§ I am not going to say whether Genoa will ultimately succeed. I believe it has accomplished great things already. You have had 34 nations coming together to discuss their troubles, their difficulties, their disputes and their apprehensions, and making a real effort to arrive at an understanding together. They are nations which had not met before for 1468 years, nations which had been in deadly conflict with each other. If Genoa were to fail, the condition of Europe would indeed be tragic. The channels of international trade would become hopelessly clogged by restrictions and difficulties, artificial and otherwise. Commerce would stagnate into poisonous national swamps of insolvency. There would be quarrels, suspicions and feuds between nations, ending—who knows where l—in great conflicts.
§ But if Genoa succeed even partially, great things will be accomplished for the peace of Europe. We have already captured positions from which further advances may be made. We have been working on the battlefield, and on the morrow we can advance. We have established a truce of peace between nations which had armies massing against each other, and advancing towards each other. If we can go further, and make an arrangement, by the good will and cooperation of these great nations of Europe, the psychological effect on trade will be immediate and incalculable. It would he like the genial breath of spring on a continent which has been withered by a long and cruel winter. Trade would burst into life and goodwill among nations would flourish. That is why the British Empire Delegation are proud that they took a leading part in upholding and fighting for the high ideals which will ever be associated with the great Conference at Genoa.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and the House that, rather late in the day, wise counsels have prevailed, and that we have had an opportunity this afternoon of hearing from his lips and in the first instance the account which the House of Commons has been promised more than once from our chief plenipotentiary, of what did and what did not happen at Genoa. Of all the Conferences that have taken place in Europe —I am not speaking of Washington now —since the Armistice, none was more loudly heralded and more extensively advertised than the Conference of Genoa. A special Vote of Confidence was extracted from the House of Commons to give it exceptional prestige and authority. It was to open a new era. In a phrase which has been used, and I think has been coined since the Conference began, by the Prime Minister himself—one of the 1469 most daring adventures even of his soaring rhetoric, thetocsin of peace.I congratulate him on the fertility and inventiveness which has brought together two ideas, both hitherto irreconcilable —it is a triumph of rhetoric—the tocsin of peace was to resound through the whole of Europe.Another phrase which I believe is also the product of his sojourn in the somewhat rhetorical climate of Italy—the pious aspirations and phrases so common in diplomacy were to be transmuted into facts by the alchemy of action.Does he recognise that?
§ Mr. ASQUITH
Well, I saw it in the Press, and I hope he will not disown it, at all events. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up."] Now the Conference is over, and we have received from the Prime Minister an account which we may assume is as full and as satisfactory as the facts will permit, of how far the reality-corresponds with the expectations which were aroused in advance. And I am bound to say, and I listened carefully to his words, the results are depressingly and even distressingly meagre. Everyone upon these Benches—those with whom I politically associate myself—wished well to the Genoa Conference. I have never said one word in disparagement of its objects, which, I think, were admirable, nor a word that could possibly, during the whole conduct of it, hamper or embarrass its procedure. Those objects were objects which we all share, the restoration of the economic life of Europe and the establishment of the relations of all countries on the basis of stable and enduring peace. Those were the objects; what has actually been achieved? The Prime Minister occupied very nearly an hour. I am not complaining at all of that-1 am showing what the distribution of the subject matter of his speech was—in discussing the various evolutions and convolutions of the diplomacy of the Conference in regard to Russia, and the restoration of economic relations—which no one has insisted on more strongly than I have—between 1470 Russia and this country and the rest of Europe. What was the sum and substance of the whole thing? The Prime Minister very rightly said he ruled out two alternative courses—first, the application of force to Russia. I wish that had been ruled out long ago. It was tried very expensively and with disastrous or at any rate futile results. He ruled out also, and again I think he is perfectly right, the possible alternative of leaving Russia severely alone. There, again, I wish that at least a year ago we might have done something actively to alleviate the terrible conditions of the people and mitigate the still worse conditions which prevailed in Russia economically. Then he came to the practical conclusion, which seems to have been adopted by our representatives at the Conference, of trying to re-open in a generous and at the same time a businesslike spirit economic relations between Russia and the rest of Europe. He ventured on, I think, some rather dangerous epigrams in the course of that exposition, such as thatConfiscation had turned out in history to be sometimes the basis of conservatism.His illustrations of that were not confined to France. He also drew them from this country. They included the proceedings of Henry VIII at the time of the Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries. It was a curious kind of conservatism which that established—the enrichment of half-a-dozen or a dozen great families at the expense of the tillers of the soil and the great masses of the population. Nor do I at all agree, though I do not want to go into historical controversy, with what he said about France. But, at any rate, it is a great encouragement to the Bolshevists and the Soviet Government that they should learn on such high authority that the basis of a conservative society in Russia may be found, and that there is a body of historical precedents to support the view, on a policy of confiscation. That is by the way.
What is the net result, I ask the Committee, of this long—I do not say too long —exposition, on the part of the Prime Minister, of what the Conference did, or rather what it tried to do and failed to do, in regard to Russia? It very nearly got, as we know, to breaking point, or something approaching breaking point, between the respective positions taken up on the one side by France and Belgium, 1471 and on the other side by ourselves, and I imagine practically the whole of the rest of the members of the Conference. That was averted by the unreasonable refusal —I think it was unreasonable—on the part of the representatives of the Soviet Government to do more than offer practically anon, possumus to the suggestions made by the other Powers. Where are we to-day? Have we advanced one single step, as the result of this Conference, towards a regulation, or, I would rather say, a re-opening, of economic relations between Russia and the rest of Europe? All has been relegated to The Hague Conference. The Hague Conference will really start with atabula rasa upon which nothing is written, and with the memory —the rather discouraging memory—behind it that these great people representing thirty-four Powers spent five weeks in Genoa, and when the Conference rose, it was in exactly the same position as when it began.
The re-opening of relations with Russia was one of the first conditions of a settlement. What is the positive achievement which the Genoa Conference is entitled to claim? It is this pact—I do not know how the word pact has crept into our vocabulary, but let us call it a pact, between the 34 Powers, or whatever number there were—what to do? To refrain from flying at one another's throats for a period which is limited by four months from the expiration of this Conference at The Hague. The Prime Minister used come enthusiastic language on that subject. Let me point out the real facts. Who are the parties to this pact'? Germany is not one. As regards the others, with, I think, no exception, certainly with a perfectly negligible exception, leaving Russia out of account, they were all bound by the Covenant of the League of Nations to a much more solemn and enduring pledge to abstain from aggression on one another, or, indeed, carrying any dispute to the arbitrament of war. What about Russia? The right hon. Gentleman has not referred during the whole of his speech to the fact that before the Genoa Conference opened, and indeed on the eve of the Genoa Conference, there was a meeting held at Riga at which, on the 30th March, an agreement was come to between Esthonia and Latvia—the Baltic States—Poland and Russia. What were 1472 the terms of that agreement? They begin by a pious declaration, as all these things do, of a sincere desire for a universal peace. Then they go on to say that with this object they will whole-heartedly support the principle of the limitation of armaments and recognise that to guarantee peace it is necessary that the frontiers of States should be guarded exclusively by the regular troops of the Government whose frontier is being guarded. Was that what the Prime Minister alluded to when he spoke of the terrible spectre of 1,500,000 troops massed, or supposed to be massed, on the Russian frontier in some undescribed locality, under the menace of which the Genoa Conference took its decision. That agreement sets forth that it was indispensable to establish along the frontiers a zone to which only a minimum of armed forces would be admitted. It was a complete agreement between those countries—the Baltic Powers, Poland, and Russia—to abstain from aggression one against the other. The hon. and gallant Member for the Wrekin (Major-General Sir C. Townshend)—I see him opposite now—asked a question in this House on this subject on the 11th May, only about a fortnight ago. He asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs:Whether he has any official information to the effect that a group of two Russian armies are now being concentrated on the Polish frontier and another group of two Russian armies are also in process of concentration on the Rumanian border, under a project of operations, it is said, from Russian headquarters at Moscow and whether he has any statement to make on the subject.The question was answered by the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for India as follows—and it must be observed that this is when the Genoa Conference was in full blast:Earl WINTERTON: No official information is available respecting the reported Russian concentration on the Polish and Rumanian frontiers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May. 1922; col. 2361, Vol. 153.]Where did, the Prime Minister get his information?
§ Mr. ASQUITH
The Prime Minister had that special information, but it was not vouchsafed to the House of Commons. It was only a fortnight ago. I see from 1473 the reports of the Genoa Conference itself that on the 17th May both the Prime Minister of Poland and the Prime Minister of Rumania spoke, and there was no suggestion of an attack by Russia then, and a pact was entered into on the 30th March between Poland, Russia, and the Baltic Powers which forbade anything of the kind. How can it be seriously contended that at that time there was any menace of any sort or kind? To sum up what I have got to say, what. is the reason that the Conference has failed? I, for one, certainly—and, I believe, most people—hoped it would have more solid and more fruitful results. I have said so over and over again, and, the right hon. Gentleman cannot quote a single phrase of mine from the time when the Conference was first contemplated throughout the whole progress of it to show that I have not expressed the utmost sympathy with it.
But what is the real reason for its relative failure to take even a substantial step towards the solution of these great problems? The abstention of America was a very serious matter. I do not want to use provocative or even disputable language, but at any rate I will say that the half-hearted participation of France, whose Prime Minister abstained and was not present at Genoa, was another serious matter. But what was far more serious, and what I will venture with the utmost assurance to predict will wreck all future proceedings of this kind, was that it was precluded in advance from dealing with the real problem of the European economic situation. What is the good of passing these Resolutions, which I see were described, in an unusually dithyrambic mood, by the Secretary of State for War as only comparable to the Pandects of Justinian? What use is there in the world of passing Resolutions of that kind in regard to stabilising exchanges and so forth, until you have dealt with the fundamental problem of adjusting and liquidating reparations and international indebtedness? That lies at the root of the whole European situation. Not even the establishment of better economic relations with Russia, which, after all, from our point of view and from the European point of view, is not by any means the most important factor—what. is the use of all that, so long as you ignore and postpone the one thing on which the real re-establishment of credit, free inter- 1474 course and interchange, and the ultimate economic restoration of Europe depend, namely, settling reparations, letting everybody know once and for all how the matter stands, and providing, as I think we ought to provide, in a large and generous spirit for a substantial remission of any claims we ourselves may have made?
§ Mr. CLYNES
The Prime Minister, in spite of the limitations which he put upon himself, contrived to say a great deal which will, I hope, meet with general approval, but the Prime Minister announced that he could not say anything on reparations and on our present relations with France, and that necessarily took a great deal of the interest out of his speech, as all the other matters that have been dealt with this afternoon are inseparably connected with these two questions. I think the right hon. Gentleman might make a greater success of these conferences if his Government and the main body of his following genuinely believed more in this method of adjusting the European differences. I think again this afternoon we have had some evidence that the general supporters of the Government are much more aroused and interested in a few political thrusts than at such account as the Prime Minister could give of his six weeks' labours. Peace conferences, if they are to succeed, must be made real in the sense that the main body of the Government's supporters must really believe in them as a method for adjusting the troubles and solving the difficulties which have arisen from what is the first cause of these conferences, namely, the Peace Treaty of Versailles. Genoa clearly is not the end of anything, and I wish I could say it was the beginning of a new plan of dealing with the evils, which by this time are almost old, arising out of that Peace Treaty. If the Conference had been so great a success as some have claimed, I do not think the Prime Minister would have shown any hesitation, hut would have himself hastened to announce the triumph to this House. Three-fourths of his speech were taken up in a description of the situation as it is in Russia economically and politically, and I hope that description will not be lost upon those who heard it, for the economical and political situation in Russia has come more and more during the last half-year to mean much to the whole of Europe, and that is a fact 1475 which has been seen more clearly since Russia arranged her political alliance with Germany recently.
I informed the Prime Minister before he went to Genoa that this method of conference as a settlement of international differences is an old Labour method, and our criticism of it in this instance has been that it cannot succeed until the program is ample enough to allow those who attend these conferences to deal with the big outstanding questions of substance and no longer limit themselves to matters of secondary importance. It is not that we are beginning conferences too early. Any limitation and handicap on those engaged in these conferences is that they have begun too late. For too long we tried the secret discussions between those who were described, I think, as the Big Four. We kept in being a body which called itself the Supreme Council, and frequently those men met together in different parts of Europe, all in the spirit of showing Germany how she should be kept in her place, and of showing Russia how foolish in her own interests she had been. The Prime Minister deserves credit for his resourceful efforts in relation to Genoa, and for holding on as he did in the hope of making his plan successful at a time when it appeared to many that there was no hope whatever of any good result being found. Only the persistence of the Prime Minister saved the Genoa Conference in the first week, but even the Prime Minister could not keep alive the spirit of real confidence, which in that week had been killed. That spirit of real confidence might have been assured if open and repeated efforts had been made beforehand in relation to the various subjects which had to be dealt with. At Cannes, I remember the Prime Minister stated that it was advisable that preliminary understandings and discussions as to items on the Agenda should be undertaken and reached between this country and France. Clearly now that is an essential course, if any body of delegates is to bring back what is worth having from any one of these signatories.
I do not know when we are to discuss frankly and fully in this House relations with France. We are to have some opportunity, I understand, on Tuesday, but I doubt whether then a policy, which will show France the loss involved in the 1476 policy pursued, will be courageously announced to the country. I do not blame France for her attitude. We are largely to blame for it. We granted to France all the apparent, if illusory, gains and benefits of the Treaty of Versailles, and, naturally, the French Government and the French Prime Minister now turn round and say, "All that we ask for is embodied in that Treaty." The question for us is, Have we reached a stage where boldly we must say that we have guaranteed more than we can deliver; that we have built up hopes and expectations in France which cannot be realised? We cannot rid ourselves, for instance, of the consequences of the Election of 1918, and we can say little for a Peace Treaty which has already resulted in producing a Europe dominated more by armies and the war spirit now than even in 1914. Another War Treaty is the name that should be given to that document, instead of a Peace Treaty, for the lands of Europe are now in more warlike mind, and they are training larger numbers of men to feats of arms than in the year before the War. A time of armed peace, even although it may last for years, is only a period between two wars, and that will not do. That is the old sort of arrangement between nations which tended to ruin before the Great War broke out, and, therefore, a new policy must come from these Conferences, or they will not be worth having. Important as efforts are to balance exchanges, right our currencies, improve conditions of transport, the ablest men will not succeed in these lesser matters until primary questions of international policy have been settled. The Labour view, then, is that these conferences must be held, because the Treaties and the so-called settlements embody numerous crimes and blunders in international relationships. It cannot be said that Labour has been guilty of any of them. Indeed, I assert that these will be rectified by the use of straightforwardness in diplomacy and openness in discussion, and in wisdom of action, which, for long, we have advised our statesmen to follow. So that the Prime Minister can depend upon it, that if he will take steps to make it work well, the method itself, as an alternative to friction, to conflict, to jealousy and war, will have such approval as can be given it on this side of the House.
1477 One little by-product of the gathering at Genoa was only casually alluded to by the Prime Minister. If we are not improving our own alliances, or producing a world alliance such as we are wishful to see, we are at least provoking a sectional alliance in other quarters. The agreement between Russia and Germany relates, it is said, only to matters of mutual debts and economic interests. Whatever it covers, as an alliance in itself it ought not to surprise us. The victorious allied nations cannot claim to monopolise alliances, and they ought not to be surprised if others follow their example. It is long since it was said from this side of the House that two great countries like Russia and Germany, great in population and territory, could not be kept in a position of subjection from the standpoint of diplomatic treatment, or the standpoint of trade and general relations, and it is not therefore surprising that these outcasts have formed a friendship. I am glad to have so fully and frankly the admission of the Prime Minister as to the inevitability of an alliance of a sectional character being born out of any other alliance of a sectional character. Indeed, if this agreement between Russia and Germany has any military significance, that should only all the more produce on our own part some improvement in our international policy.
We have a choice of two paths in the government of Europe in the future. One is the path of government in the spirit of militarism: the other is the path of government which will tend to disarmament, and to that real state of peace for which millions fought, throughout the years of the Great War. We may not, and, indeed, we do not, in some instances particularly, like all our neighbours overseas, but, as a business and trading nation, if we are not to consider the matter from any other standpoint, we have got to live with them and work with them, and if we do not live on a footing of friendship, both with Germany and Russia, those two countries, with their immense populations, will give to Europe, in due course, far more trouble than Europe will find it easy to deal with. It was easy for anyone three years ago, and particularly two years ago, to foresee the stage which would be reached by these two countries, and the re-formation of those alliances and rings. I do not think I have heard the Prime 1478 Minister speak before to-day in terms of such sustained sympathy and understanding of the Russian situation. The eloquent and human picture he painted contrasts strangely with the chilling reception given to those who, only a few months ago in this House, appealed for some little national assistance from our resources for the starving people of Russia. An act of official and national kindness of that nature would have gone further to touch, even the heart of a Bolshevist, than any outstretched hand to establish diplomatic relations. We have behaved in a soulless and niggardly manner on this great. human subject, and if the Prime Minister's better touches of to-day indicate any improvement in our relations with Russia, I think it may be said there is yet in our time an opportunity to make good the remissness and the shortcomings shown when in this House repeated appeals were made to commit one of the best and most far-reaching acts that could stand to the credit of any Government.
The Prime Minister referred at length to the question of debts. We on this side give no support to Russia in any general repudiation of debt which honourably and fairly she should admit. That does not mean we condemn Russia for repudiation of some of the items which, it is said, she ought to pay, but, on the general question of repudiation, is it not clear—indeed, we have had it officially from the Prime Minister to-day—that we are not beyond repudiating what is clearly an obligation. I put it to the Prime Minister that when, by the might of military aid, by the supply of material, by the substantial and moral assistance which we gave to those ventures of invasion in Russian territory, surely we incurred some obligation. There was enormous damage to Russian life and property. If we begin to repudiate obligations which, clearly, we have incurred, and if we tell the Russian Government that we shall make no acknowledgment of the cost of the destruction which, to some extent, we caused, is that not sufficient to invite counter-repudiations from the Russian side? I think, then, the better policy will be to put no further limits, or limit of any kind, to our recognition of the Russian Government. That Government, like all others, will, in due course, find its level. It will last just as long as the majority of the Russian people care to 1479 tolerate it, or resort to some effective measures to upset it, and, in the meantime, it is our business to deal with whatever Government we have. In every country a large section of the people at any time may have a good reason for not recognising their Government. That way anarchy lies. Whatever the Government be for the time being, it is the Government, and we have already paid dearly for foolishly persisting in refusing officially to deal with the Russian people, and through their appointed and accredited representatives.
As I understand the Russian case, it is this: Recognition first then discussion of obligations, debts, and so on. In such discussion there may be a margin large enough for arrangements mutually satisfactory. I am certain that, at any rate, they would be mutually beneficial to the two parties concerned. The spirit in which we would have these conferences proceed is that of seeing that security for the various countries which take part in them cannot be found in military alliances, but can only be found under the terms of the covenant of the League of Nations. That covenant, observed and carried out, would forge those real links of friendship which were spoken so freely about, but which I am certain is not sufficiently deep a matter in our hearts to make that peace an enduring thing.
