§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Lord E. Talbot.]
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Lloyd George)
On the Motion for the Adjournment I think the House would like to have an idea of the view of the British Delegation of what happened at the very important Conference at San Remo. The Conference was undoubtedly in many respects one of the most remarkable that has been held since the Armistice. Before the Conference there had been some misunderstandings, serious enough in themselves, but made grave by deliberate fomenting on the part of very reckless persons. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who are they?" and "Northcliffe!"] I am very glad to be able to say that the sky is once more clear. As far as I can see, everybody is satisfied with what happened at San Remo, and everybody is convinced that he did it. That is proof of the depth and sincerity of that satisfaction. I see that they are convinced in Paris that the policy which has been promulgated by certain French journalists is in the ascendant. I see that in Italy they are equally convinced that the European policy of Signor Nitti is triumphant. Men who appeared a fortnight or three weeks ago to be hopelessly divergent in their views are equally satisfied that those views have completely prevailed at San Remo. In Paris I find that they are pleased with our decision to enforce the Treaty. In Germany I see that they are equally pleased that we have departed for the first time from the militarist policy of Paris. There never was such a Conference for achieving the satisfaction and the agreement of all parties concerned! All I can say is that the principals there were filled with gladness at the results of the Conference, and they are glad in that they seem to have been able to spread some of that joy into the darkest recesses of the factories of gloom, where they fabricate and trade in dismal doings. They also seem happy, and, if they are happy, what does it matter? 1460 What matters is what really happened there, and about that I am going to say something to the House. The reason everybody seems to be so satisfied is not because there was any jugglery in the decisions arrived at, but because misunderstandings were removed and suspicions dispelled. There were misunderstandings and there were suspicions, and I think it is always better to speak quite freely about these, because I find that frank discussion is the best way to dispel suspicion.
I am going to say one or two words about the apparent disagreement, and perhaps a real disagreement, between the Allies in reference to the Ruhr incident, because it is essential in order that I should lead up to the decisions which were taken. The Ruhr incident did not arise out of any question with regard to the enforcement of the Treaty—there was no difference of opinion between the Allies as to the enforcement of the Treaty in reference to reparation, disarmament, or any of those great conditions upon which we must insist—it was purely a question of a very grave disturbance which had arisen in a part of Germany, which not merely menaced the peace of that country, but threatened the peace of Europe as well The Ruhr Valley, a great industrial district, had been seized by the Red troops and Communism had been established there. Had it been successfully established, it might have spread not merely over Germany, but from Germany over other parts of Europe. The dispute which arose was solely in reference to the question of who should put it down. The French were of opinion that it ought to be suppressed by Allied troops. All the other Allies were of opinion that it ought to be left to the Germans themselves to restore order in their own country.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
All the other Allies were of opinion that it ought to be left to the Germans themselves to restore order in their own country.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The hon. and gallant Gentleman wants to recognise an undemocratic Government in Russia, but 1461 he will not recognise a democratic one in Germany. At any rate, we were dealing with the existing Government in Germany, and that was the whole question. A similar question arose in France in 1871 when the Communists seized Paris and some other towns. It was then suggested by the Germans that they should suppress the Commune. M. Thiers, a very sagacious statesman, was of opinion that it would only help to make the Commune popular in France if Germans suppressed it, and he therefore rejected the offer made by the Germans and insisted on using French troops to restore order in their own country. The Allies were of opinion that the same course ought to be pursued in this case in Germany. We proposed that there should be guarantees that the liberty given to the Germans to occupy the Ruhr for the purpose of suppressing this rising should not be abused.
First of all, we proposed that there should be a definite limit of time, and if that limit of time were exceeded, we should have agreed to the occupation then of any German towns as a guarantee. We also proposed that liaison officers representing the Allies should accompany the troops in order to guarantee that they did not exceed the necessary number, and also in order to see that their methods would not be too stern and too vindictive. I am very glad now to be able to say that the difference which arose is cleared up. The Germans have been informed that the moment the number of troops in the Ruhr Valley is reduced to the proportions permitted by the Allies in a letter of the 8th August the French troops will be withdrawn. Under the Treaty they are not permitted to have any troops at all in that area, but there was a special exemption given in the letter of the 8th August for a period of time for the purpose of restoring order. That period expired on the 10th April. A further extension has been given, and, if they keep their troops down to those numbers, French troops will be withdrawn from Frankfurt and Darmstadt immediately. But the statement which appeared in some of the newspapers that the French troops are not to withdraw until Germany has disarmed and certain other Clauses of the Treaty have been enforced is not in the least accurate. So much for that question.
1462 I now come to the misunderstandings which were removed, and which, having, been removed, place the Alliance, I think, on a firmer basis than ever before. The first misunderstanding in France of British views was the impression that Britain did not mean to enforce the Treaty. Concerning reparation, disarmament, the insult to the Allied troops, payment for the Army of Occupation, the French were under the impression that Great Britain did not mean to enforce the Clauses of the Treaty. There was a discussion in this House about a month or five weeks ago, in the course of which I had the privilege of answering speeches delivered by my two right. hon. Friends. I made it perfectly clear on that occasion that, in so far as the British Government was concerned, not only did we not favour revision, but we thought it unnecessary; we thought the conditions of the Treaty were undoubtedly fair, allowing for every contingency, and, so far as we were concerned, we certainly insisted on enforcement. In the despatches that passed between the French and British Governments over the Ruhr incident, we made it quite clear that the difference of opinion between the French and the British Government was purely a question of police and the restoration of order, and that on questions of disarmament, reparation, and matters of that kind, we certainly would not merely discuss with them the best methods of enforcing them, but would take any action which could be agreed upon by the Allies. Upon that point the Conference which sat at San Remo dispelled all these misgivings.
It was perfectly clear to the French mind, as it was to ours, that the Treaty of Versailles is the basis upon which European policy must march in reference to Germany, and that we proposed to act with them and the other Allies in the enforcement of the conditions of that Treaty. The second misapprehension arose out of the unfounded suspicion, which had been created by the utterances of very powerful personages and the writings of very powerful journalists in France, which indicated that in their minds there was an intention to use the delay in the execution of the Treaty for ulterior motives. The annexation of the Rhineland and coal measures have been openly advocated. There we had to make 1463 it absolutely clear that, under no conditions, would Great Britain assent to any policy of that kind. The lesson of 1870 and 1871 has sunk deep into the minds of millions in Europe. Bismarck's mistake, or rather the mistake of his generals, produced one of the greatest catastrophes in the history of the world. We were determined not to repeat that now by incorporating in the territories of even friendly Powers millions of people of a totally different race. We cannot bequeath to our children another Alsace-Lorraine. If we did, they would curse our memory. It was, therefore, essential, in view of the declarations which have been made by persons of great consequence in France—persons who recently had shown they had great power in France—that we should make it clear that Britain would have no hand or part in any policy of annexation in Europe. I need hardly assure the House that M. Millerand, the French Prime Minister, and those associated with him, readily and sincerely gave an assurance that the vast majority of people of France were just as much opposed to any policy of that kind as the people of Great Britain. That declaration is embodied in the document which has been sent to Germany. It is embodied in the Minutes of the Conference. I attach enormous importance to it, in view of the danger which arises from the policy which is advocated openly by leaders of certain sections of French opinion.
Another part of our policy with regard to Germany is that we decided for the first time to invite German Ministers to meet French, Italian and British Ministers at an open Conference to discuss these questions which have arisen out of the execution of the Treaty, or rather the failure to execute the Treaty. At the present moment these discussions are conducted by Notes by a great number of Commissions, and Commissioners are like the Virgins in the parable—some of them are wise and some of them are foolish, and you cannot always be quite sure that the discussions have been conducted quite in accordance with the policy which has been agreed upon by the Supreme Council of the Allies. Therefore, we felt that it was important that those who were primarily responsible to public opinion in Allied countries and in Germany should 1464 come face to face in order that we should establish clearly what the position was. Before we entered the Conference it was essential that we should know what were the points that were to be the subjects of discussion. On that we arrived at an understanding to discuss the main questions arising out of the execution of the Treaty. First of all, there was disarmament, then reparation, then insult to Allied officers and the Army of Occupation. Those were the main questions. With regard to disarmament, I shall have to say a word or two. We are all agreed that those formidable weapons of war which became such a menace, not merely to the peace but to the liberty of the world, should be destroyed. Upon that there is no difference of opinion between the Allies. I believe the chief charge of collecting and destroying these weapons rests with a British general, acting as a member of a Commission sitting under the presidency of a French general. Another British officer is in charge of the destruction of the aeroplanes. The first thing to do is to locate these guns, next to gather them together into depots, and then to destroy them.
Here I want to speak quite frankly. I saw General Bingham before I went to San Remo. I was very anxious to know the exact position, and asked him to come from Berlin to see me. He told me that the Germans had quite faithfully, in his judgment, given an account of all their guns. With regard to rifles, he experienced great difficulty; the men had not given them up. That, of course, is a danger not merely to the peace of Europe, but to the internal peace of Germany—a very serious one. They have gone home with their rifles and not surrendered them. The real reason, I understand, is this. The German Government have no authority in their own land. I do not want to say anything that is harsh, but this Government does not command the authority which would enable it to make its decrees respected. Soldiers defy it; States defy it, so I understand. That is the greatest difficulty of all. You are dealing with a broken-back creature, which has not got the command of its limbs and its muscles. Its actions are convulsive. It has the command of speech, and that is about all. Information comes to me from British officers 1465 that there is famine in the land. I have had reports from British officers in districts where the population are not getting more than between one-third and one-half of the calories that enable life to be effectively maintained. They are living wholly upon sloshy vegetables with no vitality. That is the trouble in Germany. It is suffering from that kind of shell-shock where it has not recovered the use of its muscles and its limbs, and it is half-paralysed. This I get from British officers. I have taken the trouble to see them and to talk to them and they are quite frank about it. One I sent for from Berlin tells me quite frankly what the position is.
That is the difficulty. When you come to order disarmament you may get a perfectly willing Government which issues decrees hoping that they will be obeyed, but there is no one at the present moment in that country who seems to me to have the power to enforce the decrees, and that is one of the greatest troubles with which we are confronted. If the German Government say, "We can issue orders, but we can get no one to obey them," then we shall know what to do, but it will be action of a totally different sort. You may take one kind of action against a Government which you know threatens you. But you may take another form of action against a Government which you know is perfectly helpless. The action you take depends very largely upon the diagnosis of the facts, and therefore it is vital that we should ascertain exactly what the position is. That is one of the advantages of meeting the people who are, at any rate nominally, in authority, and have established more than nominal authority for the time being in Berlin.
The officers gave me a description of the march of the troops into Berlin. There were only 3,000 or 4,000 of them, and they expected to be hailed as deliverers. The population were simply stunned and stupefied. They looked like a stupefied people, not knowing what the thing meant. So far from being friendly, they were deeply hostile. The troops never realised till they got there that Germany is not merely sick and tired of militarism, but that it will have nothing whatever to do with it. This is what was told me by British officers who were there. These are the facts which have been given to me about the position. In a very short 1466 time these wretched creatures, who had hoped to carry out a coup d'etut, found that nobody wanted it, and that the whole of the population were set against them; not merely the workmen, but the middle classes, and also many of the higher classes who had fought, and, as they thought, had made this sort of thing impossible. That is the position, then, in regard to disarmament. The guns we must get. The aeroplanes we must get. That is essential. We cannot allow these terrific weapons of war to be left lying about in Germany, where there is nobody in real authority to deal with them. It is too dangerous. You can never tell what may happen. Someone may arise who may know what use to make of these weapons. They must, therefore, be cleared out. The rifles are infinitely more difficult to get at; but rifles without guns, machine guns, and aeroplanes are not very formidable as weapons of invasion, though they may be very dangerous as weapons of disorder. We shall, however, have to do our best to secure them.
I come now to reparation. In regard to this two or three questions arise. As I pointed out in the discussion here some few weeks ago, it is no use pointing to the present condition of Germany and saying, "How can Germany pay reparation when she is starving?" Germany will not always be starving. She has a population of 60,000,000 or 70,000,000. It is an intelligent population. It is a highly skilled one. It is a population of craftsmen, a population having all the arts of wealth production. She will recover! What we want to know is, what steps Germany is taking to estimate her liabilities, to assess her liabilities; what proposals she is going to make for liquidating her liabilities. We know perfectly well that in her present condition she cannot pay. She cannot maintain life decently. We want to see that Germany really acknowledges her liability, and is thinking about the best method of liquidating it. To meet a debtor who owes you a large sum of money which he has not paid, who is not paying interest upon it, and. who, when he meets you, talks about everything else except about that debt, is exasperating. The Germans must be got to take steps to assess their liability, and to make some proposals to pay.
Criticisms have been levelled at me from two sides in respect to this debt. 1467 I have been attacked during the last few days because I have proposed that the German indemnity should be fixed. On the other hand I have been attacked because I have never proposed that it should be fixed. Both suggestions cannot be right. As a matter of fact, I have proposed nothing contrary to the Treaty. If the House will bear with me I should like to read exactly what was the proposal about a fixed indemnity which we made to Germany before she signed the Peace Treaty. This proposal is included in a letter of 28th June to Dr. Rantzau, and it was as follows:At any time within four months of the signature of the Treaty Germany shall be at liberty to submit, and the Allied and Associated Powers will receive and consider such proposals as Germany may choose to make. In particular, proposals will be received on the following subjects and for the following purposes: Germany may offer a lump sum in settlement of the whole of her liability as defined in Article 232.That clearly states how the matter stands. I was said to be making proposals for the first time for the fixing of a lump sum. This was in the document of 28th June, 1919. Then it continues:or in settlement of her liability under any of the particular categories which have been decided upon and laid down, Germany may offer either to carry out by her own means the restoration and reconstruction, whether in part or in its entirety, of one of the devastated areas, or to repair under the same conditions certain classes of damages in particular regions or in all the regions which have suffered from the War.That was a definite proposal which we made to Germany, that Germany should herself assess the damages and make her own proposals in regard to the amount. Our complaint is that Germany has taken no steps. We also said to Germany then; "We will give you every facility to visit the devastated areas, so that you can judge for yourselves what is the damage." She sent nobody. The complaint is not that Germany has not paid. We know she could not pay. The complaint is that she is not taking steps as if she really meant to pay. She must do it. I want to make it particularly clear that we are not going to Spa on 25th May to discuss academic questions. Germany must come there with something definite. Let her make her proposals. She is entitled to do that under the Treaty. We are only asking, under the Treaty itself, that what it is permissive 1468 for her to do she shall make some attempt to do. It may be that the time has elapsed, but the Allies are not going to stand on a mere technical question of time, of the elapse of the four months. There has been a good deal of delay in America and elsewhere for which you cannot blame Germany. But the German delegates who are coming to Spa must bring some definite proposals in regard to the sum that can be paid, and in regard to the method by which they propose to pay, the annuity they propose to give, or, indeed, as to any other suggestion which they have for the liquidation of their liability. They will be guaranteed a very fair, impartial, and just consideration of any proposals they put forward, but they must come there as people who mean business, and upon a basis of the acceptance of the Treaty. That is what I want to say in regard to reparation. They must show that they are grappling with the problem. That is all we ask at the present moment.
