure is indeterminate. I did not understand the hon. Member for Hackney to say that Germany could pay this £30,000,000,000. She has, lost three-fourths of her iron ore, which has been taken from her. One-third of her coal deposits have been taken away. Six or seven millions of her population have been taken away. She has been deprived of the whole of her colonies. I do not believe that even my hon. Friend would say that Germany could pay that £1,800,000,000 per annum, even if she had the whole of those territories still under her control. What he says is: "You ought to present a bill." He attaches more importance to the presentation of a bill than to its payment. We have presented a bill to Germany. We said that Germany must acknowledge the whole of it. But we have come to the conclusion, upon the advice of the best experts that Europe supplied, not merely to the British Empire but to France, to Italy, to Rumania, to Belgium, and to all the allied countries—that the category of damage which you have to attach to this Treaty is the limit of the capacity of Germany to pay. I think that is about all I need say under that heading.
I now come to the very able and eloquent speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for one of the divisions of Lancashire. He said he was anxious that there should be no Alsace-Lorraines set up in this Treaty. I agree, I said is before I entered the Peace Conference, and during the whole of the Peace Conference I was watchful that nothing of the kind should be done. I knew what Europe had suffered from the setting up of one Alsace-Lorraine, and I knew that if we set up another it would simply repeat the same crime, the same blunder and the same disaster. I know no Alsace-Lorraines that we have set up in this Treaty. My right hon. Friend referred to the district of Birnbaum. I have looked it up. When 1045 he spoke I only had a faint recollection. I knew we had discussed the matter. But I will tell him about it. If my right hon. Friend means to say that you must have no Germans inside Poland and no Poles inside Germany, that was impossible physically. But that is largely due to the German policy. Germany had been setting up little colonies here and there, with a view to the Prussianising of Poland. I will tell him about Birnbaum. Birnbaum is a district in the province of Posnania. The town of Birnbaum is German. The whole district is Polish, and if you took a plebisite of the whole of that area the majority would be decisively Polish. Now I ask him what he would have done in those circumstances? Birnbaum is a very good illustration of some of the most difficult problems with which we were confronted. He could not have said: "We will take that little town in the middle of a great wide area. We will declare that to be German; all the surrounding area must be Poland." That would be an impossible limitation.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
There is nothing in Ireland comparable to that. If you had the town of Tipperary, which happened to be, let us say, a Protestant town, or if you had an Irish colony in this country, take the Scotland Division of Liverpool, where you have got an overwhelming Irish population. My hon. Friend (Mr. O'Connor) is a great Irish Nationalist and a distinguished Irish patriot, but not even in his most intense moments has he ever claimed that the Scotland Division of Liverpool should be added to Ireland? I am not sure that he as so very anxious for a result, which we would deplore very sincerely, as it would deprive us of his genial presence in this House. But that is a comparable case, and you have many cases of that kind. The Germans had the habit of settling in industrial districts in towns where the whole of the surrounding population is Polish, and the country is traditionally Polish. That is one of the cases. I will take another case which is more difficult, and one which I admit always gave me a great deal of anxiety. That is the case of the Polish corridor. The Polish corridor divides East from West Prussia, but not for the first time. East and West Prussia were severed for centuries. They were united by an Act of Conquest, and not by 1046 the will of the inhabitants, and if my hon. Friend went to the corridor and asked the population, "Which would you rather be. Polish or Prussian?" by an overwhelming-majority they would vote Polish. No one doubts that. The population is Polish.
Now I ask, in the name of self-determination and all the principles which he advocates, which of these does he put highest of his category of principles: the right of a people to choose their own government or mere geographical convenience? And even from the point of view of convenience it is not so bad as it looks. The, traffic between East and West Prussia is mostly a sea traffic, and in so far as it is a traffic by railway we have safeguarded the rights of East and West Prussia so as to give them the freest access and exchange between one and the other. But I would ask any of my hon. Friends who criticise our severance of Prussia by the handing over of a population which is purely Pole to the Republic of Poland—and I put this as a challenge—will they now say that we ought to have, forced this Polish population, this population which is overwhelmingly Polish in tongue, spirit, tradition, and aspiration, under the dominion of Prussia against their will, merely in order to unite East and West Prussia? If not, there is no sense in their protest about the Polish corridor. When it came to the handing over of large tracts of German territory, German in speech as well as in sympathy, like Dantzig or Marienbad and adding them to the corridor, I have no hesitation in protesting against that, and I am very glad to be able to say that the Peace Congress took exactly the same view, and have laid down that it was an outrage to force purely German territory into Poland for geographical reasons. That is my answer about the Polish corridor and I cannot help thinking that my right hon. Friend will agree that in the circumstances, although it was a very difficult decision, we took the only possible course in accordance with the principle which had been laid down as the basis of the Armistice.
Then my two right hon. Friends raised the question of Conscription and of armaments. I agree with everything they said on that subject, but I think we took the right course to put an end to Conscription. You cannot put an end to armament until you strike at the root. Why did you need great armaments in Great Britain? Why was it necessary for this country, that never had a conscript army, for the first 1047 time in its history for centuries to start Conscription? It was purely because of the menace of Prussian militarism. That is what created the great Armies of France, Italy, Russia, and America, as well as of Great Britain. As long as you had that menace existing Conscription would be inevitable, and the instinct of self-preservation and self-defence would have driven every country in Europe, including Great Britain, to Conscription, and there is no section or party that would have resisted that inevitable tendency. What course did we take? We said the first way to get rid of these gigantic armaments, which are a burden upon industry, which are a menace to the peace of Europe, is to get rid of the Prussian military system, and we decided to impose upon Germany as a condition of peace that her Army must be a voluntary one upon the basis of long service, so that she would not repeat the device which followed the battle of Jena, by a short-service system, and gradually work up a gigantic army which in the course of ten years would run into millions. That is why we insisted on the long-service system. That is the guarantee which you get to end Conscription. But my right hon. Friends say, "Why do you not get rid of it?" In the first place, the War has not been concluded until you make peace; more that that, when you got such an upset as has been wrought by this great World-War, you are not going to clear it up in a few days. It would have been folly on our part if in a moment of impatience, if through excessive hurry, we had thrown away the fruits of a victory which had cost us such great sacrifices. You had first of all to secure peace; you had to secure a good peace. What secured that? The knowledge that the Allies had a great Army which could impose their terms upon Germany. If you abolish Conscription immediately, demobilise your Armies, send your troops away from the Rhine, do you think you would have the Treaty of Versailles or any other treaty? Therefore, it was necessary, until first of all you had secured the peace, until you had established the peace, not merely here but in all the belligerent lands, to maintain a bigger force than the normal which we hope to attain. I am very glad to be able to say that our efforts to raise an army by voluntary means have hitherto been very successful, and I hope that by the end of the year, 1048 certainly by the beginning of next year, we may be in a position to state that we have secured all the forces necessary in order to police the Empire and guard our interests in all the various quarters of the Globe where it is absolutely necessary that the British name, British honour, British prestige, and British power should be respected. But I ask any of my hon. and right hon. Friends, who are as interested as I am in putting an end to Conscription in this country, whether there is any other course they could have taken except the course which the Peace Conference has taken? Other countries are in exactly the same plight as we are in. The United States of America hate Conscription just as much as my hon. and right hon. Friends. They are as determined as we are to put an end to Conscription at the earliest possible moment, but they know they cannot do it until the whole situation has been cleared up, and we may definitely say that this horrible chapter in the history of the world has been closed and a new chapter has begun.