What was the good of putting into the forefront of the Peace Treaty all these professions for maintaining the peace of Europe and the world, and then maintaining such an attitude as for years we have done towards Germany and Russia? I am not sure, indeed, that Germany understands that she is desired or expected to come into the League of Nations. I cannot recall any definite pronouncement which may be described as an invitation to Germany to come into the League of Nations. It is more likely that people would consider an invitation after it had been received. An alliance between this country and any one country or any other few countries would, in due course, produce the rival alliances and the rings which existed before the War, and therefore swing the world back to that point of great danger. It is upon the plan I have outlined that the Prime Minister must proceed if further good is to be done at The Hague 1480 than was done at Genoa. I do not say that Genoa has been altogether without result, but for the economic and financial effects of the work at Genoa we shall have to await the outcome of the Commissions: we shall have to watch the, work in respect to giving effect to what these Commissions have decided. Herein I would like the Prime Minister, in respect to these decisions of the Committees or Sub-committees upon currencies, finance, and transport, to see that the Commissions are kept in being, and that these decisions are more than pious resolutions. It will not do to pass them and to send them to the respective countries through the Press and then take no further action upon them. There has been too much of that, with very little effect, for the last few years. If at Genoa anything like a workable plan was reached the plan should be made to work by industrious attention to every possibility that might be regarded. We have got from Genoa something like a pledge of non-aggression for at least a period of eight months—though I do not know why such a term was fixed for the duration of this state of non-aggression.
We have certainly a little closer relations with our good friend and ally Italy. These things are not insignificant in themselves, but they are in relation to the great purpose for which the Genoa Conference was held. We may differ materially from the Prime Minister on many points in relation to these Conferences, but we cannot but admire the systematic and thorough manner in which he struggled to make the Conference effective. I hope, therefore, particularly in relation to Russia, he will not cease to do his best to arrange terms with that country. While it is true that she must depend for her rebuilding upon both the credit and the material of the outside world, she has such vast internal resources that her present level of living should not last a long time. I am not sure that she has such a spirit and that she has been so tested in tasks and endurance that she will not easily yield. If so, would it not be better that the House of Commons should favour an arrangement if it possibly can be made. It is true that Russia has no need of this country or of the other countries of the world, but we are in need of the great opportunities offered by Russian trade. Germany is not blind to these great trade opportunities, and the business men in 1481 this House are doing damage to their own trade interests, as I think, in some cases because of their stupid political attitude towards Russia. So we await this account of the economic and other labours of the members of the delegation. We also await some information from the Prime Minister as to further efforts to get from the main body of his followers real, full, genuine proof of the support of this new policy of so settling European tangles and quarrels by means of harmonious conferences.
§ Sir A. SHIRLEY BENN
In rising to speak on the subject of the Genoa Conference, I may give as my reason for occupying for a few minutes the time of the Committee the fact that I, as President of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, was asked, along with Colonel Armstrong, President of the Federation of British Industries, to join the British Delegation at Genoa in a consultative capacity. Although we were not there in our official capacity, the compliment was paid to us of considering that we represented in some degree the commercial opinion of this country, and were able to point out how the problems of international trade would be viewed by the members of the British community at home. It is, therefore, from this standpoint that I should like to speak, and I would first deal with what, in my opinion, are some of the tangible results of the Conference. There are some who claim that there have been no tangible results, and that the Resolutions are merely words. I entirely disagree from that, and I shall tell hon. Members why.
In the first place, you have a transport question. It is needless for me to dwell on it. Every one of us here knows and fully realises that not only Central Europe, but Eastern Europe is suffering severely from the lack of transportation facilities between the points of production and the points of consumption. I admit that there was not at Genoa a magician's wand by which worn-out rolling stock and war-broken permanent way could be renovated in an instant, but if there was no magic there was practical action, and this great problem was turned over to the competent engineering experts of the different nations. The political difficulties which would beset the expert's attempt to deal with it in his private capacity have been smoothed over by the 1482 meetings at Genoa, and those who undertake the re-organisation will do so with the full approval and assistance of the various Governments concerned. In a similar manner the financial problem has been placed in a new light. The principles on which national finance must be based have been set out in that remarkable document, the Report of the Financial Sub-Commission. All the points suggested the re-assertion of the belief in the gold standard and the proposed steps for fixing the gold value of the monetary unit, an International Conference to centralise and co-ordinate the demands for gold, and a meeting of the central banks to regulate credit policy are not merely pious assurances of financial goodwill, but lay down a line along which the financial experts of the various countries may work, secure in the belief that their efforts will not be hampered by the interference of Ministers of Finance anxious to balance their budgets with debased currency.
On the points with which I have just dealt I think most hon. Members of this House will find little to cavil at. I do not, however, wish to appear to shirk any of the difficulties with which a supporter of the Genoa policy is commonly supposed to be faced. These difficulties may be summed up in the word, Russia! I maintain as strongly to-day as I did in this House on 3rd April that, in the present state of unemployment in this country, trade with every possible customer is absolutely essential to national prosperity. I would ask those who belittle the opportunities which Russian trade present to consider the new problem which is presented by a country in resurrection from such terrible death-throes. There, new markets are to be found every day, and with the fall of an old regime there is also the fall of some of the old restrictions which before the War were often placed in the way of Russian trade. With the needs of the country so much greater and its resources so infinite it is impossible to set analogous limits on its trade potentialities.
On the other hand, I maintain with equal firmness that it is useless to ask British traders to invest their money in a country in which there is not the slightest security for the preservation of their trading effects, and this brings me to consider the practical point with which 1483 the business man who had interests in Russia before the War is faced when he looks to re-starting his business. We recognise that the Russian people have the right to change their laws. They have the right to say, "Freehold land shall no longer exist in our country, but land shall be used on leases and concessions from the State." They have a perfect right to say that with regard to the future. They have no right to repudiate the obligations undertaken by the Russian Governments of the past Where freehold land has been owned by foreigners in times past it must be returned to them, or compensation given for its condemnation. I do not mean to suggest that where the Russian Government has developed land that it has acquired that the land should be returned to its old owner in this state. That is obviously a point for arbitration, so that the benefit conferred on the land by its new ownership may be deducted from the compensation to be paid to its old owner. The main principle, however, of repudiation is one which we cannot for the moment admit. I would ask the Committee to bear in mind that the longer we delay in re-establishing contact with Russia the less becomes the chance of saving our very considerable property and investments in Russia.
So much for particular problems of the Conference. I would like to make a few remarks, for only a few moments, on the more general aspects of the case. In the first place, although science and the daily Press have been trying to convince us for a long time how small the world has become, it is extraordinary how difficult it is not merely for the average mortal but for the average Minister to realise how complete is its interdependence. I think that one of the greatest results of Genoa is that it has driven this lesson home in a way that few things could do. The discussion in the Economic Commission brought this home to all countries, and I believe the result of the resolutions which were adopted will provide an easier path for international trade in the future. When the representatives of so many nations sit round the council table they begin to see in an entirely new light problems which they thought were as remote from themselves as the most academic disputes. New judgments of world condi- 1484 tions are formed, and, at the same time, new judgments of men. Among the latter one stood clear. Everyone realised more than ever before how great was the influence of our own Prime Minister in this struggle for European peace and economic recuperation. I cannot sit down without paying my tribute to the work he and his colleagues have done, for I firmly believe that the historian of the future will find in Genoa a great beginning in the restoration of a broken world.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £1,000.
Like the Prime Minister, the hon. Member who has just sat down devoted a large part of his speech to telling us what might have taken place at Genoa, but not in fact what did take place. Therefore, I was not able to derive any more hope from the hon. Member's speech than I did from that made by the Prime Minister. I have risen for the purpose of moving a reduction in the Foreign Office Vote. It is one of the anomalies of this House that because we are not agreed about the Genoa Conference, one has to move a reduction in this Vote when, as a matter of fact, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and his Department have had nothing whatever to do with Genoa at all. As far as I am aware, no permanent official in the Foreign Office was invited to be present at Genoa. The Foreign Minister was not there, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Secretary to the Foreign Office were not there. No ambassadors were there, and I believe the only person of any prominence from the. Foreign Office was the legal adviser.
I think that is an important fact to note when we realise what the Conference was called for. The Prime Minister has a tendency to place people without expert knowledge in charge of important affairs. When he wanted to solve the housing problem he put a doctor in charge of it. When during the War he had to tackle very difficult financial problems in America, he took the Lord Chief Justice, but, up till now, they have always had the advice of the experts of the Departments concerned. On the present occasion, however, the right hon. Gentleman chose certain of his colleagues and himself, and they took on this job apparently unaided by experts, relying on the help of a tame 1485 Press, and the formation of a sort of international rotary luncheon club.
He took out the Secretary of State for War, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Lord Chancellor. All these right hon. Gentlemen were no doubt charming companions, but they cannot, I think, pose as experts in foreign affairs and they are not linguists. On a great occasion like this, when you are dealing with 34 nations, all with different points of view, it seems to me to be essential that you should have someone representing you who is conversant with some of the languages of the other nations, or, at any rate, they should have the assistance of the very highly qualified staff which we keep at the Foreign Office. Indeed I find myself in agreement with the Leader of the House, who, speaking this week at a dinner in honour of M. Cambon, said:I am not sure, M. Cambon, that you and I do not belong to a generation that has passed, or is passing, away. I have a suspicion that you still like the old diplomacy, with its reticence, its silence, its careful avoidance of the limelight and the Press. So do I.When I read those words the Leader of the House reminded me of the middle-aged lady who went to a modern dance, and having condemned as shocking the costumes and the steps, was so attracted by them that she became a frequenter of night clubs and wore costumes even more scanty than the younger generation. The right hon. Gentleman condemns this modern diplomacy and yet he boasts of being responsible for calling together the conference on Ireland. As I listened to the Prime Minister this afternoon, telling us of what took place at Genoa, I was reminded of the last Debate we had on Genoa, when we were told that the object of the Conference at Genoa was an economic and financial conference. These are the right hon. Gentleman's own words:The Conference has been called to consider the problem of the reconstruction of economic Europe. The main theme of the Conference is the establishment of peace, confidence, credit, currency, exchange, transport.What we have been told this afternoon by the Prime Minister does not proceed on any of those lines. On the 3rd April the Prime Minister said:What are the conditions of peace laid down at Cannes? Russia must recognise 1486 her national obligations. Where the property of our nationals has been confiscated, it must be restored or compensation paid. Impartial tribunals must be established and those tribunals must not be the creature of the Executive. Is Russia prepared to accept these conditions? These are indications of a complete change of attitude.I ask the Committee whether the Prime Minister in anything he has said in his speech has had any of those conditions fulfilled. Has he arranged that the property of British subjects which has been seized in Russia should be returned to them? Has he arranged for tribunals which will be free from the tyranny of the Executive in Russia? It cannot be said that the Prime Minister was not warned beforehand. As is well known the American President, Mr. Hughes, refused to be present or send representatives to the Genoa Conference, because as he said, whilst he was in favour of an economic conference, he believed that this will turn out to be a political one. Subsequent events have shown how correct Mr. Hughes' prediction has turned out to be. These are the very words used by Mr. Hughes in a letter which he wrote to the Italian Ambassador refusing to go to Genoa. He wrote:I regret to inform you that after careful examination it has been found impossible to escape the conclusion that the proposed Conference is not primarily an economic Conference, but is rather a Conference of a political character in which the United States Government could not helpfully participate.Therefore the Prime Minister was warned, and one would have thought that he would have made every endeavour to prevent that forecast from coming true. The right hon. Gentleman could have maintained the economic character of that Conference if he had resolutely stood by the report of the London experts which was prepared prior to the meeting of the Conference. That report had two strong points in its favour. First of all it was an unanimous report of the experts of all the Allies. That in itself did not commend if to the Bolshevists who hate unanimity, and whose sole aim is to divide the Allies in order to get the better of them. Therefore it is not surprising that their reply of 3rd May to the Allies' Memorandum was not acceptable, in fact the Russian delegation went out of its way to attack that report.
For another reason the London experts' report was sound because it was based on 1487 the economic principles which were approved by two successive Americans, Mr. Colby and Mr. Hughes, and it embodied Lord Emmott's Report. That Report laid down certain conditions, as follow:—The Russian Soviet Government shall accept the financial obligations of its predecessor.That is one of the most important necessities before we can get back to any stable state of affairs in Europe. The same Report proceeds by saying:The Russian Government shall undertake to provide for good administration of justice independent of the Executive authority.In short, that report laid down principles which really might have been insisted upon by business men who wish to invest capital in Russia. Was the Prime Minister able to say that one of those recommendations which he set out to obtain has been accepted? Instead of those conditions being forced upon the Bolshevists, all we have got in their place is some vague reports of various commissions which provide no satisfaction whatever to business men. What a difference there is if one contrasts the result of Genoa with the result of the Washington Conference. On the one side we have certain concrete definite principles laid down, and on the other we have vague generalities. Supposing the Prime Minister says, as indeed he inferred, "It is true we have not come to any definite conclusions, but still we look for future happiness in another conference at The Hague." Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that the whole of these conferences with the Russians simply result in agreements being made with men of bad faith, men who have 'broken every clause in the trade agreement as the Bolshevists did, which the Secretary for Foreign Affairs has already proved. Does the Prime Minister not realise that at Genoa these very men went behind his back and concluded a separate treaty with Germany? You have only to turn to the Prime Minister's own statements in order to prove that these men are not desirable persons to deal with. I heard him say in this Chamber not so very long go:The horrors of Bolshevist rule are so[...] that there is a sense of disgust when[...] come to deal with its leaders.1488 That view seemed to have faded away when the Prime Minister asked those Russian gentlemen to lunch with him at Genoa. I think it is a matter of disgust that the Prime Minister of this country should do a thing like that. The Prime Minister also said:The chariot of Bolshevism is drawn by plunder and terror.In March last, speaking upon the subject of trade agreements, the Prime Minister said:Some of my hon. Friends think this is a sort of recognition of Soviet Government, that we are shaking hands with murder and embracing these robbers. But we are simply converting them. This is a gentle process of instruction, a kind of Borstal system for converting these criminals into honest, sober, decent citizens.He and his colleagues at Genoa appear to have been continuing this Borstal system even to the extent of entertaining them and showing them hospitality. Yet these very men went to Genoa clothed with the proceeds of goods of which they had robbed the Churches.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
May I ask how far it is proper for an hon. Member to go on attacking a foreign Government which has now been recognised? Will it be open for other hon. Members to attack other Governments in the same way?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir Edwin Cornwall)
I have not heard anything from the hon. Member yet which is out of order. With regard to the hon. and gallant Member's second point, I will wait and hear what other Members may say.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
I should have thought that the hon. and gallant. Member for Central Hull would by now have got accustomed to hearing his friends and colleagues in Russia harshly spoken of. They do not appear to have turned over a new leaf, and my present information is that they are still continuing their base practices. This Conference, when one somes to weigh it up after listening very carefully to the Prime Minister's description of it, cannot be said to have achieved any economic results. indeed, the Prime Minister has admitted that the only results were of a political character. One has but to turn to the interview which he gave to the Press Association on his return from Genoa the other evening to realise that. He then admitted that this peace pact had been secured for eight 1489 months. That was all he could tell the Press at that time. as to the results of the Conference. But why eight months? Was the period suggested by the Lord Chancellor? I remember on a former occasion when he wanted more battleships, his demand, "We want eight: we won't wait"? Then the Prime Minister went on to say to the Press representatives that this peace pact was one of the most dramatic spectacles he had ever witnessed in his life. He said:We all stood up in silence and declared that there should be no war for eight months.Is he certain we shall have war in Ireland within eight months? This is how he described it:I started first. Then the representatives from our Colonies, and then all the other nations in alphabetical order. We all stood up and said, 'There shall be no more war for eight months'.The description sounds to me like the passing of a vote of condolence at a meeting when all stand up to pass it in silence. It would have been more satisfactory if there had been something more definite. The right hon. Gentleman was asked if Russia signed the pact. He replied that she did not exactly sign it, but "we all stood up." Surely, if these gentlemen, the friends of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull, want to make, war, they will not hesitate to do so simply because they stood up on that occasion. I do not think we can gather any very great feeling of confidence from that matter. There were other political results which were achieved at Genoa, to which the Prime Minister did not refer, either to-day or in his interview with the Press representatives. He did not tell us he had strengthened enormously, as a result of the Genoa Conference, the diplomatic position of Germany and Russia. How has he done it in the case of Germany? Germany has been able to show to the world that she can negotiate alliances not only in spite of, but contrary to, the Treaty of Versailles, and, as to Russia, she has been placed in a position she has sought to occupy ever since the Bolshevists came into power; she has been enabled to play off one great Power against another. In that connection, I would like to ask the Secretary for War, whom I see in his place, if either he or the Prime. Minister will tell us whether the War Office have received any report in regard to this so-called military agree- 1490 ment between Germany and Russia, and whether, if any such report has been received, he has had a report made upon it? Can he tell us the result of that report, and will he assure the, House that the matter is being given that full consideration which is due to it? I hope the Secretary for War will see that we get an answer on this point.
The Prime Minister also did not emphasise this point, that not only had Germany and Russia been allowed to come together by this Treaty under the noses of the 34 Powers at Genoa, but that at the same time the relations between France and Great Britain had been seriously endangered. While the Prime Minister told certain Press correspondents that he was still a friend of France, he allowed his own Press to make attacks upon France that ought never to have been made, and infinite harm might have been done if there had not been a very strong feeling in this country which made it clear that we would not allow Germany and Russia to come in and upset our friendly relations with France. Heaven knows what damage might have been done had that not been the case! I take the view that the results of Genoa are not satisfactory. On the contrary, I submit to the Committee that while the Prime Minister summoned that Conference to deal with economic matters, it has proved entirely barren and has not brought about any economic result. In spite of the warning of the United States of America, he allowed it to degenerate into a political conference, which has resulted only in benefiting the two countries which detest the victory of the Allies in the War, namely, Germany and Bolshevist Russia.
The Prime Minister, in the course of his speech, referred to the £800,000,000 which Russia owes us. As he dropped his voice, I could not quite gather whether he said he was prepared to write it off or that he had written it off. If it has been written off, or is to be written off, what is thequid pro quo he has got? I should like, before it is written off, to see that some advantage is to be thereby gained, and that the Bolshevists will give some recognition of our national rights to property in that country. It. is I suppose because the Prime Minister and his colleagues knew in their heart of hearts that this Conference had really been a failure that a reception was organised 1491 on his return at Victoria Station. It rather reminded me of the stories one reads of during the decline of the Roman Empire, where, when a general returned to the Capitol after an unsuccessful war in a distant country, he was welcomed back with triumphal cars in order to delude the populace into the idea he has been successful. Really, when I got an invitation to go to Victoria Station on Saturday night to meet the Prime Minister and to show him how much we appreciated his efforts, it reminded me of the Mad Hatter in "Alice in Wonderland" who, when he found his watch was not in working order, put some butter into it. He was surprised that the butter did not make it work, and so he said: "Perhaps it was not the best butter, let us try that." I suppose, because the reception at Victoria was not quite successful, there is going to be a lunch to-morrow, with the best butter, and all the prospective baronets will have to go to this lunch at 15s. per head. It was only knights who were present at Victoria Station. The truth of the matter is, that these admirers of the Prime Minister will be told to wait until The Hague Conference for the desired result of Genoa.
