Mr. J. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I beg to move,That this House deplores the enormous and growing expenditure on the naval and air forces and on other military preparations which is beginning once more a competition in armaments and is depleting resources that should be available for expenditure on education, public health, and similar social and human services, and, recalling the pledges of political leaders and the expectations of the nation that the Great World War was to end war, urges the Government to take immediate steps to call an international conference to consider a programme of national safety based upon the policy that by disarmament alone can the peace and liberty of small and large nations alike be secured.I do not think that the House requires me to waste any of its time, or any of my own words, in emphasising the importance of this subject. It must be a subject of the most profound regret to all parts of the House that to-day, in 1923, the expenditure on preparations for the next war has mounted up to such colossal figures. I regret to see on the Paper an Amendment which is perfectly impeccable so far as its piety is concerned, but which, if passed by this House, would do no good whatever. We, have had enough piety on the subject of war; the time has come for this House to say, quite definitely, whether it means to ask the Government to pursue an unbroken, sleepless policy for peace, or not. Those who vote for the Amendment only mean to say that away somewhere or other in their hearts they would like peace, but that they have got no idea how to bring it about. That is not our position. Moreover, why do those who are to move the Amendment confess, in its terms, to a fear of repeating here what leading politicians said in 1914 and 1915, when they were asking our nation to enlist itself in a war to end war? Why are we not going to say, here and now, that that was the pledge? That was a pledge given to the living—a pledge that has now become the most sacred of all pledges, a pledge given to the dead. Why do those who submit the Amendment wish that omitted? So far as the 76 Labour Party is concerned, we make it perfectly clear that we regard that pledge as still running and that any party in this House or out of it which ventures to play with that pledge is breaking faith with the millions of men who have died because that pledge was given them whilst they were still alive. Moreover, why is it that the contrast between military expenditure and social expenditure has been deleted from this Amendment? I thought it had become almost a commonplace to say that the first line of defence was the physical and intellectual character of the people of a nation. But no, not at all—so far as they are concerned, those who are going to vote for the Amendment are going to declare, by these omissions, that they have no intention whatever of considering, in relation to military expenditure, what they are spending for social purposes.
The Labour Party does not take that view and will not take that view. Patriotism, as was said in a very solemn moment, is not enough. It is quite true that by these military expenditures the mere existence of a nation may be maintained. As I shall show presently, there is no guarantee that it will be maintained absolutely by this means, but let us assume that it will. What is that? The mere existence of a State is not an end in itself. The existence of a nationality, of a nation, is only justified in so far as that nation means the moral and intellectual qualities of its own people and means a great moral lead to the other nations of the world. Therefore, when we put in, quite carefully and with deliberation, a comparison between expenditure on social purposes and that on military purposes it indicates that our votes to-night are not going to be given for the deletion of that fundamental proposition with regard to these military expenditures. Besides, surely the figures themselves are eloquent enough. We have since 1919–20 made an expenditure of £1,290,000,000 on Army, Navy and Air Force. I asked that the figures should be taken out for me, and that is the total with which I have been supplied. If we ask the Government to supply money for public health, we are told it is not there. If we ask the Government to be more generous with houses so that we may supply our people with something a little bit better than mere hutches, we are told 77 the money is not there. When we, in relation to housing, say that for years and years we have been working up to a standard of planning, a standard of accommodation, a standard of atmosphere and a standard of beauty, and when in 1923 we say we stand by that standard, the Government tell us that the country is poor and that we have to be economical. Whilst that policy is being pursued regarding human life, the other policy of extravagance is being pursued regarding human destruction. I think we can say with a great deal of assurance and truth that the more a nation spends on mere defence, the more it neglects the moral and social riches which alone make its continued existence of value to the rest of the world. In the Amendment a reference is made to the League of Nations and that does not occur in our Resolution. Personally, I have not only no objection to a reference to the League of Nations going into the Resolution, but I should be very glad if it were put in, and the reason why I do not think the League of Nations alone is enough is a very simple one. First of all, no matter what our desires may be as to what the League of Nations should be, the League of Nations has not yet won the confidence of very important nations of the world.
It does not matter at the moment why that is so, but it is so, and there is no use putting all our eggs into the League of Nations basket. I hope, however, that the prophecy which is implied in the interjection just made is a rash and a bad prophecy. I hope that, very speedily, the League of Nations will have won that confidence, but, at the moment, it has not won the confidence of these, nations, and the League of Nations, in dealing with disarmament and with the policy which I have in mind, must be supplemented. It was not put into our Resolution because we did not want to raise obstacles in the minds of the leaders of the nations who would, I hope, come in if this country summoned the conference which we have in our minds. I mention one nation because it indicates my second reason why the League of Nations has not been mentioned in the Resolution. We want the United States to come in. There can be no conference dealing with disarmament and with the causes which pro- 78 duce armaments which can handle those subjects at all satisfactorily unless the United States takes a full and willing part in that conference and takes its share in the discussion and in the responsibilities which follow. Therefore, I hope the House will believe that it was in no spirit of hostility to the League of Nations,—it was with no intention of giving it a sort of cavalier "go-by,"—that its title was not mentioned in our Resolution. We simply want it to make perfectly clear to people, like the American people, that we wish them to come in—that we do not wish to make it difficult for them to come in.
Then, of course, there is the general feeling about all these Resolutions that they are impracticable. It is so easy for us to settle down in front of some great obstacle and say, "This matter belongs to higher powers; it is too high for us; we rather like to hear about it and talk about it, but there is no use in trying to tackle it as practical business men." What I say to the House is that the practicable is the impracticable come to ripeness. For us who profess to have great vision, as those who sit at the centre of the British Commonwealth of Nations must have, to regard practicability as only something that is removed an inch or two from the tips of our noses, is nothing but sheer folly. It is blindness. The most unpractical of governments is the government which only deals with what is lying at its feet without realising what it will have to meet, as soon as it deals with that particular matter. The most practical problem which the nations have to face to-day is the problem of disarmament. The most practical problem we have to face to-day is the problem of continued military expenditure which is opening up once again that fatal thing known as the competition in national armaments.
I am rather diffident to commit the indelicacy of speaking, because there are many things that one would prefer not to say. What hopes did we not have, all of us, that when the last war ended we could close all that chapter of history? What hopes did we not have that a nation which we had fought again and again through four centuries, but which in the Great War itself had stood side by side with us, would, with us, over the graves of our common dead, bury not only the 79 flesh, but a history that is too fateful to men. Yet, take our newspapers to-day—air competition, great expenditure by one Power—we wait, the time comes when fear begins again, when pressure begins again, when the possibility of a panic comes over the horizon and is a practical problem for Governments to consider, whether they like it or not; we must have Supplementary Estimates; we must have increased money for defence. We say that there is nothing that is purely defensive. The military man does not know any distinction between defence and offence. It is a purely fanciful description. The real fact is that we are sitting here to-day still under the dark gloom of war. Instead of an epoch of peace, we are beginning to get back into that frame of mind in which we were in 1912, 1913, and the beginning of 1914. Substitute the air for the sea, substitute aeroplanes for the Fleet, and history, the most melancholy and most disheartening of history, is repeating itself in the columns of our newspapers to-day.