The same thing applies to armaments. If after we have had this lesson of the danger of great armies and great navies and great armaments we still go on in that mad competition, it shows that human nature is unteachable. My Noble Friend (Lord R. Cecil) said in the course of his powerful speech on the League of Nations that the success of the League of Nations depends upon the sincerity of this country. It depends on more than that. It depends on the sincerity of all the signatories. If one country, whilst being a party to the League of Nations, still goes on in distrust, not in the League, not in its covenants, not in its public opinions, but increasing its armaments, how can this nation demonstrate its sincerity except at a risk which no statesman can possibly take? It depends upon the sincerity not merely of this land but, of every country. This country, I am sure, is only too eager to get rid of this terrible burden which is weighing upon its resources. It would be idle to wage a great war of this kind if the only conclusion of it was that not merely did we renew the competition in armaments which precipitated the conflict very largely, but did it with renewed and redoubled vigour and energy, because armaments will increase in costliness, in their murderousness, and in their terror, and if nations are going to begin that again then this War will be the greatest tragedy this 1049 worm has ever seen. I sincerely re-echo all the sentiments uttered by my Noble Friend and by my hon. and right hon. Friends that the nations who subscribed to this Covenant of the League will not merely use it as a boast to be able to say, "See the exalted ideals to which we have attached our signatures; see the high line we have taken," but that they will demonstrate that they mean it by making all the necessary sacrifices, by facing obloquy, in order to make that Covenant a reality and demonstrate that they are in earnest when they say that they mean this Covenant to put an end to the horrors of war for ever. That is my answer to my hon. Friends upon these two points. I do not think there is very much else bearing directly on the Treaty, at any rate that I have heard in the course of the discussion, that it will be necessary for me to answer. My right hon. Friend (Sir D. Maclean) wants to know whether I stand by the declaration which I made on behalf of my colleagues and myself two or three months ago about Russia. Certainly. That is our view. We have not departed in the least from it. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Churchill?"] We have not departed in the least from it, nor has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War. He has not departed in the least from the declarations which were made in this House at that time. That is the policy of the Government, and we stand by it.
There is only one word which I should like to say in answer to what my right hon. Friend said about the Kaiser. It is not for me to presume guilt or innocence, if there is to be a trial; but I do not think anyone will say that the person, whoever he is, who is responsible for this wholesale slaughter should escape, and I am very glad to hear the courageous declaration of my right hon. Friend in that respect. But what he also said was, "Why do not you try him in some neutral country?" What right have we to presume that the neutral country would choose to be the scene of a prosecution of that kind? We have no control over them. They were not in the Peace Conference; they were not in the War. The Kaiser would never have been subject to trial if it had been left to the neutral countries, and I have sufficient confidence in this country, and the Allies have sufficient confidence in this country—and I regard the fact that they have chosen this country as the scene as a proof of their confidence—that whoever comes hero for trial will receive a trial 1050 which will be equal to the highest traditions of British justice, and there are no higher in the world—will receive every fair play. No one doubts that if you are going to put an end to wav you must treat it in a different spirit from what you have treated war in the past. You must treat wars not as if they were purely an honourable game, with a prospect of great personal glory, and of no personal risk for those who precipitate them. They must be treated, not as an honourable game, but as a crime. A man whoever he is, who may kill his neighbour for gain, is a murderer. A man may kill millions of his neighbours for gain, and he is either a great warrior or a great ruler, or a great statesman. You will never put an end to war till you alter the whole attitude towards it, and the point of the trial is that for the first time you treat the man who had organised, deliberately and wantonly, war for personal aggrandisement, or for vainglory, you treat him for the first time—you stamp his action as felony. No threat of punishment will deter men from defending their native land or its honour, whatever the punishment is. I think statesmen or rulers who are even tempted to engage in the business of war merely for personal aggrandisement will think twice, when once you have established it as a crime in the category of the laws of nations. That is why we considered, after a good deal of reflection, that a person whom we regard as the author of this crime should be tried for it.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I would not like to take up the answer of my hon. and learned Friend. I think my hon. Friend had better not ask me too much about that. I do not think I ought to give all the names. I do not think it would be helpful at the present moment. They will know it in time. My Noble Friend and others have said, "Is not the crime well known? Why should you have a trial?" The mere fact that the crime is well known, and that the facts are well known, is no justification for a condemnation without trial, and the conclusion we deliberately came to was that it would be fairer, it would be more impressive, if there were a crime, for you would elevate at once action of that kind to the realm of international law. The arbitrary act of a conqueror punishing, without trial, might not do it, whereas a trial would. We con- 1051 sidered all these matters; we discussed these various suggestions, and that is the conclusion we deliberately came to. Although it may be a great shock to have a trial of this kind, I have no hesitation in saying that, in the end, it will be found to achieve a more permanent purpose and effect than a mere arbitrary decision without hearing what is to be said.