Upon all these German questions that have, arisen out of the German Peace Treaty I am glad to be able to tell the House that we have established the most complete accord amongst the Allies. There is not merely identity of aim and purpose, but there is identity of agreement as to means. I have never seen it better. The strain has disappeared and there is the same old glad comradeship that carried us through the trials of the Great War. We were performing our work under difficulties. I am bound to say a word about that. We were not at variance. On the other hand, there were attempts to promote discord amongst us. Whilst European Ministers were feeling their way through a dense tangled jungle, we were deafened by simian chatter. Some of us were overpowered with missiles hurled at our poor heads. Personal malignity surely has wide enough scope in the sphere of domestic politics. Here it does not matter—the by-elections show it ! Everybody is beginning to understond that it is simply the writhings of disappointed ambition. But when it begins to get to the foreign sphere there is mischief. Abroad they do not comprehend it yet—though they will—for they naturally do not follow our politics with the same intensity and concentration that we do ourselves. Gradually, however, they are beginning to discover it. Until they do, to promote mischief and discord is criminal. It is treason to 1469 the Allies to try and create bad blood between people who have shed their blood for the common cause, and who have suffered, God knows, enough for their victory. But it is no use making too much fuss over it. All we can do is to call attention to it, not merely to deprecate it, but to make it more and more inoperative. When we were at San Remo we had only one policy, that whenever there were these difficulties, we should meet immediately. I think that is a good plan to follow in the future. The moment we came together we found there was agreement and understanding. One set of delegates thought the other set meant one thing, and that feeling was shared in an opposite sense by the other set of delegates. That happens amongst the best friends. But I think, in the coming together, face to face, of men of goodwill and of good purpose you generally get a good agreement—and, I hope, also a good end! There is no doubt that the San Remo Conference is a triumph of goodwill. Everybody went away, I am sure, happier than after any other conference, and we shall go together now, side by side, with a great unity of purpose which I think will achieve much for the peace of Europe and promote peace and good understanding.
With regard to Turkey I am afraid that I cannot say very much. M. Millerand, in his speech yesterday, stated that he did not think it desirable to give the details of our proposals until we had submitted them to the Turks. That is the policy we pursued with regard to Germany, and I think the French Prime Minister is right. We have not yet submitted our proposals to the Turks, and I think it is desirable that we should do so before they are made a subject of discussion in the various Parliaments of the Allies. However, there is nothing new to reveal on this subject. The general principles have been discussed repeatedly in this House, and there has been no departure from the principles which were laid down in the various Debates—whether it be about Constantinople, or Smyrna or Thrace, or Armenia, or Mesopotamia, or Palestine, or Syria, or Cilicia, or the protection of minorities. On any of those questions the Treaty will be found to embody the principles which have been laid down so frequently in the discussions in this House.
1470 I will only say one word about the mandates. The mandate of Syria has been accorded to France; for Mesopotamia, including Mosul, it has been given to Great Britain; and the mandate for Palestine has also been given to Great Britain, with a full recognition of the famous Balfour declaration in respect of the Jews. There has been an agreement arrived at with the French in respect of the oil distribution in Mosul. As to Armenia, this has presented a problem of overwhelming difficulty. The difficulty, I need hardly point out to the friends of Armenia, arises from the fact that there is no Armenian population in some of the vast areas we should like to have allocated to Armenia, and which there are historical grounds for allocating to Armenia. But if they were given to Armenia, who is to enforce our decrees? France could not undertake it, Britain could not undertake it, and Italy could not, because our responsibilities are too overwhelming. We consulted our military advisers, and they made it quite clear to us that they would involve a very strong and well-equipped military force. It is not merely the expense, but it is the finding of the troops. We have to guard the Straits—that is our charge—Palestine and Mesopotamia; the French have got to protect Cilicia; and the Italians undertake to protect the district of Adalia.
We have great responsibilities in Europe, and no State, with the best will in the world, could possibly pledge its honour to undertake conquest, for that is what it means, of those territories in order to hand them over to the Armenians. We saw the Armenian delegates, and they gave us a very sanguine estimate of what their own forces could muster and what they could not. We had to submit that estimate to expert examination, and although I have no doubt at all that the Armenians can defend their own Republic, it is idle to expect that an undisciplined force, with no military traditions, should be able to capture strong fortresses in a mountainous country full of defiles and sparsely populated, from a foe with past military traditions. That was our difficulty. We could have put it in the Treaty and said, "Take it; we cannot help you, but if you like to undertake it, there it is for you." But that would not have been an honourable thing to do.
1471 The course we adopted was to appeal to the United States of America, which has not accepted any share of the responsibilities in the civilising of those vast areas, and the protection of those poor Christian populations up to the present; but which have, I am convinced, a deep well of real sympathy for them. I do not mean a merely sentimental sympathy, but, I believe, a sympathy which is sincere and capable of making great sacrifices. We are making an appeal on behalf of the Supreme Council of the Allies to the United States of America to undertake a mandate for Armenia. If they do not, then we shall ask that President Wilson should arbitrate as to the boundaries of Armenia. We could not carry it any further than that. The American representatives were present at the Conference, but they had no authority to take any part in the Conference. Therefore we are not in a position to say what the view of America may or may not be on this subject.
With regard to Russia, we practically re-affirmed the decision we previously arrived at to open up trade relations with Russia, and to give very facility for the purpose of opening those trade relations, with a view to sending peace material to Russia, and obtaining the surplus of Russian food stocks and raw materials for the rest of the world. We also made it clear, with regard to the delegation at Copenhagen, that the whole of the Allies stand together in their determination that they cannot accept in that delegation the presence of M. Litvinoff, for the simple reason that he abused his privileges when he was here before. If the Ambassador or Minister of any foreign country had been guilty of conduct similar to that for which he was responsible here, and had taken part in active political propaganda for subverting the institutions of the country, not merely would he have been expelled, even if it had been a friendly Power, but that friendly Power, I am perfectly certain, would never have dreamt of asking that he should be received here again.
It is customary, when you send an emissary to any country, to ascertain whether he is acceptable, and, when you find he is not acceptable to the country, 1472 no one ever dreams of challenging the action of that country. Russia must conform to civilised usages before we can do any business. I know it is a serious matter to delay the obtaining of whatever raw material there may be in Russia, but it is much better that we should have a clear understanding before we do any business with Russia, and we can only do business upon the basis upon which civilised countries do business with each other everywhere. Therefore, we ventured to invite the Supreme Council to support the action we are taking, and all representatives agreed. If a delegation came for the purpose of transacting commercial business, we should not receive M. Litvinoff in this country, nor could we meet him in any other country. That represents substantially the task we had to undertake. This is a Motion for the Adjournment, and if any hon. Member has any question to ask, I hope I may be allowed to answer their questions later on, although I can only do so with the consent of the House.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That can only be done by permission of the House, and I am sure the House will be glad to allow the Prime Minister to answer any questions.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
We have taken special measures for their protection exactly as was done with other Christian communities, because they have been more under our protection than any other Power, and I think they are satisfied with the steps we have taken.
The San Remo Conference will undoubtedly always be a remarkable and a conspicuous landmark. When you were there and when you met delegates from every land you realised more and more how much Europe stands in need of peace. You had trouble and rumours of trouble from every quarter, and you were thankful to feel that Great Britain was surmounting the difficulties that had arisen out of the War perhaps better than any other country. But you felt that there was a great task in front of Europe. In France the British sovereign, which fetched its 1473 25 francs, now fetches 64; in Italy where it used to fetch 26 lira, it now fetches 86 to 89. In Germany, where it used to fetch 20 marks, it now fetches 218, and in Poland the British sovereign fetches 735 marks.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
And if you go to Russia, the land of the hon. Member's paradise, where there is peace and goodwill and brotherhood, you will probably get a ton of money for a British sovereign. That is the condition of Europe. Prices are high here, but they are higher everywhere else. That part of Europe is struggling hard to get over the troubles of the War and to clear away the debris; the countries are getting impatient, and are even threatening to fling the spade on the rubbish heap. All the same, I felt in the air that things are improving. They are better, and I could see it. The reports indicated it. One felt it in the air that peace was coming. There was more confidence, there was less apprehension; the gaping wounds of Europe had gradually healed. The San Remo Conference marked a distinct stage in this convalescence.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
The House listened with great interest and, I think, with general sympathy to the Prime Minister. Although there are some points which, I am sure, comprehensive as that statement has been, require further elucidation, I will content myself with two or three observations of a general, although not, I hope, of an irrelevant character. In the first place, it is a matter of profound satisfaction to everybody who has at heart the permanent interests of peace, goodwill and re-settlement in Europe that, whatever transient misunderstandings may have arisen between the Allies, this Conference has had the result, as the Prime Minister has said, of dispelling those clouds and of bringing together in complete unity, not only of policy but of peoples, the Allied Powers that carried the War to a successful conclusion and are primarily responsible for a durable peace. I do not know precisely to what quarters my right hon. Friend was referring when he spoke, in tones of great indignation and deep contempt, of 1474 persons in this country who are seeking to stir up bad blood between ourselves and our Allies the French. It may be that my sources of political information are more limited than his, but I am perfectly certain that if there be such persons they do not represent any considerable section of opinion either in this House or in this country. I hope I may say the same with regard to France, because without making any invidious discrimination between the relative claims upon us born of comradeship and co-operation in the great struggles of the War, of the Allies and the Associated Powers, I think it is permissible to say there is no country in the world to which we are bound by ties of closer and more indissoluble friendship than the French Republic. If there ever was any chance of serious misunderstanding it is all to the good that it should have been removed.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us, following what appears to have been said by the Prime Minister of France yesterday, that the proposed Turkish Treaty, not having yet been formally communicated to the Porte, is hardly ripe for Parliamentary discussion. I should like to make one, or perhaps two, observations suggested by what my right hon. Friend has said in that connection. Deep and heartfelt as is my sympathy with Armenia, I certainly should not advocate—it would be madness to do it— that we ourselves should undertake a mandate in that country, and, indeed, I confess I am alarmed at the extent of the mandates which we have already undertaken. My right hon. Friend tells us that the Conference assigned to us Palestine and Mesopotamia. I say nothing about Palestine, but, in regard to Mesopotamia, I venture to repeat what I said some weeks ago in this House, that I regard with the greatest apprehension commitments, both military and financial, in that area of the world which the conferring and acceptance of such a mandate may involve, and which I do not myself think, in the existing condition of our affairs, we ought to undertake. I should have been very glad to see not an extension but a curtailment of our responsibilities in that country. But in regard to Armenia I am glad of the suggestion that has been made to the United States of America who, for reasons which it is not for us here to 1475 criticise, are holding aloof from any active participation in that re-settlement of the world, which is a necessary result of the contest in which they played so splendid and gallant a part. I should be very glad if I thought there was any prospect, and I hope there may be some prospect, of the United States accepting that invitation. I cannot help thinking that, apart from that, there is something in the suggestions made in a memorandum which appeared yesterday in the Press on the part of the Council of the League of Nations, to which I understand the mandate was, in the first place, offered. My right hon. Friend has not referred to it in any way, but there are very detailed suggestions, both military and financial. The League of Nations point out that they have neither the financial nor the executive force to undertake a mandate themselves. They also make what seem to be practical proposals as to the manner in which this urgent duty from Christian Europe to these people might be effectively discharged. But I am quite prepared for the moment to wait until we hear what is the result of the application the Conference has made to the United States of America.
Leaving on one side the question of the Turkish Treaty, I would like to say a word or two on the decisions of the Conference in regard to Russia and Germany. I hail the conclusions come to on these two points with unfeigned satisfaction. In regard to Russia, the proposal originally put forward as to the resumption of trade relations with Russia, which is a matter of the most urgent importance, was that it should be through some communication, or intercourse, or interchange with the cooperative societies, but that is now, to speak frankly, transformed into a relation with the de facto Government of Russia itself. Thinking as I do that that is wise, I am heartily glad, whatever we may think of the Government of Russia— it is a de facto Government, that such a common-sense conclusion should have been arrived at. I say nothing about the personal question which the right hon. Gentleman has raised, as I do not profess to know anything about it, but I do trust that this interchange will be prompt, 1476 thorough and frank both on the one side and on the other, and I assume, if it is going to take place—I do not know the exact state of the facts at the present moment—the blockade, as far as it exists in that part of the world, will be relaxed and ultimately withdrawn. Nothing but good can result from a free interchange of that kind.
But I attach even greater importance to the recognition by this Conference of the necessity for bringing representatives of the German Government into direct communication with the Allied Powers. That is a very large step in advance, and it is one which I myself believe, and hope, will be most fruitful of consequences. I agree that German disarmament is not only prescribed by the Treaty, that it is not only agreed to by the Germans, but that it is a vital necessity in the interests of Central and Continental Europe. At the same time, assuming, as I suppose we may assume, that the maximum figure which the Allied Powers seek to impose on the future of the German army is a figure regulated by the presumed necessities of whatever Government may exist in Germany for the maintenance of domestic order, and that I take to be the governing principle, I think it very desirable especially from the point of fairness and justice, that German representatives should have a full opportunity of putting before the Powers what are their needs, actual and prospective, in that regard. I do not see how anybody outside of Germany can say under existing and probable conditions what force this population of 60,000,000 or 70,000,000 will require for the purposes of maintaining order. My right hon. Friend spoke in a pessimistic spirit of the actual effective power of the existing authorities in Germany to maintain order, or, indeed, to perform the elementary functions of government in a civilised state. I hope in that respect his views may turn out to have been unduly pessimistic. I understand that what he said in regard to the attempted coup d'etat in Berlin, and the manner in which the troops that were drafted in in support of the reactionary movement were received by the population, does really suggest, and this comes from British officers who were eyewitnesses, that the existing Government— I am not speaking of its personnel—has 1477 behind it a larger body of public opinion and public sympathy, and is in a truer sense democratic than some of us have been inclined to believe. At any rate, you will never be able to arrive at a first-hand and authentic estimate of the situation till you have the representatives of the German Government sitting at the able with you, producing their materials, which you can sift and cross-examine by your expert witnesses and advisers. It ought not, and would not, I am sure, under those circumstances, be impossible to arrive at something like general agreement between the two parties on a figure for the future size of this law-preserving army of Germany. What we want in Germany, as in Austria and in all the countries which were lately our enemies, and also in the victorious countries, is to get rid, by a process of disarmament, as speedily and on as large a scale as possible, of the maintenance of military forces for the purposes of aggression. It is in the common interest of the whole world that that should be done throughout. Again, as regards reparation, I think it is extremely desirable that what I called the other day the floating charge which our existing arrangements impose upon the industrial future and upon the economic re-instatement, both of Germany and Austria, should be removed, and that there should be substituted for it a definite, fixed, and agreed sum. I do not want to be unduly controversial, and I do not go into the question whether or not the offer that was made in the letter—not the Treaty—to which my right hon. Friend has referred, of June, 1919, was, in the circumstances of the case, an offer which Germany could have been reasonably expected to accept.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
She did accept it. She accepted that because she signed the Treaty upon that basis, and it was put in the Proctocol, which she also signed. She undoubtedly undertook to make an offer of that kind.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend is right, but it does not really affect my point. I do not think, in the conditions of the case, and particularly having regard to the enormously-inflated sums which were suggested in various parts of the world as the only basis on which reparation could possibly be considered—I do not think it could be said that 1478 Germany acted unreasonably in not bringing forward a definite proposition at that time. Things are different now. I hope and believe that the Germans will come forward with some practicable proposition which the Allied Powers can canvass, criticise, modify, and ultimately accept. You will never have—of that I am as convinced as I am of anything in connection with all these controversies—you will never have a proper reinstatement and restarting of economic life in those countries until they have definite conditions which will enable them from year to year to understand what is the extent of what I may call the actual and potential mortgage on their industrial future. If that is done in a reasonable way, not only will you promote the common interest, namely, the free interchange of trade between these various countries, but you will get what you would not otherwise get, some substantial instalment towards the reparation which is undoubtedly due. I am very glad to think that a conference of that kind is going to take place, as I understand, in the course of the next month or thereabouts.