The Prime Minister reminds me of a farmer whose land is covered with thistles and thinks he can get rid of them by cutting off their heads, hut the result of cutting off their, heads is that for each one cut off three or four more grow in its place. You want to get at the root of the thistle. You want to pull it up, and that is what the Prime Minister never does. Whether it be an industrial dispute or an international difficulty, he just cuts off its head, and the result is we have three or four inure difficulties coming up soon after. It is the same here. At Genoa he got for the time being what he calls an eight months' peace pact. Now we are to leave it to The Hague. Having realised the impossibility of solving this question with the Bolshevists, he now tells us it is to be left with the experts. They, in fact, are to be the scapegoats at The Hague. I very much fear that when the time comes the results of The Hague will not be much better than those of Genoa. It is on these grounds I beg to move a reduction of the Vote by £1,000.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
We have listened to a very entertaining speech. I am not going to follow my hon. Friend's disquisitions on the character of the Prime Minister and the methods which he believes were employed in order to secure a reception for him at Victoria. Perhaps I look at the thing rather impartially. I was not invited. But I approach this question really much more simply than my hon. Friend does. I must say I have always felt that a real breakdown at Genoa would have been a disaster to the world, and therefore I was always anxious that some decent success should be secured at this Conference. The objects of it were absolutely incontrovertible. Everyone wants to restore the economic position of Europe and the peace of the world. Everyone feels that what I think the Prime Minister called the tangle of European suspicion, or of European enmities—I forget the exact phrase—which has existed, unfortunately, ever since the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, and which, I am afraid, is partly due to the terms of that Treaty, should be put an end to. At the same time, what we have to consider, and what we are invited by the Prime Minister to consider, is what, in fact, have been the results of the Conference? Have they been successful on the whole or not? The Prime Minister did not say very much—and I do not complain at all of that—about the financial provisions, which he left to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War. I shall be very interested to hear what my right hon. Friend has to say about them. I confess that, reading them only as I have been able to read them in the Blue Book, they do not appear to me to be a very material advance on what was already agreed upon at the Brussels Conference. They may have features which were not to be found in the Brussels conclusions, and there certainly were features in the Brussels conclusions which are not to be found in this new code of Justinian.
In the same way, my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth (Sir A. Shirley Bonn), who is always listened to with great respect, referred to the great importance of our organising transport. I agree most fully that that is an urgent matter. It has been for a long time an urgent matter. But, there again, considerable work had already been done at the Conference at Barcelona, and I do 1493 not at the moment see that anything vary material has been added to what was there laid down. The difficulty of these matters is not to lay down good principles, but to get them carried into effect. If my right hon. Friend can say that these things are going to be carried into effect, that is a different matter, and he will be entitled to great credit for achieving that. All these sentiments about the currency, about the danger of artificially trying to back it up—to "boost" it was, I think, the phrase used—all these things which you find in the Brussels Report, all the statements about the dangers of the printing press, and so on, are admirable. I only hope that my right hon. Friend has really some ground for thinking that they will be carried out. I should like very much to know what machinery is provided, because, as I understand it, there is some reference to the League of Nations which I do not quite follow. My right hon. Friend, however, will, no doubt, be able to tell us what is the machinery that has been provided for seeing that these things are really effected.
I do not want to make any attack on my right hon. Friend or on the Prime Minister in reference to these rather meagre results, as they seem to me to be, on the financial and economic side. I agree with what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) just now, that, if you exclude reparations and Allied debts, you have really excluded the great subjects which are keeping Europe in an economic turmoil. I am not going to discuss the reparations policy which might be pursued, but I do feel that all these questions—and here I am sure I shall have the agreement of the Government—would have had much more chance of being really usefully solved if the United States of America had taken part in Genoa. I do not know how it was that the United States decided not to accept Genoa. They have now been asked, apparently rather at the last moment, after the Hague Conference had been settled upon, to attend the Hague Conference, and they have again declined, if I understand their message rightly, but they have declined in rather a different way. They have expressed their willingness, as I read their reply, to take part in an economic discussion, but they have laid down certain conditions, into which I need not go at this moment, under 1494 which they would participate. If it is at all possible that those conditions can be complied with—and, after all, they do not appear to me to be very different from what I think the majority of the House of Commons, if they were left quite free from party ties, would emphatically approve of—if these conditions can be complied with, is it not worth everything to get the assistance of the United States in a matter of this kind? I venture very strongly to commend to my right hon. Friends opposite whether it is not worth while, if necessary, even to postpone this Hague Conference, if there is any chance at all of arranging some economic conference in which the United States will take part. I feel strongly, and I should have thought my right hon. Friends would have felt strongly, that the importance of that is so great that it is well worth while.
I admit that I am a little in the dark as to what The Hague Conference is really going to do. They are going, as I understand it, to try new methods of approaching the Russian problem. I shall not be sorry for that. But what is the economic and financial policy of the Government in dealing with this matter I have read the Russian replies as they are printed in the Blue Book, and I agree most fully with the Prime Minister that they are the kind of thing which is specially irritating to an English reader—long discussions of principles when you really want to get down to business. Substantially, however, does it not come to this: "We want money or credits from the Governments. We wantde jure recognition from the Governments. That is what we ask." As for private property, there are great difficulties about the principles, which I need not go into, but they make a most astounding offer, as I understand it, that they will allow the previous owners to buy back their property—to have a right of pre-emption—but that, if anyone offers a larger sum than the previous owner, it is to go to the other person. That does not appear to he a very valuable right to secure. I should like to ask the Government quite specifically—because it is a very important matter, and one on which I express no opinion for the moment till I know what the Government say upon it—is it part of their policy to grant Government credits to Russia? I am not referring to loans, because that has been answered in the 1495 House, but I do not recall whether the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer covered credits as well.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)
Of course, it did.
§ Lord R. CECIL
The Government may buy goods here, and supply them on credit without giving a loan of money to the Russian Government. I merely give that as an illustration. There is no difference, of course, financially, but there is a difference in terms. I want to know about that, because I think it is very serious. What I want to put to the Government is this: Supposing that they decide, as I imagine they will, that it is impossible for them to give any Government loan or Government credit, have they really any expectation that they will get any further at The Hague than at Genoa? If not, do not let us have another international Conference which leads to no results. It is not really an indifferent matter that these great Conferences meet and then break up without achieving anything, or without achieving anything substantial. It does harm. You have thrown away one of your cards, and you cannot play over and over again. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to give me some comfort in regard to that.
There is another matter upon which I should like to ask a question. The Prime Minister said, "Let us put aside principles and come down to business." I agree that that is the great thing to do in this matter, which is entirely a business matter. I do not pretend to be a financial authority, but do my right hon. Friends think, if they are not going to give any Government credit, that they will get any private credits, whatever assurances the Russian Government give unless they go further than giving assurances? Suppose that the Russian Government said, "Certainly, we will respect private property, and give all the assurances for which the Conference at Genoa asked in the first instance." Will that alone open the pockets of private investors in this country? I should have thought not. I should have thought that the private investor would say, "I should like to see what the Russian Government are actually going to do before I venture 1496 my money or my goods on the faith of promises put up from Russia." I do not say this with a view of discouraging this policy. On the contrary, I am and always shall be anxious for it. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gwynne) in his dislike of renewing relations in any form or in any shape with Russia. I do not believe you will restore the economic condition of Europe until you get these great nations back into the economic system.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I do not feel sure about that, but what I do feel sure of is that mere assurances will not do it. You must have something with which you can go to the private investor and tell him that an impartial tribunal has been established, that so much money has actually been paid, that so much private property has actually been restored. You must be able to tell him of something that has been actually done, and I doubt very much whether all these elaborate negotiations, trying to induce the Russian delegates to say this or that, really carry us any further. The prime Minister said that he wanted to get back to realities. I entirely agree. I think these glittering unrealities of rhetoric are the greatest danger. We want to get back to solid ground in this matter. I confess that the prospect of a renewal at The Hague of these elaborate discussions with ingenious Russians on the principles of private property does not attract me. It seems to me that a very grave mistake was made, as I have ventured to impress upon the House on more than one occasion, when the Government decided not to intervene to assist in the Russian famine. I am quite aware that I pressed that upon the Government and upon the House mainly on humanitarian grounds, and I do not wish to go back upon them, but it does appear to me that if you could have sent in manufactured goods—clothing, railway material, agricultural implements, any of the things which would have directly helped the starving Russians—if they could have been sent in through some international body such as existed at the time for the purpose of administering these things and for getting such payment as could be secured for them, while it could not have been entered into as 1497 a business proposition, I believe there would have been a fair chance of obtaining payment, and I believe it would have enabled us to renew relations with the Russian people, which is what we really want to do, and to avoid these interminable discussions of principles and economic theories which will always, I am afraid, beset our negotiations with the representatives of the Soviet Government. Therefore I am not very sanguine as to the economic and financial results of the Hague. The Prime Minister attached much greater weight to the Peace Truce. I am not going to repeat what an hon. Member said about the Covenant League of Nations. I entirely agree, but I confess that this truce, which does not appear to have been signed and the terms of which seem to have been rather vague, as I have heard them re-ported—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It was exactly the terms of the Covenant of Non-Aggression of the League of Nations.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I heard my right hon. Friend, who is always glad to say something against the League of Nations if he can—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—interject a remark.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
All I said was that it was exactly the terms of the Covenant of Non-Aggression of the League of Nations; practically the same words.
§ Lord R. CECIL
Are they the same words? There is a great difference. There is nobody to see it carried out. You must have very precise terms, or a body ready to carry them out. However, I do not want to say that the Peace Truce is of no value. On the contrary, anything that makes for peace among the Powers of Europe is always of value. I hope we may rely on the Russian promise of peaceful intention, because, of course, it is a Russian promise, and nothing else, and that is the thing that matters. The only thing you have obtained which you had not got before is the Russian promise, and I hope the promise of M. Tchitcherin will be carried out by the Russian Government. Without making any attack on the Soviet Government, I would say that one of the peculiarities of all Russian Administrations has been the great want of continuity between them, so that a promise given by one member or official of the 1498 Government is not always carried out by other officials. I hope it will be carried out, and I trust very much that it will be an additional security, if additional security be wanted, for keeping the peace definitely for eight months.
That, as I understand it, is what has been gained by the Conference. Has nothing been lost? I am afraid it is too sanguine to say that nothing has been lost. I do not want to go into the various discussions that have taken place about our differences with France. I do not want to go into details, but I am afraid, from all the information we can glean, not only from the French Press, but from those people who have been recently in Paris, that our relations are not so good with France as they were before Genoa. I shall be very glad to receive assurances that that view is mistaken, but it certainly is the impression that any reader of the Press of both countries would get. I do want to say this. I think any breach of ourEntente with France would be a real disaster to Europe. I do not mean by that that we should always conform in policy to French policy. We must have our own policy and must.carry it out. if the French policy is, in the opinion of our Government, leading towards war that would be too great a price to pay even to avoid a shaking of theEntente, but do not let us underrate the grave disadvantage of a breach with France—I will not say "a breach with France," for I hope that is a long way off—but of so serious a disagreement, that the French Government would be unwilling to cooperate with us in a hearty way in European problems. I do not want to develop that more than by that single sentence. I confess if the result of Genoa has been to bring that state of things appreciably nearer I should like to see very important advantages before I thought that Genoa had been a success.
May I, in that connection, say a word as to the methods of negotiation which appear to have been pursued at Genoa? There is a great deal to be said, though I am not an advocate of a return to it, of what was called the "old diplomacy." I do not advocate a return to it, I assure the House, but what was it? It essentially consisted of meetings between Ministers and Ambassadors of different countries, and of discussions which were always reported immediately they had taken place, the records of which were 1499 usually published in due course, and that were secret. Now, that has some advantage. There is, I think, much greater advantage to be gained from really open discussion, discussion in conference, where the public is admitted, where a matter is discussed quite openly, and where, if any Power takes up an unreasonable attitude, it is exposed to the condemnation of the world at large. I do see, however, very grave objections to private conferences under circumstances which make it very uncertain whether the privacy will be respected. You get a series of rumours and suggestions, which do a very great deal of harm by reason of the fact that, as the conferences are private, it is very often exceedingly difficult completely to dispose of the rumours that have been raised. Secrecy has advantages, publicity has advantages; but what may perhaps be described as advertised secrecy, that is to say, conference under conditions which invite a breach of secrecy, seems to me to have very few advantages. I think that some of the difficulties that arose in Genoa were perhaps due to the method employed in that respect.
Apart from the difficulties with France, is it quite certain that our relations with neutral nations were improved? I do not know, but some accounts that we read—of course, we have only got the accounts we received to go by—rather represent the great mass of the work as being done by closed Conferences at which certain selected Powers were present and the others were not. It is quite true that there was always in the dim and distant future a meeting of the commission or the sub-commission, or a plenary meeting which would eventually take place; but, as far as one can judge by the reports in the papers, at any rate, on the political side, very few plenary meetings did take place. I ask the question because I have had brought to my notice what has been said by the neutral Press. I will not read a number of extracts, but one which is, I think, the clearest for my purpose. It comes from the well-known Swedish paper that supported us whole-heartedly right through the War, and which was, I believe, rightly said to be the organ of M. Branting, the Prime Minister of Sweden. This is the extract:Collaboration was to have been the principle of the Conference, and the principle was not applied in a satisfactory manner.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I think it is 11th May. I would not like to pledge myself to the date; I am sorry I have left the document, from which I took this, at home.
§ Lord R. CECIL
It is the "Social Demokraten." There are other extracts I could read from the Norwegian papers, I think from the Dutch papers, and certainly one from the Swiss papers. My feeling is that there has been too much of what I might call the methods of the Supreme Council rather than those of open conference at Genoa. As the third very serious result, in my judgment, I must put the Russo-German Treaty. I confess I think that a very serious matter. It was foreseen, no doubt. Arapprochement between Russia and Germany was a matter which I have no doubt the Government must have counted with for many months and many years.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I daresay the Government have warned the House against it. Certainly, I have done it myself in more than one speech. It was an obvious thing. Still, here it has occurred. It does foreshadow a possible recrudescence of European grouping: a Russo-German group on one side, and then, no doubt, a great attempt to raise a counter-group on the other side. I am sure the House would agree that if such a thing were to take place it would be most disastrous to the cause of peace. I cannot imagine anything worse. I know there are people who lightly talk of ordering the Russians and the Germans to tear up their Treaty, and things of that sort. All that is folly. It is not practical policy. I looked, therefore, with great interest at what the Germans had to say about this in the Blue Book. They say this, and it is their excuse for what they did. They recite that they were asked there on equal terms; they recite the various suggestions which have been made, and which they think contrary to their interests, and they go on:On the other hand, the German Delegation learned that the inviting Powers"—1501 that is the Supreme Council—had initiated separate negotiation with Russia. From information received regarding these negotiations it seemed that an agreement was about to be reached in which the legitimate desires of Germany would not be considered. Under those circumstances the German Delegation was clearly forced to safeguard its interests 'by direct means, and it would otherwise have been confronted—and so on. I do not at all agree with the Germans that that was their proper course to take or that it was a wise course. What. is interesting, however, is that they at any rate assert—
§ Lord R. CECIL
I am going to give the answer. They assert that it was the method adopted at. the Genoa Conference which induced them to do it. They said, "You are going to make an agreement with Russia which will not be in our interest, and therefore we thought it necessary to enter into what they will no doubt call a contract of re-insurance with Russia." What is the reply? This is it:The allegation that the informal discussions with the Russians on the subject of the recognition of debts exposed the Delegation to the risk of being confronted with a scheme unacceptable to Germany, but already approved by the majority of the members of the Commission, is equally unfounded. No scheme would or could have been accepted by the Conference without the fullest opportunity for discussion in the competent Committees and Sub-Committees unless Germany was represented on a footing of equality with other Powers.With the greatest respect to those who drew up that reply, I cannot think it is a very satisfactory one. What, in fact, will be the position, supposing the German allegation is right? An agreement made, contrary to their interests, by the most powerful of those represented at the Conference of Genoa—the convening Powers. It is presented as an agreement made with Russia to a sub-Commission. Germany is there no doubt, and can make what objections she can. Does anyone think she would be in the same position to secure her interest as if the matter had been at first discussed with her as well as with the other Powers? That makes me feel that there was a great deal that was objectionable and deplorable in the methods pursued at this Conference. I cannot feel much doubt, unless my facts 1502 are all wrong, that it was really a kind of prolongation of a Supreme Council with a certain number of added Powers. The great mass of the meetings seem to have been secret meetings at Villas, not with the whole of the countries there represented, or even the whole of the countries on the Commissions and sub-Commissions to which the particular business had been allotted. They were meetings of many of the Powers which composed the Supreme Council, and that is a hopeless plan of restoring peace in Europe. There are two broad principles on which you can conduct international conferences. There is the principle of domination, and there is the principle of co-operation. If you believe in domination, you are right to have, a group of Powers who shall be chiefly consulted, who shall have special rights, who shall have a special position, who shall be consulted first, who shall make up their minds first, and who shall then go to the, other Powers and say, "There it is. You have to accept it or reject it, but you have little or no voice in deciding it." That was roughly the plan which was adopted at the Paris Conference, and I do not think it was a very good one. Or you may have all the Powers with equal rights. Not all with equal influence. No one proposes that. That would be an impossible demand. The great Powers will always have more influence than the small Powers. They will all have a right to be heard on equal terms, a right to present their case formally and openly, and that is the kind of demand which I find made by some of these neutral Powers. That is the other principle—the principle of co-operation. I believe you have to make your decision between the principle of domination and the principle of co-operation. That is the real issue in international politics at present. I have always been a warm adherent of the principle of cooperation. I believe we are internationally on the same road as we have pursued individually. There is a great statement made by one of the greatest journalists who ever lived, that the progress of civilisation is from status to contract—that is from a position of subordination to a position of equal freedom one with another. I believe that it is the line of progress internationally. I am convinced that it is only by adherence to that principle of co-operation, undiluted, without reservation, without any 1503 attempt to come back upon it by actual procedure, in a word, the procedure adopted by the League of Nations—[Interruption.]I know the Prime Minister dare not deny it.