Now I come to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast (Mr. Devlin), who delivered such a moving appeal on behalf of his country. I am sure he made a very great impression upon the whole House. My hon. Friend appealed to the Government to apply the principles of President Wilson to the case of Ireland, and he asked me a question, whether I was prepared to do so? I will answer that question if he will answer me another, and I am not asking him that question, let him believe me, merely to get out of answering his question, but because it will help me to answer it. Will he apply those principles to the whole of Ireland? Because as he himself realises—no one knows better—that is the supreme obstacle in the way of settlement lie talked about forcing authority upon a free people by arms. In principle it is the same thing whether you force 1,500,000 of people or 3,000,000 of people. It is the same principle, and he must know that that is the difficulty. The real difficulty is that you cannot, if he will allow me to say so, get his countrymen to face the facts. They are not satisfied with getting self-determination for themselves without depriving others of the right of self-determination. I tried to apply the principles of President Wilson to Ireland. [An HON. MEMBER: "Ah."] Oh, I did. I tried the principle of self-determination. It was suggested to me that a Convention of Irishmen should be summoned. I thought it was a very good idea. I said, "We have all failed. Every party has failed. Every Government has failed. We have tried one expedient after another, and for some reason or other they have always come to nought." I said, "Clearly we do not understand them. Let them settle it themselves." So a Convention was summoned upon lines suggested before it was summoned. 1 consulted the Nationalist Leader as to who should be summoned. He was perfectly satisfied with the composition of the Convention. Here was an opportunity for Ireland to determine its own fate. What happened? Two parties 1052 refused absolutely to come near the place. One of them, the party represented by the late Member for Cork, had a very considerable following in Ireland. The other party was that one which not merely claimed a majority, but at the last election demonstrated it by an overwhelming majority. They would not come near the place. What happened to the rest? The Nationalists—this is my recollection—were divided into three different sections. The Unionists were divided into three or four. That was my attempt to apply the principles of President Wilson to Ireland.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Of course the right hon. Gentleman recognises that. I cannot follow him in his intellectual strategy; but will lie permit me to say—since he has put a question to me and did not wait for my answer—that the principles of President Wilson can be applied by taking a referendum of the country. I imagine that if you want to test the will of the people you do so by a declaration of the people by their votes. That is my idea of self-determination.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
My hon. Friend knows very well that a referendum is a question of area. If, for instance, the area were the United Kingdom would my hon. Friend accept it? Of course he would not.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
No; but my right hon. Friend has put a question to me. That is the right of nations to determine their own destiny. Ireland is a nation.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
The right hon. Gentleman has put a question to me, and. I say that Ireland is one country. I think the right hon. Gentleman has stated that himself more than once. The way to determine the opinion of that country, that nation, is to take a plebescite or a referendum.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I really have not time to go into this matter of dialectics. It is much too serious for that. To come to the real practical difficulty; it is that Ireland is not a nation. My hon. Friend believes it in his heart, but when ever you come to try to settle it you discover that Ireland is net a nation. The mere fact that it is one island is no proof that it is one nation. Great Britain is one island—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I agree. But let me deal with the point of ray hon. Friend. The mere fact that Ireland is one island is no proof that it is one nation, or that Great Britain, an island, is one nation. There are the Scottish, and the little nation to which I belong. That is the difficulty—the difficulty I have stated. It is a difference in temperament, religion, tradition, and in everything that constitutes the fundamental essentials of nations. If they can bridge over that difficulty I do not believe there is any other difficulty, but until you do that it is no rise talking about the principle of self- determination. My hon. Friend insists upon laying down conditions, and he says there must be a referendum, but it must be for the area which he determines. We Lave had exactly the same difficulties in the case of Dantzig. You could have carved out an area there which would have handed Dantzig and Marienbad to Poland. You could have handed over whole territories which were purely Ger man to Poland, if you had only made the area according to the wishes of certain sections of the Poles, but it would have only created difficulties which might have ended in grave trouble for Poland itself. That is what I am afraid of for Ireland, and until Irishmen have made up their minds definitely to face that difficulty, I should despair of any settlement which would commend itself—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Certainly there were, and a permanently Protestant Parliament, and I am just giving my hon. Friend the reasons why it is no use quoting the principles of President Wilson, and saying, "Will you apply them to Ireland?" I shall be perfectly prepared to apply them to Ireland if they are applied to the whole of Ireland. I deeply regret that this feud between these two nations, who are such close neighbours, between the Irish people and Great Britain, should continue. There is no feud between the nations of Great Britain—I am talking of the feud between the Celtic race in Ireland, the Celtic Catholic population of Ireland, and Great Britain. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is the same in South Africa!"] Yes, but South Africa is a thousand miles away, and my hon. Friend must know that there is a very great difference between the settlement of a problem a thousand miles away and a 1054 settlement between a country which is at our own door, and which is part of the organisation of these Islands. That is my answer to my hon. Friend. [An HON. MEMBER: "The further away you get the more justice you give!"] I regret that it is impossible to give my hon. Friend a more satisfactory answer.
§ Captain REDMOND rose. [HON MEMBERS: "Order, order!"]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is not entitled to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. If he wishes to raise a point of order he can do so, but to put mere questions of this kind is quite improper.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I deeply regret that there should be any difference of opinion upon this matter. I realise that everything said by my hon. Friend is of importance, not only to these islands and the British Empire, but to the world. Hay I say, in conclusion, about the Treaty, that it was a gigantic task; it was certainly one which was complicated. I do not claim that the Treaty is perfect in all respects. Where it is not perfect, I look forward to the organisation of the League of Nations to remedy, to repair, and to redress. I have no doubt that in the course of time you will find things that possibly might have been better settled in other ways. Experience will demonstrate that, and the League of Nations will be there as a Court of Appeal to readjust crudities, irregularities, injustices. All the same, I venture to say that we have redressed many old wrongs, and I cannot think of any new ones that we have created.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
We have restored where restoration was just, we have organised reparations where damage and injury have been inflicted, and we have established guarantees and securities in so far as human foresight could do so, against the repetition of these crimes and horrors from which the world is just emerging. We have disarmed; we have punished. We have demonstrated, I think, to the world for ages that you cannot trample on national rights and liberties, that you cannot break solemn covenants with impunity.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
This is the task which we set ourselves, and I claim that this Treaty will be like a lighthouse in the deep warning nations and the rulers of nations against the perils against which the German Empire shattered itself.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I had no intention of joining in this Debate, but the speech of the right hon. Gentleman compels me to say a few words. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that his reply to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast (Mr. Devlin) has created a feeling of profound disappointment, not only on this side of the House but among some sections at least on the opposite side of the House. Still move, the speech will be a disappointment of the hopes, the yearnings, the passionate longing of the people of this country as well as of Ireland that the long struggle between the two nations should be brought to an end. There was not in the right hon. Gentleman's speech a single indication of the remotest intention on his part to try to live up to the responsibilities of his great position by dealing with the Irish problem. I want to be friendly in my criticism, but I am bound to say the right hon. Gentleman seems to me to be talking the language of Pharisaism when he claims that the Treaty is a triumph for the recognition of the rights of nationalities and at the same time denies the rights of nationality to an island near the doors of this country inhabited by people of the same race. What do I ask the right hon. Gentleman to do? He gave as his defence the case of the settlement of Poland, and in the main his defence amounted to this, that while there were certain German colonies in certain parts of Polish territory, the majority of the people at any rate were Polish. Is not that the case with Ireland? Are not the colonies in Polish territory like the plantation of Ulster in Ireland, and would it not have been just as right to refuse liberty to the Polish inhabitants of these territories because of this small minority of German colonists as to refuse liberty to Ireland because of the small minority of Ulstermen. It has been proved, said the right hon. Gentleman, in his most eloquent language, in his most oratorical articulation, that the rights of nationalities cannot be trampled upon, and yet a few sentences later he declares that the rights of nationality in Ireland shall be trampled 1056 on. Where is his consistency? Where is his sincerity? He said, also, it had been proved by the result of this War that solemn covenants cannot be broken. Is there not a solemn covenant, to which the right hon. Gentleman himself was a party, in the putting on the Statute Book of the Home Rule Act of 1014, which has been the law of the country since 1914, and, until cowed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn, who can preach the gospel of disorder in this country—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think the reference to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division was dragged in. rather unnecessarily.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I apologise, Mr. Speaker. I, perhaps, put it in too personal a form. Hut the effect of say argument was that the effect of the example set by the right hon. Member for Duncairn in speaking for a minority was to prevent the grant of liberty to the majority. The Prime Minister said it had been proved by the result of this War that you could not trample on contracts. I ask him, Was there not a contract between England and Ireland in the Act of 1914? Why has that Act remained on the Statute Book for nearly five years? Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to withdraw from that contract? If he does, what is the use of talking of the perfidy of Germany in breaking a treaty with Belgium when we have the example of England breaking the treaty with Ireland? I want the right hon. Gentleman to be true to his own covenant. I wonder, has the right hon. Gentleman forgotten his letter of the 25th February, 1918. Before I read that letter, let me deal with the extraordinary argument that this thing cannot be settled unless every man in Ireland is of the same opinion. How would that operate if applied to Alsace-Lorraine or to Bohemia? I believe I am right in saying that there is 1057 a minority of 35 per cent, of Germans in Bohemia. Yet nobody, the right hon. Gentleman least of all, made the contention that Bohemia should not have its rights as an independent Republic because there is a minority against the recognition of those rights. Take Alsace-Lorraine. I know it is partly by German, immigration, but certainly there was as a large a proportion of the existing population of Alsace-Lorraine against its liberation as there is a minority in Ireland against the liberation of Ireland. There is nothing in this War which has given greater joy to every friend of liberty in this world than the fact that Alsace and Lorraine have been restored to the bleeding side of France in spite of the German minority. Everybody in Ireland must agree! What insincerity and unveracity there is in that argument. I am an indulgent critic, so far as I may be, of the right hon. Gentleman, but I must say that when he says—I gather he expected us to believe it—that he would not give Home Rule to Ireland because all Ireland was not of the same opinion, he was stretching my credulity and indulgence beyond the breaking point. I want to put the right hon. Gentleman face to face with his own colleague. This was on the 25th February, 1918, a little more than a year ago. I admit there ought to be a Statute of Limitations for the pledges of politicians, but a year and a half is rather too short a period for a Statute of Limitations. What did the right hon. Gentleman write toDear Sir Horace Plunkett.This is what he wrote:Questions on which there is an acute difference of opinion in Ireland or in Great Britain must be held over for determination after the War.11.0 p.m.