So far, I think the San Remo Conference marks a distinct step in advance upon the road of international appeasement and reconstruction. Let me add this, which is the only criticism I am going to make—it is not a criticism so much as a suggestion. It is time, or the time is approaching, when these meetings of the Supreme Council should come to an end. I am not for a moment withdrawing or qualifying what I have already said as to the advantage which they have been in the settlement of the intricate questions connected with Peace. But we are looking forward to a future in which international relations will not be regulated by the decisions of two or three Powers, however eminent, and however great the services they rendered in the War. What we want to see is what was in the very forefront, not only of the Treaty of Versailles, but of the other Treaties—the effective establishment of the League of Nations, which shall represent not merely three or four of the Allied or Associated Powers, but which will be the vocal and authentic organ of the vast number of States, both small and great, which are already parties to that great Covenant, and who, I trust, will in a very 1479 short time receive the accession of those who were quite recently our enemies. That is the idea which we ought to put before us; that is the machinery to which we have pledged ourselves. I believe it will be whole-heartedly accepted in spirit and principle by the Allied Governments as well as by the smaller States. The sooner it can be got into effective working, and come to be regarded as an integral part in the international machinery of the world, the better is the hope of a re-establishment of permanent peace, and the re-creation of the industrial and economic future of this devastated Europe.
I feel certain that in what I have said I shall have the sympathy of His Majesty's Government, as I am sure I have of the great majority of the Members of this House and of the public opinion of the civilised world. I will only add, and I do so without any reserve or qualification, that I am glad that, by the joint counsel and co-operation of representatives of the Allies at San Remo—to whom I myself think it a great misfortune that there was not added a representative of the United States of America — but even truncated and mutilated as to that extent the personnel of the representative authority of the Council was, I am heartily glad that it has cleared out of the way a number of transient but not unimportant differences, and that it has made, both in regard to Russia and Germany, a real step in our advance on the road to the reconstruction of peace and of humane relations throughout the world.
Mr. BOTTOM LEY
I am not sure whether by any chance I come within the category of the simian chatterers or one of those extremely brainless persons to whom the Prime Minister referred as having been engaged in hurling journalistic missiles at his head. I am going to be perfectly candid, and perhaps a little rude, when I say that, speaking for myself, I am growing somewhat tired of these constant peace ovations to the Prime Minister whenever he returns from a Continental Congress. It seems to me, if I may say so without disrespect to the right hon. Gentleman, that he has one formula in all his negotiations, whether for domestic or for foreign peace, and that is to give way. He reminds me very much 1480 of the parent with the unruly child, who called it twenty times to come into the house out of the street, and then said, "Stop where you are, you little brat; I will be obeyed." We all know the chief reason for which the Prime Minister went to San Remo. We have heard a lot about suspicions and misunderstandings. The Prime Minister has given to the House to-day a larger edition of the interview he gave to the Continental journalists on Monday last. I have just come back from the Continent—my boat was a little delayed owing to the presence of the one in front of us to which I made reference earlier in the proceedings. I have followed very closely the French papers within the last few days, and the Prime Minister practically confessed in that interview—unless, indeed, it is another case of a reporter's error—that it was he and his Government who had been mainly responsible for the suspicions and misunderstandings which had arisen. If I may trust the report, he said, and I confess the statement amazed me:You gentlemen of the French Press must remember that we Celts are more suspicious than the Anglo-Saxon race.I did not know that we had an entirely Celtic Government at the present time. I do not know whether the First Commissioner of Works can claim that distinction. At any rate, the Prime Minister apologised, in a sense, for the suspicions which his Celtic temperament had caused him to entertain towards the good intentions of our great French ally He went to France with the primary purpose —I am sure he will not really contradict me—of inducing the French to withdraw their troops from Germany; and when M. Millerand said, " Jamais jamais, jamais," he threw his arms round his neck and said, " Mon cher ami, we will be just as good friends; you shall keep them there; Britain shall be obeyed "
May I venture, as a serious statesman, to deprecate the somewhat light and frivolous tone which characterised the Prime Minister's description of the proceedings and the result of the Conference He told us that everyone was satisfied, and everyone thinks he is responsible for the outcome. It is easily understandable, because nothing whatever has really been done. The French troops remain in Germany, and the Prime Minister, in the deep recesses of his great mind, knows" very well that they will remain there until it suits France to withdraw them. There 1481 is in France to-day a feeling of intense distrust of Britain. The Prime Minister, being very fond of the sea, went to San Remo by water. He came back by train, in such circumstances that he was not able to pay a formal visit to Paris. I wish he had done so. It is a lamentable fact that you cannot go to-day into any theatre or music-hall in Paris and find one note of cheering, or even of respect for Britain when her name or that of any of her great Ministers is mentioned. That is a lamentable state of things, and what is the result? France leaves her troops in Germany. She will withdraw them when she thinks it safe to do so. She does not think it safe at present. I have had the advantage of conversations with French statesmen and authorities of only less eminence than those who have been associated with the right hon. Gentleman. She has no intention of withdrawing her troops until she is satisfied, after the Spa Conference, that Germany's good faith may be trusted. There is to be another Conference at Spa. Germany is to be asked to send representatives. I wonder if I am wrongly informed when I say there was a suggestion that they should be sent to San Remo. I wonder whether I am wrongly informed when I say the French Prime Minister would have nothing to do with it. I wonder if I am wrong when I predict that the French Prime Minister will decline to meet German representatives even at the Conference at Spa. The feeling in France is very different from that which prevails here. They have suffered more. They are nearer to the danger zone than we are. So I say the feeling in France today will not be greatly assuaged by what has taken place in the House this afternoon.
Was there ever a more remarkable change of front on the part of any Government than that to which we have listened to-day with regard to indemnities? I take it that indemnities, qua indemnities, have gone for ever; we do not hear the word. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith) protested against our putting upon Germany's shoulders anything except, I was going to say the lightest possible burden she could bear, but, at any rate, he is dead against indemnities. The Government is dead against indemnities because Germany is now to be invited to name some lump sum 1482 which she thinks she can saddle herself with, and we are going to abrogate all the terms of the Treaty under which on 31st May of next year it is our duty to tell Germany how much we want of her. We are going to invite her to say how much she can pay us and when she can pay it. That is what the right hon. Gentleman meant when he said at Bristol that we should demand payment of the uttermost farthing and search the pockets of Germany till we got it?
The Prime Minister has announced that America, standing in sinister aloofness from Europe and all her present troubles, throwing the Treaty back in our faces, throwing even the Leagues of Nations, her own invention, to the winds, is to be invited to take charge of Armenia, or failing that, that Mr. Wilson, forsooth, of all people in the world, is to act as arbitrator in the settlement of the new frontiers and boundaries. We were not told what is going to happen when Mr. Wilson addresses an elaborate Note to us which popularly interpreted will simply mean, "I will have nothing whatever to do with you or Armenia." We know America will not, and I wonder if the Prime Minister is prepared with some alternative proposal if America says she has had enough of war and enough of Treaties and will have nothing to do with these mandates. I am sorry to be the speaker of a note of discord. I hope I have not sent the Prime Minister away in disgust, but the points I have just mentioned are those which will be noted by the public. The public in this country are sick and tired of America's part in this War. They will not have any more Wilson. They will not have any more America, and I hope the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Harmsworth) will take note of this, that the reply of the President will tell us to look elsewhere if we want any assistance for a mandate for Armenia.
Why cannot we see the despatches which passed between this country and France prior to San Remo? We should have seen then that there was no ground whatever for the suspicion which the Prime Minister himself entertained towards France and which he excused on the ground of his Celtic temperament. We should have seen that France three times appealed to us to co-operate with her in occupying Germany to a sufficient extent to render harmless the presence of 1483 the German troops there. What was our attitude? The old attitude that got us into so much trouble in the early days of the War. We said, "The British Government leaves it to Germany herself." Those are the words of the Prime Minister. We have suddenly been converted to a great faith in Germany—Germany which has no Government, which cannot enforce any one of its own decrees—and yet you are going through the farce of asking her to send representatives to Spa. When I interrupted the Prime Minister and asked, "What is the good of bringing them in these circumstances?" he said, "It is just as well to be able to find out the real position," and he told us a few minutes earlier that several British officers had told him all about it. We knew that Germany was a broken-backed beast, a kind of Coalition Government, an invertebrate being, as the Lord Chancellor calls it. We were told Germany was starving. We were told what she had eaten, though we were not told what she had drunk. Now we are going through the farce of inviting German delegates to a Conference at Spa, which delegates M. Millerand will not meet or will only meet under very extraordinary conditions, and when we have heard their story we shall cancel the Indemnity Clauses of the Treaty altogether. We shall ask only for a little reparation, which does not interest this country at all. Heaven knows we do not envy France what she is to get. She is to get a little reparation towards her devastated areas. We are to get nothing, and the old cry, "Make Germany pay" has gone to the winds for ever. Everything is to go on as though there had been no War. We have forgotten her duplicity, her character, her treachery, her barbarism, everything which aroused us in the days of the War.. Shake hands and be friends!
We, in these hours of reconstruction, have to bear the whole burden of the £8,000,000,000 which the War has cost us. We have to go cap in hand to President Wilson to help us with Armenia and the position is unsatisfactory and undignified. I do not think the San Remo Conference has done one atom of good. It has sent a draft Treaty to Turkey. It amazed me to hear the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith) say we shall have an opportunity of discussing it later on. We have 1484 no opportunity of discussing peace treaties in this House. That is reserved for America and Continental countries. We are told to take it or leave it. So it will be with Turkey. Beyond asking Germany to come and talk over reparation and saying to France, "Keep your soldiers where they are," what has been done? I emphasise the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith). It is time these Conferences came to an end. It is time the Supreme Council packed up its papers. As I witnessed the members of it walking on to the special boat yesterday at Boulogne, I wondered what on earth they were all doing there with their boxes, their portfolios, their secretariat and everything else. We have been to France, we have been to Italy, we have had Conferences in London, and when we have been to Spa let us hope that is the end of these Conferences. Let Britain then make up her mind what she wants as France is doing, but do not deceive the country. Do not pretend that all is well with France when it could not possibly be worse. Do not hold out false hopes. France will be no party to agreeing to let Germany name some small sum as her total obligation, and after the Spa Conference we shall have the whole thing re-opened, and it will be a worse position than we are in to-day. I am. sorry to be a pessimist in these circumstances, but as one who has expressed these views on many occasions in other places I take the liberty of doing so to-day, and I respectfully commend them to the attention of the House.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. HOARE
I wish to put some questions to the Prime Minister with regard to his speech in the same spirit in which the Allied Delegates seem to have approached each other at the Conference at San Remo, a spirit not of criticism, but promoted solely with a desire to obtain more information, and by obtaining it to arrive at a fuller measure of agreement. The Prime Minister said the free interchange of views at San Remo had had most advantageous results. I cannot help thinking in the same way that a free interchange of views in this House on these great questions will be similarly successful in its results. Further, I should like to express the desire that this House had more opportunities 1485 of Debates of this kind than it has had since the beginning of the Peace negotiations. Two aspects of the state of foreign politics have impressed themselves upon me during the last six weeks. First of all it has seemed to me that the lesson to be drawn from the incidents in March and the beginning of April was that, at any rate, at that time there was a want of close liaison between ourselves and France. As everything has ended so well, I do not want to refer to those incidents except to point the moral of them and to express the hope that we shall not see a repetition of the state of affairs which seems to have left the French public in complete ignorance of our occupation of Constantinople until it has actually taken effect, and in the same way which left in ignorance public opinion here, with reference to the Ruhr controversy, that any difference of opinion had arisen between our Government and the French Government. The second aspect of the state of affairs that has impressed itself upon my mind was that, in spite of this temporary misunder standing, the Anglo-French Alliance was as solid as ever. Public opinion still regards it as one of the three pillars of our foreign policy—the Anglo-French Alliance, the Anglo-American Alliance and a full belief in the efficacy of the League of Nations. Those, in my mind, are the three bases of our foreign policy, and I believe the events of March have shown that public opinion in this country generally realises that they are so. That does not mean that from time to time we may not feel ourselves bound to criticise each other's actions; but let that criticism be the kind of criticism of friends and allies, and whenever we have to criticise French policy in any of its aspects or details, let us remember the cardinal fact that we are secure by the destruction of the German Navy, but that the French still have upon their land frontier 60,000,000 of potential enemies. As a result of the San Remo Conference in which the Prime Minister played a very prominent and honourable part, I believe these misunderstandings have been completely removed, and from what I have seen in the Press of the Note which has been sent to Germany, the Allied Note to Germany is an outward expression of this renewed solidarity of the Anglo-French Alliance. I am very glad to see that the Allied Note, if the reports in the Press are correct, lays 1486 emphasis upon the question of the need for German disarmament. Looking around Europe, it seems to me that the first condition of a stable Europe is disarmament. I cannot help saying in that connection that I regard as a piece of effrontery the recent German Note upon the subject of the armed forces that are to be allowed to Germany, in which they demand not only an army twice the size of that which has been allowed under the Treaty, but an increase of heavy artillery, which could only be used for offensive purposes. I hope that when the Allies and the German delegates meet at Spa the Allies will make it quite clear that the time for evading disarmament is passed, and that what we want, as the Prime Minister said very truly, is deeds and not words. We want to see some outward evidence that the Germans are really going to disarm, and without further delay. There has been too much delay in carrying out the Disarmament Clauses of the Treaty.