§ Lord R. CECIL
On these principles only will we secure real peace, a real reestablishment of confidence and security in Europe, and it is because I am afraid that in some respect at any rate the Genoa Conference deviated from those principles that its want of complete success is mainly due.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The Noble Lord has delivered one of his characteristic speeches. The Genoa Conference he approves, but the methods were all wrong. That was not the way to do it. He is all for co-operation, especially with France. It is most important. But whenever you try to act with France, that was not the time to have done it and that was not the way to have done it. The Russo-German Agreement he properly describes as a very foolish document. It is a document which was not concluded at the Genoa Conference. It was prepared before the Genoa Conference ever began. He has chosen to put the German view with regard to that. I was anxious not to do anything to embarrass the German Government by entering into the facts, but he has forced me to do so. On the Tuesday, Germany was put upon every important political Commission and Sub-Commission on terms of perfect equality with every other Power. In two or three days, before the work of the Conference had developed at all, Germany goes behind our backs and signs a separate Treaty with Russia. Does anyone say that was justified by anything that was done, after Germany had been put on terms of perfect equality upon this Conference? He says, "Ah, but they were private conversations." Are there no private conversations in the League of Nations? If not, that accounts for a good deal. But are there none? I shall IS e surprised if there are no private conversations between the leading representatives of the various States. I cannot understand a number of men coming together to transact business and insisting on never discussing with the leading representa- 1504 Lives of the various nations, even privately, but insisting on having it in full plenary conference when everyone is there—30 or 40 nations. There never was a more futile way of doing business. The Noble Lord says he never approved of it in Paris. Did he never have private conversations about the League of Nations with President Wilson? Of course he had. He had private conversations with the British Delegation, including myself. He had private conversations with President Wilson constantly with regard to the framing of it, and he was quite right. So had General Smuts. These conversations are an essential part of the transaction of business in any great conference. Take the Washington Conference. That Conference would never have come to such a triumphant end had it not been for the fact that Lord Balfour and Mr. Hughes and the Japanese Delegates had constant conversations together before they ever came into full conference.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I can only say that Mr. Hughes solemnly stated, and Lord Balfour confirmed it, that lie never knew anything whatever about the proposals before they were made.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Certainly he never knew before the first speech, but before any arrangements were come to there were constant conversations between these three leading representatives of the leading Powers there who were most vitally concerned in making the thing a success, and without those conversations success would never have been attained. When the Noble Lord says Conferences can be held without private conversations between the leading men who represent the various States, he is talking something which I do not like to say he must know is a futility, but he ought to know from his experience. What happened? The moment you get everyone there the whole opportunity of prospecting and finding out what the general position is in order to clear the way for further discussions is lost. You either have small conversations or you have everyone there.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has had no experience of Conferences, and I sincerely hope, in the interests of this country, that he will not. I have no hesitation in saying that the 1505 Noble Lord when he represents South Africa at Geneva has private conferences with various people to prepare the presentation of his point of view, to clear the ground and to advance certain propositions, and it is the right course for him to take. I hope he will continue it. I hope he will not be mislead by his own glittering rhetoric into the conclusions which he is trying to force upon us. Then he comes to the case of France. What does he mean? Of course a serious disagreement with France is one of the most disastrous things which could happen to the peace of the world. Cooperation with France, as I said at Genoa, is one of the pillars of the Temple of Peace in Europe. But what does the Noble Lord mean? You must have your own policy. You must have no difference with France, but you must not do what France wants. You must take your own line, but you must not differ from France. You must not have a pact with France. You must reduce the reparations which France is exacting from Germany. You must not have sanctions to compel Germany to pay to France. All the same, you must not quarrel with France. What is the use of talking in that way? This is the politician who pre-eminently talks about the doctrine of honesty. Is it realty honest to go to France and say: "We do not propose to have any disagreement with you," but in your own heart, having made up your mind that whenever France proposes to enforce reparations, whenever France proposes pact to defend her frontiers, you will not agree to it; whenever France asks that the money which Germany owes to her shall be paid to the last farthing you will not support her, but you will resist her? Is that honest politics?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The Noble Lord thinks there is a good deal to b., said for the old diplomacy. Surely he is a champion of the new diplomacy. There, again, he is going to have it both ways. The old diplomacy, if it is disagreeable to the Government, the new diplomacy if it does not suit the Government. There is only one test. He will support the old and he will support the new: in fact, he will support anything so long as it is against the Government.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
What is the League of Nations? Is that the old diplomacy? The League of Nations is taking out of the hands of the old diplomacy the settlement of the most important international questions in the world. The Noble Lord is not merely the champion of the League of Nations, but the only champion. He will not allow anybody else to say a word about it. I am not allowed to say a word in support of it. I have done it, but if I have done it, I do not mean it. The only supporter of the League of Nations, the champion of the League of Nations, champions the old diplomacy in this House. Really the Noble Lord must make up his mind which of these things he really wants. What he said about America and The Hague Conference is all right, but could he get America there? If he could, we should be delighted to get her there. We want America there. We appealed to America to come there, but we have no means of compelling America to come there, not even by the League of Nations.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am not at all sure that that is so. In her last experience of us we: entered into a very admirable agreement.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
There was a Member of this Government there. One word about the neutrals. The Noble Lord quoted an extract from a Socialist paper in Sweden, saying that we treated the neutrals badly. As a matter of fact, Mr. Branting was a member of the very Commission, the very sub-Commission, that settled every line of the document which led up to the 11th May. The neutrals chose their own representatives.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
There, again, facts, of course, are of no concern. [Interruption.] I listened to criticism, and I am entitled to reply. Two representatives of the neutrals were chosen by the neutral Powers. One of them was Sweden. One of them was Mr. Branting, 1507 whose organ the Noble Lord quoted. He was present at every discussion. The whole of that document was settled at those discussions, except for what happened when three jurists were chosen by that body to draft Clause 7. He was there during the whole of the discussions, until he left for Sweden. That was not our fault. If he chose to leave for Sweden, he did it for reasons of his own, but he left a very able representative behind, and the Noble Lord will be shocked to hear that that representative was present even at the private conferences. The two representatives of the neutrals were present even at the private discussions which took place at those monstrous Villa discussions which the Noble Lord deprecates so soundly, and very helpful they both were. So much for what the Noble Lord said.
Now I come to something that fell from my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). I must say that I was rather in despair about that speech. What is the complaint of my right hon. Friend? He first of all complained that he could not very well make a speech to the House until I had first of all given my explanation, when he would know exactly what happened, and then he delivered a prepared speech which had no reference to anything that I had said. He delivered a speech of elaborately prepared condemnation, and I must say they were rather poor, thin, cheap gibes. What is it that he complains of? Peace with Russia? Had he not always insisted upon it? Yes, in words. What would he have done? He condemned everything we did. What would he have done? [HON. MEMBERS: "Wait and see!"] He would have had America there, and he would have settled reparations at the same time. In fact, he would have made a clean job of the whole business. What does he mean? America was invited there, but would not come. France refused to discuss reparations. What would he have done?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Have gone on discussing reparations without her? That is the sort of argument we get. That is the way to consolidate theEntente! You invite France there, and you say, "We propose to discuss repara- 1508 tions with Germany." France would have said, "Very well, we do not mean to do it. We propose to proceed under the machinery of the Treaty." "Very well, we will get along without you." That is the way to consolidate the alliance and friendship with France. This is an indication of the kind of talk that is going on. First of all, we are condemned because, for reasons which are quite obvious, we do not agree with certain proposals which France has made. She is an independent country; so are we. We are each putting our own points of view. We do it quite fearlessly. We come to an agreement eventually, as we have done before, and the only way to come to an agreement is by discussing things quite frankly, every one putting quite frankly his own point of view. They say, "Have anEntente with France. We do not like these disagreements." That is what they say on one side. Then they come to another, and they say, "France is asking too much. We disprove of these sanctions. You will never get peace in Europe so long as the Treaty of Versailles is to be maintained." Which of these two policies is their honest one?
Now I come to what my right hon. Friend would have done. America would not have come, even if he had invited them. France would not have agreed to discuss reparations, even if he had been at the head of the Government. He may be sure of that. France has its definite, clear policy upon that matter. What would he have done? Would he then have said: "We will not discuss peace with Russia until we can settle up reparations with Germany, and have America there." Is that the policy? If it is, why on earth was not that said before we went to Genoa? What would have happened in the meantime? Are we never to make peace with Russia, until we settle up the other matter? I am all for settling reparations, but you are not going to settle reparations unless you carry the judgment of France along with you, and you are not going to do it by flouting the Treaty of Versailles, and by saying that you will go along with it, whether France will or not.
Then the right hon. Gentleman asks: "What were these movements of troops?" He doubted it. The opinion of the Polish Prime Minister is of no account. What the Rumanian Prime 1509 Minister reported to France, to myself, and to others, is of no account. They were there. They had to deal with them. They actually sent troops there to defend the frontiers against this spectre, as it is called. My right hon. Friend said: "Had we not an answer from the Under-Secretary of State a fortnight ago?" Yes, but he might have quoted the whole of that answer. No. I do not mind saying that I was rather surprised, because that is not his method of controversy. I will say that at once. The latter part of that answer surely has a bearing upon what I stated. In fact, it bears out absolutely what I stated. I said that since the 1st January the numbers of Russian forces on the frontiers of Poland and Rumania had been doubled. This is the answer of my Noble Friend.No official information is available respecting the reported Russian concentration on the Polish and Rumanian frontiers.My right hon. Friend stopped there. This is the remainder of the answer:There has been an increase in the number of formations in Western Russia since the beginning of the year, and the effective strength of those formations is believed to have been increased recently by the incorporation of the 1922 class.What does my right hon. Friend mean?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It would have made a very great difference in the opinion of the House—in the effect that it had upon the House. My Noble Friend at that time had no official information; but we had the official information down at Genoa, which came to us from foreign sources, and those sources were the country's concerns. We have the official information now in the War Office on the subject. My Noble Friend did say there was an increase in the formation upon the frontiers. Is that no menace? If my right hon. Friend did not mean 1510 to withhold that from the House I accept it absolutely. That is all that I have to say on this subject. I have not very much to complain of the general tone of the argument or even of the general criticism of my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes). He put a few questions with regard to the method of enforcing these recommendations, which will be answered later on by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, who is going to deal with that particular portion of the subject relating to currency exchanges, transport, credit, and so forth. All I wanted to say is that the right hon. Gentleman treated the Genoa Conference as if it had been completed. The practical difficulties of carrying out the programme is a subject for expert investigation. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) has just told us what ought to have been done. He says that we must find out whether these people are going to restore the property or what they are going to do. That is exactly what these experts are going to do. I hope that he will not change his mind when he finds that they do that. I expect to see the Noble Lord, having forgotten his own speech, delivering a violent condemnation of the very action which he commended to us.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The Noble Lord is quite unconscious of the general character of his own speeches. He has been condemning in one part of his speech what he has been recommending in another.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The Noble Lord never waits for a second speech to contradict the first. He generally goes through the process which he went through to-day, when he commended in one part of his speech complete agreement with France, and in a second part urged that we should disagree with France upon every fundamental proposition.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I want to work with the democracy of France. I 1511 am earnestly desirous that France and Great Britain should work together, but we must work together for peace in Europe, and upon that principle I hope that we shall work as whole-heartedly with the democracy of France as we worked in order to defend Europe against the aggression of her common foe.
Mr. M OSLEY
We have listened to a speech which illustrates admirably the origin of some of the difficulties which beset Europe to-day. The right hon. Gentleman can at any time display an unrivalled casuistry in misrepresenting his opponents. The Noble Lord has stated, as many have stated from these benches, that evidently in the nature of things differences, and grave differences, may arise from time to time between this country and France. But the policy of the Noble Lord is to state those differences frankly, to state them as friend to friend in order that they may be settled. The policy of the Prime Minister is to conceal differences and to issue, in communiques, statements to the effect that complete accord exists, and then to set to work by subterranean intrigue to undermine the settlement to which he has just put his signature. It is that which irritates the French. The Prime Minister has set out on many of these adventurous journeys with the French nation which he now deplores. The trouble is that he always goes home half way and leaves them in the lurch. That is why such bad relations exist between this country and France to-day.
An eminent Frenchman once observed that if you ask a man to accompany you on a tiger shooting expedition and he refuses, it is possibly a matter for some disappointment. But, if he accepts your invitation, starts out on the journey, and then, having reached half way, goes home, you have a subject, not for disappointment, but for considerable anger. The right hon. Gentleman has set out on these policies and has gone halfway through with them and then has come home. That is why bad relationship arose between these countries. The Noble Lord said that differences must arise and that we should state our divergence of view frankly and openly and discuss them with France. That is a wise policy, and if pursued from the very beginning would have led to a far better understanding 1512 than the policy of the Prime Minister, which is to patch up by verbal sophistry agreements, where no agreements exist, and then to set to work by the subterranean methods, of which he is master in international politics as well as in domestic politics, to undermine a settlement.
The right hon. Gentleman has let off some of his fireworks to produce a smokescreen to cover his very precipitate retreat. The right hon. Gentleman may think that he has performed a greater service to himself by this little display to-night than his supporters at Victoria Station were able to perform. I do not think that his supporters performed any great service at all to the right hon. Gentleman. History proves rather conclusively the fact that on the occasion of a great success demonstrations occur without the assistance of a three-line whip. May I remind him of the precedent of Napoleon. When he returned from Jena it was unnecessary for his supporters to organise a demonstration, but when he returned from Moscow it was painfully necessary. The right hon. Gentleman had better leave his reputation in the hands of Mr. Garvin, a gentleman who seems to me to have positively transformed himself into a species of musical doormat, which sings "Hallelujah" every time the Prime Minister wipes his feet on its principles. Let the Prime Minister rely upon his journalistic friends rather than on the efforts of his whips.
The right hon. Gentleman complained that the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) had said nothing in reply to his speech. There was nothing to reply to. What was there in the speech of the Prime Minister? The Prime Minister summoned to his aid all those rhetorical arts of which he is such a pastmaster to disguise the failure of a Conference which had effected nothing, which on its commercial and financial side merely repeated, as the Noble Lord has said, the work of the Brussels Conference, and, in regard to Russia, was not able to effect anything at all. And now the right hon. Gentleman says that the matter of the Russian negotiations is to be referred to a conference of the experts at The Hague, and, in a rather unfortunate passage of his speech, he said he hoped that they would achieve something. Would it not have been better to have summoned that conference of experts to 1513 discuss the basis of negotiation before the Genoa Conference rather than afterwards? If the Conference had been held under the auspices of the League it might have been the case that a proper study by experts would have been devoted to the subject prior to the meeting of the Conference. Then the League of Nations is an organisation, and Genoa was merely a brilliant or not very brilliant improvisation. The right hon. Gentleman was unable to state the achievements at Genoa. He was unable in the course of his speech to prove that anything had been achieved in once more bringing that great country Russia within the comity of nations. He was unable even to announce any solid achievement in the practical, financial and economic difficulties which beset Europe.
The only concrete achievement of the Genoa Conference that I can recognise is that the right hon. Gentleman has succeeded in reconciling the Secretary of State for the Colonies with his pristine enemies, the Bolshevists, whom he has frequently described in such vivid terms. Be has succeeded in persuading the right hon. Gentleman to remain a member of a Government which was engaged in embracing his former foes. More remarkable still, the right hon. Gentleman has persuaded the Secretary of State for the Colonies to violate that great precedent which is reputed to have animated him to a romantic and adventurous career. For the great Napoleon was compelled by an adverse fate to retreat from Moscow. The right hon. Gentleman has been compelled by an equally adverse fate in the shape of the Prime Minister to retreat to Moscow. There to be received in the fatal grip, not of the wintry snow, but of the warm and fraternal bosom of the gentleman whom he had previously described as a monster seated on a throne of skulls. That is the only concrete achievement that I can discover from the, records of the Genoa. Conference. The Prime Minister has been bitterly attacked by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gwynne) for having once again undertaken the, task, with which he has grown familiar, of shaking hands with that which he has previously described as murder. I think the Prime Minister is wise to show no great squeamishness in these matters. If he once started to prosecute inquiries into the 1514 past, the right hon. Gentleman, with his present Liberal tendencies, might even discover some slight difficulty in shaking hands with himself. There is nothing I can find on the asset side of the Genoa Conference except that the Bolshevists have reiterated a pledge they gave in March last not to attack their neighbours—that and the reconciliation of the Secretary for the Colonies with those with whom on former occasions he was on rather bad terms. Those are the only concrete assets in favour of the Genoa Conference. On the debit side, much has occurred that we may deplore. The introduction once again of the Supreme Council method has gone far to undermine any prospect of European reconciliation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where are the Cabinet Ministers?"]
I am happy to see that the Minister of Education, who has entered the Committee, is to be charged with the conduct of our Foreign Affairs during the dinner hour. Possibly the Chief Secretary for Ireland may help him in the benevolent task of reconciliation and goodwill among men. I am happy, indeed, to welcome the arrival of the hero of Balbriggan becoming disguised as the Angel of Peace. We are always glad to see him employing his energies and his vivid oratory in the cause of peace and goodwill, and I have no doubt that many platforms in this country will resound with the hearty notes of the right hon. Gentleman in advancing that great and glorious humanitarian principle.
The Prime Minister, again with that casuistry which distinguishes most of his utterances and to-day's utterance in particular, endeavoured to take up the argument of the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) on the question of these private conferences. The Noble Lord never said that men engaged in a conference, whether under the auspices of the Genoa method or the League of Nations' method, were not at liberty to meet in private and discuss the affairs of the day. What my Noble Friend did say was that it was highly improper that a gathering of Powers, specially denoted by the fact that they were victorious Allies in the recent War, should assemble in a private villa, and from that vantage point should dictate to the rest of the Powers of Europe a policy which had been settled in private. His argument was that such a procedure must inevitably 1515 perpetuate the present divisions and animosities in Europe. He said that the people of this country and of the world must choose between a policy of domination and a policy of co-operation, and that these meetings in private villas of Powers recently victorious in the Great War and there dictating policy to a subjected Europe, was a policy of domination and not that of co-operation on terms of equality, frankness and confidence which alone can bring peace to Europe.
I sometimes feel that the present representatives of this country will never realise that the gaping wounds of Europe cannot and will not be healed by private intrigues in private villas. Those of us who maintain the contrary policy, the policy of co-operation as opposed to that of domination, believe that these wounds can be healed only by frank and open conference under the auspices of the League of Nations and under the methods of that League. Thus, and thus alone, can the basis of peace in Europe be discovered. If that policy be not adopted, we shall live to see Europe drifting once again into a titanic disaster, while those pygmies who represent our statesmanship bandy verbal sophistries—as they did at Genoa—which are hailed by their journalistic sycophants as personal triumphs or electioneering stunts. What a prospect of disaster is presented by Genoa, unless methods and personalities can be changed and personalities and methods introduced which can bring some hope to Europe of alteration in a system which is threatening to bring this country and the world to the verge of immense and irrevocable disaster.
§ Mr. WISE
I have listened very attentively to the last speaker, and, although I do not aspire to his language, I cannot see anything constructive in any part of his speech. I think he does not realise the great difficulties of 34 nations meeting together. I do not suppose he has had the opportunity of attending these international conferences and of realising the great difficulty of even interpreting what is said, and the meaning of what is said when that interpretation is made. I hold that Genoa will eventually prove to have been a great success, and that the Prime Minister's speech will go down historic- 1516 ally as one of the great things he has done not only for Europe., but for the world. We all regret sincerely that America did not come to the Conference, but I think Washington had good reason for not joining and assisting us in Europe. There wore certain conditions attached which were not agreeable to the American Government. The Conference more or less divides itself into three parts. The first is the general settlement of Russia. Speaking candidly, I think it is a bit too early to endeavour to get Russia right. I am in favour of these conferences, but when anybody looks at the position of Russia to-day he must realise the terrible catastrophe which has befallen that country, which owns about one-sixth of the total habitable world, and has a population of about 160,000,000. It is a country where the Government owns everything, but owns nothing. If you look at the position from that point of view you must realise that it will take many years to get Russia back into a stable condition.