I do not think that was an unreasonable statement to make at the time. But now I come to the next passage, which deals with questions which ought not to be held up till after the end of the War. Here is what the right hon. Gentleman said:At the same time it is clear to the Government, in view of previous attempts at settlement of the deliberations of the Convention it-self, that the only hope of agreement lies in a solution which on the one side provides for the unity of Ireland under a single Legislature with adequate safeguards for the interests of Ulster and the Southern Unionists, and on the other preserves the well-being of the Empire and the fundamental unity of the United Kingdom.That settles it. Does the right hon. Gentleman adhere to or withdraw from 1058 the declaration of his letter of 25th February, 1918? I get no answer. I will pause five minutes if Mr. Speaker will allow me, but I shall get no answer because there is no answer. Does the right hon. Gentleman still think, or docs he not, that the only hope of agreement lies in a solution which on the one side provides for the unity of Ireland under a single Legislature, or does he not? The right hon. Gentleman will not laugh me off any answer to the question. It is not a laughing matter. There were two men who created Sinn Fein in Ireland. One is the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson), and the other is the Prime Minister. Here are we, seven men instead of seventy-four, and everyone of us perished, not because of our hatred of England, but because we stood by her in her hour of agony. When you talk of the unreason of Ireland—I admit a great deal of the unreason of Ireland—I put in defence of Ireland the plea that never was a country so betrayed as she has been in the past five years. The right hon. Gentleman's answer gives us no hope.
What about America? The right hon. Gentleman has had the advantage during the last six months of daily intercourse and close intimacy with the President of the United States. No one has spoken more sympathetically than the right hon. Gentleman himself did when he was proposing the Conscription of Ireland, one of the maddest projects that ever came from a rational statesman. He was never tired of drawing the attention of the House to the vital importance to this country of its relations with America. I do not want to impose upon the intimacies of the right hon. Gentleman's private conversation with Mr. Wilson, but if Mr. Wilson said what he thought—and he is a man who never says anything he does not think—he must have warned him that good relations between America and England were impossible until the Irish race was reconciled, and the Irish race would never be reconciled in America until the Irish people were liberated. I am sorry to find how this Debate has ended. I was looking forward with hope to the declaration of the Prime Minister, especially after the speech of my hon. Friend (Mr. Devlin). I had not an opportunity of hearing that speech, as I was busy elsewhere on business connected with my Constituency, but I am told he made an appeal to generous instincts. The right hon. Gentleman has now a great 1059 opportunity. This is the parting of the ways for him. Either he is going once more to join the democratic forces of this country or he is going to sink into the mire of those who have abandoned the path of democracy for the path of reaction. I had hoped against hope that the right hon. Gentleman would have made a new choice, but from his speech to-night I am afraid we must regard him as having handed himself over, body and soul, to the party of reaction.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I do not know whether the hon. Member is conscious of the fact that he has made two admissions?
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I thought the hon. Member asked me whether I interrupted him. I said Yes. I asked him which party was the party of reaction?
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I do not believe that outside a small section of Gentlemen from Ulster, and some like them, there is any section that is not anxious and does not yearn for a settlement of the Irish question. Therefore the Prime Minister has given himself away to what I believe is a minority of the right-thinking people of this country, inside Parliament and outside. If the right hon. Gentleman had the courage—and I know how high his courage is—if he had the vision, if he could forget for a moment the intrigues and machinations of party and of personal attachments in this House, and would rise to the occasion and settle the Irish question, the settlement of the Irish question would be as great an achievement for him as the settlement of Peace. If America and England are to remain apart; if they are to be divided; if the Dominions are to be torn by this struggle of ours—it is ridiculous to call it a domestic question: it is the most Imperial and the most world-wide question 1060 of to-day, and if we do not bring the two great English-speaking democracies of the world together to safeguard the peace of the world and to be the common guarantors of the League of Nations, then, I say, with sorrow, that I believe all the precious blood of our heroic children shed in this War has been shed in vain. If we are not going to wrest peace and better relations between men out of this welter of blood, all the blood has been shed in vain. The only thing that can guarantee peace, better relations and a better world, out of all this bloodshed is by keeping the great democracies together. If the right hon. Gentleman fails to rise to this great opportunity of reconciling England and America by reconciling Ireland, then all his achievements, great as they are, are but Dead Sea fruit, and merely show that the same man who may be able to win the War has not the vision, courage and self-abnegation to win the Peace.