I should like to ask the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs if he will convey to the Prime Minister our desire to have further information on two points. The Prime Minister said that the French would withdraw if the Germans would withdraw from the Ruhr Valley. Can he give us any further information in that direction? Can he tell us what is to happen if the Germans refuse to withdraw? Without pressing him to give us any information that might embarrass the proceedings at the Spa Conference, I should like to have some further information with regard to the number of troops that Germany is to be allowed to retain. If the reports in the Press are correct, the Prime Minister is inclined to the view that Germany should be allowed to retain an army of 200,000 men. If disarmament was fully carried out under the terms of the Versailles Peace Treaty, an army of 100,000 men would be quite sufficient to maintain civil order in Germany. It is not the business of the Allies to attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of Germany. It is not our business to ensure to Germany an army so great as to make it impossible for political movements to develop, whether they be from the left or whatever be their kind. I should have thought that, in view of that fact and in view of the further fact that Germany has really to be disarmed, an army of 100,000 men would be sufficient.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ The Prime Minister laid great emphasis on the question of reparation. There again, with deference, I would ask for a little further information. So far as I understand the situation, there are to be two Conferences in the near future to deal with the economic situation in Europe. In the first place, there is the Conference summoned by the League of Nations to meet, I believe, in Brussels. In the second place, there is the meeting of the Supreme Council at Spa. Both these Conferences are equally interested in the question of the amount of reparation which is to be exacted from Germany. I cannot see how the Conference of the League of Nations is to grapple with the economic situation of Europe until it knows what the Supreme Council at Spa decides with reference to the sum that is to be exacted from Germany. It stands to reason that the whole question of Continental credit must depend upon the amount of reparation that is to be exacted from Germany. I should have thought that the proper course to take would have been for the Spa Conference to meet at once, to allow the German representatives to attend, and in the immediate future to decide upon the sum which is to be exacted from Germany, and that the Conference of the League of Nations should be so informed. The Conference of the League of Nations by that means would be put in a position to deal with the question of international credit. Whilst I am fully conscious of the valuable work that the Allied plenipotentiaries have done at the various Allied Conferences, particularly at San Remo, it is my opinion that when they have completed the work of the Spa Conference the Supreme Council should be dissolved. The time when the Prime Ministers should attend these Conferences has now passed, and it would be much better that the winding up should be left in the hands of the diplomats. For this reason, if for no other, that under the present arrangements it is practically impossible for the United States to take part in the Allied deliberations. Obviously the United States cannot send a plenipotentiary to these Allied Conferences, and as we are all anxious to bring the United States into a settlement of the questions which still remain open for settlement, it would be much better from every point of view, and particularly that point of view, if the winding 1488 up of the Conferences was left not to the Prime Ministers of the respective countries, but to their official representatives.
I now come to the remarks of the Prime Minister with regard to the Turkish Treaty. I can well understand that the Prime Minister could not go into details of the terms of a Treaty which has not yet been presented to Turkey: but it would relieve the minds of many hon. Members if he could give us a little more information with reference to the situation in Turkey. It seems to me that at the present moment things are drifting from bad to worse. The Government that we have set up in Constantinople appears to be a Government without any power in the Turkish Empire, and we see not only the massacres of christians in Asia Minor continuing, but from all accounts becoming worse and worse. The Prime Minister said in connection with the state of affairs in Armenia that " the French have undertaken to protect Cilicia." We should very much like to know, those of us who are interested in the fortunes of Armenia, what that protection actually means. If it is to be full military protection no one will be more delighted than myself. I hope we may interpret the Prime Minister's words as meaning that the French have undertaken to protect Cilicia in the most literal manner. At the same time, just as in Germany disarmament is the first condition of peace, so also in Turkey disarmament is the first condition of peace. I hope that when the terms are published the most stringent disarmament will be imposed upon the Turks in Asia Minor, just as we are imposing disarmament upon the Germans and our other former enemies. I mean disarmament in all districts over which the Turks still retain possession.
Now I come to the Prime Minister's remarks in regard to Bussia. So far as I understood him, he gave the House to understand that there had been no change in our Russian policy since his last speech on the subject. In other words, that we still refuse to recognise the Bolshevik Government, but that we are prepared to trade with the co-operators in Russia. With reference to our trade relations with Russia, I foresee grave dangers. I am fortified in my opinion by what has 1489 recently been happening in Copenhagen. At Copenhagen our representatives have been meeting certain representatives of the Soviet Government for the purpose of re-opening trade relations between the west and Russia. Nominally these Russian representatives were co-operators. Actually they were nothing of the kind. The principal Russian delegate, Krassin, was manager of a great German industrial concern and one of the best known captains of industry in the east of Europe, and it was made clear in the course of these negotiations that Krassin had come, not to renew trade relations between his country and the west, but to obtain the political recognition of the Bolshevik Government.
Before we continue negotiations of that kind I think we ought to be satisfied that Russia really has food and raw material to export. Personally, from information which I have, I do not believe there are any very large stores of either corn or raw material to be exported from Russia to Western Europe at the present time. There is a further danger in these negotiations. Suppose we do renew these trade relations, how will the corn and raw material be actually obtained in Russia itself for export? Judging from the records of the Bolshevik Government I am inclined to think that it will be seized from the peasants, and that we Western nations will appear to Russia under the guise of capitalist exploiters who are renewing relations with Russia for the purpose of taking from a population, by no means over-supplied with food, large stocks of food and raw material. The Prime Minister made a statement in this connection that I received with very great satisfaction. He said it was impossible to trade with peoples or countries that would not carry on their trade upon civilised principles. It seems to me that there is no evidence whatever that the Bolshevik Government have changed their uncivilised principles.
If the Prime Minister has had brought to his notice the wireless messages that recently have been passing from the Bolshevik government in Moscow, he will remember that the Bolshevik government emphasise strongly all those old subversive principles, the continuance of which makes it impossible to renew relations with them, the principle, for instance, of industrial conscription, the fact that on 1490 no account will they demobilise the Red Army, the fact again that they do not pretend that trade relations with capitalist countries are anything more than a pretext for obtaining political recognition for themselves. These facts make me see a very grave danger in the resumption of trade relations with Russia. I fully realise the complications of the moment and the anomalous position, but it does seem to me that as long as the Bolshevik government continue to express these sentiments and, as far as we can judge, to act upon them, it is very dangerous for us to enter into any kind of relations, formal or informal, with them. If they were ready to demobilise the Red Army, personally I should say that the situation was completely changed. That would make it possible for public opinion again to express itself in Russia, and I should ask the Prime Minister when again he comes to discuss the question of our relations with Russia, to do everything in his power to bring about the demobilisation of the Red Army. I know that the Prime Minister says, quite rightly, that that is a very difficult thing indeed. What I want to see is the demobilisation of all these armies. I should be delighted to see the demobilisation of the Polish army side by side with that of the Red army.
§ Sir S. HOARE
The secret of all these questions at the present moment is demobilisation and disarmament in Germany, disarmament in Turkey, disarmament in Eastern Europe. It does seem to me that until we can obtain demobilisation and disarmament no number of paper treaties is going to bring about peace again in Europe.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I wish to ask the Prime Minister two questions. One is whether there is any possibility of any indemnity being received from Germany before the next Finance Bill? The other is, when will the trial of the Kaiser take place in London, and whether any trial will take place of the other German officers who have been implicated in breaches of international law?
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
I had on the paper to-day two questions for the Prime Minister with regard to Cilicia. Of course, I quite understand that he was not able to answer them, and it was perfectly natural that I should be referred by the Leader 1491 of the House to the Prime Minister's statement for the answer. But I confess that I should have liked a little fuller information. I am grateful for what was given. On the whole, those of us who are interested in the fate of Armenia must feel considerably relieved by the statement made to-day. We have been going through a period of very great anxiety, a time in which it seemed that both Northern and Southern Armenia were in the greatest danger, and rumours were going about that the great Powers had abandoned them to their fate. At any rate, we may infer from what we were told to-day that these sinister rumours were not well-founded, and that we shall stand one way or another to our duty to those unhappy people, at least within that moderate degree of fulfilment which is possible in the present difficult circumstances. I so understand from the Prime Minister's words, and I believe and hope that the future will bear them out.
He referred to Northern Armenia, the Republic in what was Russian territory, with that part of Turkish Armenia which it is proposed to add to it, and spoke of the impossibility of adding to it great territorities which historically are Armenian, and which for many reasons he would wish to add to Armenia. Of course, that is so. There is no good failing to recognise the facts, and it is undoubtedly the case that the six Armenian vilayets have been to a large extent emptied of their Armenian population by massacre and war. There was no doubt a time when the Armenians were the great mass of the people there, but recently all one could say, even before the War, was that they were larger than any other single element in that great area. I do not know whether we can say so now, because very largely they have been exterminated or driven into exile. It is a perfectly intolerable thought that we are to recognise majorities made by massacre, yet I quit realise that, if no great country can be found to undertake the mandate for Armenia, it does not seem possible to add the whole of that great territory to the Armenian Republic.
If we could have got as mandatory the United States or some other Power, that great act of historical justice might have been done, and a great State, to be 1492 called Armenia, stretching from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, might have been set up, not to give a privilege to any special race, but as a field of freedom and equal opportunity for all civilised men of whatever race and religion they were, and a standing monument for all time, that the horrible brutality of the Turk and the attempt to exterminate a people should not prevail, but that there finally ought to be a country which would bear the name, at any rate, of the race which there had been this attempt to exterminate, to which that race could and would go back in great numbers from all parts of the world, and in course of time become the predominant race throughout that great area. I do not know that that can be now, unless the United States at this eleventh hour will accept the mandate which we are glad to know has been offered to them. But at any rate, there is a considerable territory near the Erivan border, which ought to be, and I hope will be, added to the Republic. We hope that the vilayets of Van, Bitlis and Ezeroum will be added to the Republic of Erivan, so that there may be a place for hundreds of thousands of refugees, who have been driven from different parts of Armenia, to come back, if not to their original home, to something that could be called Armenia, and there establish themselves in a peaceful, strong and civilised state.
Even if America will not undertake the mandate, there is always the hope that she will join, and join generously, with the other great Powers in finding that financial guarantee which is one of the necessities of a settlement. If that can be got, then, although we may not be able to get a great Power to undertake the mandate, it may be possible for one of the smaller Powers to undertake it. Without a financial guarantee the smaller Power could not undertake it. The amount of money would not be enormous. It has been calculated that for about eight years Armenia could not pay its way, and that during that period the deficits, with the interest thereon from year to year, would accumulate, perhaps, to the total of £10,000,000, but that from that time onward there would be a surplus—for it is a rich country, and they are an industrious people—beginning with about £500,000 a year, to help pay off the debt. I have seen all the details of that calculation. It was very care- 1493 fully based upon the present expenditure of the Erivan Republic, so far as that part is concerned, and upon the expenditure of the Turkish Government in peace time for the three vilayets. I think that the calculation of £10,000,000 for the simple government and administration which would be all that would be needed is fairly accurately made. If we fail altogether to get a mandatory for Armenia, I submit that we British ought to give some help. I do not suggest that we should undertake a mandate for that country.
The Prime Minister has spoken of the Armenian Army being without a military tradition. Of course, there never has been an army. But the race is not without a military tradition. As a matter of fact, they are very much misunderstood in that respect. It is a fact that for a great time past they have, wherever they have been allowed to get arms, made a great fight for liberty. It is true that the Turks were clever enough to keep them almost always without arms, and, therefore, they had no possibility of making a fight, but, if you recall Andranik, in the mountains of the Cacausus, during the late War he and his men showed a record of heroism in fighting, and in clean, decent fighting, of which any race might be proud. Take the four months after the break-up of the Russian front, and you will find that it was the Armenians chiefly who held back the advancing Turks and prevented them from taking Mosul in the rear. Take Northern Syria and you will find that the Armenian legion performed a worthy part in fighting under France there. Even at Verdun there were Armenians serving in the French force. At the beginning of the War it was my duty to go to the British War Office and offer 5,000 Armenian volunteers for service in the British Army. I may mention that now.
Therefore I hope that, although we may not be able to undertake a man-date, still, if no other mandatory can be found, we will give some help to this new Armenian State. I believe that the kind of help which can best be given is to allow British officers to take superior posts in the Armenian Army. That would have many advantages. It would give an assurance that there would be no acts of revenge, such as can hardly be avoided, human nature being what it 1494 is, if there are no supervising European officers there. So much for the north. Northern Armenia has for a long time been a much less anxious part of the problem than Cilicia. In Cilicia lives are in peril—British lives as well as the lives of the indigenous Christian people. I hope that I may infer, from what the Prime Minister said, that France will protect Cilicia, and that that is meant in the fullest sense. There have been two currents of opinion in France. One was prepared to take over Cilicia in the fullest sense and to make France responsible for the people there, not in a merely sordid way, but in the interests of humanity and civilisation as well as of commerce. The other was that France should occupy only certain points and should leave the Turk to govern the interior in his own brutal way, while France confined herself to commercial privileges in that region. When the Prime Minister says that France will protect that country, I hope it means that there has been a victory for that current of thought which will lead to France taking up the nobler part that so many of her sons desire she should adopt.
While the Armenians have, of course, desired a united Armenia, a greater Armenia stretching from sea to sea, while it was rather a heavy blow to them to find that their country was going to be truncated in the North and divided into two parts, the northern part cut off from the southern, still they will loyally accept the decision, the suzerainty or government of France in Southern Armenia, if France on her part will loyally undertake to protect life and liberty and honour and establish civilised government in that region. When the Prime Minister was saying that there was no departure from our pledges in Mesopotamia and Syria and so forth, I asked him about Cilicia, and he said: "No, not in Cilicia either." May I remind the House of the position with regard to Cilicia? There was a Debate in the House of Lords, in December last, when the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Earl Curzon) repeated with solemnity the promises that had been given to protect the Armenian people. He said that when the arrangement was made by which he handed over Cilicia to the French:We proposed to transfer to the charge of the French the 12,000 Armenian refugees at Aleppo, to whom I have referred.1495 They were in English keeping and they wanted, as I know by a letter from the War Office, to remain with the British Army and to follow it South, but we transferred those people, 12,000 of them at Aleppo, to the French. Lord Curzon also said:That charge was accepted by them, and those persons are being transferred to Cilicia.They were transferred to Cilicia, and a large number of them were among the people who were massacred in Cilicia during the late risings here. Earl Curzon, continuing his statement, said:There are also a number of Armenian refugees at other towns in the North of Syria, Marash and Erivan, and other places which are now in the French sphere, and who will therefore be looked after by the French, Then, if you come to Cilicia itself, there is the Armenian Community in that old Province of the Turkish Empire which throughout has been under the military and civil administration of the French, where, therefore, the Armenians are again a French charge.That is a very clear setting out of the French obligations in that part of the country. I hope we may take it that the Allies do not depart from the pledges given in regard to Cilicia, and that the French accept fully the obligation to protect life in that country. Lord Curzon said:By those declarations we stand. They have never been departed from. They do not express the sentiments, the aspirations, or the functions of ourselves alone. They are shared by all our Allies.The right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) spoke of the duty owed by Europe to the subject peoples of Turkey. I think we must always remember that it is a matter of duty that we owe to them. It is not that we are going crusading about the world finding all sorts of things to put right. It is that we owe a debt to these people, who are in the position that they are in owing to our action, and, therefore, it is an obligation to see that their position is improved as far as is reasonably possible. They have been the sport of the Great Powers for two or three generations. If you take the Crimean War or the Russo-Turkish War, if you take any period you like, you will find that these subject races of Turkey have been kept down by the Turks because the Turks were able to rely upon the jealousy and the rivalries? of the Great Powers. At one moment England would have put the matter right, 1496 but Russia would not allow it. At another time Russia would have put the matter right and England would not allow it. At another time both would have put the matter right if Germany would have allowed it. These people have suffered and paid the price every time. We are their debtors. Europe is their debtor, to see that right is done now. And Great Britain is not the least amongst the debtors.