One object of the Conference was to endeavour to get trade back to the 1914 level. If we refer to the figures of 1914 we find that France, who made great investments in Russia, had only 4.5 per cent. of the import trade to Russia; that the United Kingdom, who had started in 1910 to make investments in Russia, had 13 per cent. of the trade that the United States of America, which practically did not invest at all in Russia, had 7½ per cent. of the trade; and that Germany, who made no investments in Russia, had 47 per cent. of the trade. I contend that unless you get stability in Germany, and with the assistance of Germany, it will be difficult to get Russia back to stability. Let us suppose that Russia had agreed to the terms set before her, that is, to recognise the debts that were made up to 1914 and to recognise private property. I ant all in favour of Russia recognising privately property. But will it be humanly possible for her to recognise debts previous to 1914 or even private property? A country that is in such a condition can only pay in kind, and I can conceive that even if nationals insisted on the recognition of private property it will take years before Russia can pay the debt which may be due to those nationals. Russia went to Genoa and demanded 3 milliards of gold roubles. What is her 1517 debt now and what was her debt in 1914? In 1914 it was 8,000 million roubles. Possibly some Members may recall a question put down on 30th March by the hon. Member for Acton (Sir H. Brittain). He asked the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs whether he was able to state the figures, in gold roubles, of the Russian Budget for the first nine months of the current year. The reply was rather long and included a letter from Mr. Hodgson to the Marquis Curzon of Kedleston, dated 6th December, 1921, and received here on 19th December. It is drawn out in five paragraphs. I will refer only to the first and fifth. The first paragraph says:The Budget is to be on a basis of gold roubles. Funds will be issued to departments in paper money, at a rate to be fixed by the People's Commissary of Finance every three months, in accordance with the drop in the value of the rouble.Paragraph five says:The deficit, which is estimated to be 230 million gold roubles, is to be covered by a paper issue.Since that was made, there has been a fresh Estimate, and it has been discovered that this particular Estimate is far short of the real figures. The Budget Estimate from January, 1922, to October, 1922, runs into 800 million gold roubles, which is equal to £80,000,000, but if you take it on the paper issue, it comes to a figure that it is quite impossible to explain. I do not think we have invented a name for the figure. It is 150 with 15 noughts after it. That is the only way I can explain it. It is for these reasons that, although I am in favour of these conferences, and although I believe that it is only by conferences we can get to understand each other, I think it is a little early to think of getting anything definite from Russia. We do not know what her debt is at the present time. We know she owes America 193,000,000 dollars. We know she owes us £561,000,000, but beyond that there is no name to describe the deficit in paper roubles. You cannot extend credit unless you get some definite basis for that credit. As regards the Treaty of Rapallo, I, personally, do not think much of it. There is no good in two beggars meeting to make a treaty and although Germany may not be quite so badly off as Russia, there is not really very much difference between the two as far as financial stability is concerned. The problems are indeed very difficult. 1518 The Soviet Government has unlimited power for destroying capital and a desire to spread revolution. Anybody who reads the history of the French Revolution must know that debts were repudiated by France. In Russia is liberty under law to be transformed into law over liberty? I do wish Russia herself would endeavour to assist the chaotic situation in Europe by trying to get something definite in her own country. I feel until she can do something in her own country, she does not deserve to be helped from outside. The "Times" recently referred to the enormous interest that was being paid for Russian credits. A short article from their correspondent at Berne states that the Deutsche Bank at Berlin has informed the Swiss banks by circular, that the Russian Soviet State Bank offers 36 per cent. for depoits on current accounts, and the Deutsche Bank is prepared-to act as intermediary for the deposits. That shows the position of Russia in a nutshell.
My second point is the introduction of Germany into international Society. I think the crux of the whole European situation is the crux between France and Germany. France needs two things—money and security. Germany must be honest and pay to the last farthing. France insists, and I think rightly insists, that she should also have security. We know she wants money; anybody who looks at the last French Budget must realise the enormous deficit that, she has to face, and I think, if one wants to appreciate the position of France, one must try to get into the skin of a Frenchman. Then it is possible to appreciate France's difficulties, and what she has gone through, and the possibilities of her position to-day. In many ways it is tragic. I sincerely hope that Britain and France will keep together. It is vital that this relationship should be soldered, so that we may go forward in the hope of getting the security and the peace which we all require. One of the troubles of Europe to-day is the immense amount which all the nations owe. In pre-War days that amount was £9,000,000,000, now it is £53,000,000,000. It is a gigantic amount, and until you get these important points settled you cannot get stability and get the trade of Europe going as we should all desire. I take one very important document which I do not think has been referred to and which was issued at Genoa. It struck me as indeed containing 1519 a possibility of bringing the nations to peace. I refer to the remarkable document issued by Pope Pius XI. The letter was to the Governments of the peoples of the world and in it was described, as a new spur to universal brotherhood and a new admonition, the disasters likely to befall mankind if efforts for true pacification should fail. Those are important words, and I think they might almost have been spoken or written by our Prime Minister. There is no man more anxious for peace than he.
My third point is that Pan-European peace should be made for a definite number of years. It was discussed at Genoa and although it did not fructify there, we sincerely hope it may result in something really solid. The Sub-Committees at Genoa appeared to me to have done more good, possibly, than the big Conferences. There were Sub-Committees on Transport and on Finance, and the report of the Sub-Committee on Finance was very similar to the proposals in the Brussels Report of September, 1920. It must be remembered that the Brussels meeting was under the League of Nations, who had not the control or, I should say, the power that the Genoa Conference had. The Sub-Committee on Finance discussed the gold standard. It is very easy to talk about the gold standard, but I cannot conceive a real gold standard unless you get the Allied debts and the debts owed to the United States of America settled in some definite form. They also discussed the limiting of paper money. Until we balance our Budgets we cannot possibly limit paper money. What is happening to-day in Germany? She is paying her reparations by issuing paper money, and the people of the world are buying that paper money, which gives her credit in England, America and other countries. If that can be stopped at all, it can only be by Germany balancing her Budget and, possibly, altering the reparation. Another point raised was the co-ordination of gold. Again, that is very difficult, as 45 per cent. of the gold of the world is in America. We, as a united Empire, are the great producers of gold. I think it would be very difficult to get co-ordination of gold at the present time, with America holding 45 per cent. I am sure we all desire peace and co-ordina- 1520 tion, but I should like to refer to what Mr. Gladstone said in 1869:The statesmen of to-day—(that was 1866)—have a new mission opened to them; the mission of substituting the concert of nations for their conflicts and of teaching them to grow great in common and to give to others by giving to themselves.I think that is the policy of our Prime Minister. I think the Genoa Conference has been a success, and I feel confident if the Prime Minister continues on the same policy of having conferences and getting nations to meet, that in due time we shall have peace, permanent peace, the peace with security which we all desire.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I venture for the first time to say a few words upon this subject of foreign policy, and I approach it purely from the standpoint of what I conceive to be the view of the man in the street. I frankly confess that, having listened to the various speeches from the leaders on both sides, I am somewhat tired of these sophistries bandied about from one side to the other. I am a little disposed to say, a plague upon your party manœuvres. Let us try to remember that Europe is in need of resuscitation and reorganisation. The plain man in the street wants one thing, and one thing only, and that is peace. He wants peace, because he is fully conscious of the fact that only through the medium of peace can he have restored to him that happiness and contentment which he has the right to believe ought to be his log in his days, after the greatest war in all history. Before the Prime Minister went to Genoa, we had a discussion in this House as to the purpose of that Conference, and the Government, by way of initiating that discussion, placed upon the Order Paper a vote of confidence in itself. We on these Benches—we, at least, who belong to the Labour party—placed on the Paper all Amendment to the official Resolution, and I voted for that Amendment, not because I did not desire to see the Genoa Conference succeed, but because I could not believe that the gentlemen who were responsible for the Versailles Treaty could in the slightest degree make the re-organisation of Europe possible through the medium of Genoa. Genoa was paraded in the public Press as being the forerunner of the new Europe, and the Prime Minister led us to believe that if he were just given this one last chance Europe would then have the possibility of finding 1521 itself at peace. The Prime Minister has returned and has given us this afternoon an interesting, but not very illuminating, account of what actually has happened at Genoa. Indeed, I think I might say with accuracy, that we have heard far more about Genoa from the public Press than we have heard from the leading citizen of the country in this House this afternoon.
What has the Prime Minister told us? I invite hon. Members opposite to tell us frankly: What has he told us of the achievements at Genoa? What has been done? As the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) pointed out, quite rightly, he devoted nearly an hour of his speech to the discussion of the internal conditions of Russia, a discussion of Russia's philosophy of government, Russia's revolutionary point of view, and so on, but apart from that examination of the Russian mind, he was unable to point to a single tangible achievement to the credit of the Prime Minister as the result of the Genoa Conference. But those of us who have followed the doings of the diplomats at Genoa have been able to draw conclusions of our own. The Prime Minister was able to point to the peace pact, which is to last for a very short time. For my part, I am glad there is a peace pact established, even for that short time, because, however brief that peace may be, it is all to the good of Europe that they should be able to realise that a peace is possible if only they approach it from the proper point of view, and therefore I am very glad of this very brief peace pact. But I would draw attention to this, that, in the summary which the Prime Minister has attempted of the Genoa Conference, singularly enough the relationship of this country with France, which was one of our leading Allies in the War, was the one unmentionable subject as the result of Genoa. The Prime Minister dared not mention it. He was so fearful of the subject, it was so dangerous a problem, that he dared not discuss it in this House this afternoon. That, to my mind, is an indication of the complete failure of the Genoa Conference. It shows that, as the result of discussions abroad, one of our leading Allies in the War has been almost completely alienated from us, and alienated for reasons which a very large number of us, if we cannot actually say it with authority, can at least guess very accurately, namely, that it has been due 1522 to France's militaristic atmosphere and spirit at this particular moment.
I might say, quite frankly and with confidence, that the people who belong to the working class movement of this country are watching with very great misgiving the present attitude of the French Premier, Monsieur Poincaré. We are not prepared to contemplate any more the possibility, either through an open military alliance or through an understanding such as existed between this country and France, before the War, our being drawn into another international broil on account of misunderstandings which are not made absolutely public and open to the light of day, and I think it is well for the Government to be told that the working classes of this country, before they commit themselves to another war of the character of the late one, will want to know by what authority the foreign Ministers of this country have committed us to any alliance, open or implied, with foreign nations in this sense or in that. There is another significant fact emerging from the Genoa Conference, and that is that there seems to be a new alignment of Powers. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) referred to it, and I think it so important that it is well that it should be underlined. I do not regard the Rapallo Treaty as being so terrible in its significance as the right hon. Gentlemen who have previously spoken seemed to imply. I think it a good thing that Russia and Germany should be able to come to an agreement, provided that that agreement should not tend to be an exclusive agreement, and provided that they leave the door open for the enlargement of that agreement, so as to enable other nations to come in, and so I understand the published terms of that Treaty of Rapallo. In so far as those two nations, which after all represent by far the largest proportion of the population of Europe, a population of some 200,000,000, have been able to arrive at an agreement which, to my mind, is likely to lead to the resuscitation of European activity, then the Rapallo Treaty will be one of the first really constructive achievements that has stood to the credit of any European nation since the late War.
I would like to see that idea contained in the Treaty extended, but there is a danger, which gives one a little mis[...] giving. One knows full well that before the late War the Chancelleries of Europe, 1523 as it were, were divided into two separate and opposing camps, and it would be most unfortunate and, indeed, very regrettable if the Rapallo Treaty did eventuate in a new alignment of European Powers, Germany and Russia on the one side, and our own country with, perhaps, France and Italy and, possibly, Japan on the other side, leading to new co-operative groups of Powers, thus leading to suspicion, suspicion begetting armaments, and armaments once more begetting a new war. Therefore I trust, in the interests of European, if not of world, peace, efforts will be made to extend the Rapallo Treaty, so as to include all the leading nations at this particular moment.
What exactly is the attitude of our own Government in respect of the present position of Japan in Siberia? It is a most important question, because, after all, we might well find aurselves drawn into a new broil through the presence of Japan at that particular point, and I think we ought to make it perfectly clear—I speak for myself, of course, without committing other people—that there is a growing opinion which looks with very great misgiving upon the presence of Japan in that part of the world. There is another point I would like to make concerning Russia. Let me say, by way of preface, that I do not subscribe to the Bolshevist theory of government. I disagree with it, but if it be the Russian way of governing Russia, that is their affair and not ours. I have noticed with some interest, if not surprise, constant expression given to a feeling in this House that the proper attitude to take towards Russia is to do nothing. Really that is an impossible point of view. Either you must frankly make an effort to draw Russia into the Concert of Europe, or openly declare that she is free to make any other alliances she wishes. Either be friends with Russia, or openly declare that you are enemies of Russia. You cannot have it both ways. You say you dislike Russia because of her revolutionary opinions at this moment. You did not make that particular objection regarding Serbia when King Peter ascended the Serbian throne. He ascended by means of a revolution, and a revolution of blood. You broke off diplomatic relationship with Serbia for a very brief 1524 period, but, as soon as it became convenient for you, regardless of the fact of that bloody revolution, you quickly made friends with Serbia, because it was diplomatically convenient at the moment. You did not care twopence whether King Peter came to his throne through a revolution of blood. Similarly with the Turkish revolution. You overlooked the character of that revolution, and quickly made friends with the new power in Turkey, because it was diplomatically convenient. It may not be diplomatically convenient for certain people in this country to make diplomatic friends with Russia, but it is industrially convenient: it is humanly convenient; it is convenient on good, solid, well-founded international grounds, for if Russia be left outside the community of nations in Europe at this moment, a large number of our people in this country are deprived of the opportunity of making goods which, in more normal conditions, Russia could take from us. Therefore, in the interests of the eventual return of our people to employment we should begin seriously to reflect upon this policy towards the Russian people. I do not emphasise the argument, but, after all, it is fair to point out that the Russian people made very great sacrifices during the late War, and, if that be so, I think it is fair and just that you should have regard to those sacrifices as well as to the present shortcomings, if they are shortcomings, of the leaders of that nation.
There is another question upon which I want to touch. Can we get this evening from the Government a little light as to the retinues of oil interests which appeared at Genoa? Will the spokesman for the Government to-night be good enough to tell us about those people who descended on Genoa like the hosts of Sennacherib, some representing the Standard Oil companies, some representing the Shell group, and some representing the Dutch companies? Shall we have a little light as to how far they had influence on our own foreign policy there? Can we have a little light, further, as to how far their interests were reflected in the policy of other countries, and, therefore, influenced our own? I think it is right to say that the miracle of the New Testament with which we are most familiar is the miracle of turning water into wine. I think the miracle of the new capitalism will be the miracle of con- 1525 verting blood into oil, and I think it would be well to be informed how far these oil interests of the world at this moment are dictating and dominating the foreign policy of our own country. Material interests are often apt to become more important even than human interests, and it is true, as an early thinker once declared:Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together,and they appear to have been fairly abundant, so far as Genoa was concerned, during the last two months.
We who belong to the Labour movement are very anxious to see the recognition of the Russian Government an established fact in the immediate future, not, I repeat, because we agree with their point of view, but because we think that, for good or for ill, they are the accepted Government of the day in Russia. They have as good a right to say that they are, as hon. Members have to say that they are not, and I am perfectly sure that if it came to an examination of one's right to speak for a people, M. Tchitcherin could very aptly invite the Prime Minister to say how much more of a mandate did he get in 1918 over and above the hanging of the Kaiser—which has not been done, I observe—and making the Germans pay? The interests of the world, I think, demand the recognition of this Russian Government, not, I repeat, out of sympathy with its Governmental ideas—not at all—but because of the right of every people to be governed along the lines which they themselves think best. That being so, I think if that first step were taken, we should then be able to start upon the road towards that new peace in Europe which we all desire. The great need of Europe is peace, a peace without armaments, a peace without any danger of war. As a matter of fact, in spite of all the conferences at which hon. Members opposite have been represented, there are more possibilities of war in 1-ilurope to-day than in July, 1914. That is a result of the type of peace that has been set up. We say it is time to get back to normal conditions, and the only way of meeting unemployment to-day is for us to have done with this idea that the interests of one nation are essentially opposed to the interests of another. They are not. The peoples of the world are one. The time is coming when, if diplomats will not do it, the working- 1526 class people will establish a unity which will make the machinations of diplomats and statesmen futile the world over. The only way of doing that is by having done with war implements and armaments, and establishing Europe once more on a basis of international concord and credit.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE
I view Genoa from a different angle altogether to that from which the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken sees it. His solution of the evils of Europe at the present time is to recognise Russia. That, if I may say so, is the bee in the bonnet of the Labour party, not only in this House, but all over the country. They go down to platforms; you can hear it from every orange-box in the country, that the way to cure unemployment is to recognise Russia. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes, recognition of Russia has always been held up, if not by Members in this House—because the argument can be so easily proved to be ridiculous—yet outside the House, and by hon. Members' disciples in the country. You can hear it at every street corner, that what we ought to do is to recognise the Bolshevists, and then we can have plenty of employment. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken used that argument in a modified way.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE
Well, it is so regarded by many of the friends of the hon. Gentleman. However, let us consider what our trade with Russia was before the War. It was then 5 per cent. of our ordinary trade. We have at the present time three-fifths of that in trading with those parts of Russia which have split off from old Russia, such as Esthonia, Latvia, Poland, and so on. We are doing very nearly as much trade as before the War. I am afraid that even if the Bolchevists could be recognised, that is to say, if they would agree to certain international amenities which they have been asked to do at Genoa, and refused to agree to, that the- result of it would not be much beyond what I have stated. Even if they could pay for goods which were sent to them—which they could not do—even if they could do that, the increase in the trade of this country would not be worth practically anything at all. We could hardly do any more trade than we are doing, although we might possibly 1527 do more with Germany. I want to allude to that later.
I was struck by the argument used by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones) in relation to France. He made a very anti-French speech, I thought. He accused France of adhering to a militarist policy simply because France says: "We made a Treaty at Versailles and we wish it carried out to the letter.' France says that under that Treaty, by paragraph 18, they are entitled to take certain measures, such as occupying the Ruhr district, and that was not to be regarded, according to the paragraph, by Germany as an act of war. The French are only insisting on the carrying out of the Versailles Treaty. When the hon. Member for Caerphilly says what he does about the French people, and says that he is speaking for the working classes of this country, I assure him he only speaks for a small section of the working classes. The Labour party do not represent the working classes. That is another bee in their bonnet. A few do represent a section of the working classes of this country, but not by any means the majority, or, of course, some of us would not be here.
As regards the Genoa Conference, I was one of those who in this matter voted against the Government. I did so because I did not believe it was a good thing to hold a conference, more especially in regard to the suggestion at that time that Russia should be recognised. Everything we said at that time has come true. There is nothing really which has turned up at Genoa except the eight months' Peace Pact, which in the first place does not mean anything at all, because the Bolshevists, who are the principal people concerned, never pretend to keep any treaty. They are not men of honour. They openly proclaim that they only go into these conferences and make treaties with people in order to push their propaganda, and so on, in other countries. We hear of their pacts, but whether they are made at San Remo or at Genoa makes no difference. As a matter of fact, there never was any great danger during the next eight months of any Army being on the march. That was one of the reasons given at Genoa for the agreement. Much as the Bolshevists would like to march, they cannot do it. They have not much in the way of transport behind them, and 1528 you cannot move a huge Army of 2,000,000 men into a foreign country and keep them supplied and equipped without enormous transport preparations and facilities. That probably conies about by the mercy of providence; therefore we need not be afraid of any attack by the Bolshevists at the present time, although, of course, the treaty with Germany might lead up in the future to a very dangerous situation.
The ostensible object of the Conference was to revive confidence and bring about better trade conditions in Europe. We have been told that certain resolutions have been passed, but really we have not been given any meat in the speech of the Prime Minister. We have been told nothing really useful as to what has been clone in that direction, and I for one still believe that it was a mistake to hold a Conference. It is quite true we all are willing and anxious that everything should be done to cement peace. I believe, however, that the proper way to cement peace is to see that Treaties like the Versailles Treaty are carried out and that you cannot, peace being a plant, pull it up by the roots every month or so by a Conference and put it down again in the ground and expect it to continue in normal growth. You cannot, I say, do that with peace. Peace is a thing which grows up gradually and consists in the building up of friendships, especially after a tremendous cataclysm like the Great War. I believe it is far better to let the Russians keep out of Europe for the present, for it must be obvious that it cannot really matter to Europe. When they are ready to give the ordinary guarantees of every civilised nation to those who want to travel in their country and wish to do business there, then we may recognise them, and perhaps even help them with trade credits, but not until then.