§ Mr. S. WALSH
If I might be permitted, with the most complete sincerity, to add the congratulations of my party to those which the right hon. Gentleman must have received in great measure, I would be very pleased to do so. We have really on this occasion, by our country and through the influence of the right hon. Gentleman, very largely achieved what is perhaps the most remarkable Peace the world has ever known. One or two hon. Members have said that there is great need for restoring the credit of the nation. In my opinion the credit of this nation never stood higher than it stands to-day. There are some things much greater than finance. People attach value to the sovereign and regret very much that its value has gone down to 10s.; but if this nation had not stood to its bond, entered into many years ago, its moral credit, would have been so low that the name of Englishmen would have stunk in the nostrils of the world. To-day there is no name higher. And however low our financial credit may be at the moment our credit throughout the whole world will be constantly upon the increase, and to-day we have nothing to regret in the way of credit. The name of England is higher and nobler to-day than it has ever been before. Something was said about coming well out of this deal. We fall very easily into these slipshod phrases. I wonder what the hon. Gentleman meant when he said that. With what had we been dealing? We had the most terrible 1061 military organisation arrayed against the freedom of the world, and that military organisation has been broken to bits.
I think we ought to recognise that we are standing on the threshold of a new epoch. This House to-day is considering not so much the horrors of the past as how to prevent their awful repetition in the future. A solemn duty rests upon everyone of us in this House, and out of it, to prevent a recurrence of those horrors from which we have just been delivered. I was more than delighted to hear the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hitchin, when he devoted so much of his remarks to the necessity for the establishment of the League of Nations. Of course, ever so much can be found fault with in the idea of the League. "It may fail here," and "It may fail there," say people; "If you do this or attempt that, you will find yourself up against an impossible proposition" Therefore, I suppose the idea is that we had bettor not try at all. That kind of argument and plea has been submitted from time immemorial. Is there anything more horrible than the previous conditions—conditions which deluged the world in blood for hundreds of years? Have those conditions to go on for ever? Has this civilisation, of which we are always talking in such high terms, nothing better to offer?
In science, in everything else to which the mind of man can devote itself, tremendous progress has been made. Only on this particular point, in respect of the relations between nations, is the counsel of despair urged. "Old jealousies are perennial; therefore you will always have war"—that is the argument of despair. Not only that. It commits all the generations of the future to the same horrible thing from which we have only just emerged. The right hon. Gentleman was told that in a very little time, when ho came out of the unreal world in which he was living, and into the world of fact, he would find himself up against some very serious proposition, and It would prove to him that his idea of the League of Nations had no existence in fact. I wonder if it has or not?
I think it is about 104 years since we were at war with the United States of America; certainly it is well over 100 years. For some years there has been, and I think at this moment there is, a Treaty between the United States and ourselves 1062 which prevents any war between us until the whole matter in dispute has been referred to arbitration. I remember very well when there seemed to be tremendous indignation on the part of the British people against the United States, and, indeed, on their part indignation against us. Most of us have some knowledge of the Alabama claims. We know how a privateer went out from a British port and did tremendous damage to northern shipping, and we know also that the slightest mistake on the part of the statesmen of that time would have hurled these two nations into a terrible war. What happened? A great statesman, greatly against the predominant feeling of the time, said, "This matter must go to arbitration." We paid a few millions for the losses inflicted on the shipping of the Northern States of America, and from that day, more than fifty years ago, instead of antagonism, violent and constant, a kindly feeling grew up between the Northern States and ourselves, and to-day, amongst all the great acclamations that are given to famous Generals of recent history, no greater acclamation is accorded to any than that which is given to the American General. And here to-day, between these two great nations, Great Britain and the United States, there is established a friendship largely dating from the time when Great Britain was sufficiently magnanimous to recognise that she was wrong and proceeded to arbitration. That, after all, lies at the very basis of the League of Nations—that you shall settle your difficulties, not by blood or violence, not by the drawn sword, but by an appeal to reason. The appeal to reason is the very basis of the League of Nations. In Canada there are, I suppose, between three and four thousand miles of territory from east to west, and between Canada and the United States so many thousands of miles of frontier. One is territory governed under the British flag and the other belongs to the United States, and I suppose a few frontier police not more than the membership of this House guards the whole frontier and preserve order and civilisation in the very highest degree. If that is not the League of Nations I do not know what it is. Surely if that can be done for such vast territory when there are constantly conflicting interests, it goes to show that the League of Nations is not that chimera that many people imagine, and that it has a working basis in fact. Not very long 1063 ago the remark of one of our greatest Admirals was that when you went into battle you must always get your ship to the side of your enemy, and hate the Frenchman as you hate the devil. Do we hate Frenchmen to-day. It is 104 years since we fought against France. We always fought chivalrously and so did they. I believe most people now recognise that we made a great mistake in the early seventies, and in 1869, in not placing our resources chivalrously on the side of France at that time, but that mistake, great as it was, has been rectified, and today there are no truer comrades, and I hope that comradeship may be perpetual between ourselves and that great nation against whom Nelson said we should cherish hatred as we hated the devil. There again is the idea on which the League of Nations is to be founded and to come into force. We must all congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, and his friends. If I may be permitted one word of reminiscence, let me mention that I wrote to the right hon. Gentleman many months ago, that I wished him in the gigantic task he was undertaking the most complete success.
Everybody who had ever thought of the gigantic difficulties he had to encounter must have felt almost appalled at the difficulties he was undertaking to remove or at least to ameliorate. He has come back here with a magnificient record of success. The evil-running sore in the side of Europe—Alsace-Lorraine—has at last been healed. It would have been a perpetual source of discord and strife for scores and indeed hundreds of years, and it has been removed from the arena of conflict. I think the whole world must have breathed all the more freely when they saw that that source of discord was ended. We must, I think, congratulate him and his friends in the matter of Poland. Who that has read history at all but must have seen the horrible injustice that had been perpetrated upon that great nation in the backend of the eighteenth century? It is perfectly well known that one of our great poets described the partitioning of Poland as "the bloodiest picture in the book of time." She is once again regenerated. She is established as a new nation once again in the comity of nations, and we sincerely hope, with him and his friends, that Poland will exercise in the future 1064 history of Europe that proper sphere of influence which she is perfectly enabled to accomplish.
There is one thing I think, however, that we really must ask whether it is possible for more attention to be paid to. My right hon. Friend will admit, I think, that I move a very great deal amongst the industrial classes and that I speak quite freely upon this point, because my attitude has not varied one inch from that which I took up many months ago. I refer to Russia. Whatever we may think about her failure—in respect of the assistance that we had a right to look forward to—we must admit that that great people is going through an awful time. Their sufferings have been terrible, and indeed their condition must evoke the heartfelt sympathy of the whole world. If there is one thing upon which our people feel keenly, it is that no British soldier be utilised to lengthen or prolong the agony of Russia. We never had any right there to begin with, except to redeem those troops who perhaps were there because of us all working together in the early stages of the War, but merely because of a change in government, because of the fact that there is no government at all, we have no right to prolong the agony of the Russian people, and I do say this, that the Labour movement would hail with the greatest possible joy an announcement from the Government that at the very earliest moment and by the most expeditious means possible, British soldiers will be removed. I think it was said by Bismarck ever so many years ago that a certain territory was not worth the bones of one Pomeranian soldier, and we do say this, that there is nothing in the political and there is nothing in the economic condition of Russia that justifies a sacrifice of another British soldier, and we do appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. We know the difficulties are great, we know that winter prevented expedition in matters such as this, but we are a little doubtful as to the bona fides of many of the folks who have been in charge of these expeditions, and the Labour movement would hail with very great joy an announcement by the Government that you do not intend to utilise one soldier more in an expedition against the Russian people. After all, the Government of Russia, their policy, their administration, all that belongs to them. We have no right there, and we ought to get out as quickly as possible.