I hope that when the Prime Minister comes to answer we shall hear something more about Cilicia. We have had his general words and they are very encouraging, but I should like to hear a little more in detail. I want to know what the boundaries of Cilicia are to be. I hope it will be a big Cilicia I hope that Cilicia, occupied by the French, will go right up to the territory of the Armenian Republic, because I want to see those two between them occupying the space between the Mediterranean and Persia. If they do not there will be a corridor in the hands of Turkey, and that means a corridor in a semi-savage condition down which the fanaticism of Central Asia Minor will have a through way from the Turks to Afghanistan. It will mean an eternal disturbance of the peace, not only in the Near East, but in British India as well. We are sometimes told that Great Britain cannot afford to take up these humanitarian duties. It is not merely a question of humanitarian duties. British interests, if we must speak of British interests, are vitally involved in establishing a peaceable state of things in the Near East and in preventing the schemers of Constantinople and the fanaticism of the Turks from passing in a clear corridor through Kurdistan and working to our damage in British India.
There is another thing I hope we shall be told. What is going to be done with the minorities within that part of Turkey which will remain under Turkish Government? I have often spoken for Armenia in this House, but I hold as strongly as anyone that the Turks are entitled to the same right as other people to live in their own districts according to their own ideas and with their own government. I hold as strongly as anybody that most of the Turkish people are to be infinitely pitied for what they have suffered under the régime of Constantinople. I certainly desire to know what is to be done 1497 with that part of Turkey which will remain Turkey, not only for the sake of the minorities, who must necessarily be there, but for the sake of the Turks themselves. There must necessarily be minorities, because everybody acquainted with the East knows how hopelessly the populations of different races and religions are intermixed. Although there will be a certain sorting out, it is undoubted that there will be minorities within Turkey. We are promised that their interests will be protected. I would like to ask what practical steps will be taken for their protection, and I hope those steps will lead to the great benefit of the Turkish and Mohammedan people. I feel considerable satisfaction at what has been said by the Prime Minister, and I hope he will be able to give us more details and the assurance that relief may be rendered, so that we may be delivered from the great anxieties which have almost crushed some of us for a good many months past.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I listened, in common with the greater part of the House, and I think I may say the whole of the House, with the exception of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Bottomley), with great satisfaction and gratitude to the account which the Prime Minister has been good enough to give us of the negotiations at San Remo. I listened to it with all the greater satisfaction because, owing to some curious breakdown in Ministerial arrangements, this House had no opportunity of hearing during the course of that Conference any information whatever, or even the information which was freely given, apparently, to the Press. I trust that in any future Conference some arrangement will be made by which, at any rate, the House of Commons is not to be treated with less respect and less consideration than the daily Press of this country. I am glad that the Prime Minister was able to say that there is now no cloud on the Entente sky. That is very good hearing indeed, and I trust that the clouds which did exist were not so serious or so black as we were led to believe. There was a good deal of outcry about our relations both in this country and in France, and according to the hon. Member for Hackney some of that still persists. But I am quite satisfied that the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) were fully justified in their 1498 statements that the vast majority of the people of this country are anxious to maintain the very best possible relations with the French people. There were other things which I heard also with great satisfaction. I am exceedingly glad that it is now definitely and finally settled that the mandate of Palestine is to be given to this country. I say that not with any megalomania and not from any belief that it is going to be of great or any advantage, direct advantage, to this country. I believe it will be a burden and responsibility of a very serious kind. I believe that the mandatory of Palestine will have one of the most difficult tasks that could possibly be allotted to a nation. The mandatory will have exceedingly complex racial questions to settle and will have to deal with them with great tact and judgment, and in all probability without receiving any return for such exertion, except what he may hope for in the gratitude of those races who will benefit by those exertions.
As for Mesopotamia, I confess I do not find myself altogether in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley. There, too, I doubt very much whether they will be any pecuniary advantage. The House will recollect that if the spirit of the mandatory system is carried out no direct pecuniary advantage can accrue to the mandatory. That is the whole foundation of the mandatory system. Moreover, in. the case of Mesopotamia it must be a fairly expensive business. On the other hand, I doubt whether it will be quite so expensive as the right hon. Gentleman thinks. I believe if we set up, as I hope we shall, an Arab Government, or rather assist in setting up an Arab Government in Mesopotamia, a native Government, and encourage that Government to raise troops of its own, no doubt with the assistance of British officers which it will require at first, then I believe the military commitments may be reduced to a very much lower figure than some of our advisers incline to think may be necessary. At any rate, we have gone to Mesopotamia and we have established Government there and we have induced a number of people to trust us, and if we left it again it would mean confusion. I do not quite know what the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley is on this matter. We cannot 1499 leave it. If we did, it would throw it into complete confusion or back under the domination of the Turks. So that there is really nothing for it since we have gone, as we were bound to go there, but to remain and discharge our duty until we have succeeded in establishing a Government, a native Government, sufficiently strong and vigorous to stand by itself.
I also heard with great satisfaction the repudiation, although I never doubted it, by the French Ministry through the mouth of the Prime Minister of any desire for further annexation, and in what was said on that subject I heartily agree. I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman might have even gone further and said with great truth that nothing could be more disastrous to the French themselves than to have in their Dominions a large tract of country inhabited by Germans. It would be a perpetual weakness and would not be a strength at all. It would cause an everlasting sore which would be bound to end in a conflagration in the future in some form or other. I agree also very much indeed with the policy of the Council of the Allies in reference to the disarmament of Germany. I am not now so much concerned about the question as to whether an increased force may be necessary as a domestic force or whether a hundred thousand is sufficient. That may be a question of possible readjustment. I should have thought that 100,000 was ample even to keep order in a country like Germany, though I am not sure that it would be sufficient for Ireland.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
We can do without them in Ireland, and would be far better without them. Take them and lend them to Germany.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Lord R. CECIL
There is one reason why I look forward very earnestly to the disarmament of Germany, and that is, that the disarmament of Germany is essential for the disarmament of Europe. If you disarm Germany then the demo cracy of France will not be inclined to maintain a large army in France. The one thing that makes it possible to maintain a large army in France is fear of Germany. If you could once remove that, I am quite sure you would find it easy to secure the general disarmament of Europe. That is one of the main 1500 reasons why I am very glad to hear that the Government intend to insist particularly on those parts of the disarmament Clauses which provide for the surrender of guns and aeroplanes and things of that kind.
It has been said that the difficulty of getting the Germans to carry out the terms in this respect and others was that the German Government had no authority. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley, who is a temperamental optimist, said he thought that the fact that what is called the Kapp coup was rejected by the German people, showed that the German Government had more authority than some people thought. I am not quite sure he is right. It is one thing to hate militarism, and it is quite another thing to have any great respect for the inside government of Germany. I very much hope that my right hon. Friend in any future negotiations he may be engaged in will bear in mind, and I have no doubt he does bear it in mind, the great importance of maintaining the authority of the German Government by diplomatic action as far as possible. I am not sure that that consideration has always been sufficiently present in the Allied consultations I myself have always regretted the decision of the Conference of Paris not to meet the Germans there. It was treating them in' a way in which no other belligerent has ever been treated in. the history of the world, as far as I know, in the conclusion of peace. I never could see how we could be contaminated by sitting in a room with a German delegate. I think it was a regrettable thing, and I believe some parts of the Treaty would have been made more easily workable if that had been the case.
There was the demand for War criminals, with its unhappy history. I am quite sure that to put forward such a demand as ultimately was put forward was a disastrous blow to the prestige of the German Government of the day, and I do not know that it was made any better by the fact that ultimately it could not be insisted upon. I am afraid something may also be said with regard to the original Reparation Clauses of the Treaty. My right hon. Friend said, and with great truth, that the condition in large parts of Germany was not far removed from a condition of famine. He pointed out that a great part of the popu- 1501 lation were not receiving more than half or a third of proper nourishment. That is very serious, and I would remind him, though it was not quite so bad as that last summer, I think if he will look back at the report even then by British officers he will find that the condition of affairs was very serious. I think that it was a pity to place on the Germans a form of reparation, which now we all know was a bad plan. It was too indefinite in form, and operated with great weight against, their recovery, and made it difficult for them to recover, and took from them that incentive to exertion which is essential to the spiritual and mental recovery of a nation. It is quite true that even at that time the Germans were asked to make an offer, and they did make an offer. They offered to pay something which was, I agree, quite insufficient, but it was not discussed. It was simply rejected, and the reparation terms were left indefinite, possibly giving the impression to the Germans that it was no use their making any offer, because the Allies were determined not to accept anything which they regarded as reasonable. I am very glad that all that is now a thing of the past, and that we are going to behave, not with kindness to the Germans—I do not care a bit about that—but with greater good sense, in view of the necessity for Europe, and even for the world, that you should not keep the present state of things permanently in existence in Central Europe. I hope very much that at the Spa Conference the question of reparation will be finally settled, and that it will be possible then, no doubt, greatly to simplify the question. If you once get a fixed sum of money, you will be able to simplify the rather complicated reparation terms that exist in the Treaty.
I pass from that to another matter. My hon. Friend opposite (Mr. A. Williams) has just delivered an eloquent speech in favour of Armenia, and I need not add anything. I am certain, to the arguments that he used. With almost all of them I am, in fact, in hearty agreement, and I only want to remind the House, and particularly those Members of the House—not the Government, who have never shown the slightest sign of sympathising with that kind of criticism —who say we cannot afford to be phil-anthropical. This is not a question of philanthropy, but of obligation It is a 1502 question of philanthropy also, but that is not the obligation under which we are pledged. We are under the most solemn obligation of our pledged national word it is possible to be under. Over and over again during the War every Government and every Minister said in the most solemn way, "We are going to liberate the Armenians from the suzerainty of the Turk," and that is the obligation which rests on us especially, apart from the obligation on the Allies. The statement has been made over and over again by representatives of the British Government, and there is no obligation that we entered into during the War which is more specific, more clear, and more definite than that. Therefore, I am very glad to hear from my right hon. Friend that all the rumours which, among others, have been going about as to proposals for a very unsatisfactory settlement of the Armenian question are altogether and entirely baseless. I approve most fully of the solution that the French should undertake the guardianship of the Cilician part of the Armenian question, and I am very glad to hear that there is not the slightest truth in the suggestion that has been made that they do no intend to carry out that obligation. The only thing I would venture to add to what my hon. Friend has said on the subject is that we cannot shift our responsibility on to the French shoulders altogether. We are bound, absolutely and nationally bound, in this matter, and we have guaranteed, so to speak, that the French will in fact carry out the duties they have undertaken. I have not the least doubt that they will, but the obligation rests on us, and we cannot get out of it by merely saying that the French have undertaken it, and we have no further obligation in the matter.
There is a matter in connection with Armenia that I want to say a word about, and I am very glad the Prime Minister is here to hear me. There has been—I do not quite know how it arose—a certain misunderstanding apparently in the public mind about the position of the Council of the League of Nations in regard to the Armenian question. As I understand the facts, what happened was this. In the course of the negotiations in London a proposal was made to the Council of the League by, I think, the British Government, that the Council should 1503 undertake the mandate for Armenia. The Council replied with an elaborate memorandum which has, in fact, been published, in which they pointed out that they were unable, with no money and no force, to undertake a mandate, nor, indeed, was that their proper function under the Covenant, but that they were ready and willing to do their utmost to persuade and induce some member of the League to undertake the Randate. They proceeded to put various questions to the Supreme Council as to what would be the practical method of carrying that out, and they went on to say that they would recommend the Assembly of the League, among other things, to undertake the financial obligations in the matter. A most unfortunate telegram was published —I have no doubt it was entirely unauthorised by the British delegation— from San Remo stating quite curtly that the Council of the League had refused the mandate. I think that was an unfortunate statement, and I am led to make two observations about it. In the first place, I trust the Government will use all their influence on the Council of the League to promote the greatest amount of publicity possible. When the Council first met they laid it down that they proposed to publish their conclusions always, and when possible to allow publication of the discussions as well. As a matter of fact, it seems to me—I am merely looking at it from outside—as if that has got gradually whittled down until now we have very little more than the kind of perfunctory communiqué to the Press, with a few reasons added, which was given at the last meeting at Paris. I may be wrong, and it may be that the publication of what took place was not sufficiently widely undertaken by the ordinary agencies, but that was the impression given, and I am quite sure that nothing will be more vital or more valuable to the discussions of this Council than that they should be published as often as possible and in every case when it is at all consistent with the great interests which are entrusted to them. If there had been sufficient publicity about them, there never could have arisen this misconception that they had refused this mandate.