There is one colossal folly for which the Government must be made very seriously responsible, and that is the wild and wanton escapade of Singapore. We debated that last Thursday, and I am not going over it again, but it is an essential part of our military expenditure. A competition in the air is started. It is very difficult to say who is responsible,—very difficult indeed. It is one of those things where something happens. Something has to be done in order to counteract it, and the game goes on, up and up and up, both sides protesting goodness of heart and honesty of intention. Nevertheless, as though we were bewitched, as though we were people who were insane, subject to some queer kind of doom imposed upon us by devils or stars or something else, we go on and on and or until at last, once again, we are launched into war. That is not to be said of Singapore. Singapore stands in a totally different category, a category all by itself. Surely, if there be one rule in defensive armaments—I am using the popular jargon for the moment—it is that you should never build them until a danger appears. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I thought that would produce amusement, but I repeat it all the same. And for a very simple reason. When a danger appears it does not break 80 upon you straightway. Of course, it does not. If, simply from a sort of vague feeling that somewhere and somehow there is a bolt going to fall upon us, we begin to range the whole world to make this and that and the other thing secure, every time that we imagine we are making ourselves secure we bring out from the vague void exactly the danger that we are trying to meet. You have done it. I heard some very admirable speeches on Thursday, speeches that interested me very much indeed. They were all too technical. The expert is the servant of the Administration, not its master. I shall not forget one of the speeches. It was a most remarkable exposition of the working of the human brain, showing its ingenuity, showing its power, and showing its fore sight; and yet, after all, despised as we are, the politician, the man whose business it is to relate all that human skill and that human power to the minds of nations, the man whose business it is to guard his State, not by power, but by the capacity of handling all the problems that call in ultimately the use of force, is the man that should dominate policy, and not merely the expert who is consulted by his Department.
In Singapore we have this. There is no enemy; there is no threat. Under certain circumstances which have not arisen the lines of commercial communication might be cut. Under certain circumstances that might arise one of the maritime nations in the north might send a fleet a few days' sail to menace the coast of one of those self-governing nations that make up our Colonies. That is all. So we go there. In 1921, when the Dutch States General was being gathered for a Session, we get, first of all, the Queen's Speech, in one paragraph, welcoming in glowing and honest language the re-establishment of The Hague Tribunal, and, in the next paragraph, we get a notice that Bills strengthening the Navy, in view of the necessity for the defence of the Dutch East Indies, will be presented, and that they will be asked to pass them. To-day our newspapers have got paragraphs regarding statements made by two important Japanese Ministers—the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Naval Affairs. That is the result. The world cannot be indifferent to these things. The world will never be indifferent to these things. We can 81 say that we have no intention to threaten anybody. We can say that the British Fleet, the British Air Service, and the British Army have never and never will be the instrument of oppression against any people from one end of the earth to the other. We can say all that. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is true!"] It may be true. I will even put it that way, but what would you say if you were a Jap instead of a Britisher? I submit with great respect that what the Government and what this House of Commons should show is the capacity of putting themselves into the other fellow's shoes. We are not going to be our own judges either here or hereafter. It is far better that we should show that political sagacity of not requiring self-judgment for the justification of our policy. What is going to happen as the result of all this? I do not want to give my own words, because they might be suspect. I believe in peace.
Yes, I do, rightly or wrongly, and I will never haul down my flag. However strongly my hon. and gallant Friends may object, I stick to it. Therefore, I do not want to quote my own views. I will quote the views of a very important writer, an anonymous writer in the "Round Table" of just about a year ago. The extract may be a little long, but it is so important that I venture to ask the House to give me its usual indulgence to read it all. This is from the "Round Table":Thus it was,the writer goes on, and I am informed that he is a very important military authority—as was pointed out in this review in 1915, that the terrible time-table of the European General Staffs had far more to do with the actual outbreak of the World War than the deliberate decision of any man or Government. But it is almost certain that no one, politician or general, deliberately decided to start the World War. It was the military time-table itself which swept them, like everybody else, headlong into the struggle—once the first button had been pressed. Hence the frantic telegrams—I can leave that. This is the end of it all:And this is the situation which must always arise where national security is based upon competitive armaments. A time will 82 inevitably come when the deliberations of diplomats and statesmen will be rudely broken into by considerations of military necessities and nations will be rushed headlong into war, whether they know it or not.That is the abbreviated extract from the "Round Table," and that is exactly the position that we are beginning to occupy now. We have to face this: If we ever find ourselves in another war, as we certainly shall unless we manage to tackle this question,—which is the subject of my Motion,—and tackle it on the lines that we indicate, no victory will be possible, because it will be doubtful—we shall not be here—how many of those who are then filling our positions will be left when the war is over. No victory can be possible. There are two things developing now that makes that absolutely certain. First of all, there is the blockade. When soldiers in uniform were maimed, wounded, and killed, that was bad enough; but that was a limited thing. That now belongs to mediaeval history. When one nations declares war against another nation, it is not the soldiers, the armies that fight each other, but the women are fought, the civilian population are fought, the children are fought, the old people are fought. There is not a single person breathing within the boundaries of the State that is not fought.
The next war will be worse than ever. There will be the blockade, and, what is more, there will be the air raids, with poison gases, which will simply devastate whole towns and whole countrysides. That is not how we are going to redress wrongs. The end of it all—and it has been very largely shown as the result of this War—is to create one great military hegemony. Small nations are crushed, weak nations are brought into servitude, either as allies or as enemies, and in the end, on account of the massing of material, the massing of brains, the organisation of national power, the result of it is that one nation is going to dominate with, perhaps, a small group of nations nearly as powerful disputing its domination. That is not an end that anybody would care to face who has any respect for humanity or any desire for peace. No small nation can live under existing military conditions. It is just like the cedars of Lebanon, whose shadow 83 is so dark and whose drawing of sustenance from the soil is so tremendous that not the tiniest of plants can find root and sustenance under their shade. We are building up enormous nations now. We have liberated Czechoslovakia, the Czechs and the Slovaks, the Serbians, and so on, and the moment they are liberated they have to find a nesting place, a bough where they can perch, and receive the protection of large nations that use them as allies, and, of course, human nature being what it is, insists on servility rather than liberty as the price.
Nationality, if it means anything, requires disarmament. That is the situation with which we are faced to-day. Nothing is more terrible than to feel that we cannot get out of it. Nothing is more maddening, nothing makes us feel how puny and insignificant is that extraordinary imagination of Milton, when he portrayed the wild ingenuities of enmity, the implacable dreadful enmity of Satan—nothing makes us feel how puny and insignificant that is than the condition in which we find ourselves to-day. It is the armament danger coming again—this competition of armaments growing up, and everyone of us, however strong we may be or imagine ourselves to be, feel absolutely nothing in the face of what seem to be great natural forces which are destined to crush us. I hope the Government is not going to take that view. I hope this House to-day is going to pass this Resolution, not as a pious opinion—I am sick and tired of pious opinions about peace—but as a great invitation to the whole world, indicating our desire, not our pious desire, but our determination, to put an end to the whole thing and give the world a chance of living in peace at the same time that it enjoys liberty.
Of course, there is a dilemma. I know it perfectly well. It is a very serious dilemma, and it is this: On the one hand, you say to a Government, "Do not spend in armaments." The Government says, "We must spend; public opinion compels us to spend; public fear compels us to spend." That is one side. The other horn is, "Spend, and you make war inevitable." It is a horrible dilemma, in which every Government will find itself. Now all I can say is this, 84 that all that that means is that there is to be a transition time. What we have to do is to make up our minds that there is absolutely no national security in military expenditure alone—absolutely none—but that by trusting to military expenditure alone, we are dooming ourselves to ultimate destruction. The British Empire itself, the British Commonwealth of Nations, cannot live, cannot exist, cannot be protected by air fleets, or sea fleets, or armies. Sooner or later they will eat it up; they will involve it in destruction. Our one chance is to begin at once a policy which, whilst yielding nothing, nevertheless brings together the nations of the world, who are just as much aware as we are of the folly of these armaments, mobilising public opinion against them, and coming to international agreements that will be properly guaranteed and backed up by the necessary Government authority to enforce, if necessary—[An HON. MEMBER: "Enforce by what?"]—enforce not, surely, by new armies, and new navies, and new air forces. If my hon. Friend does me an injury, and I take him into Court, and he has a sentence passed upon him, his sentence would not be enforced by a policeman's baton. [An HON. MEMBER: "By the force behind!"] The force behind is purely nominal in every civilised society. The hon. Member knows perfectly well that so long as his security in society rests on force, it is not security at all. If the hon. Member going out of this House to-night went into a society that depended upon force, the chances are that he would be sandbagged before he got out of Palace Yard.