1065 There is one other point I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman. Some few days ago questions were asked in this House about the mandates that were given in respect of the various Colonies, the German colonies in particular. It was stated that those charters were being prepared. Of course, I understand the charters are in preparation. We know that in the Treaty of Peace the annual conference will examine from time to time—every year, or at such intervals as are proper—the conduct of the various mandatories to see that they comply with the charters laid down. What those charters contain we do not know. It is desirable that we should know. After all, we really are at this moment starting on a new condition of things for the world's future, and it is a solemn obligation upon everyone of us not lightly to enter upon obligations which may involve the world once again, and at no distant time, in a repetition of the horrors from which we have just emerged. Therefore we have a right to know what the charters do contain. Of course, the general terms in the Treaty of Peace we do know. The Prime Minister himself has put that quite explicitly.
These are the points, and we have a right, before we go from this House to-night, in so far as inquiry can elicit the facts to know whether we are now settling the peace of the world for future generations, or whether we are really lightly discharging our task, and going away with a possibility of horrors quite as great as those on which we have turned our back. These, after all, are great questions. There is the question of Ireland. When I sat upon the bench opposite with my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, we often thought of the position of Ireland, and we often thought what an unenviable attitude Great Britain would perforce be compelled to take with the wrongs of Ireland not merely unredressed but not attempted to be redressed, and I say the claims of Ireland to-day are more clamant than ever. I know nothing upon which the industrial opinion of Great Britain has so completely veered round as upon the question of Ireland. In the old days there used to be a very great deal of Orange, a very great deal of Catholic, and a very great deal of indifferent opinion, but today in the vast mass of the organised labour opinion of Great Britain, without exception, there is absolutebly no difference 1066 at all as to the immense urgency of a settlement of this question. I was a little sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman talk as though Ireland were two nations. If she is two nations, then I despair, as everyone must despair, of any settlement that can give the slightest satisfaction to any democrat, including the right hon. Gentleman himself. After all, in the back end of the eighteenth century, Ireland had a Parliament of its own. It is perfectly true to say that it was a Protestant Parliament, but it was an Irish Parliament, and it made laws for the whole nation, and we surely cannot say that, merely because it was Protestant at that time, therefore you can deny the unity of its people. Since then all claims based upon merely religious ascendancy or difference have been banished altogether, and we do say that the only way this terrible problem, which is constant, burning, urgent and clamant, can be settled, is by recognising Ireland as a whole, and by giving such safeguards within a single Parliament as the various differences or sympathies of the people may require. I was in hopes that was the line on which the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues would proceed to the settlement of this terribly burning question which has lowered our prestige for a hundred years. Wherever an Englishman goes, he is an honourable, high-minded, straightforward man—there is no better in the history of the world but there is always some slight feeling that he is a hypocrite after all when he is talking about the freedom of others and of broadening the basis of freedom for everyone else, because here, right against his own door, are people who are deprived of their rights, and who were deprived of them under conditions which everybody admits to be of the greatest perfidy. We deny to thorn the same rights for which we plead so eloquently and fight so strenuously on behalf of other people. After all, Ireland must be recognised as a nation. That can be the only way in which the burning question can be solved. Let such safeguards be given within the Parliament as are proper, but let the Parliament be a self-governing unit. On those lines we shall not only achieve peace for the world, as I sincerely hope that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have done, but we shall achieve peace, for the sister island which has such a great claim upon us.
Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY
On a point of Order. Is it in order for hon. Members below the Gangway to shout, "Divide, divide"?
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
I suppose that this is the most important day in the history of this House. Personally, I am very glad that there is a certain amount of interruption, because it proves conclusively, as some of us have been maintaining for months past, that whenever a question arises in the House which is vital to the whole future of our people you will find men who are so tied to the Parliamentary system and to their pledges that they cannot even listen and observe the ordinary courtesies of debate. What are the actual facts with regard to this Debate? We have been debating for seven and a half hours the greatest question in the history of this country. Of those seven and a half hours, one and three-quarters have been spent entirely on the question of Ireland, and of the rest of the time three and a quarter hours have been occupied by the Front Benches. One hour and fifty-five minutes only have been occupied by the back bench independent Members. I know hon. Gentlemen can force this House to a Division if they make sufficient noise, but I am sure they will regret it as long as they live. This is a subject which requires at least a two days' debate. The Prime Minister has stated that judging from the speeches he had heard in the Debate the House as a whole had accepted the Treaty, but under the circumstances they could do nothing less, [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide! divide!"] Is it not a fact that after the signatures of our Delegation in Paris had been placed to the Treaty it was impossible for this House to alter it? That was the main reason why so many people were really anxious at the Election and received pledges because they knew they had no further word on this subject once the right hon. Gentleman had received this mandate. I think it is very little use to go to a Division owing to the fact that our credit has been pledged already. It seems to me that there are certain considerations we have to take into account. First of all, the greatest consideration at the Peace Conference was 1068 the question of disarmament, and whatever we may think about the Treaty as a whole, on this particular subject nothing but pleasure can be given to the people of this country if complete disarmament is brought about. When we come to particularise about the Treaty we must remind ourselves that after all our delegates went to Paris first and foremost in the interests of the British Empire and to work for readjustments which would fit in with our own interests. I think our delegation in Paris rather reversed that process, and they were more concerned for a cosmopolitan settlement than for British interests. Had that example been followed with equal enthusiasm by all the nations of the Allies, then we could have pardoned that tendency, but evidence to that effect was not forthcoming, and I say here and now that President Wilson and the other Prime Ministers all through these discussions were more concerned for the honour and safety of their country than the aspiring ideals of the League of Nations such as our own Prime Minister has struggled for with such success.
What are the supreme British needs after the question of disarmament?