There is another thing which is very curious, and in regard to which I should be very glad of an explanation. I put 1504 down a question on the subject, but was asked to postpone it, because my right hon. Friend would rather deal with it on Monday next, the day to which it is postponed. As I understand it, according to the statements which have been made, what happened was that after the misunderstanding tool place, the authorities of the League proposed to publish the whole correspondence, and they received the assent of all the representatives on the Council, including the representatives of the British Delegation, but at the last minute they received a telegram from the Supreme Council telling them they must not publish it. I do not understand how any confusion and difficulty of that kind can have arisen. I cannot help feeling that there is a tendency in some quarters to regard the Council of the League as a thing quite apart from the Governments which are represented on the League, and they are bound, of course, as in every other international matter, by every decision and every agreement that is come to by their representatives on the Council, and it would be quite destroying the whole function and value of the Council, and it would be quite destroying the whole function and value of the Council if there should get about an impression that the action of the representative on the council is something apart from and not binding on the Government which he represents. My right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea both urged that, as soon as possible after the Spa Conference, the meetings of the Supreme Council should come to an end. I also hold that view very strongly. At present you have in existence in Europe two international bodies—the Supreme council and the Council of the League. It is the body which is regarded as the chief international instrument, and that is fatal to the Council of the League. We really must be in earnest in this matter, and it is, I think, vital to the future of the of the world that we should be. I would like to mention that, connected with the League of Nations' Union, we received a communication from a body in Italy the other day, and I venture to read one sentence from it, because it seems to me 1505 to put this point with extreme clearness. It is:Unless the Supreme Council die, the League of Nations cannot be born; the power of the former annihilates the authority of the latter.That seems to me a striking way of putting what I am sure is the truth of this matter, and I venture to press it very strongly. I cannot help feeling—I may be wrong entirely—that an opportunity was missed in not utilising the Council of the League in connection with the Ruhr dispute itself. There may have been reasons, with which I am not acquainted, which made it impossible, but as I understand the Ruhr dispute, it was this The Germans sent a force into the Ruhr, and the French alleged—I do not know with what accuracy or not, but as far as I could see quite accurately—that in doing so the Germans committed an infraction of their obligation under the letter of 8th August last year, because they sent in a larger force than they were permitted to under that letter. It may have been a technical infraction—I do not know—but there was a dispute arising out of a breach of a Treaty between two countries which were at peace with one another, because once the Treaty had been ratified they were at peace. It seems to me eminently a matter which might have been brought before the Council of the League, and I cannot help feeling that there would have been great advantage in doing it. For one thing, it would have emphasised that we had passed definitely from the atmosphere of war to that of peace, that we were now prepared to employ the regular method of settling disputes between nations, even when they arose between those who were lately belligerents. The articles in the Covenant were quite plain, and I cannot help feeling that it would have been a desirable thing to do, That is only one instance of what I mean. I am not saying it particularly of this Government, but the Allies turn naturally, not to the League of Nations, but to the Supreme Council, and as long as you do that you are in the atmosphere of war. The Supreme Council was brought into existence for the purpose of war and for the purpose of conducting the peace negotiations, and as long as it is there we have not definitely passed out of the condition of war. I venture to say this to my right hon. Friend, and I trust he will agree. The hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Billing), in the course of 1506 7.0 P.M. questions, referred to what he regarded as "this Gilbertian League." That is an attitude of mind which does not always find open expression, but undoubtedly exists among a certain class of persons in this country. It is an absurdity, mere theoretic nonsense, which has no real value at all. It may be right, but then let us say so boldly. On the other hand, if it is not right, then the League is our true weapon. If we really do believe that another war will certainly annihilate European civilisation, then everything must be tried to safeguard humanity against such a disaster again. We must put every ounce into our effort to make the League a success, and sweep away everything which hampers our progress, and if it is to discharge its exceedingly difficult functions, it must be given every possible prestige and authority which the governments of the world can give. We must make it the sole organ of international action. It must be all or nothing. That is the essential feature, and I venture to press my right hon. Friend, when he comes to reply, to give this House some hope that, at the earliest possible moment, the whole existing apparatus, including the Supreme Council, will be definitely dispensed with, and that we may see established as the great organ of peace the League of Nations, with its Council, Assembly, and all other essentials.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The Prime Minister, in his speech, said no word about Fiume. We should like to be assured that that is on the way to settlement between Jugo-Slavia and Italy, and that the question will not come up before the Supreme Council any more, but that, if there is any lack of agreement in that case, the dispute should be referred to the Council of the League of Nations rather than to the Supreme Council, and that at last we may rid ourselves of the Fiume trouble so far as our own country is concerned. We, on these Benches, are extremely glad to see the Prime Minister back, and to see that he enjoyed himself at San Remo, and is looking so well. He thinks he has done well, and I am not at all certain he has not done very well when he gets away from some of his associates. He has attributed his success at San Remo—and very rightly, I think —to the frankness with which all the subjects were discussed. The cards were 1507 put upon the table, and frankness was the spirit which prevailed. I think he might apply the same principles to the difficulties which separate him from Labour opinion in this country. Let us have a little frankness. The Labour people in this country are interested in foreign politics. They are interested particularly in the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government, and it is well to be frank and explain to the Prime? Minister what it is that Labour objects to in the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government. Wherever I go I find the same fear expressed, that the present Government are playing the democracy of this country false.
Take the Ruhr dispute. The Prime Minister probably does not know what the common people in this country were saying, that they were afraid all the time that the Government were, as usual, helping the militarists against the democracy. They are not very clear what the Ruhr rising was—whether it was a Red rising, or a mere socialist rising, or a mere protest against the Kapp revolution—but they saw that the Government Were rather anxious than otherwise that the Baltic troops and officials should go into the Ruhr and the French should not intervene, and if there has been any sort of feeling in this country against the Prime Minister, in his contest with the French Prime Minister, it has been because it was felt that the fewer troops that were sent to the Ruhr the better, particularly when those troops included General Von Watter and the Baltic troops, and so we said that the militarists were again being backed by this country against what we may quite wrongly think, but what we do think, was perhaps the only democratic party which had retained any sort of weight in Germany. Take the Kapp revolution itself. There, too, we on these Benches had a sort of feeling all the time that our representatives—not necessarily our Foreign Office representatives—but our military representatives in Berlin were rather backing up and encouraging that movement, instead of urging its suppression. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The wireless station at Nanen, I think, was in charge of the British naval men.[An HON MEMBER:"That has been denied."] Well, the rumour was in Germany that that wireless station was being used for 1508 Kapp's Orders in Council and propaganda business. The very fact that we sent a peer like Lord Kilmarnock to a democratic country gives rise to the idea that all over Europe we are trying to build up again the aristocratic Junker royalist movement that has been suppressed by the War.
If you look at Hungary you see the same thing. Wherever there is a reactionary movement, wherever there is a White Terror following on a successful reactionary movement, the Government—not the Government here, I think, so much as their representatives abroad—seem rather to welcome the new state of affairs Wherever there is a Red Terror, we have any amount of propaganda, publicity and denunciation; but where there is a White. Terror we do not find the same willingness to interfere in order to stop it. We maintain that you should be just as firm in interfering, so far as the White Terror is concerned, as well as when the Red Terror is concerned. Whether it be Finland, Hungary or Russia, our interests in suppressing that sort of thing ought to be equally strongly enforced by our Government; but all along we have the feeling that, although the Prime Minister himself is all right, although perhaps the Government here is all right, although they merely want to suppress these movements, and to hold the balance fairly over Europe between the Reds and the Whites, between revolution and reaction, yet our agents in those countries, being naturally militarists by profession, always tend to assist those parties with whom we on these Benches have nothing in common. There is a sense of unfairness in the whole thing.
Then take this Russian question. There, too, we have hands held up to-day in holy horror, in protest against having any sort of commercial relations with people of such shocking morals as the Russian socialists at the present time. We traded with the Russian Tsarists through all the horrors of that régime. Is it not about time to drop this wonderful Puritan attitude, and consider whether we cannot trade with people, even if we cannot see eye to eye with their political views? The Government have come to the decision, after waiting a year and a half on the Labour party, that it is their duty to open trade relations with Russia, in spite of their bad principles. But although the Government have come 1509 to that decision, you find that during the last two or three months America, Scandinavia and all other countries are setting themselves to obtain concessions to get in on the ground floor of Russia, while we are making up our minds whether we are to have anything on the top storey. The Government wish to open up trade relations and communicate with the Soviet Government, and they ask them to protect the refugees in the Crimea.
The Government, I believe, are honestly trying to prevent this mad escapade on the part of Poland, but the emissaries of the Government, whether in Poland or in the Black Sea, or whether military men at Warsaw, or naval men on our ships in the Black Sea, do not approve of the Government policy—to be quite frank—and they are a long way off, and they carry on an entirely different policy of their own. I do not believe they are inspired by the War Office here—at least not now—although there is a curious chapter which is worth publishing when the time comes. I do not believe the Government is responsible, but you have battleships bombarding socialists whilst walking along roads by the Black Sea nowhere near the Crimea. A British warship sees an army of Bolsheviks going along and immediately open fire. Is that the sort of terms on which you ought to be with people you are approaching about trade relations, and in order that they may protect some of your friends in Russia. It is simply that the Government have got two policies. There is the policy of the Prime Minister, the policy of commonsense, the policy of Prinkipo, On the one hand you say, "Go for the Soviet Government; we will soon persuade the Prime Minister that that is the best line," and at the same time you have the Prime Minister going to San Remo, getting hold of people of sense like himself, squaring matters up, and then finding, after coming to a satisfactory solution, that the fat is in the fire again through these mad militarists all over Europe. There is only one thing for the Prime Minister to do, and that is to insist on subordinates not taking matters into their own hands, to insist that the War Office and the Foreign Office shall definitely take no further part in assisting the reactionaries to recover their old power in Europe. We do 1510 not want to have the kings and emperors back. We do not want to have the the Junkers back. We do not want to have Britain assisting in the suppression of mutiny, even if it be Red mutiny. We want Lenin and Trotsky rather than that we should interfere in order to place worse men than Lenin and Trotsky in their place. We want absolute frankness in these matters. We want to know whether the Prime Minister really wishes to see Europe built up on a democratic basis without kings or aristocracies, or whether he is going to have his hands forced by the militarists and aristocracy of this country who wish to see the old system established once more. This country is now a hot-bed of ex-Royalists and ex-Grand Dukes. They are using this country as a basis for all their machinations. They are using our militarists abroad to assist their schemes, and unless the Government put down their foot we shall have a reaction all over Europe, and the re-establishment of the bad old world that we all hoped this War had destroyed.
§ Major Earl WINTERTON
The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite seems to be suffering from a nightmare in which the whole world seems to be composed of those wicked and aggressive individuals who wish to destroy the simple, innocent and humane rule of the Bolsheviks. To him and some of his fellows, Lenin and Trotsky are the highest type of development that we have seen in this very imperfect world. It is characteristic of him, and those who sit around him, that every word he has said on that subject was received with enthusiastic cheers by those who, in many cases, have taken no part in the War, and who saw nothing of it.
§ Earl WINTERTON
If the hon. Gentleman suggests that I was a Press censor it is an insulting observation.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I fought as a combatant soldier throughout the War. I only wished to call attention to what I think is the extraordinary attitude of the hon. and gallant Gentleman in saying that our troops, our soldiers, generals, and admirals in the Black Sea, Baltic, and elsewhere deliberately fail to carry out 1511 the orders of the Government. That is a most gross slur upon them, and, I believe, and I think the majority of the House thinks with me, that they are carrying out the orders of the Government.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
May I say I did not mean that they were deliberately obeying orders? If I have given that impression I did not mean to.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
What I intended to say was that where they have no instructions they act according to their own lights. They ought to have definite instructions to carry out the policy of the Government and cease making war on people with whom we are engaged in making peace.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I do not see very much distinction between the explanation of the hon. and gallant Gentleman and what I have said. The effect of what he said—and the impression I think the House got—was that our generals and admirals were not following out the policy of His Majesty's Government. I say that is untrue, or perhaps it would be more Parliamentary to say it is inaccurate. Such observations are calculated to give a most grave impression in foreign countries even when they fall from the lips of the hon. and gallant Gentleman whose irresponsibility in these, matters is well-known. He has denied any intention of suggesting disobedience, but this does not prevent all kinds of innuendoes against those who are carrying out a most difficult task in supporting British prestige in the Baltic and in the Black Sea. I should like to hear this question debated—if the time could be allowed—by the hon. Gentleman and by various of his friends, in order that we might really know where their party is in this matter. If in the course of Debate the word "Bolshevik" is suggested against hon. Gentlemen opposite, the utmost indignation is exhibited, yet every speech that praises the Bolsheviks is cheered enthusiastically, and the names of Lenin and Trotsky are mentioned by them with every sign of approbation. I consider it is time we knew what exactly is the attitude of the Parliamentary Labour party on this question.
I turn from that to deal with the subject about which I rose to speak.[HON. 1512 MEMBERS "Hear, hear!"] I am glad, however, I have had the opportunity of making the few observations I have, and I make no apology for having said what I have done, for I believe the majority of the House of Commons supports the attitude I have taken up. I wish to say a word as to the mandate on Palestine. In a short time it will be too late to speak effectively on this matter, for there will be no alteration possible to the Treaty. Before that happens, I do think the House should consider carefully one or two points in connection with the settlement. Let me say, in the first place, that I, in common with, I suppose, the majority of people in this country, responsible people, entirely support the declaration made on behalf of the Government by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) in his famous declaration in December, 1917, in regard to the settlement of Palestine on a Zionist basis. Here, I think, I shall have the support of the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. I think, however, that it is most important that two considerations in connection with this settlement should be presented to the House and the country. One is that the rights of the existing Palestinian inhabitants, especially the Moslems and Christians, the resident cultivators, should be carefully safeguarded. The vast majority of the resident cultivators of Palestine are very poor men. Ninety per cent. are either Christian or Moslem. The Jews form less than 10 per cent, of the whole of the inhabitants, and of that 10 per cent. the majority are in the towns engaged in the small retail trade, money-lending and occupations of that kind. Therefore, if there is to be any settlement of Jews from abroad, I think the rights of the existing cultivators must be most carefully safeguarded. I think the House will give a general assent to that proposition.
The other matter, which I consider of the greatest importance—and I think I may say I have a considerable knowledge of the country and of Arabia and Syria, and I cannot speak with sufficient earnestness on this subject—is that if we are not to be engaged in a continual series of frontier wars, the frontiers between Zionist Palestine and Arabia should be most carefully delimited. I was one of those who fought in that 1513 country, both with the Arabs and against them. I fought against them in 1916, that is, against the Sinai Arabs. I took part on several occasions in operations against them. Latterly, in 1918, when practically the whole of the Arabs had come over to our side, I, with other British officers, took part in the Arabian campaign. It is perfectly well known that in order to assist the Arabs against the Turks, and in their raids against the Turks, we gave them considerable supplies of ammunition. The Turks only occupied a portion of Arabia before the war. The greater portion of the country they did not attempt to occupy. Even in the portion that they occupied, which adjoins the Hedjaz railway, they were essentially in the position of a foreign army in a foreign land. The representatives of the Arabs in the Turkish Parliament constantly made the sort of speech that we hear from the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. O'Connor). They constantly made speeches to that effect, and their attitude was that the Turks had no right to be in Arabia at all; they should leave Arabia. They were foreigners in a foreign land. The Arabs carried on this campaign with considerable success. The Arabs in those days were not so fully armed as now, as a result of the aid we gave them to carry on their campaign against the Turks during the War. What is, therefore, the position to-day?
The Arabs proper are more or less directly under the headship, I think perhaps that is the best epithet to apply, of the Emir Feisul. Obeying his orders are perhaps 50,000, practised in the use of the rifle and using a number of machine guns and some aeroplanes as well. It is perfectly obvious that unless some sort of settlement is come to—let us face the facts—between the French and ourselves and the Arabs, that this question will be a running sore in the Near East for years and years. I say this to show how dangerous is the situation. May I recall to the House the information which has appeared in the Press to-day and yesterday in which it is shown that raiding parties of Arabs have made an attack in Palestine, and in fact have inflicted quite sufficiently serious casualties to British and to Indian troops. There is no excuse for what they have done. I think it is deplorable. These raiders, I think it is 1514 clear, belong to one of the big desert tribes who inhabit the country on the opposite side of the Jordan. The only way in which these tribes can be controlled—again I put the case frankly—is by some arrangement with the Emir Feisul. If an arrangement was come to with him it would enable him sufficiently to use his influence with these tribes to prevent them raiding Palestine and so prevent that general disturbance which is going on in the country. I have the honour to enjoy the personal friendship of the Emir, and I, therefore, hesitate to make much use of his name on an occasion like this, but my own belief is that he is doing everything he can to restrain too great a Nationalistic spirit on the part of his own people. It must be remembered that this is the first time for 600 years that they are in their present position. They took a very large share in defeating their hereditary enemy, the Turk, and it is not to be expected that these people are going at the moment, in spite of any arrangements of the Allied Powers, to give up the legitimate aspirations with which they fought in the War.