The hon. Member's security, and my security, and the security of us all lies upon this, that we have discovered a new way of enforcing these things. That way is by trusting to the inter-dependence and inter-relation of men who have been brought up to a civilised way of thinking, and to a communal method of conduct. The hon. Member knows, I am sure, that that habit of mind did not come in one generation. No, but it had to start, and its triumph consists in this, that after it started it went on, and fulfilled itself, and created itself as the life of the system, otherwise that system would not be so complete as it now is, and we have to do to nations exactly what we have done to individuals. That policy has to have a beginning. In that begin- 85 ning, I am very much interested, and follow with a great deal of anxiety the attempts, now being made by the Noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal to devise some scheme dealing with disarmament to bring before the League of Nations.
Let us be quite clear about that. There are two things we have to remember there. Nations still trust to war in order to rectify grievances. If you do wrong to a nation, the nation hopes to rectify the wrong by fighting. If a nation, as the result of one war, has received what it considers an insult to its amour propre, it waits. Like Mary Queen of Scots, on a memorable occasion, the nation says, "I shall henceforth study revenge." Therefore, there is no nation, no group of nations, that will submit to disarmament unless they have some sort of guarantee that their grievances are going to be dealt with otherwise than by war. That being so, we can have no conditions of peace in Europe until the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles are revised. I was reading the other day what General Smuts said about the Treaty, immediately after it was made, when he was speaking on 30th June, 1919. He said:There are territorial settlements which will need revision. There are guarantees laid down which we all hope will soon be found out of harmony with the new peaceful temper and unarmed state of our former enemies. There are punishments shadowed, over most of which a calmer mood may yet prefer to pass the sponge of oblivion. There are indemnities stipulated which cannot be exacted without injury to the industrial revival of Europe, and which will be in the interests of all to render more tolerable and moderate.That means that we have to revise the Treaty. That means that the first thing the League of Nations must do is to set up a judicial court to which every nation with a grievance can bring its grievance. We have to set ourselves again in the gateways of the world, and all those to whom wrong has been done, or who believe that wrong has been done to them, may come and put their petition in front of us with the assurance that the petition would be properly considered. And there is something more. There must be some form, during the transition period at any rate, of a mutual guarantee. The question is what form that guarantee ought to take. I am perfectly certain of this, that a guarantee given to one nation alone is not making for peace, 86 cannot make for peace. France guaranteed by Great Britain, by Belgium, by Italy, and by America—that compact is a compact for war and oppression, not a compact for peace and liberty. Therefore, any attempt made to allay public fears by giving securities must, in Europe in any event, include both Germany and Russia. They must all be in. The small nation must be assured that it will not be treated aggressively by the large nation, just as much as the large nation, wants an assurance that it will not be invaded by another large nation. I do not like that sort of method at all, even at its best, because it is absolutely impossible to define what aggression is. You cannot tell where aggression begins and where peaceful relationship ends.
When a nation is invaded is suggested as being the test. There is no test at all. If a nation is invaded, the peace mind has gone. Hon. Members know very well that if the foot of a foreign soldier came upon the soil of our country, you would not have the mentality to sit quietly down and discuss the rights and wrongs of the case at all. It would have gone too far. I would not allow anything to happen above mobilisation upon a scheme that had been fixed by the agreeing authorities. You may fix the point at mobilisation, but, even then, the whole thing savours of a mere limitation of a method of security that history shows never can be used with effect. It is far better to get public opinion to feel secure in the fact that potential enemies are not armed rather than that if those enemies invade their borders, various other nations will come to their aid. I do not believe that such a scheme of guarantee will ever work out. It will mean that you are going to have new alliances within your group of nations, and subgroups, one pledging itself to the other, and it will be absolutely impossible, so long as trust is placed upon armaments, to get that feeling of security in the national mind, based on justice, fair play, open, decent conduct and neighbourliness, which is the only foundation on which peace can ultimately rest.
Moreover, no such guarantee can even be thought about until there is a large measure of disarmament. It is no good guaranteeing a nation now. If all the nations of Europe, working with America, were to agree to a certain low standard 87 of military equipment, then for a transition period, a short period, one might be allowed to let the guarantee go. But the essential preliminary of the guarantee is a large measure of disarmament from existing standards, and, not only that, but also an agreement for a continuing disarmament. Those nations who ask for a guarantee must also agree that with the other nations they will appoint a Commission, or something of a permanent character, which, month by month, year by year, will, almost in permanent session, consider the development of armaments, in quality as well as in quantity, so that from time to time an increasing system of disarmament is going to be put into operation as the result of the guarantee. Without that, no guarantee will be safe for any nation to give to another. It may be a long process, but it should be a continuous process.
In the end what we have to trust to is public opinion, together with a judicial machinery for arbitration. That is the bed-rock of it all—public opinion. If you have an unenlightened public opinion, there will be fears and scarce, and, if you have fears and scares, you must have armaments. That is the trouble of it all. An enlightened public opinion, which knows the public opinion of its neighbouring nations, and trusts it, is proof against the fears on which armaments rest. So we here, who belong to the great international working-class movement, feel that we are creating an international public opinion that will bear the strain of feeling secure without any armaments behind it at all.
My final point is this: In the Amendment there is a sort of half-hearted reference to action of the Government, when it is expedient, or when the opportunity comes—at the earliest favourable opportunity His Majesty's Government should use its influence to the utmost extent both through the League of Nations and otherwise to prevent a recurrence of such international competition,and so on. That is not good enough. That means nothing at all. Our Resolution is perfectly clear, perfectly simple, perfectly straight. It says:That this House urges"—88 Cannot we urge the Government to do it? The Government can tell us what it likes, about whether it can do it or not, butThis House urges the Government to take immediate steps to call an international conference to consider a programme of national safety based upon the policy that by disarmament alone can the peace and liberty of email and large nations alike be secured.A perfectly simple proposition, and to that proposition we stand. Why need we wait for other nations? There is no nation in the world that, both by its tradition and position, should act more swiftly than this nation. We are more dependent upon peace than, probably, any other nation in the world. Our trade is more a peace trade than any other. We cannot settle down within our own boundaries, and till our own fields, and produce everything we consume. For good or for ill, we are a nation which produces for export trade. For good or for ill, we have differentiated our population in such a way that when the markets of the world are clogged, when the means of communication are broken, when the consuming capacity of foreign nations is low, we are troubled with unemployment, bad trade, loss of capital, and industrial conditions which create very serious political and social unrest. There is no nation in the world placed in the same precarious position in which we are placed, should war, unfortunately, break out. It is right that our Government should take immediate steps to protect us against the oppression of such a calamity as that of 1914 to 1918. There is no nation in Europe that is more menaced by a military dictatorship on the part of any other European nation. This country is so circumstanced that any other European nation in the position of a military dictator must be regarded with suspicion by us. Why, our wars for the last 400 years have been largely caused by that, and it is inevitable that, as the result of the evolution of highly technical, highly skilled armaments, further preparation for war must result—as I believe it must from all the tactics of war, all the industrial tactics, all the political tactics—in a military hegemony in Europe. That is a more serious step in the history of this country than anything that can be imagined possible.