First of all, the restoration of our financial and economic condition. Secondly, the restoration of British shipbuilding. Thirdly, complete security for Empire frontiers. When we entered the Conference what was the position? First, British sea power alone had made victory possible for the Allies. Nobody will doubt that but for the British Navy the world today would have been under the heel of the Kaiser. The second fact is that on the day of the Armistice the British Empire had more men in arms than any of the Allied Powers. The third point is that our finance not only carried our own burdens, but made it possible for our Allies to continue the War, especially our smaller Allies. The fourth point is that single-handed the British Empire had defeated the great military power of Turkey, and so prevented great reinforcements going to our enemies in the Balkans and on the Italian frontier. I need not embellish that argument. The historian will never attempt to alter the facts. They are over-whelming and absolutely complete. With these facts before us we must carry our minds back to the Fourteen Points of President Wilson. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes. When he laid down these points the United States had not been through the 1069 War. They had become enriched as had no country in the history of the world. The wealth of the United States had become increased to a colossal extent. Their man-power was unscratched. She had not made herself felt in any way up to that time in the War. She had not bled nor suffered. This country had suffered and had been bled white. She had suffered financially to such an extent that it was doubtful amongst many great financial magnates whether we could possibly survive. At that time the President laid down the Fourteen Points, and I venture to suggest that the Prime Minister was too ready to accept them, and thereby tie his hands and the hands of his country to a certain extent, so that when he went to Paris he was not a free man. [HON. MEMBER: "Oh, oh!"] He had, broadly speaking, signed the Fourteen points. [HON. MEMBER: "Divide!"] Be it remembered that it was only when halfway through the election that the Prime Minister suddenly became enthusiastic that the enemy should pay the whole cost of the War. I do not know what that may be. But if it is £8,000,000,000, I ask the Prime Minister, under the existing arrangements—that he endeavoured in his usual cheery style to persuade the House was so successful an affair—whether one-eighth of that is likely in the near future to come to the British Empire? The matter is one regarded as of very great importance by everyone here. Can the right hon. Gentleman answer the question? The right hon. Gentleman asked, "Can anyone say how this money could have been collected: is there the remotest change of Germany ever paying this sum?" It is rather late for the right hon. Gentleman to discover that now. He ought to have discovered it at the election, when he held very different views. It was not then a question whether there was the remotest chance of the money being collected. At that time the right hon. Gentle-man quite properly said thatGermany must pay the whole cost of the War.He appointed a Committee. That Committee reported, and, as the Prime Minister said, the opinion of the great financial experts was that the whole cost of the War could have been collected. I would ask, Was that Committee scrapped and a new Committee put in its place, and, if so, why? I would ask who were the financial advisers who so suddenly changed the whole aspect of the case? Is it not a 1070 fact that many of his advisers in Paris were gentlemen very largely concerned with international finance, so that it was only natural that they should want to sustain the system as a whole and were, perhaps, considering very largely international financial arrangements?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That, I can state, is absolutely untrue. I would not have risen to contradict it but for the fact that it has been stated outside and that nobody has had the audacity to make it where it could be contradicted. My advisers in Paris were Lord Sumner, Lord Cunliffe, and one or two officials of the Treasury. They were my sole advisers. They had nothing whatever to do with international finance, except to the extent that Lord Cunliffe was engaged in a very important City business which naturally gave him a good deal of insight into the finance of the world. If the hon. Member is referring to Lord Cunliffe, it is a very scandalous reference.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
I think hon. Members will bear me out in saying that I asked a question. I never made a, statement. I asked the right hon. Gentleman why he changed that Committee. From what the right hon. Gentleman now says I gather that these gentlemen were not responsible for the original decision.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman to get away in that way. He suggested that I was advised by some gentlemen who had something to do with international finance. Everybody knows what that means. Those are the men who advised me and they are honourable men.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
The right hon. Gentleman has stated—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"]—the names of the Commissioners. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me that someone in Paris—[Interruption]—will he tell me that in Paris no international financiers, as the term is generally known, were called in to advise at all—gentlemen like the various great financial figures, let us say, the Rothschilds? After all the Bank of England has been very much concerned in international finance. No one suggests for a moment—certainly I never heard it suggested—that Lord Cunliffe was in any way anti-British. If that is what the right hon. Gentleman said—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] I made no charge. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, you did!"] What was 1071 the charge I made? I made no charge that any gentleman who was anti-British had any part in that Commission. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, you did!"] No, I did not. What I did say was that the Government were advised by men who are interested in international finance. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is not true!"] If that is not true, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell me that all these bankers are not interested in international finance, and then, of course, I will withdraw.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
All bankers. The right hon. Gentleman's advisers have all been connected with the great system of international finance.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
This sort of thing is said outside. I want to know what the hon. Gentleman means. My advisers were Mr. Hughes, Lord Stunner, and Lord Cunliffe. There were also one or two Treasury officials, who certainly had nothing to do with international finance. They were all who advised me the whole time I was there.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
I am very glad to hear that. But I was always under the impression that our banking system generally was one very much connected with international finance. The right hon. Gentleman has now told us that Mr. Hughes, Lord Cunliffe, and Lord Sumner were alone responsible for upsetting the decision of the previous Committee. Then I say that while one can of course accept that, it appears these gentlemen changed their opinions in a very few months. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] Certainly I withdraw any suggestion that even for one moment the right hon. Gentleman or any of his colleagues were concerned with Germany in this matter. All I was suggesting was that it was a commonplace statement that financiers were engaged in the great world finance system before the War. They were naturally interested in world finance rather than simply British finance. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech stated that we had great difficulties to face. I venture to suggest this is not the hour to try to stop any one stating his views. [An HON. MEMBER: "You should not insult the Prime Minister without reason!"] It will not look well to-morrow that after seven hours debate on this question—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
What is the good of lecturing hon. Members? It would be better for the hon. Gentleman to apply himself to the matter before the House.
§ 12.0 M.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
Perhaps I may have the protection of the Chair from the interruptions of hon. Members. There are two other points with which I particularly wish to deal, and I will do so as briefly as I can. One on the question of shipping which has not been touched upon at all. I will only ask the Prime Minister this question: Is it the fact—we are, I must say, at present very much in the dark—that the German shipping which was sent into the ports of the United States by the action of the British Fleet alone is to be handed over to the United States of America? I can hardly believe that that is so, in view of the fact that President Wilson himself is a great exponent of the faith of no annexation. I can hardly believe he will annex German shipping to which he has no moral right whatever. Is that shipping to be handed over to the United States or is it to be divided among the Allies? I think we are entitled to an answer to that question. Is it the fact that it is not going to be divided pro rata among the nations in the Alliance according to the amount of their shipping sunk by enemy action? Can the right hon. Gentleman give me an answer on that point? It is one on which, as a leading shipowner told me only the other day, the whole of our Atlantic trade depends for the future. I was going to deal with the question of mandatory powers, but I will drop my intended references to that.