I would like to remind hon. Members opposite that that view is shared by the two greatest democracies in the world next to our own, namely, the United States and France. Both those countries are against the recognition of Russia, and they are both against granting loans or trading with Russia until they have altered their habits. In the case of the countries which have been mentioned where revolutions have taken place, they did not massacre anything like the number of people which the Russians have done. According to one Russian Bolshevist publication, no less than 1529 1,766,000 men, women, and children have been executed by these villains. Surely there is a great difference between the Portuguese revolution, which was comparatively peaceful as revolutions go, and the case of Russia, where the present Government got into power by committing such frightful cruelties and atrocities. If hon. Members could visualise a crowd of 1,766,000 people gathered together in Trafalgar Square, or perhaps it would be better to say Hyde Park, I think that that would bring home to them the holocaust which has been made in Russia.
In order to get rid of our terrible state of unemployment we want to push our trade. The trade we do with Europe is not our biggest trade. We carry on most of our trade with countries outside Europe and within the British Empire. Our own Empire takes a greater percentage of our trade than Europe, and so do other countries outside Europe. Our trade with Europe during 1920, which is the last year for which the figures are available, shows that we imported £446,000,000 from Europe, and from other countries £925,000,000. We imported no less than £559,000,000 from the British Empire. In the same year our exports to Europe were £625,000,000 and to other countries £405,000,000, whilst we exported to different parts of the British Empire £526,000,000. It is true that to the whole of Europe we did export a little more than we did to the British Empire, but there is not very much difference.
I suggest that the best thing we can do is to have a conference of the representatives of the British Empire and ask the Government and the Cabinet to turn their energies towards calling together an Imperial Conference to deal with trade questions, in order to bring about the granting of credits, if possible, from this country to push our Imperial trade. We are much more likely to benefit in that way, and we are more likely to benefit our people overseas. We know how much more valuable they are to us than any foreigners. I believe in nationalism and not internationalism. The Prime Minister alluded to selfish nationalism. Many people go to the other extreme, and they are always advocating internationalism, but we ought first of all to look to our own interests. We ought to build up the trade of the British Empire and our own country, and not go running about chasing will-o'- 1530 the-wisps like the trade of Russia. I hope that hon. Members belonging to the Labour party will not continue to lay so much stress on Russian trade, no matter what they may desire in the shape of recognising Russia, because the trade of Russia, even if it is recognised, cannot possibly be of any great value. I do not think that the Prime Minister has really come back from Genoa with anything which is of much value. Nobody denies the energy, the brilliancy and the industry with which he has tackled his work at Genoa, but it is the policy which the Prime Minister and the Cabinet has adopted at this Conference in regard to trade with Russia with which we disagree. I hope that before the Hague Conference takes place, we shall be assured that America will come to it, but if France refuses to go to The Hague as well as America, it will be far better not to hold that Conference, and devote the whole of our energies to solving the very serious and terrible problems which are before us in our own country, in Ireland, in the British Empire, in India and in our Colonial possessions. I think if the Government would call a conference of representatives of the British Empire with the object of encouraging migration within the Empire, it would do more good to this country and to the world in general.
§ Mr. G. BARNES
The first word I wish to say is in reference to the last word of the hon. Member who has just sat down. I think there is too much disposition on the part of hon. Members to push one particular idea to the exclusion of all others. I am in favour of other methods besides those embodied in this Conference in order to get a better state of things in Europe, and in order to get employment for our own people. But that is no reason why I should condemn what has been done at Genoa. I have listened to a good deal of this Debate, and I have been rather disappointed with it for several reasons. Here is a great effort being made for the pacification of Europe and getting our men into employment and obtaining some security for peace in the world for some time to come, and I should have thought under those circumstances that we should have had a note of encouragement from hon. Members instead of which they have been laying 1531 emphasis on the negative side rather than on the positive side of the Conference.
The League of Nations has been brought into this question in such a way as to rather damage it. In my opinion the League of Nations is the hope of the world, and therefore I am all the more sorry that it should have been made the subject matter of recriminations and personalities in this House to-day. Let me say that I believe with the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) that if it had been possible to have had a conference of the League of Nations that method would have been rather better than the methods which have been adopted at Genoa. But what is the good of talking like that. The League could not have convened such a conference. What was the main object of the Genoa Conference? It was to get Russia back into the comity of nations. The very first thing that should occur to any hon. Member making that suggestion is the repeated declaration of Russia that she would have nothing at all to do with the League of Nations. Therefore if the Conference had been convened by the League of Nations, you would have had no Russians there at I regret the bandying about of the League of Nations in a way which seems to me detrimental to that League.
I am sorry also that a good deal has been said that will not in any way tend to improve our relations with France. There again words have been bandied across the Floor which will not have a good effect on our future relations. I believe, as we all of us believe, that we must do everything possible and even stretch the point a great deal in order o continue our relations with France, for that is the pillar upon which European peace must depend. The very fact of our common experience from 1914 onwards, the experience of four and a half years of dreadful war and slaughter, that very fact in itself must have sunk deep into the minds and consciences of the people, not only of this country, but also of France, and it should be a great consideration with us to do nothing and to say nothing which will in any way endanger the relations between the two countries. I am rather sorry to think that something has been said to-day in that way. Let me again emphasise that there has been too much of a tendency on the part of some Members to lay too 1532 great a stress on the negative features of the Conference. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) said that the Genoa Conference had been a complete failure, yet almost in the next sentence he admitted it had given us an eight months' truce. Is an eight months' truce nothing at this time of the day? It seems to me that if we got nothing else out of the Conference every single man in this House ought to be grateful for that.
§ Mr. BARNES
And I think we might reduce our Navy a good deal more, but that is not the point. Some time ago statements were made about a 10 years' peace, and the position is not so satisfactory to-day from the international point of view as it was when those statements were made. I think if there was nothing else to commend this Conference this eight months' truce must be considered a feather in the cap of the Prime Minister. Does it not keep the door open? What happened at Genoa? Those who have been watching will know that the economical question, the question of the ownership of property, really hung up the Conference. The chief aim was to get a pact of European nations so that we might get back to work in peace and security. That was the main object of the Conference, but it was held up by questions about the ownership of property in Russia. Directly we get those questions settled, as I hope we shall by the people best qualified to settle them at The Hague, then we may get on with the larger questions of getting Russia sonic-how or other into the comity of nations and thus have some security for the peace of Europe. The hon. and gallant Gentle man who last spoke said a good deal about the question of getting Russia[...]to the comity of nations. He produced some figures to show the small amount of our trade with Russia, and then he poured ridicule on the Labour party for being so anxious to resume trade with Russia when there was so little really 1533 involved. I want Russia brought into the comity of nations, not in order to get back the 5 per cent. or 6 per cent. of trade, but in order to get rid of the army which Russia now has. As a matter of fact, she has 1,500,000 armed men at the present moment, and that is the most sinister element in Europe to-day. If you have 1,500,000 armed men in Russia, how can you expect other countries to reduce their armies and navies? The main obstacle in Europe—the main obstacle to that peace which we all desire—is to be found in this great army.
The Prime Minister has put up a magnificent fight. If he had succeeded, as we should have liked, it would have been a great thing, but there are sometimes successes even in failure, and I believe that the Prime Minister has emphasised the importance and enhanced the prestige of this country by standing up once more, as he has frequently done since the War, as the champion of getting all the countries in Europe, including Germany, into a pact which is to secure peace. I believe that Russia is the most dangerous, not only because she has this Army of 1,500,000 men, but because of the fact that the resources of Russia may be exploited and organised by the fertile brain of the German. The danger is that we may have these two great peoples, numbering altogether, I suppose, 250,000,000, the one with the resources, and the other with the brains to organise and exploit them. If that comes about, if you are going to have that as a fore-runner of the two groups in Europe, then, to my mind, the outlook is indeed very black.
I believe we are partly responsible for it. We have, I will not say refused admission to Germany into the League of Nations, but we have not taken the part we should have done in encouraging Germany to apply for admission, and that is very largely the root of the trouble which we find to-day. I should like to see that policy reversed, and I should like to have it made known somehow that this country stands for strengthening the League of Nations by making it a universal League of all nations in Europe, and then, I believe, America, seeing that we are at last taking the obvious course of putting our own house in order, may also come in. But, whether she does or not, we have got ourselves into this trouble by keeping Germany out of they 1534 League of Nations, and thereby throwing her into the arms of Russia. The Prime Minister, I believe, has made heroic efforts to undo that policy at Genoa. I want to say no word of reproach or recrimination, but I desire to congratulate him on having made a great fight, and I thank him for it.
Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorbals (Mr. G. Barnes) ended his very interesting speech by saying that the Prime Minister at Genoa had endeavoured to undo some of his mistakes in the past.
Well, the right hon. Gentleman, with all his admiration for the Prime Minister, implied that at these international conferences he had, not to put it higher, committed several mistakes. I am bound to say that I was rather surprised at the hour at which the Prime Minister rose to make his second speech. The Committee understood, when he asked for its indulgence—which, by the way, was not necessary—for a second speech, that it would be delivered at the end of the day; but, instead, the Prime Minister rose before 8 o'clock, when it was quite obvious that there were many criticisms still to be made by hon. Members, to which criticisms the right hon. Gentleman, of course, will not reply. In the course of his second speech words were bandied across the House which were eminently characteristic of the Prime Minister and his methods. I wondered whether, when the Prime Minister dilated at great length upon his objections to the old diplomacy, what the Leader of the House, who was sitting beside him, thought of what he said; because the Leader of the House, in a speech which was reported in the Press of Saturday last, and to which I had the privilege of listening, proposed the health of the late French Ambassador, and in the course of that speech he said:I am afraid, Monsieur Cambon, that you and I be-long to a generation that is passing away, a generation that feels that there is much to be said for the old diplomacy.I wondered what the Leader of the House thought of the Prime Minister's observations about the old diplomacy. Then a passage of arms took place in which were introduced the words "honesty" 1535 and "policy." I venture to suggest to the Prime Minister what in his international relations would be the honest policy, and would be more likely to lead to a better understanding between ourselves and France than any of these conferences upon which he has been engaged, and that is to acknowledge the mistakes he has made during the past three years, and to ask France to talk out the whole situation frankly in order that a general agreement might be arrived at. But the Prime Minister has never done that. Instead, he has dragged France from one Conference to another. Before going to those Conferences, he has agreed with the French Prime Minister upon an agenda and upon resolutions, and that certain things shall not be discussed; but on every occasion at the Conference he has tried to manœuvre the French into a false position. That is the situation in which we find ourselves to-day, and it is those methods and that practice which undoubtedly gave rise to much of the misunderstanding which occurred at Genoa. The Prime Minister, in his opening remarks, drew attention to the objects for which the Conference at Genoa was summoned—the restoration of trading and financial.relations, the improvement of diplomatic relations, and other objects of that nature; and he suggested that time alone could show whether or not the Conference in those particular respects had been a success. I noticed, however, that towards the end of his speech—the period of sunsets and mountain tops—the Prime Minister said that the Conference has already accomplished great things. If the Prime Minister had said what was in his mind, he would have said that Genoa has had one achievement from his point of view, and that is that it has established contact with Russia—a contact which did not previously exist. I venture to say that that contact is not in itself a necessarily useful thing. If it be an achievement, it is at the moment an achievement of a purely abstract nature. The results of that contact, so far as Great Britain is concerned, can only be judged by future events, and it is yet too early to refer to Genoa, as the Prime Minister did in an interview reported in the Press, as a landmark in our history.
1536 On the other hand, it is quite clear that there have been concrete disadvantages associated with the Genoa, Conference. In the first place, it cannot be said that it has been helpful to the League of Nations' policy. I believe that even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorbals will agree with me in that. The right hon. Gentleman put his finger on the spot when he pointed to the omission of His Majesty's Government to encourage Germany to enter the League, as being one of the reasons why Genoa might be described as a, failure. I view with grave misgiving, arising, as it does, directly out of that failure on the part of His Majesty's Government to encourage Germany to come into the League, the Rapallo Treaty, which has been concluded between Russia and Germany. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorbals pointed out that one of the greatest dangers from which Europe is suffering to-day is the standing army of 1,500,000 men, which is round the frontiers of Russia. The Prime Minister referred to the Russo-German Military Treaty, to which reference has been made in the Press, as a forgery. With regard to that, I want to repeat a question which was put by another hon. Member, and I hope the Secretary of State for War will reply to it. Have the War Office received any information, from those gentlemen whom it employs for such purposes, with regard to this Treaty, and, if so, is, what has appeared in the Press a forgery or is it not?
There are other directions in which to my mind the Genoa Conference has not been helpful, and one of these is in connection with our relations with the United States of America. The Prime Minister, in his opening remarks, made no reference at all to the United States. In his second speech he said that he regretted that the United States had not taken part in the Conference. It is not enough to regret that. What is wanted is a real understanding of the situation in the United States, and the ordinary courteous diplomatic methods of dealing with her Government. What happened at Genoa? When at Cannes it was decided to invite the United States of America to take part in the Genoa Conference. I think I am correct in saying that the United States Secretary of State saw for the first time in the public Press in Washington that 1537 this invitation was to be issued. Is that a correct method of dealing with a friendly Power? Is it likely to induce that Power to fall in with the arrangements that you are going to make? Is it not more likely to lead to a feeling that the hand of the recipient of the invitation is to be forced by its premature publication?
What happened at Genoa in relation to The Hague? I put the question to the Leader of the House a few days ago. I asked him:If, prior to the issue of the invitation to the United States Government to attend the proposed Conference at The Hague, steps were first taken to ascertain at Washington whether the invitation was likely to be acceptable to that Government?That is the ordinary diplomatic method of procedure. The Leader of the House, in reply said:Steps were taken informally, through the United States Ambassador in Rome, to enquire whether an invitation to participate in the work of The Hague Commission would be acceptable to the United States of America. The views of the Secretary of State upon the subject are contained in the message which was communicated to the Press by the United States Government.Yes, but that leaves out a very material point, which is, that before any reply was received by the United States Ambassador, Mr. Childs, at Genoa, as to whether or not the invitation was likely to be acceptable, the invitation was issued. No delay was allowed in order to ascertain whether the invitation was likely to be acceptable; it was issued, and again the United States Government were placed in a false position.
It is not by methods such as these that you are going to induce the United States Government, or her people, to take the interest in European affairs which is necessary to the financial and economic reconstruction of the Eastern hemisphere. I venture to lay down, without the slightest fear of contradiction, that if you really wish to achieve the economic reconstruction of Europe you must take the United States Government and the United States people with you. I say, further, that the Prime Minister has either utterly failed to understand that or has totally ignored it. In the very interesting speech to which we listened from the hon. Member for Ilford (Mr. Wise), who on financial and economic subjects always gains the respectful ear of the House, he laid particular stress 1538 upon this point, and no doubt he could have developed it at very much greater length He said:You will not get a real gold standard unless the Allied debts are settled in some definite form.He said that without the United States you could not settle these Allied debts in any definite form. We owe them some £50,000,000 in interest on the debt each year, and, indeed, it is not too much to say, that without the United States, and without the full and cordial co-operation of her Government and people, we shall never really get down to the economic problems with which we are confronted at the present time.
In saying that, I lead up to this, that in all the circumstances particular account ought, to have been taken of the susceptibilities of the United States in relation to the Russian problem. Was that done? No, of course it was not. No attempt was made to do it. Whose fault it was I am unable to say, but I presume that in view of the fact that no representative of the Foreign Office, except its legal adviser, was present at Genoa—
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Cecil Harmsworth)
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department was present.
With all due deference to the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, I cannot accept the suggestion that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department is a representative of the Foreign Office.
He never went there in the sense of being a representative of the Foreign Office. With all respect to my hon. Friend, I really cannot accept that. He is a sort of appanage of both Departments; he has got a Department of his own. For certain purposes he may be tied to the Foreign Office, but does he represent the Foreign Office in this House? Of course he does not. That Department is very ably represented by my hon. Friend. As I say, no particular account was taken of the susceptibilities of the United States in 1539 regard to Russia. Quite apart from Genoa, the United States was not sounded as to whether she would participate in The Hague. She was not sounded as to in what manner she would be inclined to join in an exploration of Russian economic problems. I venture to say—the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War may think it comic—
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
No, I do not think it comic, I think it incorrect that the United States was not sounded as to The Hague. The opposite is the fact.
As the right hon. Gentleman says that, I must trouble the House with chapter and verse. Perhaps he was not listening when I referred to it a moment or two ago. What did happen? At Genoa, the United States Ambassador, Mr. Childs, was asked by the French representative to convey to Washington a suggestion that the Powers, including the United States, should co-operate in an expert investigation of Russian affairs. Is that correct? Yes, it is. Mr. Childs having submitted this outline of a plan, the State Department lost no time in replying that the United States had always been ready to join in arranging an inquiry by experts, but that the Government naturally desired fuller information before committing itself. So far so good. What happened? While this reply was on its way to Genoa the invitation to The Hague was apparently on its way to Washington. Is that the way to sound a friendly Power? It may be the methods of the Prime Minister and his colleagues, but it is not the method by which frank and cordial co-operation can be obtained.
What was the United States prepared to do? I lay emphasis on this point. The United States is prepared to join in an exploration of Russian economic problems:The United States Government believes that a Commission of recognised experts might with advantage go into Russia to make an intimate study of the actual needs of that nation and the means of meeting those needs. The United States is ready to embark with other Powers on any purely scientific investigation of the conditions in Russia, and of the steps necessary to bring about commercial, industrial, and financial revival in that country.1540 Is there anything in that with which we cannot agree? Is it not worth while to bring the United States into Europe on conditions such as those? Why have we not attempted in any sense to suggest to the United States, if she really is willing, as her State Department says she is, to enter once again into the European financial and economic problems, co-operation on conditions such as these? Why is that not done? Do you mean to say if the Prime Minister said he was willing to accept an invitation issued by the United States for an inquiry under those conditions the House would not give him a more genuine vote of confidence than he has ever received from it? Of course it would. I hope it is not yet even too late. The Hague has been arranged—an indefinable something which may be as great a fiasco as some of the conferences which have preceded it. But let the Government even now approach the United States. Let them ask the United States the conditions under which they would be wiling to cooperate with us in these serious problems which confront us. Then and then only will the Prime Minister and his Government be doing something for the real restoration of the European economic and financial situation.
§ Sir CHARLES OMAN
I wish to give the Committee a message from those with rather Victorian proclivities, who look on the whole matter, not as a question of opportunism and inopportunism, but as a matter of right and wrong. We have witnessed to-day the coming back from Genoa of our Prime Minister with his report. I wish to correlate that fact and that report with a great rule which the Prime Minister laid down last autumn, when he gave, as his line of guidance for the future in dealing with certain difficult problems:We must not choose, we must look to those who can deliver the goods.Twice has the Prime Minister gone to those who can deliver the goods. The first time it was to the present Irish Provisional Government. Have they delivered the goods? Are they delivering the goods?