89 The third reason is this, and it is the best of all. We have a tradition. This country has got the possession of a reputation which ought to be used to-day in leading the world towards peace. We may have wandered far from it. I have gone North, South, East and West in the world, and I have met many peoples and the rulers of many peoples, but I have never met anyone yet who would resent Great Britain taking the lead in a great movement for the disarmament of the nations of the world. I believe that an invitation from our Government would be welcomed. I hope I am a good friend of America. I am rather jealous of America—in the old days, the Tsar of Russia led in this great movement—a jealousy which is not a jealousy of hostility, but of love of my own people, my own country, its own name; and I am sure that, if our Government, in view of the fact that public opinion all over the world is restive and unhappy about this situation, in view of the fact that people, oven before the tears which welled up on account of their losses, are dry on their cheeks, are beginning to feel there must be something devilish in the operations now going on in increasing armies, navies and air forces—if, I say, we would here make this gesture to the world, put out this invitation to the world, ask the world to come and devise a new means of rectifying injustice, ask the world to put the follies of militarism behind it, so that the future may be greater and finer—what can give our Government greater authority and influence in the counsels of men, what can do more, not only for the security of nations, but for the peace and the liberty of the whole world?
§ Mr. O'NEILL
I beg to move, to leave out the wordsdeplores the enormous and growing expenditure on the naval and air forces and on other military preparations which is beginning once more a competition in armaments and is depleting resources that should be available for expenditure on education, public health, and similar social and human services, and, recalling the pledges of political leaders and the expectations of the nation that the Great World War was to end war, urges the Government to take immediate steps to call an international conference to consider a programme of national safety based upon the policy that by disarmament alone can the peace and liberty of small and large nations alike be secured,90 and to add instead thereof the wordsviews with alarm the danger of renewed competition in armament among nations, and is of opinion that at the earliest favourable opportunity His Majesty's Government should use its influence to the utmost extent both through the League of Nations and otherwise to prevent a recurrence of such international competition and bring about a general limitation of armaments.I move this Amendment for two main reasons. First of all, because I feel that it would be undesirable simply that the Motion of the Leader of the Opposition should be frankly negatived. That might create misunderstandings abroad and also because a frank negative would unfortunately not be in accordance with the feeling of the great mass of the people of this country. The second reason I had in my mind was—and this is a point which the Leader of the Opposition dealt with last—that the Resolution suggests an immediate conference of the nations for disarmament. Those whose names are associated with mine in this Amendment, and I feel that an immediate conference of the nations for this purpose is impracticable and, under present conditions, undesirable. Nothing can be done towards this object till the present situation clears, and until the Ruhr position is either settled, or is, at any rate modified and becomes much less acute.
I am fortified in that assertion by a Resolution in the Report of the last meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations. The Assembly of the League were considering the report of the Third Committee, and the Resolution is as follows:The Assembly (of the League), considering that moral disarmament is an essential preliminary to material disarmament and that this moral disarmament can only be achieved in an atmosphere of mutual confidence and security, declares that such confidence cannot be attained so long as the world continues to suffer from disorganisation of the exchanges, economic chaos, and unemployment.…It expresses the hope that the Governments, signatories of the international treaties and agreements which deal with these questions, will achieve, as soon as possible, a general settlement of the problem of reparations and inter-allied debts.That is the first reply to the hon. Gentleman—an immediate conference would be no very great object at the moment. I hope to examine this question perhaps on rather different lines to those of the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps it 91 will be helpful to take stock of the general position in regard to this question in Europe as it now is. It seems to me that there are certain very favourable factors in this question of the modification of armaments. I will go through them one by one. There is, first of all, the fact that the old militarist empires have been annihilated. Germany, Russia, Austria—those great military powers which dominated Europe before the War are now practically annihilated. Personal rule has been replaced by popular rule; autocratic Governments by democratic Governments. These are tremendous achievements in themselves. Even if they stood alone they would place the whole position of this question in a much more favourable attitude than it occupied before the War.
My second favourable factor is this: After no previous war has there been such a complete disarmament by the victorious nations as a whole. We, ourselves, have demobilised, I suppose, 5,000,000 men since the War. The United States—their vast armies are no longer in existence! Our own Dominions—their armies have entirely disappeared. Another favourable factor is that after no previous war has there been such a wiping out of the armaments of the vanquished nations. Apart from certain smaller States in Europe, and some of the States in Eastern Europe with which in this present controversy it is difficult perhaps adequately to deal, the Peace Treaty contained enormously exhaustive Clauses in regard to armaments which the vanquished countries were permitted to keep up. The fourth favourable factor—and again the hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred to it as being in my Amendment—is the existence of the League of Nations, which, as those who have been studying its activities lately know, is doing a very remarkable and a very useful work in regard to the possibility of limiting armaments in Europe, and upon which the Noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal and the right hon. Gentleman the late Minister for Education (Mr. Fisher) have taken so prominent a part. The fifth favourable factor is the existence of the Washington Treaties. The most remarkable achievement, perhaps, of all that we see in the world to-day is the way in which it has been possible 92 to bring about a scheme of naval disarmament on so vast and general a scale that one cannot help feeling that there is some hope that something of the same sort may be done in other directions.
I come now to what I consider the unfavourable factors in a general survey of the present situation. First of all, there is, of course, the present canker of the Ruhr which is tending every day to accentuate and exascerbate the feelings of the nations of Europe. The second unfavourable factor is the recent increase in our own air armaments, followed by certain rumblings across the Channel which look rather as though it were intended that there should be a sequel in France. The third unfavourable factor is France's overwhelming fear for her own security. I should like to examine that matter from a rather different view-point to that usually put forward. Why are armaments required at all? Firstly, they are required for defence—[An HON. MEMBER: "No, for offence!"] I beg to differ from the hon. Member who seems to think that it is impossible to differentiate between defence and offence. Firstly, armaments are required for defence. In regard to that, one cannot get a more admirable statement than that of the Prime Minister, when he was dealing with our own increase in the Air Force, when he said:British air power must include a Home Defence Air Force of sufficient strength adequately to protect us against air attack by the strongest air force within striking distance of this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th June, 1923; col. 2,142. Vol. 165.]That is the defensive form of armament. It is perfectly legitimate, and beyond question absolutely necessary to this country. The second form of armament is the offensive form of armament, wholly reprehensible in the sense in which I use it, of the character of the German pre-War armament and utterly out of touch with the spirit of post-War Europe. To come a little closer to the question for the moment, what countries to-day have got armaments in excess of their defensive requirements. We, certainly, have not! Many people think that since the War we have almost gone to the length of folly in the reductions that we have made in our different fighting Services. Has France got armaments in excess of her defensive requirements?
93 In regard to that I am going to put forward two propositions which I think will meet with unqualified and universal agreement on the part of reasonable men. We do not want to fight France or to attack France. That is the first proposition. Secondly, quite certain to my mind is the fact that France does not want to attack us. Therefore France's armaments, whatever they may be, are due solely to her feeling of insecurity. To that extent they are defensive armaments. It seems to me that it would be an intolerable position if we were to enter into a competition of armaments with France. It would be intolerable, unthinkable, criminal! If I am right in that survey of the position—
§ Mr. O'NEILL
—what is to be done? That is really the practical question. Let us assume that the present Ruhr and Reparations difficulty is settled because, as I have said, before it is settled no International Conference can be any good or until, at any rate, the tension is considerably relaxed. It is a large and a bold assumption to make, but I think, in view particularly of what has happened in the last day or two, that the position is somewhat clearer and easier, and I think it is not too bold an assumption to make—the assumption that possibly within the next few months the tension may be very greatly relaxed. Then will be the time to have a general conference as proposed by the Resolution of the Leader of the Opposition; or—I am not sure—do what would not perhaps be better in view of the existing facts, that we should enter into separate negotiations with France in regard to the limitation of armaments. I do not think we need wait for the Treaty of Mutual Guarantee which the League of Nations is now in process of evolving; nor do I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that a Treaty of Mutual Guarantee is—I think he put it higher than that—that a more particular guarantee than that—is contrary to the spirit of the League of Nations, because at the last meeting of the League Assembly it was specifically stated that the League approved of regional agreements between countries. I do not consider that he in any way rendered impossible or difficult the final ideal of a treaty of mutual guarantees. Let us enter into these negotiations 94 with France. Let us bring to our aid Article 8 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, the Article which deals with disarmament questions, and one of whose paragraphs, although I am not sure that it has ever been made use of, says that the different nations are to give each other full, free, and frank information as to their armaments and their proposed programmes.