I must, however, say one word about Russia. The greatest blot upon the Peace Treaty is its omission with regard to Russia. I think it is our duty—we feel very strongly on this point—to tell the Prime Minister that this is not a question to be lightly regarded by a very large number of people in this country. You have this state of affairs. Your League of Nations—that great conception, that wonderful idea which is being put before us—is being founded at the very time when civilisation is blinding its eyes to the fact of the appalling suffering that is going on in Russia. One hears sneers and excuses from hon. Members for what is going on at this moment in Petrograd—where women and children are starving. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have created an 1073 impression during the Paris Conference that they are prepared to consider the Bolsheviks as people who can be treated as civilised people. I ask the Prime Minister to realise this—that if the League of Nations cannot deal with what is going on in Russia—the bloodshed, the slavery, the misery, the starvation—it cannot be a success. Yet it is turning away from these facts. I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to any longer treat these facts in the way they have been treated up to the present. Every time we give the Bolsheviks any idea we are ready to talk with them we only encourage and stimulate them throughout the length and breadth of the world. If you are supplying arms and equipment and ammunition to the forces of law and order in Russia, why do you not boldly concern yourselves with affairs there and proclaim that Bolsheviks shall not be allowed to enter the comity of nations, and why do you not support the men who are supporting law and order? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will approach this question from this standpoint. This is too serious a question for laughter; it is the most tragic story in the history of the world, and I hope the Prime Minister will come down with a policy for the future. Those who have been in Petrograd and Moscow, and know the men who stood by us in our time and trial, believe that if we act boldly we can put an end to this poisonous thing and restore order. We have never suggested the sending of an army into Russia to fight Bolshevism, but we do ask the right hon. Gentleman to declare, without any equivocation whatever, that the Allied forces are prepared to stand behind the forces of law and order in Russia. We believe that the League of Nations ought to give the lead to this House if it is a real thing: if it is not a sham and is not built upon foundations of sham. I thank the majority of hon. Members for the great courtesy with which they have listened to me. I endeavoured very strenuously to get a word in the Debate earlier, but the chances have been very limited.
§ Captain REDMOND
When towards the end of the Prime Minister's speech I endeavoured to put a question to him. I bowed to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, that it was not a proper occasion then to ask a simple question. I desire to do it now, late as it may be, because it is a very simple question. The Prime Minister has 1074 come back from the great Congress of Allied Nations of the world with a message of hope and peace for the foreign relations between this country and the rest of the world. He has come back with the message of encouragement and hope, but he has declared a policy of negation and despair in regard to the question which affects not only our domestic but our international relations throughout the civilised globe. He actually used the word "despair" in regard to Ireland. Having used that expression I want to put this simple question to him: Are we to understand that the Government, having gone out to tight and to back up the policy of upholding the rights of covenants and treaties in Europe comes back to this country now and says that the very opposite is to be their policy in regard to Ireland? We Irishmen were asked, and we went out to France, Flanders, Gallipoli and other parts of the world to fight against the scrapping of a piece of paper. Are we to be told now, when we come back, the few survivors of us that there are, that you are going to scrap a piece of paper in our own midst at home? Are men like myself and those who went with me—I am not boasting when I say that I secured the support and the enlistment of many hundreds of my fellow countrymen in Ireland—who did our part just as much as men of similar age in a similar capacity from this country, to be thrown over now and be told that we went out on the good faith of England, but when we happen to have survived the Germans—not because we were not at the Front—we are to be thrown over and to be told that it was on false faith, false pledges, and on the basis of lies, that we offered up our lives in France and the other battlefields of Europe? Is the Home Rule Act an Act of Parliament or not? Is it a scrap of paper? The Home Rule Act was the reason why I went to France. It was the reason why tens of thousands of my countrymen did likewise. I ask the Prime Minister what is the Government going to do in regard to the Home Rule Act? It is there: there is no gainsaying that fact. The Prime Minister may like to swallow his own words, but he cannot swallow an Act of Parliament. He has swallowed his own words as was proved or endeavoured to be proved by the hon. Member for the Scotland division (Mr. O'Connor), when he challenged him with his own written statement that there should be a single legis- 1075 lature for the whole of Ireland, and he was not able to reply to it. He cannot swallow an Act of Parliament. This is an Act of the King, Lords, and Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
It is true that there is a suspensory Act, but by the very terms of the suspensory Act the Home Rule Act comes into operation not later than the end of the present War. The exact moment when the Act will become operative depends therefore on the legal interpretation given to those words. But of this we are certain, that the Act must become operative unless it is repealed or amended. There are only the three alternatives. Is the Act to be put into operation automatically? Is it to be amended and put into operation? Or is it to be repealed? We do not expect the Prime Minister to answer these questions to-night. But he will have to reply to them in a very short time, because, as the Americans say, he is up against it. It is his own Act of Parliament. What is he going to do? Is he going to stain the honour and the glory of this country with the blood of thousands of Irishmen by denying them the rights for which they fought and died? We are told that there are two nations in Ireland. I wonder what the Prime Minister would say if I were to remark that there were two churches in Wales, and because one church was in a minority, therefore that church should still be allowed to have that ascendancy which he fought so strongly, so energetically, so ably and so successfully to remove? The Welsh Act is also on the Statute Book. Is that also to be treated as a scrap of paper? Is there to be one law for gallant little Wales, and another law for Ireland that, as we are told, never did anything on the battlefield in this war?
The Prime Minister was speaking to-night with his tongue in his cheek. He knows as well as I do that Ireland is one and indivisible as a nation, that the Irish nation is as great and as historic a nation as Wales ever was and ever will be, and that we had our Parliament in Ireland, Protestant Parliament as it was. We have said many times, and he cannot deny it, and I have heard my father say in this House, that he would take a Protestant Parliament to-morrow provided it was an Irish parliament for the whole of Ireland. We do not think of creed in Ireland. It is nationality for which we always have 1076 regard. No one can deny that there are difficulties in the way of the settlement of the Irish question. I am the last one on these benches to deny that fact. Is the Prime Minister to make the abject confession that he has come back from settling the affairs of the world, that he has solved the question of Poland which has baffled European statesmen for centuries, that he has created nations like Czecho-Slovakia and the Ukraine and so forth, that he has solved the feuds and struggles of ancient nations, and yet that he and his Government view the question of Ireland with despair? I tell him to-night that his word "despair" will be read with dismay throughout the English-speaking world to-morrow; I tell him that the word "despair" will not stop within the four shores of these islands, but will have travelled across the cables to America, to Australia, to New Zealand—wherever the Irish are to be found, and that is in most parts of the English-speaking world. Not only will that word "despair" spell ruin to the hopes of those who are endeavouring to bring about a closer and happier relationship between these two countries, but I prophesy—it is a bad thing to prophesy, but I prophesy—that the policy of despair, which has ruined British statesman after British statesman, will ruin the right hon. Gentleman and the colleagues who sit around him. From what I can see, and know, the latter consideration should have, if anything, more effect on the right hon. Gentleman than the former. At any rate, I tell him this much, that if he thinks that by coming here and blandly telling us that British Acts of Parliament count for nothing in regard to Ireland, that the King's signature means nothing in Ireland, that an Act which has passed three times through the Imperial Parliament and has received the mandate of the British people is to count for nothing when applied to Ireland, but that the same procedure is to count for something when applied to Wales, I tell him that he is making the same mistake as when he and his Government allow a certain set of people in this country to make threats against the law and the order of the land, while they prosecute and execute others who are doing likewise. If anyone has a right to be heard I have a right to be heard on this question. I cannot tell the House how intensely I feel upon it, because I know that owing to my own personal action I have been the cause of the death of hundreds of 1077 my own fellow-countrymen on the belief that the word of England and of the Prime Minister of England was its bond, but that now I know otherwise.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Bill read a second time.
That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee on the Bill.—[Mr. Pratt.]
§ Bill accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]