§ Sir C. OMAN
I accept the correction. The second time was to an even more 1541 strange race of people, the Bolshevists of Russia. The Prime Minister has come hack with the report of his strange experiences in endeavouring to carry out his mission in Genoa—to "the people who can deliver the goods." First of all, these particular people have not any goods to deliver; secondly, they would not deliver them if they could; and, thirdly, it requires talents, such as I hope are not to be found in this House, not even on the Front Benches, to discomfit by his own methods a Russian Jew of Bolshevist tendencies. The whole matter has, as the Prime Minister has honestly confessed, failed entirely in regard to the negotiations with Russia. As for the other matters for which le took to himself credit, I think they were trifling. But the Genoa project, by which he endeavoured to run Russia into a new scheme for the re-organisation of Europe, has been a failure. Not that I consider that this is so very important. Russian trade represented 2 per cent. of British trade before the War, and that that 2 per cent. should be added or left out does not seem to me a thing of the highest importance compared with the unfortunate disadvantage of having to touch pitch. The resolve of the Government to deal with these people was, by the most inaccurate historical parallel I ever remember being made, compared by the Prime Minister to the case of Pitt, who hated the French Revolution, yet had finally to negotiate with the French revolutionary Government in 1796 and afterwards. One little fact was omitted by the Prime Minister in this parallel. It was that the gentlemen whom Pitt so much disliked, Robespierre and all his crew, had already been beheaded by that French Government with which Mr. Pitt unwillingly in after years had to deal. Even then he failed because of the French Government's extreme love of asking too much and giving too little.
I f the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom were here, I would ask him to ponder whether it would not be well to wait to open negotiations with the Russian Government till we shall have a Russian Government corresponding to that French Government with which Mr. Pitt negotiated, that is to say, till those Russians who shall have beheaded Lenin and Trotsky are in power, just as the French who beheaded Robespierre were in power when Pitt commenced negotia- 1542 tions. The French politicians with whom Mr. Pitt negotiated were not the gang of 1793–94. They were the much more corrupt, but, after all, less bloodthirsty gang that followed. Let us wait for something of that kind in Russia, and then, when the Jacobins have been beheaded, let us think of endeavouring to open discussions with their successors. Till then I must deprecate this continual line of conferences. There is one personage to whom the Prime Minister at present, to my mind, seems to hear a certain resemblance, a character very familiar to us all, the prophet Balaam, who went around from one nice, healthy hill-top to another endeavouring to carry out a spell or ban on certain people. They represented to him financial difficulties. A higher power, the Highest Power, unfortunately inhibited Balaam from carrying out the spell, and he moved round most ineffectively to Pisgah and to Peor. Again he attempted to carry out his spellbinding, after banquets of seven oxen and seven rams, but failed. The third time he moved on, I think, to the hill which looks toward Jeshimon, but again the inhibiting power was too great, and he went home, his task frustrated. I feel that really there is something against the success of these conferences, and I hope Balaam will return to "the River of the Children of his People," and leave these off-essayed spells unaccomplished, for surely there is a power against him.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
The Prime Minister, in giving his report of the transactions at Genoa, made what was an admission of complete failure. The Conference at Genoa had four main points of discussion. Those four points are set forth in the Blue Paper that has been issued to-day, and according to the Prime Minister the only thing that has matured from the Conference is that part which was discussed under what he termed the menace and fear of war. For eight months there is to be no likelihood of war between the 34 nations which have entered into this contract. It seems rather singular that in May, 1922, 3½ years after the 11th November, 1918, we should have a Prime Minister in this House informing us that the success of the Conference was so gigantic—he informed the reporters who waited upon him, after the brilliant reception at Victoria, that the decision was one of the most stupendous in the history of Europe—because 34 1543 nations had agreed to have an eight months' armed neutrality, 3½ years after we had signed the Armistice ending the War that was to end war for all time. That is the rare and refreshing fruit which the Prime Minister brings back from Genoa. If it were not for the tragic condition of Europe the results would be farcical.
The best part of the Prime Minister's speech was devoted to explaining the internal conditions of Russia. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Finsbury (Lieut.-Colonel Archer-Shee) passed strictures upon the Labour party for taking upon themselves the advocacy of the recognition of Russia. We do not claim that it would cure unemployment—no member of the Labour party has ever said that it would cure unemployment, and no Labour advocate on the innumerable orange boxes of which the hon. and gallant Member spoke, has ever said that peace with Russia would cure unemployment—but we do say that trade with Russia, the complete recognition of Russia, would tend to alleviate the distress in this country and in other European countries, and that trading relationships restored between the countries would largely reduce the amount of unemployment which exists to-day. The Prime Minister told us what is happening in Russia. No-one is more responsible for the conditions that prevail in Europe today than the Prime Minister and the Members of the Government. It was the policy dictated by them and France at Versailles, a policy from which they cannot escape, that has brought about this state of affairs. That Conference was held so soon after the general election which sent hon. and right hon. Members here in such show. At the behest of the Prime Minister, and following his lead, even the diehards, who now turn him adrift and cast him out because they have no longer any use for him, would, if an election came along to-morrow and they saw nothing likely to carry them back to this House, accept the Prime Minister. [Interruption.] I admit there would be one or two honourable exceptions, but the bulk of the diehards will not die hard in an election, because they want to come back here soft.
The hon. Members who follow the Prime Minister, and who cheered him so loudly to-day, came here on the promises 1544 which he made to the people of this country. The Prime Minister said in this House that the Kaiser would be tried, and that he would be tried in London. You all came into the House on that promise. Now some of you are finding fault with him for going to Genoa in order to try and bring about peace with Russia. Those who cheer him because he went, also cheered the Colonial Secretary time and time again when he stood at that box and spoke about tracking down Bolshevism in Russia, and financing Denikin, Koltchak and Wrangel. You followed him into the Lobby and you voted sums of £15,000,000 for that purpose. Now you come to the House and, in the words of the Prime Minister, we are told that Europe is lying bruised, battered, and broken. Three years after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the Prime Minister tells us that there is no peace in Europe. There can never be peace in Europe so long as the policy is followed that the Coalition Government is following to-day. The Prime Minister, in order to placate hon. Members, and in order that their loyalty might not be strained too severely, spoke of Russia as being governed by a communist government, but declared that it was not a communist community. He said that 95 per cent. of the property in Russia is in land, and that 95 per cent. is at present in the hands of the people who work the land, and that there you have peasant proprietorship such as you have not in any other part of the world. Individualism was the word he used to describe the conditions throughout a great part of Russia to-day, and hon. Members cheered him.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I always excuse the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London. He would never cheer the Prime Minister- He never cheers anybody, except when he gets the Dogs Bill passed through the House of Commons.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I am afraid I must examine my speech to-morrow and find out exactly which sentence the right hon. Baronet cheered.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I shall have to correct it before the reporters put it in the bound 1545 volume of the OFFICIAL REPORT. The hon. Members who cheered the Prime Minister when he made that statement evidently forget the methods by which these peasant proprietors became possessed of their land. Would they cheer if in this country the Independent Liberals or the Labour party were to advocate that we should have a form of peasant proprietorship in this country on lines similar to that which exist in Russia. That is the logical corollary to their cheering of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said that we had confiscation in this country and in France during past revolutions. He spoke of the French Revolution, and of the dissolution of monastries in this country. They were too very fine historical illustrations for a revolutionary party to take advantage of. When you take the land of a country, history, in the end, either approves or disapproves of the methods by which you take possession of that property. Would you assist the Labour party if we attempted to bring back under Church control the land of this country from the private landowners who now hold it? The passage of time has sanctified the dissolution of the monastries, just as the passage of time has sanctified those atrocities which took place in the early days of the terrorist period in the French Revolution. To-day we are all proud of being the ally of France and of theentente cordiale, but because we are friendly with a people and are prepared to make sacrifices for them is no reason why we are going to be dragged always behind a people even when we think that they are wrong.
The Prime Minister's achievements are his usual achievements, word-spinning, rhetoric, sentences to cajole the public, never once handing back those things which the people require. Europe is distracted and broken, but will never be restored by the members who head the Government of this country, and will never he restored so long as France pursues the policy that she is pursuing. This is no new thing for me to say, for in 1919 I said in this House that the Peace Treaty would require to be revised, that there could be no peace in Europe so long as the Treaty of Versailles remained as it was then. If the Labour party came into power, one of their first duties would be the revision of those treaties. Consequently, it is not a change 1546 of faith on my part to say what I am saying to-night, but it is a change of faith on the part of every Member of this House who cheered the Prime Minister this afternoon, just as it is a change of faith on the part of the Prime Minister himself, and if it were necessary and if it were advisable or possible for the Prime Minister to change some of the ideas and some of the expressions which he has already used, he would change them again.
No one ever sees the Secretary of State for the Colonies sitting with a smile upon his face when the Prime Minister stands at that box telling of his new ideas with regard to Russia. These ideas are repugnant to the Colonial Secretary and to most Members on the other side, but they are prepared to make the best of a bad bargain. They took the Prime Minister to their bosom, and now they have got to follow him. Otherwise their party breaks up. The hon. and gallant Member for Finsbury spoke about the small percentage of trade that this country had with Russia in pro-war times, but he forgets—I do not say that he conveniently forgets—that the condition of the world to-day is such that no one can judge of the amount of trade that can be done between one country and another in the terms of pre-war relationship. Russia has been invaded and torn asunder, not merely during the period of the Great War by financed by France. The condition but she has been invaded by her own people, who went there to overthrow the Government and take over control of the country, financed by this country and financed by France. The conditions of Russia to-day is due to the policy adopted by the French and British Governments. We are reminded of what Russia might have done, and there are accusations of atrocities against Russia. Russia has assassinated or slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people who did not agree with the Government. If we are going to judge a country for its atrocities, then the hands of some of our own Allies are not too clean. We for many years had a treaty with Japan. What is Japan's history with regard to her treatment of Korea—a country which this country and Japan jointly decided by Treaty to maintain in its independence, and which has now become a slave State, dominated by Japan? Within recent 1547 years 30,000 Koreans have been murdered by the Japanese. One in 30 of the population has been deported. Korea, at present, is dominated by Japanese police, her schools are filled with Japanese educationists, no Korean is allowed to leave the country or to enter any of the professions. The highest to which he can aspire is to be a skilled artisan.
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN (Sir E. Cornwall)
On the Foreign Office Vote a general discussion is permitted, but hon. Members must exercise discretion as to how far they will carry their arguments.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I was merely quoting some points to answer the remarks of an hon. Member opposite. Korea to-day is practically a Japanese dependency. All control of the country has been taken away from the Koreans. So if we tell of the atrocities committed by Russians we must also tell of atrocities committed by other nations which are our own Allies. It is not a question of atrocities that regulates our conduct in these things. Even in spite of the atrocities the Prime Minister says that Europe requires Russia, and Russia requires Europe. Not because of the good thing which it would be to associate with Russia, but because of the expediency, because it will bring good trade and help to rebuild Europe. Even from that point of view I am willing to welcome anything that is likely to lead to friendly relations with Russia. I am willing to welcome anything from any part of this House which is calculated to break down all those entangling alliances, all those menacing compacts, all those seeds for future wars that we have to-day in Europe. If we can have some scheme laid before this House that is calculated to bring some form of alliance among all the nations of Europe and enable all the countries to join together in the work of making Europe as a whole commercially and financially successful, no matter from which side of the House or from which part of this country or of Europe such a scheme may come every Member on these Benches will welcome it and support it. So far as the Prime Minister's scheme is concerned, the fact that Genoa has failed, with only an eight months' pact of peace 1548 in its favour, the fact that there has been handed over to The Hague Conference questions that ought to have been settled at Genoa, and the further fact that all these Conferences are nothing more nor less than a series of performances by perambulating diplomatic conjurors who bring us nowhere and give us nothing to justify me in opposing the idea of the Genoa Conference and in voting against the Government to-night.
§ Major-General SEELY
In five minutes I will try to convince my hon. Friend who has just spoken that his concluding sentences were not his considered judgment, in view of one fact which I will bring before the Committee. I take it that the question before us is, "Was the Genoa Conference worth while, and is it worth while going on with such Conferences, and especially with the Conference which flows from Genoa, namely, the Conference at The Hague? Has Genoa achieved anything which makes it worth while? I submit that it has been worth while. For one thing, nothing but a great Conference like Genoa could have brought us the pact of peace. I think it probable, and certainly possible —the right hon. Gentleman who will follow me will probably not deny it—that had there been no Genoa Conference, Eastern Europe would have been plunged into another war, into which we might conceivably have been drawn. I must try to make good that thesis. The one good thing that came out of the last War, apart from the fact that we thought we had won a victory for civilisation, which I am sure we did, and gave Alsace Lorraine back to France, was that the great tragedy of the partition of Poland, the great international crime, was put right. There is not a single Member of the House who will not say that he rejoices that as part of the Treaty of Peace, Poland again came by her own. But, unfortunately, the nations which divided Poland in the days of our grandfathers, do not take that view.
I was surprised to find so little made of the warning statement issued by the Under-Secretary of State for India, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) referred. I had heard something of the movement of troops on the Polish frontier, and I have heard a great deal more since. What he then said was that not only were the very large forces known to be on the Polish 1549 and Rumanian frontiers reinforced, but they were reinforced by fresh formations, and a still more menacing thing than anything said by the Prime Minister was that the new classes of recruits had been called to the colours in both countries before their time. There can be no doubt—and it is a sad thing to have to say—that there is one thing which unites all classes in Russia, those of the old régime and those of the present not wholly inefficient military dictatorship, and that is the deter-ruination to get rid of independent Poland. Whatever view may be taken of the rest of the Treaty of Versailles, we do not want to see Poland destroyed. But Russia does.
As against that it may be said that in March, before the Genoa Conference took place, the Soviet delegates on their way from the North of Russia to Genoa, concluded a pact of non-aggression with the two Northern States and with Poland. It is true that Roumania was not included. What I state is that after that date the movement and the increase of troops continued. I shall be very glad if the Secretary of State for War will tell me whether that information is confirmed in his Department. You were on the verge of war between Poland, Roumania, Russia and the Northern States. The fact that the Genoa Conference was in session, I claim, was a great contributory factor in avoiding that most disastrous war. It may be said that the only solution of this matter is to have a series of conferences, and that conferences should be in perpetual succession. That is perhaps a gloomy prospect. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, but continuous conferences are better than perpetual war, and the experience we had had during the last few months—1 hold no brief for the Government in the matter—
§ Major-General SEELY
My Noble Friend allows his hostility to the Government to have the most extraordinary effect on him. I thought it was sufficiently well known, indeed I have stated it repeatedly, that I differ from the Government on many matters of foreign affairs. But am I to be held up to public scorn because I believe that by conference you may avert war? I hope my Noble Friend, who has been good enough to interrupt me, will look back on some of the things he has said to-day and remember that he 1550 who condemns conferences may well bring on war.
§ Mr. LYLE-SAMUEL
If the issue were as stated, between continuous conferences and perpetual war, we should indeed be in a sorry state. The whole issue has turned on an attempt to place those who oppose the Government on the horns of a truly false dilemma. The right hon. and gallant Member invites the Noble Lord to say whether he will not regret having today opposed conferences when he finds that the result is war. That is not the issue. Speaking from the point of view of one who, although in political opposition to the Government, would back the Government to the full extent of his limited capacity in trying to secure world peace, I say that I would support every conference and any conference. It is not true that we were opposed to the Genoa Conference. It is not true that we were opposed to an attempt being made by our Prime Minister to bring peace, to restore trade, to rehabilitate the exchanges throughout the world. You might as well ask us if we are in favour of the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] We on our side make the Government side a present of the fact that they are in favour of both those excellent institutions. Before the Conference we said unless there was an approved agenda there could not be a successful Conference. There was no approved agenda. We also said unless America came in, the Conference could not achieve a world object. It might achieve a local object; that in itself would be good, and we did not oppose that, but we said that the fact that what had been done at Cannes could not be continued at Genoa made the prospects gloomy.
Was there ever an occasion in the history of this House when so much was hoped for and so little realised? Was there ever an occasion when hon. Members were so anxious to hear something definite as to peace and as to the restoration of good will and of trade, and has ever so little arisen in actual fact to justify those hopes and anticipations? What do we actually know to-day as the result of this Debate. America is the creditor nation of the world. That position has not been altered and America was absent from the Genoa Conference. We attended Genoa in great power and 1551 glory as the creditor nation of Europe, but was anything done with reference to reparation? Nothing. That is the position—America creditor nation of the world refusing to attend the Conference which in her absence must fail in world purpose; ourselves, the creditor nation of Europe, refusing to consider reparations, which meant that the Conference must fail in its purpose of restoring exchanges. I ask this Committee most solemnly, at this solemn hour m our financial and economic history—[Laughter]—I do not want mocking laughter. The country is going to read this Debate to-morrow. Business men are anxious to know how far the Government has got on with the job. I think I am speaking fairly and I am not making any personal attack on the Prime Minister or on the Government. This is a very serious matter and a matter upon which I have very strong feelings.
We on this side have backed up the Government in all its good purposes. I am speaking for myself and for many of my colleagues when I repeat that in all the good purposes the Government hoped to achieve at Genoa we have been their loyal supporters. I voted for the Government on the Genoa Debate, and I shall vote for them again on further conferences, but I say to them, Do not hold another board meeting of directors until you have an agenda to discuss; do not ask people to come into conference until you know what you are going to confer about; do not pretend you are going to have a conference, when some of those coming to the conference have already told you they will not agree to the proposals which are to be made; do not hold out promises to befool the peoples in every country, by saying that you can perform things which you know perfectly well you cannot perform. We have had the delicate subject of France before us. Not one of us wishes to see the breaking up of the Entente. Not one of us wishes to forget the associations of the War, but when we hear talk about stretching points, we ask you to remember you are stretching so many points that you are keeping Europe stretched on the rack. Until you declare what is your policy, and that you will act within the competence of your own power and leave it at that, there can be but little hope of the conferences of the future.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I am glad that all the supporters of the Government do not show their support in the same way as the hon. Member who last spoke. He complained that this Conference had no agenda, and patted himself on the back as a prophet of failure, because the Conference had no agenda. I wonder where he began his studies of the Genoa Conference. Did he go back to the time when it was decided by the Allied Powers at Cannes to call this Conference? If he had gone back to that Paper—because the Resolutions at Cannes were issued to this House as a White Paper—he would have seen that the agenda was very carefully settled on that occasion. I do not feel, after the speeches of the Prime. Minister, that I have any large scope, but there are a few questions which have been addressed to the Government which I shall try to answer, and there are a few observations and criticisms that have been made which I do not think ought to pass entirely without notice. There was a complaint made by the hon. and gallant Member for Kincardine (Lieut.-Colonel A. Murray), and I think some others, that at the Genoa Conference the Foreign Office w as not represented. That is quite a fallacy, for the Foreign Office was most ably represented. If it had been possible for the Foreign Secretary to be there in person, no one would have welcomed his assistance more than the Prime Minister and the other delegates, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman must know that the Foreign Secretary has been on his back the whole of the—
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
—the w hole of the last five or six weeks. The hon. and gallant Gentleman says he never suggested that the Foreign Secretary should be there, but he was complaining that the Genoa Conference was conducted without representatives of the Foreign Office. The representative of the Foreign Office who would have been there had it been possible, who was, in fact, nominated as a member of the delegation representing Great Britain, was the Foreign Secretary, but because of illness he was unable to be present. There are two Under-Secretaries to the Foreign Office. One is the hon. Member who is also the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department 1553 (Sir P. Lloyd-Greame). The Conference at Genoa was primarily an economic conference, dealing with foreign trade and the conditions of international trade, and the Foreign Office was represented by one of its Under-Secretaries, being the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department. As a matter of fact, the other Under-Secretary (Mr. C. Harmsworth) had to remain in London for the other business of the Foreign Office, but I think we should have had him very likely out at Genoa if he also had not suffered from illness during that time. The head of the Russian Department at the.Foreign Office was at Genoa, and there were several other very able representatives of the Foreign Office who were advising and helping us at Genoa, so the complaint is not well founded.