But concurrently with our discussions with France, or the general discussion—whichever may come first—I do most strongly hold to the view that we should go a step further, and that we should once again offer to France the Guarantee Treaty which we signed at Versailles, but which, owing to the abstention of the United States, never came to fruition. We ought to be prepared to give to France a clear, definite, and unconditional guarantee against aggression by any other Power. Everybody knows that some form of guarantee was offered by the late Prime Minister to M. Briand at Cannes, but it was hedged round with so many conditions that France was unable to accept it. But I do feel that perhaps in happier circumstances we could again, in conjunction with the discussion upon the limitation of armaments, offer to France the free and unconditional support of the British Empire in case she is ever again attacked.
§ Mr. O'NEILL
I do not think that that is a question that should be dealt with across the Floor of this House. It is a matter for conference and deliberation between the countries primarily concerned. Skilfully managed and with mutual goodwill, which we have no reason to suppose will not exist, I believe that success on these lines might be attained. France must ultimately depend upon her alliance with us. I believe everybody in France, from M. Poincaré downwards, fully understands that. She depended wholly and entirely upon her alliance in the last War. What would France have been; what would have been her fate without the support of ourselves and the other countries of the world who stood by her? I was in Paris not long ago, just at the time when the Ruhr difficulty was commencing, and the French were advancing into that territory. I found not a few Frenchmen among those to whom I spoke who were doubtful of the wisdom of that 95 policy, but whether they were doubtful or not, I found them absolutely unanimous in the opinion that France must for her future security and her future existence depend upon the goodwill of and alliance with the British Empire. The curious fact was that most of those who took the view that the advance into the Ruhr was a possible mistake were those of what I might call the younger generation. That is France's real security. Security can never be found, as the Leader of the Opposition said just now very truly, in aggressive militarism.
History teaches us with almost monotonous insistency that that can only mean war, and that it assuredly means in the end the defeat of the aggressively militarist nation. The wars of Frederick the Great in the 18th century were wars of aggression, though by his wonderful military genius and triumphs he succeeded in raising Prussia to a position of great eminence and great prosperity in Europe. Nevertheless the position to which she attained was itself half a century later swept aside by the great military aggressive campaigns of Napoleon. He in his turn met the fate by the determination of the nations of Europe to crush his militarism. Then the last militaristic effort of the Hohenzollerns met the fate of all the others, the fate which will certainly befall all aggressive militaristic movements among the nations of the world. The late War was fought perhaps more definitely than any other war has been to crush militarism in Europe, and consequently in the world. Everybody remembers the well-known formula of the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). During the War when he was Prime Minister he said over and over again that the main object of the War was that the military domination of Prussia must be fully and finally destroyed, and that dictum remained the guiding star of the Alliance from the first moment of the War until it reached its end. It has been fully destroyed, but, whether militarism on the part of Prussia or on the part of any other nation has been finally destroyed or not, must depend upon the nations which fought in the last War, and particularly upon the victorious nations, and upon how they administer the trust which has been imposed upon them for the future. The resurrection 96 of militarism can only be prevented by sagacious, temperate, firm and wide-minded unity of international policy, purpose and action, based upon a different spirit from that which governed the Europe of pre-War days. Unless such a spirit can be evolved, the fundamental object of the War will have failed and the doom of Western predominance in the world will sooner or later, but none the less inevitably, be sealed.
§ Brigadier-General COCKERILL
I beg to second the Amendment.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. MacDonald) went out of his way, I think, to attack the terms of the Amendment which stands in the names of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Antrim (Mr. O'Neill), myself and other Members. I do not propose to follow him or to waste many words upon those attacks. I will content myself with saying that the Motion itself seems to me to bear every sign of hasty drafting. I think the hon. Gentleman forgot the League of Nations when he was drafting it. He suggests some relation between military expenditure and our expenditure on education, health, and similar social and human services. If such a relation could be established, nobody on this side of the House would yield to any Member on the other side as to its desirability, but when a house is burning it is not the time to talk of educating children or of small matters of health. The suggested relation is purely academic. The hon. Gentleman went on to recall a pledge that the late War was fought to end war. There is nothing in our Amendment which in any way conflicts with that. There is a very definite proposal with that object in the Motion, and an equally definite proposal with the same object in the Amendment, and on reflection I hope that the hon. Gentleman will himself be able to support the Amendment. He has already adopted portions of it, but at any rate I cannot see how anyone on his side of the House can go into the Lobby against it.
These, however, are small blemishes in the Motion before the House. There are, I think, larger defects. In the first place, quite unintentionally no doubt, the impression is distinctly conveyed in the Motion that it is this country which is "beginning once more a competition in 97 armaments." If that be the charge, I say that it is not true now, and it never was true in the history of this country. It would be more true to say that England's traditional policy of retrenchment and disarmament has been the cause of past wars. Take, for example, so long ago as 1701. Then France did not desire war, but Louis imagined—I am quoting from Lecky's History—that his power would intimidate all opponents, and he persuaded himself there was nothing to fear from England. In 1793 there was exactly the same kind of report from French agents to the Convention, and in the same sense, that this country was powerless. Pitt himself struggled desperately to avoid a conflict with France, but diplomacy without force proved to be rudderless, the French attacked the Netherlands and forced this country into war. On both occasions this country, which was seeking peace and taking the road towards its own disarmament, found itself embarked in war. The same monotonous story runs through three centuries of this country's history.
Nor is the charge true now. The action of the Government at Washington Conference, in conjunction with large Army reductions—far larger than many hon. Members think can safely be adopted—prove how anxious this country is and always has been to take the lead in disarmament.
The fact is that a policy of isolated disarmament is really fatal to peace. The Motion before the House, in my judgment, does not sufficiently emphasise the necessity for disarmament to be general in its character. In that respect the words of the Amendment seem to me a great improvement. In a world full of conflict the value of military force cannot be ignored to-day any more than it could in the past. On the other hand if disarmament be general then it may be possible that you can create a virtuous circle as opposed to a vicious circle, and you may have a new spirit and a new confidence born in the country—a spirit and a confidence that may, in their turn, dispel suspicion and raise fresh hopes. I am sure on this side of the House there is every desire—and the Amendment I am urging on the House proves it—to support a policy of general dis- 98 armament. I think myself that one of the greatest objections to the Motion before the House is, that it lays far too little emphasis on the general character of the action it is necessary to take.
My third objection to the Motion is that it calls on the Government to take immediate steps for an International Conference to consider a programme of national safety. The Amendment, on the other hand, leaves the Government full initiative and choice both of time and means. I remember, when I was a boy, one who afterwards rose to a great position in the State giving me a word of advice such as is often given unasked to young people. He said to me, "Never let any man get into the habit of saying 'no' to you," and to avoid that difficulty he counselled that every request I might make should be reasonable and opportune—a tall order. What applies to young people applies infinitely more to nations. This country cannot maintain its influence if by putting forward proposals at inopportune moments, it is to get other nations in the habit of saying, "no." That is not the way in which the influence of this country in the past has been maintained. Can it be claimed that the present moment is opportune? The right hon. Member for Antrim (Mr. O'Neill) discussed this point very fully and very forcibly. I need not therefore dwell on it. To me it is clear that for the reasons he gave the present moment would be inopportune, but fortunately, as I think, other considerations as weighty arise.