I therefore venture, with the utmost respect—for the matter has hardly been touched upon to-day by the Prime Minister—to press upon him, and through him, upon the Allied Supreme Council the supreme need for coming to some arrangement with the Emil Feisul which will enable the legitimate aspirations of the Arab people to have proper vent. I say that without such an arrangement— and I think it is necessary to say it with the utmost emphasis—that both the French and ourselves will have a period of the utmost difficulty in carrying out the mandate which has been given us respectively for Palestine and Syria. It would be intolerable if the legitimate hopes of the Zionists were in any way affected by serious disturbances in that country. I deplore the attacks which have been made by the Arabs upon the peaceable inhabitants of Palestine, but we have got to realise that this irritation, this running sore, does exist, and, short of military operations on an enormous scale, which I do not believe either the French or ourselves are prepared to face at the present time, the only way which I think is absolutely essential is to come to some arrangement with the Emil Feisul and his representative men. May I mention the fact which 1515 is known to the Prime Minister, and, I think, also to many Members of this House, that the greatest pressure has been brought to bear upon the Emir Feisul lately by Mustapha Kernel and the Nationalists in Turkey to take part in an anti-British and anti-French campaign? The Emil Feisul has indignantly rejected the offer. He has defended, at the same time, the attitude he is taking up in demanding for his country the rights to which his people are entitled. Yet he has said he does not want the assistance of people who were in league with and fought by the side of Germany. That has been his attitude. Therefore there is all the more reason why care should be taken to arrive at a settlement that will satisfy him and his people.
There is only one other point that I will put to the Prime Minister, and that relates to the boundary between Palestine and Arabia. So long ago as 1918 there was a conference as to boundaries between the Emir Feisul and a representative of the Zionists. I am talking of the boundaries on the South. It is of the utmost importance, if the Zionists are to enjoy a peaceful life in Palestine, that the River Jordan should be the boundary between them and the Arabs. I understand that it is not agreed that the River Jordan should be the boundary, but it is desired that the land on the other side of Jordan should be adopted as the boundary. In my opinion that country could never be occupied by the present cultivators, who form the great bulk of those who get their living on the land in that district. It will be impossible for us to protect any Zionist colony there without a large force of cavalry and aeroplanes. For these reasons I hope that the River Jordan will be made the boundary between the Zionists and the Arabs.
I hope that those two great peoples, the Jews and the Arabs, may live together in the future on terms of amity and friendship, and that the assistance that they can be to each other may be forthcoming. A fratricidal struggle has been threatened by the delay which took place between the Armistice and the Peace Conference in settling this country, and this was aggravated by the mischievous attitude of certain Continental newspapers. I am convinced that this country, great as are the responsibilities and problems it has to face in Europe, has no greater 1516 responsibility, and no greater problem to face, than that of placing on a peace basis the Near East, Palestine, and Northern Arabia.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
As I have been fighting the battle of the Armenians for the last 43 or 44 years, I could not allow a Debate of this kind, in which their fate is involved, to pass without saying a few-words. My hon. Friend, the Member for Durham (Mr. A. Williams), has put the case so admirably that I will not attempt to add anything to what he has said. I wish to express my profound regret that we have to deal only with a small instead of a large Armenia.
I wish to refer to some observations made with reference to America, by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Bottomley). I am not quite so hopeless about America as my hon. Friend. I assure the House, and I speak from intimate personal experience, that the feeling of sympathy with the Armenians in America is more widespread and profound than the feelings of any other people in the world, not excepting my own people. Whilst I was in America recently, I addressed several meetings on the question of Armenia, and I can say that there is not a Sunday school in America in which there is not every Sunday a regular subscription made even by the children for the people of Armenia. Mention has been made of the difficulty of dealing with Armenia, and it is said that a sum of £10,000,000 may be required to assist that country. May I point out that the £10,000,000 will all come back again because the Armenians are a very thrifty and laborious people.
I wonder if my hon. Friend realises the fact that already nearly £7,000,000 have been sent by the people of the United States of America for the assistance of the Armenian people. The Prime Minister must know by this time that their constitutional methods are different from ours. I am convinced that there is in America an immense fund of idealism and character, and an appeal to the profoundly widespread sympathy of the people of that country in favour of the people of Armenia would not be made in vain. I have been fighting this method for 43 years, and what makes me feel so strongly about it is this. Twice, if not three times, in my own lifetime we have given back the Armenians to the Turks.
1517 We gave them back after the Crimean War when the Treaty of St. Stephano was accepted by Lord Beaconsfield, and in the Treaty of Berlin, with the result that 1,500,000 Armenians have been since murdered.
I agree that we cannot, in this matter, relieve ourselves of our primary responsibility. I say nothing about Cicilia. The last word I have to say is this: I apologise for interrupting the Prime Minister about the Chaldeans. The right hon. Gentleman told me that it would be more convenient to raise the point now, and therefore I will accept his invitation to say a few words about it. The Chaldeans have been placed in a most unfortunate position. I am sure that the Prime Minister must be acquainted with the fact that among the people who sent their soldiers to fight side by side with us in the last War the Chaldeans hold a high place, and they sacrificed many lives in order to make our cause a success. If they died for the liberty of the world in this way, then I think they should get something like protection and liberty themselves. I have been asked by bishops and representatives of the Chaldeans to say a few words on any occasion that was appropriate in favour of their cause. I do not know whether the Prime Minister saw the Chaldean delegates at San Remo.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
Had he done so, I can assure the Prime Minister he would have met two as cultivated and as able gentlemen as any who were at that Conference. I assume that the right hon. Gentleman has read their memorial.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
They had, I believe, a more or less homogeneous territory, and I believe the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Allies, has promised them protection for their lives and property. They also want a form of self-government, the extent of which will, of course, depend upon the conditions. I was speaking to them about the necessity of obtaining relief for their starving people, but they brushed that aside as a matter that really did not make so strong an appeal to them as the importance of maintaining their political traditions. They were more desirous of preserving their great historic race, and developing themselves under a government of their own people.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I see that there is quite an array of speakers who desire to address the House, and if I give way to one I must give way to the others. There are a good many question which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have asked me, and I will do my best to give an answer to them. May I just make this observation? I started this afternoon by claiming that the decisions of the San Remo Conference had given universal satisfaction in all the Allied conuntries. I am glad to find that the Debate in the House of Commons this afternoon is no exception. The mere fact that the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) has taken a different view only helps to accentuate the opinion of all sections in this country. I shall now endeavour to deal with the two or three questions which have been put to me. My hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), who has done a great service in that quarter of the world, has put some questions to me about the Arab position. I entirely agree with what he said as to the overwhelming importance of coming to an understanding with the Emir Feisul, because I am sure that is the best guarantee of peace and good government for that part of the world. I do not hesitate for a moment to predict that it will not be difficult to come to an understanding with the Emir Feisul. In the course of the last year or two I have had a good deal to do with him, and my Noble Friend had a good deal to do with him before that, and I have seen others who have been associated with him. I have no hesitation in saying that a more loyal, straightforward ruler, or a better man to deal with, it would be impossible to have, and I am perfectly certain that his anxiety is to collaborate with the Allies in peace as he worked and fought with them in war.
It is not merely his desire, but he is a sufficiently sagacious ruler to know that it is in his interests and the interests of his people to work faithfully with the French and with ourselves. We are the only powers in that quarter of the globe to give him the assistance which is essential if he is to build up a strong and stable Government. He has a very considerable task. Practically he has to build up the power of a new people who have not enjoyed self-government for hundreds and hundreds of years. They 1519 have to be taught self-reliance, administration and the art of government. They have to be taught how to contribute towards the government, and how to bear the burdens of government, and to exercise all the restraints of a self-governing people. He is a very capable man, and I am sure he will realise that his only hope of success is to work loyally with the French and British Governments in this matter, as he has done in the past. One of the decisions come to at San Remo was to invite him to Paris in the course of the next few weeks. I have no reason to think he will not accept the invitation. I am sure it is vital to his interests, as well as to the interests of the two countries who have undertaken these responsibilities, that we should discuss matters with him and come to an understanding, as I hope will be possible in the course of our meeting.
I come next to the question raised by several hon. Members with regard to Armenia. I do not know what is meant by the Greater or the Lesser Armenia. I do know that some of the Armenian, I will not say ambitions, but aspirations, have been of a rather colossal character. They are beyond anything that could be realised under present conditions. They involved at one time an Armenian Kingdom from sea to sea—from the Mediteran-nean right up to the Black Sea, over a gigantic tract of country with a population of which the Armenians constituted, unfortunately, but a small percentage. It would be an impossible achievement to ordain that. It would certainly provoke further disaster. They could not possibly maintain their position there alone. They could only do so by the help of a great country like America. With regard to the boundaries of Armenia, we have left that question to the arbitrament of President Wilson, and in spite of what has fallen from my hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney, I say with all confidence he will discharge the duty with great fairness, judgment and sympathy.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I think the League of Nations would certainly approve of the action taken by the Supreme Council. Now I come to what has been called the French "Protectorate." That is not the correct 1520 word. The French are to exercise guardianship over the minority in Cilicia. I believe there are considerable forces in that Province and there is a struggle going on which I hope will, in the end, achieve the result of securing efficient protection for these poor threatened people. But I assure my hon. Friends that we cannot dissociate ourselves from the responsibility that is cast upon us by our pledges in respect of the Armenians. If the United States of America feel that they cannot take direct responsibility, we shall have to reconsider the whole position, and will undoubtedly take our share in the matter of helping the Armenian community to equip themselves for their very difficult and perilous task. That is as far as I can go at the present moment with reference to Armenia. I am sorry that my Noble Friend the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) is not here, as he put two or three questions to me.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I will make one or two references to what he said. He called attention to the position in reference to the indemnity and reparation Clauses of the Treaty of Versailles. He has not quite fairly represented that position, probably through lack of a very close acquaintance with the terms of the Treaty. Under the Treaty we had to give schedules of all the claims for reparation made against Germany. If they were to be adjudicated upon, any lawyer would know that it would involve an enormously prolonged operation to ascertain what reparation should be made for the damage done. We are anxious to shorten that period, not only in the interests of France and of the other Allies, but also in the interests of Germany. We quite agree with my Noble Friend that it is better for the Germans to know the exact amount of their liability. We invited Germany to submit to us proposals for a lump sum. She has not done it, and although my Noble Friend suggested reasons why she had not been able to do it, I would point out she has the remedy in her own hands.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
How could Germany tell what was her taxable capacity until the Silesian pleébiscite had been taken?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That is not the question. It is not a question of taxable capacity. The question is what is due for reparation and what Germany proposes to pay in that respect.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
My hon. Friend's (Captain Benn) interruption is really an answer to the point raised by my Noble Friend. If the Germans cannot even now say what they are going to pay, what is the good of trying to fix a sum? Four months have elapsed and she is now no nearer getting the information. I say this is complete justification for what was put in the Treaty, namely, that the Germans should be allowed four months in which to make their proposal. My hon. Friend opposite says they could not possibly have done it because they did not know whether they would have Silesia or not. That is rather an argument against putting in a lump sum. Germany has not complained because that provision for the plebiscite was put in the Treaty—indeed she wanted it to be inserted. It was purely a concession to Germany, and they were very grateful for it. My hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Benn) before he indulges in these interruptions should know something of the alphabet of the subject. I come to the other point raised by my Noble Friend. He wants to have the meetings of the Supreme Council wound up as rapidly as possible and the League of Nations substituted for it. So, too, does my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea. Can he tell me at what stage that could be done effectively?
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The suggestion then is not a criticism of anything done up to the present, but of something which may or may not be done later. I am never very much afraid of these ante-dated criticisms. I have no doubt at all that the time will come when we can substitute the operations of the League of Nations for the Supreme Council. But that time has not arrived yet. We have not got the Treaty with Turkey. Germany is not in a position 1522 in which she can join the League of Nations, and, what is still more important, and we may as well recognise facts, the whole fabric in Europe rests on this pillar—the Alliance of the three great solid Powers in the West. If they handed over the direction and responsibility at this moment to any body which has not got the necessary force behind it, it would be disastrous to the peace of Europe. My Noble Friend surely must realise what a difficult position we should be in. Some sort of indication of that position is obtainable from the descriptions given me by our officers in Europe. We have the whole of Europe, more or less, in that condition except these three Powers, and if those three Powers withdrew from the direction of affairs it would be disastrous to the peace of the world. America for the moment has withdrawn. She is not in the League of Nations or on the Supreme Council. Her representatives came to our meeting at San Remo purely as note-takers. These are grave matters and the fate of the world depends on them. America, I repeat, is out of the League of Nations and for all practical purposes she is out of the Supreme Council. Germany is not in a position to take her part. Russia certainly is not. What other Power is there? Let us deal with facts. There are only three Powers that have got the strength, force, organisation and will to direct the affairs of Europe at the present moment, and they are the three Powers which met at San Remo. Until there is some other body with power, organisation, force and will behind it, it is idle to wind up the Supreme Council. I am all for substituting the League of Nations for the Supreme Council when the time comes—when it is perfectly clear that you can do it. I believe in these meetings; they clear up misunderstandings. I have had some experience of them. They make me understand, every time I go there, why there have been wars. You go there with misconceptions, with misunderstandings about something which is cleared up the moment you come face to face with the men who are really directing affairs in other countries. There have been wars in which the people in each country honestly believed that the other was to blame. When those who have the direction of affairs in one country come to discuss matters with the 1523 representatives of other countries, these things vanish. That is why I am a believer in this direct dealing which has been born out of the War. The Supreme Council is the beginning of the League of Nations. It is a co-operation of a certain number of countries organised for peace. And it will develop. The time will come when the League of Nations will undertake these great responsibilities, when those who are directly responsible for the direction of affairs, must go to the League to speak for their respective countries. The time has not come yet.
I speak as a friend, as a supporter, as a believer in the League. I have never taken part in any jeer against it. I say here in all solemnity that when I look at all the explosive material that is in the world, national, racial, religious, traditional—the hatreds, enmities, jealousies, greeds, all ready to rouse nations to tear each other, I can see no hope except in a federation of the people, where the men who are really responsible come to talk face to face. When these quarrels happen between nations, the men who have the responsibility for war would, I know, in their inmost hearts be glad if there were any reason for avoiding or delaying it. Therefore, I am a believer in the League, and I shall join nobody in any effort either to decry, or despise, or disdain, or destroy it. It is, however, no kindness to the League to try and precipitate its action. We have only to look at what happened over this Armenian question to see that the League itself feels that the moment has not come when it can undertake definite responsibilities and direct action. They were not asked to accept a mandate, but a sort of guardianship over Armenia. They practically referred it back to the Supreme Council. Why? Because they realised that the Supreme Council alone could act. My Noble Friend asked me why we have not published our reply. The reason is that that reply has been sent to President Wilson, and until President Wilson has replied it would be eminently discourteous to publish it. We have nothing to conceal in that respect, but it does include a letter we have written to President Wilson, and until he has sent his reply, it would not be fair to publish it, and in any event we can only publish it with his consent. I think I have covered most of the ground 1524 which has been travelled over, except the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). I really do not quite understand his position. He is a man of principle, but his principle fluctuates according to its application. For instance he is a non-interventionist in Russia—why? Non-intervention suits the Reds. In Germany he is an interventionist—why? Because intervention suits the Reds. He really cannot have it both ways.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No, the very criticism he directed against some of my colleagues is a criticism applicable to himself. He says that when it suits the Whites we have a certain policy, but when it suits the Reds we adopt an opposite policy. He is doing exactly the same.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
He says, "This German Government"! Well, it is the chosen Government. It is the only Government; it is the de facto Government; it is the de jure Government. He says, "Do not allow it to establish order. You should not do it." Why? Because he does not believe it; he likes these communes. He says, "If people like to establish communes, whether in the Ruhr Valley or in Staffordshire, let them do it."