The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gwynne) made a speech and asked various questions, with some of which I propose to deal. He referred to what is known as the London experts' report. That, I believe, is the first paper in the Blue Book. It is a report on proposals that should be made to Russia, compiled by experts representing the Allied Powers who met in London to prepare the work of the Genoa Conference, and the hon. Gentleman says, "Why did not you enforce that report upon the Russian Delegation? How does he propose to do that? The Genoa Conference was a conference called by 34 or 36 nations on terms of equality to consider these grave questions. How does he propose that the British Government should enforce upon that Conference the report of the London experts? The hon. Gentleman says, why did not we enforce upon the Russians the London experts' report? How was it possible? If the hon. Member says if they did not accept it we ought to have broken off negotiations, then I can understand the position he takes up. He is quite entitled to say the London experts' report was the minimum we ought to have demanded from Russia, and, failing acceptance of those conditions there and then, we ought to have broken off negotiations. That is what I understand he means. We took a different line, and I think we were right. We were patient. The hon. Member himself thinks, perhaps, we were too patient. There were times when I had doubts myself whether it was 1554 worth while going on. There seemed to be such a wide difference between their view and our view that it seemed to me at times doubtful whether it was worth while going on, and if we had misled them by our patience, I would agree that we ought not to have gone on. We took very good care not to mislead them. Their main preoccupation was to get credits. They knew that. Russia could not be restored without financial assistance from outside, and the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin asked me, what was the policy of the Government with regard to Government credits? Did this Government intend to make loans to Russia, or—and he did not distinguish between the two—did this Government intend to give credits to Russia?
We made no mystery about the position. We told them definitely that this Government would not give them a Government loan or a Government credit. I remember very well that in conversations —the sort of conversations to which. I am afraid, the Noble Lord objects, but still, I believe, which are very fruitful methods of making people understand your view—in that sort of conversations they brought forward plans of Government credits which they required. At one moment they said, "We want £200,000,000 from the Western European Governments as loans," and at another time they put forward a plan under which they required £360,000,000—sterling, not paper roubles—of loans, in order to reconstruct Russia. I ought to say that the £360,000,000 was not all to be given at once, but in equal sums of £120,000,000 a year for three years. I myself told them that there was not that amount of money in the world in the power of any Government to give to them, and if there were that amount of money in the world, the people of the world would not allow their Governments to give it, and there was not a penny to be got by Government credits. Then the Noble Lord said, "Well, if that be the case, what is the use of The Hague?" I will answer him again. The Hague was arranged long after we told them that there was not a penny of Government credits, and I should not be repeating the Government statement unless I told the House that while I said there was no Government credit for them, I said, "If you will restore the Western belief in your 1555 methods of business, in your honesty, then there will be credits for you. People will come and trade with you, and there will be trade credits available for you as soon as you reassure them that, when they sell goods to you, you will pay, and when they lend money to you, you will re-pay." We told them that we in England had methods by which the Government assisted our traders in their foreign trade; that I had no doubt that once their credit was restored, once our people knew it was safe to trade with them, then the former owners of businesses would be anxious to get back to Russia, and continue their business, and that in that way they would get the necessaries that their people required.
§ Lord R. CECIL
May I ask that the right hon. Gentleman should clear up the statement he made that the Government had methods to help our own traders? He referred, of course, to the Trade Facilities Act and things of that sort?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
Yes, I referred to export credits, to the Trade Facilities Act, and the International Finance Corporation, with which, if I have time, I propose to deal presently. The Prime Minister left them in no doubt about the position. I do not know whether hon. Members have read the speech which the right hon. Gentleman made at the final plenary session of the Conference? He told them quite plainly that the Western nations had principles, or prejudices if they liked—the prejudice that if they sold goods they wanted to be paid for them, and that if someone had borrowed and came again for a further loan, it was not the slightest use of the would-be borrower coming and giving an eloquent disquisition upon the right of repudiation, that such a person would shock the prejudices rooted in the Western nations and would not be likely to get what he wanted. We were patient, but we did not conceal our position at all. We believe we were right to be patient. The hon. Member for Eastbourne would, of course, have broken off communications on the first day of the Conference, and if not the first day the second day. He would have said, "No! Nothing doing. The experts' reports not accepted: break off the Conference at once." Would he have been so ready to do so, and would he have been right? Who suffered from our 1556 attitude? We may have suffered ourselves by being condemned to remain in Genoa for so long. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
Our hosts were charming all the time and hospitable, and were real friends. The hon. and gallant Gentleman was there, but for so few days that he did not get samples of the climate or of the hospitality. If we had broken off negotiations there would have been no Pact of Peace. Here, again, the hon. Member for Eastbourne was disdainful of the Pact of Peace. He said it was not signed. He said everybody stood up as if they were celebrating a death, silently. I wish he had been there.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I was there, and there was nothing more impressive than that Pact of Peace!
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
The sneers of the hon. Member are really rather trivial. Let me tell him what that scene was like. The Resolution was put before this great Conference of 34 nations and it was a Conference that altogether had lasted six weeks. The Pact of Peace was read to them. The Italian President asked that the delegates should stand up and say whether they accepted it on behalf of their nations or not. One delegate after another, nation after nation, got up and said: "I accept that on behalf of my nation." The British Empire, which the hon. Gentleman, I ant sure, loves as well as I do, was represented not merely by the Prime Minister, but by Canada, Australia, and South Africa. He should have seen the interest when the name of New Zealand was called. [HON. MEMBERS: "And India?"] The hon. Member should have witnessed the scene when the name of India's delegate was called, and he stood up and said: "I accept this Pact fully for the Indian Empire." There was nothing there small or mean. It was a solemn pact which every delegate present meant to carry out. If we had followed the advice of the hon. Member and there had been no pact, how many lives would that 1557 have cost? If we had broken off, as ho suggests, there would have been a setback in Europe and a still further postponement of the date, whenever it may come, when international trade may be fully resumed. Who knows what added suffering there would have been to those people who are now out of work, and, who have really the greatest call upon our services. There has been an inclination, not merely by the hon. Member for Eastbourne—I have finished with him—but by other hon. Members, to suggest that Genoa has done no good, and that the Conference there, if it has not failed, at least has done no good.
I would ask those hon. Members first of all to bear in mind the nature of the Conference, for I believe that the mere meeting of that Conference was good in itself. This Conference was unlike any other which has been held since the War. It was not called together for the purpose of enforcing some rights gained by the War or for adjudicating between the conquerors and the vanquished. It was a Peace Conference, to which all European nations were called on a footing of equality to discuss not the interests of some particular Power or some group of Powers but the peaceful restoration of the economic life of Europe in the interests of all the Powers and all peoples. I believe that the holding of that Conference has shown that they were wrong who supposed that the victors in the Great War thought only of themselves and thought only of imposing their will on the rest of Europe. We have proved ourselves loyal to our old friendships, hut while we have not forgotten the comradeship of the War, we have shown ourselves ready to co-operate with all nations in lifting Europe out of the misery into which the War has plunged her.
I think the Conference has also proved that while the Western European States hold steadfastly to their individualistic systems upon which their former prosperity depended, and upon which their future position and power equally depends, they are not blind to their duties as statesmen, or to the calls of humanity, and they are anxious to prepare and pursue policies which will hasten the employment of producers, and do everything in their power to alleviate the suffering of others. This Conference was therefore a Peace Conference as well as 1558 an Economic Conference. Let us test its success by a question. Have we left Europe more peaceful than when we met at Genoa'? I personally do not doubt that real progress has been made. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) who, I am sorry is not in his place, declared it was a sham and a fraud to say that there was any menace on the Russian frontier. He said there had already been a Treaty, or at any rate some agreement, at Riga between Esthonia, Latvia, Poland and Russia, which was not only a pact of nonaggression, but an agreement for the limitation of the armaments, and also for the creation of a neutral zone. He claimed, therefore, that the Protocol of Riga did more than the pact of non-aggression at Genoa accomplished. He was unfortunate in another quotation he made today, and he was equally unfortunate in this quotation. Unwittingly, of course, he has entirely misrepresented the nature of the document signed at Riga. What did the document signed at Riga do? He said there was a general statement of brave words as an introduction or preamble, but he did not quote the conclusion. What was it? That the delegations from Esthonia, Latvia, Poland and Russia present at Riga expressed the opinion that it would be useful that the parties represented at this meeting elaborate at Genoa the precise plans in order to realise the above-mentioned principles.
What the right hon. Gentleman said was that everything was accomplished at Riga that was accomplished by the pact of Genoa; but far from that being the case, principles were laid down at Riga, which required another agreement and another document to put them into operation, and the parties who elaborated those principles there declared at the same time it was necessary to go further into them, and they proposed to do so at Genoa. What happened at Genoa was that at least a part of that proposal at Riga was in fact carried out. Altogether apart from that aspect of the question, the pact bound many others who were not bound by the Riga Agreement, including Rumania, Lithuania, and Finland, who were not represented at Riga. Moreover, Japan was vitally interested. She also was not represented at Riga. All these States have now agreed to respect each other's boundaries, and have entered 1559 into a pact of non-aggression. To say that that was not necessary is to ignore the facts that are known. No one can doubt that suspicion reigned in Russia and the neighbouring States, and that at any moment difficulties might have arisen. An ill-fed people were being urged to go where food was. Frontiers, in some cases not finally fixed, might have been crossed, and fighting would certainly have followed. I hope that the pact of nonaggression will give time for suspicion to be allayed and for real peace to be settled and danger removed. The pact will last for eight months, but it need not terminate then. I hope it will not. I cannot believe that, once these nations have got together, once they have begun to examine the differences and the suspicions which have separated them, they will ever be willing not to renew that pact.
Besides that, a good deal else has been done at Genoa, and I have been asked to deal with some of the work of the other three Commissions about which the Noble Lord has asked some questions. Quite naturally, he has compared the work of these Commissions at Genoa with the work of a somewhat similar inquiry at Brussels, and he has asked what progress has been made in the interval of two years. I am sure the Committee would not wish that I should go into great detail in regard to the financial and economic resolutions. They are printed in the Blue Book, and they have been discussed at length by experts, whose reports are also available, and any hon. Member who wishes to go into them has ample material before him. But I can say in a few words what the object of these three Commissions was. The object was in each case the same—to arrive at some degree of stability which would enable international trade to he carried on. Without stable conditions the exchange of the products of labour cannot be resumed. A large part of Europe is suffering from scarcity, while millions who are willing to produce are unemployed. The problem which each of these Commissions had to deal with was actually the same—how can we restore stability so that international trade can be developed and employment and plenty be re-established?
The Financial Commission dealt with questions of currency, exchange and credits. The international currency of 1560 our own country, thanks to the progressive reduction in expenditure and to the evidence given to the world that we mean to meet our expenditure out of income, has been gradually improving, and has not been subject to violent fluctuations; but in many other countries in Europe currencies have danced up and down, so that there has been in fact no stable measure of value: and international exchanges have necessarily followed the, same chaotic course. To restore international trade and employment, stability must be restored, both in currencies and in exchange. The Commission dealing with economic and commercial questions found the same want of stability. Restrictions and limitations on imports and exports have been created and withdrawn, duties have been raised and, perhaps, lowered, arbitrarily and without notice, and if the international trader survives the troubles of currencies and exchange, he may find his business rendered impossible, or at least unprofitable, by harassing restrictions of which he has been unaware. The Economic Commission therefore examined these problems with the object of removing those obstacles, or at least of ensuring full publicity, so that the trader might be less hampered. The Transport Commission worked on similar lines, to restore international transport to at least the pre-War level, to remove difficulties due to the breaking-up of the large States, and to ensure the co-operation of the Succession States so as to open up again the normal trade routes. That was the object of the Commission.
The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin asks me, "How did Genoa differ from Brussels?" Let me try and answer that. It is a very proper and pertinent question. At Brussels, experts only were present. Admirable advice they gave: better-known experts were not to be found in Europe. Practically the same experts were at Genoa. They gave expert advice, but at Genoa there was this difference. Ministers were present. When the experts had advised those Ministers, those Ministers dealt with the questions in the various Sub-Commissions and Commissions, and finally, when the reports were brought before the Conference, the Ministers pledged themselves, so far as they could, to carry out the advice that was given.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
The Noble Lord will find that in the speeches generally. I cannot remember where it is, but it is so. He may take it from me that those who brought forward those Resolutions at the full Conference did pledge themselves, so far as it was possible, to go to their countries and put into practice the precepts which the experts had advised, which were embodied in those Resolutions. There were practical bankers present on these expert committees who had had two years' experience of Europe after the Brussels Conference, and after the advice that had been given by Brussels.
The Genoa Conference, therefore, differed considerably from Brussels, and not only in these respects. It differed in other respects. Brussels had no power to take executive action, and did not advise executive action. This Conference did advise executive action. With regard to currencies and exchanges it has asked the Bank of England to call a meeting of Central banks, so that the Central banks may consider what steps are necessary to bring about an International Monetary Convention, which will, in itself, bind the States which become parties to it. I understand that the Bank of England is prepared to call that meeting of the Central banks. I understand that the Federal Reserve Bank of America is willing to take part in that Conference. We have, therefore, begun to take all the practicable executive action that it is possible to take. Similarly, in regard to transport. I again say not a word against the excellent work done at Barcelona, yet again it lacked just that finishing touch which I hope Genoa has given to that excellent work. A conference is to he called by the French Railway Administration of all the big railway administrations in Europe for the purpose of getting that through traffic that is required.
That seems to me to differentiate the work of Genoa from the work of Brussels, not that I want for a moment to belittle the work of Brussels. It was excellent pioneer work, and Genoa has but carried on to a further stage the work that was then done. Of course the other work, this work to which I have just been referring, has not attracted the same public atten-
§ tion as the political work. It is dull work. It is spade work which merely prepares the seed-bed. It does not give an immediate return, but I believe it will bear fruit in work and wages for those who are at present unemployed and supplies for those who are at present deprived of the necessaries of life. The House of Commons may be proud of the vote it gave on 3rd April. By a sure instinct and an overwhelming majority it approved of the Cannes Resolutions and pledged itself to support the Prime Minister in going to Genoa to give effect to them. The Prime Minister went to Genoa. His position amongst the members of the Conference was remarkable. His honesty of purpose, his untiring effort for the good of Europe, made an impression upon every delegate in that Conference. He maintained and enhanced the British reputation. Through fair weather or through foul, the chief delegate of Great Britain persevered, day by day overcoming obstacles and day by day succeeding, and the success of the Genoa Conference is chiefly due to him. If this Committee will take my humble advice, it will once more express its disapproval. It will renew the Vote of Confidence it gave on 3rd April.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I wish to state to the Committee that our differences with the Government on foreign affairs are too great to allow us to support them in the Lobby in the event of a Division, but on the other hand we cannot in any way be blind to the reasons which prompted this Amendment, and therefore we cannot vote for it.
§ Mr. GWYNNErose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put accordingly, "That a sum, not exceeding £153,679, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 26; Noes, 235.1565
|Division No. 124.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Banbury, Rt. Hon, Sir Frederick G.||Curzon, Captain Viscount|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmote||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)|
|Balfour, George (Hampttead)||Cralg, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Ersklne, James Malcolm Monteith|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Poison, Sir Thomas A.|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley||Murray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)||Reid, D. D.|
|Jellett, William Morgan||Murray, Hon. Gideon (St. Rollox)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Joynson-Hicks, Sir William||Nail, Major Joseph|
|Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES. —|
|Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Mr. R. Gwynne and Mr. Gretton.|
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Adklns, Sir W. Ryland D.||Forestier-Walker, L.||Molson, Major John Elsdale|
|Amery, Leopold C. M. S,||Forrest, Walter||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Allred Mcritz|
|Arm[...]tage, Robert||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Morden, Col. W. Grant|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Fremantle, Lieut-Colonel Francis E.||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Gange, E. Stanley||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)||Ganzoni, Sir John||Murray, C. D. (Edinburgh)|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Gardiner, James||Neal, Arthur|
|Barnston, Major Harry||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Barrand, A. R.||Glbbs, Colonel George Abraham||Newson, Sir Percy Wilson|
|Barr[...]e, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Gilbert, James Daniel||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)|
|Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund Robert||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel sir John||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Glyn, Major Ralph||Parker, James|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Gould, James C.||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Grant, James Augustus||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Peel, Col. Hon. S. (Uxbrldge, Mddx.)|
|Bennett, Sir Thomas Jewell||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Perring, William George|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Greene, Lt.-Col- Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||P[...]nkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Gregory, Holman||Pratt, John William|
|Bird, Sir William B. M. (Chichester)||Greig, Colonel Sir James William||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Gri[...]th-||Grenfell, Edward Charles||Purchase, H. G.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Rankin, Captain James Stuart|
|Bowyer, Captain G. w. E.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||R[...]w, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Brassey, H. L. C.||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Remer, J. R.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Renwick, Sir George|
|Britton, G. B.||Hills, Major John Waller||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Hinds, John||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Brotherton, Colonel Sir Edward A.||Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Holmes, J. Stanley||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes, Stretford)|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Hood, Sir Joseph||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund.|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Hopkins, John W. W.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Casey, T. W.||Howard, Major S. G.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hudson, R. M.||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Blrm.,W).||Hurd, Percy A.||Seddon, J. A.|
|Chamberlain, N. (Blrm., Ladywood)||Insk[...]p, Thomas Walker H.||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Chilcot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W.||Jephcott, A. R.||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Clough, Sir Robert||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Johnstone, Joseph||Simm, M. T.|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richaro Beale||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Cope, Major William||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk- George||Starkey, Captain John Ralph|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Davidson, J.C.C.(Hemel Hempstead)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Stephenson, Lieut-Colonel H. K.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Knight, Major E. A. (Kidderminster)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Davies, David (Montgomery)||Larmor, Sir Joseph||Sugden, W. H.|
|Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Lindsay, William Arthur||Taylor, J.|
|Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Lloyd, George Butler||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Ednam, Viscount||Lorden, John William||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Lort-Williams, J.||Waddington, R.|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Wallace, J.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor|
|Elveden, Viscount||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Ward Jackson, Major C. L.|
|Evans, Ernest||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Macquisten, F. A.||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Waring, Major Walter|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|F[...]ldes, Henry||Martin, A. E.||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Finney, Samuel||Mason, Robert||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Middlebrook, Sir William||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Mildmay, Colonel Rt. Hon. F. B.||Winterton, Earl|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Mitchell, Sir William Lane||Wise, Frederick|
|Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)||Young, E. H. (Norwich)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Worsfold, T. Cato||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.||Young, W. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)||McCurdy.|
|Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
Question, "That the Question be now put." put, and agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Motion made, and Question "That the Chairman report Progress and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.— [Colonel Leslie Wilson.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.