The question of disarmament surely is not solely our own affair. The hon. Gentleman who introduced the Motion showed that very clearly in one part of his speech where he attacked the Government in regard to its policy at Singapore. The suggestion I would make to the House is that, this question being plainly of Imperial interest, the first step we should take should be in consultation with the Dominions to investigate our Imperial obligations in the light of the Military means available. The forthcoming Imperial Conference gives us that opportunity. I would like to remind the Prime Minister of a deputation which waited on his two immediate predecessors in the great office which he holds. The two, sitting together, met a deputation from the Army Committee. The deputation was for the purpose of 99 impressing on them the necessity for an organisation to ensure the continuous study of all our means of defence, in order to secure complete efficiency and economy. The deputation waited on the Prime Minister in 1920. The organisation has not yet been created, and I think it would greatly assist the House and the country in coming to a judgment on this question of Imperial policy if they had the assistance of some such Committee. The first step is that we should ascertain the views on this large question of our own Empire, and the next step might well be, as is suggested in the Amendment, to use our influence through the League of Nations.
One often hears, and I have seen the verse quoted by an officer of high rank in the last few weeks, that, when a strong man armed keepeth his house, his goods are in peace. To-day a strong man armed, if he has not got a licence to possess arms, is far more likely to find himself hailed before a magistrate. That is typical of what is taking place in our national life, the defence of personal property being intrusted to the law, similarly it should be the goal in our international life to replace the law of force by the force of law.
In conclusion, may I say that, in my judgment, there are only two possible worlds in regard to this question of defence? There is one in which every civilised nation, armed to the teeth, confronts his neighbours with crowded arsenals and workshops convertible into munition factories. The other possible world is one in which the greater nations, realising the truth that international peace is the world's most vital interest, are resolved to maintain it at all costs, in co-operation with each other, alike against bullies or barbarians. It is the latter type of world that we all on both sides of the House wish to see, and because the terms of the Amendment seem to offer the more practical approach to that ideal, I ask the House to support the Amendment rather than the Motion of the hon. Member for Aberavon.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I cannot help regretting that this Amendment has been moved, not because I do not subscribe to its terms—for I am in full sympathy with them, and to a large extent with 100 the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Antrim (Mr. O'Neill) who moved it, and to a still larger extent, if he will allow me to say so, with the admirable speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Reigate (Brigadier-General Cockerill), who seconded it. But I regret the Amendment has been moved because I think it is of the utmost importance that at a time like this, and in the circumstances in which we are placed, the House of Commons should present an absolutely united front, and should give a firm lead to the rest of the world in protest against the growth of armaments and in proof of its determination to take any practical steps to arrest, and, indeed, to put a final stop to that ruinous competition. I could criticise, if I were in the mood, some of the terms of the Motion that has been proposed by my hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, though in substance I agree with it and with almost the whole of his speech. The only criticism, of at all a serious kind to which I think the terms of the Motion are justly open, is, in regard to the suggestion as to the immediate summoning of an International Conference. I should be very glad to see such a conference, but I should be very sorry if it were to go forth to the world that it is the opinion of this House that the proper tribunal by which matters of this kind ought to be discussed and then adjusted is not the League of Nations, to which all the Powers of Europe are committed in the most solemn form by the Covenant, which forms the vestibule to every one of the Treaties of Peace. But that, after all, is not, as I shall show in a moment, a sufficiently serious matter, in my judgment at any rate, to provoke either division of opinion or, still more, division in the Lobby.
It is impossible to exaggerate the gravity of the situation in which we stand. I remember, in the first month of the War, in September, 1914, making a speech at Dublin in a most remarkable assembly, including not only all the representatives of the Unionists, like my right hon. Friend the present Speaker of the Northern Parliament, but Mr. John Redmond, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, who presided—a convinced Nationalist—and the whole effective representation of what was then the Nationalist party. I 101 used there, though I do not recall the exact words, language to the effect that we should not have attained the ends which led us to embark on this great War unless, as a result, we succeeded in establishing what Mr. Gladstone used to call the substitution for force of public right in the councils of Europe and of the world; unless war, with all its bloodshed, its waste and its suffering, became as obsolete among the customs of the civilised world as duelling has become, within the lifetime of some even now, in society; unless we had an arbitral body established by general consent, to which all differences must be referred, and which could enforce its decisions by the common consent, and, if necessary, by the common force, of all its members.
These were not merely my opinions, but the ideals and the deliberate purposes with which many of us entered upon the War, for the attainment of which we made untold sacrifices, and for the realisation of which, we hoped, the ultimate victory of the Allied forces would be an effective and permanent guarantee. That was in September, 1914. We are now in July, 1923. The War has been fought, the world has been devastated, the expenditure of treasure and of life and the heroism displayed have been more profuse than in any previous chapter in all the pages of history. Victory remained with the Allies. How far have we advanced during the five years—for they are now nearly five—since the Armistice was signed in November, 1918, towards the practical attainment of those ends? The right hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment called attention to the fact that, as one result of the War, the three great autocracies upon the Continent of Europe, which between them disposed of by far the largest part of the military force of the world, and a very substantial part of its naval force, have ceased to exist. That is true, and one might have thought that that at any rate was a step—and I believe it was a step—but a much more substantial step than it has proved to be towards the reduction, and, indeed, abolition, of armaments.
What are the actual facts as they confront us to-day? Europe is still an armed camp. I believe that the best estimates of the experts will tell you that there are more men actually under arms, or ready for military purposes, on the Continent 102 of Europe at the present moment than there were at the time when war broke out in 1914. I will not go into figures, but I am quite sure I am substantially right when I say that that is the actual fact. One effective step, and, so far as I know, one only, has been taken since the conclusion of the Armistice, not only to reduce the annual burden but to prevent its recurrence in the future. That step was taken—and it is a strong argument in favour of my hon. Friend's proposal for an International Conference—that step was taken at the Conference at Washington. It is quite true that all the Powers of the world were not represented. It was confined, in fact, to the principal naval powers. I am very much afraid that it would be impossible at this moment, or until the League of Nations is amplified and reinforced and becomes really operative, as it ought to be, to bring together a conference representing all the Powers, great and small, of the world; but the Conference at Washington did one great thing—it established an agreement among all the competitive Powers, or those, at any rate, who have been competitors in days gone by, as to a reduction in the size and number of capital ships. I wish it had gone further. Cruisers, light craft, submarines, were still left practically to the unrestrained exercise of the will of individual Governments, and I observed that the other day, in the debate in the French Chamber, when, after considerable delay, the two Treaties of Washington were at last ratified, great stress was laid, with a view of placating opposition and securing unanimous support for those Treaties, on the extremely limited character of the restrictions which the Conference at Washington had imposed. So far as it went, however, it was a real step in advance, and, as many of us hoped, and as I still hope, a milestone on the road towards at any rate a reduction of naval expenditure.
The duty of those who think that the armaments of the world are its greatest curse, and the most fruitful, and, indeed, inevitable source of ultimate friction and conflict, is to set an example. It is no use paying the facile rhetorical lip-service of large phrases with capital letters; you must show by your actual practice that you believe in what you profess yourselves and what you preach to other people. I think that we here in some respects have 103 accepted that duty in regard both to the Army and the Navy. Our Navy is now, as I understand, according to the Admiralty reports, barely up to a one-power standard. In the days when I was responsible for the conduct of government in this country, we aimed at, and we secured, a Navy which was predominant over all the other navies in the world. That is no longer necessary, because the great menace with which we were then confronted has ceased to exist. It was necessary then; otherwise this would not have been a free country at this moment. Happily, it is no longer necessary now. In the Army, too, there have been very large and substantial, and, I believe, on the whole, thoroughly justifiable reductions.