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Yes; and therefore he would not interfere, and would not allow the German Government to interfere. We really cannot adopt that policy; we have taken an absolutely different policy. He suggested that there has been some encouragement to this militarist enterprise in Berlin given by certain of our people.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not know whether the hon. Member who cheers that observation has any information that would justify that cheer, or could give me a name. I have asked for names; I have not had them yet.
Was not the right hon. Gentleman perfectly aware last year that Von der Goltz was collecting, training and organising troops?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The hon. Member knows perfectly well that that is not what he is charging us with. What has Von der Goltz last year to do with it? The hon. Member knows that the charge made is that the Kapp Putsch was encouraged by British officers. I asked for the names of those British officers. I have made careful inquiries, and there is not an atom of truth in the charge. I asked that an officer should be sent over to me, in order that I might enquire into the matter, and I found that, so far from their having encouraged it, our officers discouraged it—they were opposed to it—they thought it was a futile and mischievous thing. They went to the German Government, and made it absolutely clear to them that they had nothing whatever to do with it. They refused to go anywhere near Kapp, but someone who came to them and asked on behalf of Kapp was told distinctly that they would have nothing to do with it. It is really mischievous to circulate these rumours and reports. It is not merely mischievous to the German Government, but it encourages the other people. So far from doing harm to militarism, it encourages militarism, for it is said, "It is stated in the House of Commons that the British military authorities are in favour of a movement of that kind." They were against it.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The Prime Minister got up in his place when this Kapp Putsch was on—this was on the second day of the Putsch—and said, on information he had received from Berlin, that the movement was spreading and getting more serious. That information must have come from our people in Berlin. Therefore, they, by their telegrams, were encouraging the success of the Putsch.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
This is the kind of information on which a grave charge is brought against the honour of British officers. I am surprised that a gallant officer—the hon. and gallant Gentleman has shown his courage—should make such a charge. There is not an atom of truth in the report.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I said we wanted frankness. These reports have been published all over Germany, and they are known all over this country, and amongst the working-classes. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That is not a proper way to address the Chair The hon and gallant Gentleman should show more courtesy.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I am perfectly willing to apologise if I am assumed to have cast any aspersion on the character of British officers. I know them too well. I know perfectly well that although they have admirable characteristics they naturally sympathise with their friends. I am very sorry if anything I have said could be assumed to cast any aspersion on British officers.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The statement has been made and circulated in Germany, and that is the ground on which it is to be circulated in this country, to the detriment of the loyalty of British officers to those who command them. The suggestion is that they have, contrary to the orders which they had been given, taken part in a conspiracy in Berlin. I have nothing more to say on that.
With regard to the Chaldeans, I agree with everything that has been said about the assistance which they gave to the British expedition. In Mesopotamia they will now be under British protection. A mandate has been assigned definitely to Britain, therefore they will be under British protection, and we shall have an oversight over them in Kurdistan, because they will be close to the British border. I am perfectly certain when the news reaches there—and it travels quickly—that the whole of that country has been assigned as a mandate to Great Britain, they will feel a measure of confidence which they never felt before. Their real apprehension was that such a policy as that which has been suggested by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith) would be accepted by this country, and that the Government, having freed this country from Turkish rule, would hand it back practically to anarchy. That is a policy which the Government cannot accept. We propose to accept that mandate, and in accepting it will give protection to such peoples as those which have been mentioned in the course of the Debate.
§ Captain W. BENN
Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that the Kapp Putsch was due to the demand of the Allies for the handing over of War criminals? The general opinion in Germany is that it was the demand for the War criminals that caused such a stir in public opinion in Germany that Kapp possibly mistook that feeling for support for their movement, and the result was that they raised the flag of revolt, which in its turn set the Reds going in the Ruhr, which in its turn caused the French to occupy Frankfort and so kept the whole country in a state of terror. I think really the important thing is to know what practically the Government intends to do vis-a-vis with Germany. I have no love for the German, but I naturally wish to see the state of Europe settle down. My complaint is that the Government is first irritating the Right by making demands for the extradition of enormous numbers of people, far in excess of what is required, and, on the other hand, by their economic policy causing starvation in Germany, and so supporting the Left. Between the two you get a constant pendulum state of disorder under which it is impossible for Germany to recover. There is a great shortage of food in Germany, and, of course, the children suffer very severely. The Prime Minister knows the great work which has been done by the Friends Mission in all the cities in Germany in feeding the children. Then what about the coal situation? One of the results of the Kapp Putsch and the Ruhr rebellion was that the handing over of coal to France from the Ruhr Valley was stopped for a few days. But Germany is very short of coal. I believe the proportion is about 17 to 10 of the coal she used to have for her own use and the coal she has to-day. Am I right in saying that ploughing cannot go on for want of coal for electric plant, and even agricultural machinery cannot be made because workmen have to be dismissed because there is no coal to run the factories, to say nothing of many other industries which are not as pivotal and fundamental as this?
The question is, are we doing all we should to get Germany economically on to her legs again? It is all very well to talk about the Treaty and enforcing every single line of it After all, that is comparatively unimportant. When we think of the necessity for getting the whole of the 1528 economic life of Europe resettled and restarted, as much in our interest as in the interests of the Germans or anyone else. The interjection of my hon. and gallant Friend (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) during the Prime Minister's speech seemed very relevant about the Army No one objects to the Government being given power to use the Army to suppress disorder, but the question is, does the Government control the Army? When my hon. and gallant Friend said "Junker," I suppose he meant that many people in Germany think that the Government does not control the Army. I should like to ask—I do not know whether the Prime Minister spoke about it during the time I was absent—what is the proposal in regard to the amount of force to be left in the hands of the Government for the suppression of disorder? Is it to be a reichswehr or a constabulary instead of an armed force? Everything turns upon that, and upon the constitution of the Army. If you have had a big military force of millions and you have to reduce it to a small number of hundreds of thousands, it is quite possible that the military party might concentrate in that small force all the elements on which they could rely in the event of any future coup.
The Prime Minister made a moving appeal to the House when he said that the San Remo Conference had been a success because when people met face to face difficulties disappeared. If that is true of three nations it is much more true of five. Why is it that now only for the first time is there to be any conference with the Germans as to the possibilities of securing the indemnity and the settlement of their country. What about Russia? If it is such a good thing at San Remo that people should discuss their difficulties, how is it that we cannot on some point of punctilio receive Russian representatives in some way, and get them to meet round a table at San Remo, or somewhere else? It seems to me that unless we are very careful we shall drive Germany into a state of disorder in which the Reds will get the upper hand, and if that happens Germany, instead of allying herself and interesting herself with Western opinions, will look to the East, and then our troubles will really begin. I believe it is high time that the League of Nations should get practically to work. One hon. Member says it has no reality. There can be no reality in it unless we 1529 ourselves put our credit into the scheme of the League of Nations, and that is exactly what we are not doing.
I should like to know from the Prime Minister whether, in the mandates that we have received, there is any provision for our including the mandatory territories within our scheme of Imperial preference. Of course, he is well aware that in the Budget which passed the House of Commons last year it was provided that these territories might be included, and I should like to know whether they are to be put into our own Imperial preference scheme or not. If he cannot answer now, perhaps he will give an assurance that the terms of the mandate will be laid before the House.
§ Captain BENN
What we want to do is to show our good faith, and to show that these territories for which we are accepting mandates are not territories which we wish to exploit, but territories for which we regard ourselves as the genuine trustee. One hon. Member said a few moments ago that there is no reality about the League of Nations. Why should not the assembly of the League of Nations be called to meet, and why should not Germany be invited to become a member at once of the assembly of the League of Nations, and Russia also, if Russia would accept the invitation. The danger is that unless some steps are taken now things will go much worse. We have millions of people in Germany to-day who would be glad to join the League of Nations. They are in adversity, and they might find in the League of Nations a friend. Those who are the conquerors seem to prefer the Supreme Council, which is a league of the victors. We have here a great nation which may be a substantial and most important part of a real League of Nations. How is it that we cannot ask them to become members of the assembly and to join in the Council of the League of Nations? If we do not, and if we prefer to insist upon small points and upon terms to satisfy the spirit of revenge the real danger will be that the Reds will get the upper hand and then Germany will refuse to join the League of Nations and will rather look to the East and join with Russia and the third Internationale. We are not unmindful of the great work which the Prime 1530 Minister has done, but we are really anxious about this matter, and we fear that as time goes on, and as we fail time after time to show real belief in the League of Nations or take any real steps towards it, the whole idea may come to grief.
§ Mr. LYLE-SAMUEL
I should like to refer to the question of indemnity and our relations with America. May I assure the Prime Minister that he will not gravely disappoint any large section of the community if the vast sums which certain people prophesied we were to receive in the way of indemnity do not in fact materialise? Certain hon. Members have assured the House that some fantastic sums could be obtained from Germany by way of indemnity. With the mark at over 230, and it has been approaching 400 to the shilling, it must be a very curious and wild mind, entirely devoid of the capacity to calculate, that imagines that we are going to receivelarge sums from Germany. The Chancellor of the Exchequer evidently does not expect it. He was unable to give us any assurance or cheerful news when he introduced his Budget. On the contrary, he budgeted, as any sane and sensible man would budget, on the assumption that each country will have to pay its own cost of the war. When this discussion was on last year one or two of us took what I think was the simple and common-sense line that Germany should be made to pay every penny she could, and that we should ascertain the fullest amount that she could pay, and then settle the bill when she has paid it. Those of us who took that line were told that we were lacking in loyalty and that we were pro-Germans, while the hon. and gallant Member who leads a party of two in this House went so far as to say that I might as well represent Würtemberg or Bavaria. You cannot keep track of the super-patriots on this question; but I am delighted that you are not going to get all these vast sums from Germany, and that one of the best results of the War has been that the world knows that each nation which takes part in war must pay its own bill. The days of plunder by war are over.
It is right for us to demand from Germany the fullest amount that we can get. I do not wish my position to be equivocal at all. If we can get £10,000,000,000 I should be delighted. In that event the 1531 Budgets that we should listen to in future years would truly be sweet in our ears; the one that we listened to last week is very bitter to our taste. The absurd idea that it does not matter what is the position of Germany, and that you may remain in a state of veiled warfare until she has paid a sum which anyone can prove it is impossible for her to pay, is a notion which, judging from the Prime Minister's speech, is not in the mind of the Government. It is all very well saying that it never has been. We have been told that we were going to have 10,000,000,000 sterling, and that if it took ten years or 10,000 years, we should get it, and that there was to be no real settlement and no establishment of friendly relations until we do. That has been said by the super-patriots all over the country, who get a little cheap popularity by holding out great hopes that can never be redeemed. The fact is that we shall probably at no distant date have to provide funds for Germany to remain in any stable economic position, and it is folly for men to go up and down the country saying that vast sums of money are going to be got from Germany. I hope that one thing is a fixed determination in the mind of the Government, and that is, that we will determine the fullest amount that Ger-'many can pay, that we will arrange with her how she shall pay it, and that we will do all that we can so that the economic interests of Europe may proceed on more normal and happier lines.
Let me say a few words about America. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other day that in October 500,000,000 dollars lent to us by America were going to be repaid, there was naturally a very loud cheer. It is a very large sum for us to be repaying just now. It was a very large sum for America to loan to us at the time. It was the first external loan that she had ever made. It is most unfortunate that references such as some of those that have been made in this House should have been made in regard to America. We are repaying our loan, and are glad to be able to repay it. It should be accompanied with grateful thanks that she advanced it to us. Our fortunes were never lower and our needs were never greater than at that particular moment. She was a good friend to us. We must all feel that to do anything which tends to produce strained relations 1532 between this country and America is a black crime.
I know that it is easy to criticise America's decisions with reference to certain matters. America has no representative at the Conference. It is her loss. Things are said and done over there in these days that add to our difficulties; but if Englishmen take the trouble to inquire, they will find that there is no need to pay any attention to anything that is said in the public press and on the platform in America between now and the 4th of November. If we were wise we would stuff cotton wool in our ears until after the Presidential election. For my part, I am grateful that our relations with America are as happy as they are, and I am one of those who will always wish to play a part which may in some degree contribute to a continuance of that policy, and I will always protest against and hold in disgust and contempt any attack made on this great friendly people, above all in this place.
The remarks of the Prime Minister this afternoon will be read with great regret by the large body of democratic opinion in this country, more especially his remarks concerning the Allied action in the Ruhr Valley. The impression one gets from his remarks concerning this question is that one cannot say he is opposed to the League of Nations, as many of his colleagues on the Front Bench are, who have often stated so, but they certainly do not lead us to hope that the League of Nations will soon become a reality in the organisation of the World Commonwealth. But what one does gather is that the Supreme Council's immediate task is to join together and to down democratic organisation, whether Communism, Bolshevism or whatever it is, in whatever part of the globe organised workers' movements happen to obtain control of the economic system.
The Prime Minister challenged us to inform him of any information which we have regarding the co-operation of British officials with the Baltic Forces which carried out the coup d'etat in Berlin last month. It is well known that the Forces under Von der Goltz were organised, equipped, drilled and collected in the Baltic States last year at Mitau and Libau. that those Forces were allowed to be drilled and collected in total contravention to the terms of the Peace Treaty to 1533 a number exceeding 200,000, and that they were collected in the Baltic States under Von der Goltz, who was replaced by Colonel Bermondt. I happened to be in those States last year. It was common knowledge there that while the Allied Council had often ordered the demobilisation and disbandment of those Forces, no action had been taken to accelerate that demobilisation and disbandment. I was told on several occasions that secret orders had been issued by the Allied Council, or from Members of the Allied Council, ordering Von der Goltz and his successor, Colonel Bermondt, not to be too quick in the demobilisation of these troops. It was known among these troops that they were to be used for a coup d'état in Berlin or else for an attack on Bolshevik Russia, and those troops were speculating among themselves which attack would take place first.
If that knowledge were available to any common individual who happened to wander about the streets of those towns, and if it was known to the British Missions, it must have been known to the British Government in this country. It was reported by a general of distinction and skill, who was connected with the Military Mission in that country. He unfortunately reported in a way which was not very much in accord with the wishes of the Government. Therefore he is now on the retired list. I am told that he reported to the Secretary of State for War, but no action was taken. In fact, the Secretary of State for War flew over to Deauville, where the Prime Minister was recuperating on the sands, and suggested that there should be no disbandment as was recommended by the military advisers, but rather that an alliance should be made with these. German troops of Von der Goltz for a further attack against Bolshevism and Soviet Russia. I should be very glad to know that all these statements are unfounded, but when I took the opportunity of interjecting some remarks in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I spoke with personal knowledge of facts which I had gleaned myself. I withdraw none of these remarks in any degree whatever. Time will show.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Robert Horne)
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.