The Air Force, of course, presents a somewhat different problem. I heard the right hon. Gentleman opposite, I think it was, dilating on the differences between the rôle of forces, air or otherwise, according to whether they were offensive or defensive; but there is no such distinction. The best form of defence, in many cases and for many purposes, is to provide yourself with a counter-offensive, and you will find, if you look into the matter, that that is the case in regard to the air. I confess that I look with some misgiving upon our present position in that respect. I am not committing myself to the proposals which the Government has made, but I am quite sure that it is a matter which needs urgent and drastic attention. But when you are comparing people's professions with their practice, what can be said for the proposal which was discussed, and, I am sorry to say, approved by a large majority of this House, the other night, to build a huge naval base at Singapore, 7,000 or 8,000 miles from our own shores? I am not going—because it would not be germane to this discussion—into the strategic aspects, but, with some considerable experience of these matters, I am not only not convinced, I am in the highest degree sceptical, of any strategic advantage from the construction of this naval base, if ever it be constructed, that is to say, at the expiration of 10 years, when the whole conditions of naval warfare may well have been completely revolutionised. I am more than sceptical that, on strategical grounds, there is any warrant or justification for it at all. The 104 suggestion that it has some kind of tacit approval from Japan is, I think, sufficiently disposed of by what we read in the papers to-day. I am not, however, dealing with it on those grounds; I am dealing with it from a much larger point of view, and one that is relevant to this Motion, namely, that it is a distinctly, I will not say aggressive step, but a step in the way of committing yourself to a large and indefinite expenditure. Do not imagine that we can confine it to £10,000,000. Anyone who has been, as I and my hon. Friend who sits near me have been, through the history of Rosyth, which was a necessary purpose, knows perfectly well that these Estimates are always falsified and always exceeded, and generally greatly and grossly exceeded. It is not a question of £10,000,000, but of what I may describe as an indefinite and immeasurable expenditure. I make a strong appeal to His Majesty's Government to stay their hands in this matter. Happily, so far we have not expended much. I think the Estimate of the present year is not a very large one. Before they commit themselves definitely and irrevocably to the prosecution and completion of this scheme, let them not only refer it, as it ought to be referred, to the Imperial Conference—I do not say their judgment should be conclusive—but let it be referred and discussed there, and, above all, I would ask them to put the country and Parliament—I can see no public interest which will be in any way endangered by their doing so—into possession of the expert opinions, and the evidence on which those opinions are founded, for this totally new departure of which I have never heard, nor anyone connected with the Government of the country has ever heard in the years gone by. I mention that by way of illustration as a reason why in times like these, when we are all professing, and honestly professing, our desire for the curtailment of the armed resources of the world, for a diminution of the money raised by taxation and diverted from productive purposes to the unproductive equipment of naval and military warfare, we ought to pause before we give any countenance to the notion that we ourselves are not sincere in the advocacy of disarmament.
I want to come to another aspect. I see on the Treasury Bench my noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal who, I am very glad 105 to know, now represents His Majesty's Government upon the Council of the League of Nations—an unmixed advantage to this country and an equally great advantage to the Council of the League of Nations itself. We know that my Noble Friend has submitted to a Committee or a Sub-committee of the Council a scheme of disarmament, and we have heard during the last few weeks or days very encouraging reports as to the progress which is being made towards a general agreement between the Powers on that subject. I want to point out, what is perfectly well known to my Noble Friend, that when you are talking about disarmament and trying by all practical means to promote it, you must never forget that it is interlaced with and. to a large extent, dependent upon, another problem, namely, that of security. We do not yet live, as at some moment in the speech of the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) I thought we were living, in an ideal world where you can leave your door unlocked at night without any fear of predatory intrusion. Particularly when you come to international affairs, the collective will, which embodies the collective opinion of the nations of the world, cannot be left to execute itself automatically and without any machinery. But I entirely assent to his view that what we ought to aim at, and what I hope we shall secure, is the growing strength and vitality of what I may call the coercive force of general opinion. In the meantime you cannot dispense with guarantees. I am coming now to an absolutely practical question, a question of vital importance to the future of Europe, and not only of Europe but of the world. Suppose you get, as I hope you will get, your disarmament pact assented to by the League of Nations in the first instance, and ultimately by the world at large, how is it going to be enforced? It is no good blinking the question. It must not be a brutum fulmen, a mere paper stipulation.
There must be some sanction, some guarantee, and some effective guarantee, to which recalcitrant and unreasonable people will be obliged to bow. A collective guarantee which requires for its enforcement a joint contribution by all the nations concerned may, and very often will, prove to be a clumsy, ineffective, impracticable measure, and without 106 reviving in any way what I should deprecate above everything, the whole system of groups, special alliances, or ententes, or whatever name you call them, without reviving in any way those isolated or more or less isolated combinations between particular Powers, you must, to make your guarantee effective, have a power of delegation—regional delegation if you like—in particular cases to specific Powers or groups of Powers to carry out and make the collective will effective. It should be strictly a delegation in its origin and in its operations. It should be subject to the supervision and the authority of the central body. Such a machinery is an essential part of a really effective scheme of guarantees which, as I have pointed out, is a necessary corollary of disarmament. I am as satisfied as I am of anything in the world. I am glad to think the Noble Lord agrees with me. That is a practical matter to which the attention of the House and all who are interested in the future of Europe ought to be sedulously and carefully directed. But after all we are not dealing here merely with matters of machinery. We want, if we can, this House of Commons to lead the way to Europe and the world on this better path. I was glad to hear from my hon. Friend beside me—I will not say I was surprised to hear—in an eloquent passage towards the close of his speech that he thought that was a mission for which this country was peculiarly fitted; by which I understand him to mean, although there have been, as there undoubtedly have, aberations and divagations from the straight path in British policy in the past, yet upon the whole, taking a large and general view, our great wars have been waged in defence of liberty against the hegemony of particular powers—against for instance the domination of Napoleon and, not less important, against the domination of Prussia and the militarism which reigned in Central Europe 10 years ago. I will not say we can plume ourselves altogether on the rectitude of our secular foreign policy. We will not go into particular cases but on the whole it has been our role to defend the common liberties of the world. We have done so by arms, by soldiers, by sailors, by all the apparatus of destruction in days gone by. It will be a finer and a bigger and more illustrious role if in days to come it can be said that Great Britain, 107 which has sacrificed so much in days gone by of her treasure and of her best blood to secure the liberties of Europe and the world, has now set the example of disarmament and the attainment of universal peace.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
My objection to the Amendment lies in the word "limitation" as opposed to our expression "disarmament." That is to say, the Amendment is to my mind too moderate on a question where I think a rather more drastic and uncompromising line should be taken. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Antrim (Mr. McNeill), who moved it, said he believed that the conditions were favourable to a limitation of armaments owing to the fact that militarism had been abolished in Europe by the late War. I cannot agree with him there because I am quite certain that militarism cannot be annihilated by force of arms, and the attempt to do so in the recent War has only produced a militarism of another type. But when the right hon. Gentleman said he did not believe for a moment that France wanted to fight us or that we wanted to fight France, if by France and us he means the people of France and the people of this country I am in entire agreement with him.
I am convinced that on this whole question of war and armaments the people desire peace, and know that it is their best interest. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) reminded us of the speech which he made at Dublin in which he said what the great purpose of the War was, namely, the enthronement of right. I remember reminding the right hon. Gentleman of those words very soon after he made that speech, and I do not recollect any very great enthusiasm on the part of the right hon. Gentleman when I reminded him of those words. The right hon. Gentleman prided himself that in the days before the War the Navy had been predominant over all the other navies of the world. I am convinced that amongst the prime causes of the great War the competition in armaments previous to 1914 was one of the main factors. Every year in this House I got up and declaimed against it, and I was told it was quite obvious that if Germany was building we must build as well. We were told that we must have 108 first of all a one-power standard, then a two-power standard, then two keels to one, and so it went on gradually growing, and, although to-day I may be told that I was wrong in my protest then, I am convinced that if I and those who worked with me had been able to check that competition in armaments before 1914 the War would never have come about.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
I am pleading that we should have taken the lead and been the first in the field and persisted, and we should have got the other nations of the world to join us.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
That is exactly what we did. We set the example over and over again. We reduced our Navy to dangerously small dimensions, and we offered, if Germany would desist from competition, that we would have a naval holiday.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
That speech by Mr. Churchill about a naval holiday was delivered with his tongue in his cheek, and it was obviously insincere. I am uncompromising on this subject. I came into political life on this question of disarmament and peace, and I feel very deeply on this matter, because I see precisely the same thing beginning again to-day. The curtain was rung down on one great tragedy, and it is being rung up upon another. The circumstances have altered a little, but we are beginning again by exactly the same kind of speeches. The First Lord of the Admiralty, on the 12th of March last, assured the House and the country that there was no danger of war,because there are no underlying rivalries or conflicts of purpose which could bring the war within the zone of reasonable probability.That is always the first stage. Then you mentioned some particular power hypothetically without naming it. After a time that it not considered to be sufficiently clear, and then you are bound to mention the particular Power by name. I will give as an illustration of this a quotation from the speech made by the Minister of Air (Sir S. Hoare) on the 14th of March last, when he said:[...] I make a comparison of our strength with the French strength, no one here or in France must form the impression that for one moment I believe war even remotely possible between those two allies.109 That is the second stage. It is the constant repetition of these hypotheses that eventually leads to their realisation. This is a very much more serious form of competition than that of naval armaments before the War. I would like to draw the attention of the House to this matter because we must realise what war in the future really means. To begin with, the Air Service is a great deal cheaper than other forms of armament. The cost of a standard bomber is not very large, and 200 Squadrons would only cost about £2,500,000, and that is less than half the cost of a battleship. They are far more speedily constructed and competition can go on much more rapidly. Our additional programme in the air, which was foreshadowed by the Prime Minister a few weeks ago has already had a slight response in France.
In the last War the whole Air Service was in its infancy, and, of course, we have learned a great deal as to the developments that may be made in that branch of the arm of destruction. There is this to be said about the Air Service, and it is that the old theory that every invention in attack produces an adequate reply in defence, which has always been true in military and naval matters, does not obtain in the Air Service. As a matter of fact, there is a great deal of doubt as to whether anti-aircraft will be of any use at all in this connection. The main object must be, not to stop attacks, but to inflict greater damage by counter attacks. In the last War we went in for little air raids upon particular localities, and we did a certain amount of damage, but they were really very ineffective, just as the German air raids were in this country. We have to go in now for raids of annihilation, a zone of attack will be marked out of some hundreds of miles, in which probably 100 squadrons will take part. You will have 1,200 machines able to carry out three raids in 24 hours. They will be able to carry some 900 tons of explosives and gases, so that after three days 2,700 tons of these explosives and gases can be dropped on the zone marked out quite easily.
What will be the state of that zone while such a raid is going on. There is no doubt about this, because it has all been brought up to date in the most effective possible way. That zone will be a sort of "no man's land." The 110 trains in that zone will not be able to run, and the people will be driven underground. I do not know what the Minister of Air thinks he ought to do under these circumstances, but I think it is his duty to see that the inhabitants are protected not only against explosives but against these heavy poisonous gases which linger about the earth's surface, not for hours but even for days. I think it will have to be part of the curriculum in every school to practice the use of gas masks, otherwise, the civil population, including the women and children, will be destroyed, and it should be borne in mind that the women and children are not going to be the last, but they will be the first to be affected by this form of attack.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
I agree that there must be some form of air defence, but experts know that it is practically ineffective, and it has not been developed to any great extent. Anti-aircraft cannot be depended upon, and we have also to consider that whilst our women and children are perishing in this way, we have to find consolation in the fact that we are doing the same thing in the enemy country. The declaration of war in 1914 was followed by some period of days and weeks in which the various fleets took up their positions. Our armies massed their forces in various localities and there was a certain number of days before the actual outbreak of hostilities. In future a declaration of war will be followed in two hours by a shower of bombs on your capital and your principal buildings, and by the time the next war comes we cannot foresee what diabolical engines of destruction are going to be constructed to devastate humanity and all the possessions of mankind. This is an appalling prospect, and I do not think anything I have said is the least bit exaggerated. We shall always have dust thrown in our eyes by the experts, as was the case before the last War. We shall have hours of Debate as to whether one form of aeroplane is preferable to another form, as to the cost of the latest marvellous invention, as to whether one particular form of bomb is a better destroyer of towns than another, and the experts will vie with each other, and we 111 who talk about the main principle underlying it all will be told to shut up, as we were told before.
Apart from the horrors of war, there is a more tragic thing, and that is its futility. If you saw a man trying to mend a watch with a sledge hammer, you would not say he was a brute, you would say he was an idiot, but that is practically what we are trying to do. We are trying to mend this complex problem of nations mingling and intermingling one with another; we are trying to mend this very complex human machine by killing people and by destroying them in the largest numbers we can. If the people want that, we have better stop this Debate. But I am convinced that the peoples throughout the world do not want it. To take what might seem an absurd idea. If it were an international regulation that the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary of any country that declared war or waged war should be put up against the wall and shot, there never would be war. The people would not want war. The people are kept in the dark; the people are powerless all the time. They cannot curb their Governments; they are not allowed to have any voice; they are not allowed to say what they want, and nothing is ever submitted to their sanction or approval. There will be no security for nations so long as these armaments exist; limitation is no good; there will always be danger.
We have heard a great deal about the Washington Conference, but France has not ratified it, and we have broken it by the construction of the dock at Singapore. We must go to the root of the matter; but unfortunately war pays and that is really the trouble. Money did not rain down like manna among people during the late War because of their patriotism. They made a good thing out of it. While war is financially a paying concern to the individual and world peace is only a morally paying concern to humanity people do not care about it. It is not close enough to them. At the same time peace is not only morally right but is the highest expediency. But with society as it is at present constituted the enrichment of the individual is a very great objective to which everything must be sacrificed, and therefore if people can make money out of war war will continue to be 112 popular. The agencies which make for war are very powerful, and they have full sway once there is a scare of war or once war breaks out. While my hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, myself and others were the target for stones and blows and rotten eggs people were listening in great admiration to Horatio Bottomley. He was the incarnation of the war spirit. But it is not because we have altered our views that we are back here in this House. It is because of our views at that time that our constituents have sent us back with large majorities.
I believe in this Resolution because I think it takes the matter in hand to the fullest extent and demands that the Government should take the lead. Unless we in this generation, who have been witnesses of the tragic futility of the late War, make a great effort and show our determination that it shall not be repeated, the generations to come, who will only have read of it in the pages of history, where it will be surrounded by the glamour with which historians know so well how to decorate the triumphs of arms, will be misled as we were misled, and will be as deluded and powerless as were their fathers when the next great massacre comes. This is the most important issue that can ever come before this House, and we should deal with it now. Welfare, contentment, happiness, advance, well being, can never come to any State through military victories but only through peace. I therefore urge the Government to take the initiative at the earliest possible moment in proposals for disarmament and nothing short of disarmament, and so voice the heartfelt craving of the people of the whole world to be rid permanently of this hideous menace of destruction.
§ Mr. FISHER
My right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) began his eloquent and weighty speech by expressing regret that this Amendment had been put forward at all, on the ground that it was desirable at this juncture to present a united front. I have listened to the many eloquent and interesting speeches which have been delivered, and I know that there has been some difference of tone and some difference of detail. But I think that it is true that in all quarters of 113 the House we do present a united front as to the importance of the limitation of armaments and the necessity of avoiding that ruinous competition in armaments the effect of which we have so many reasons to deplore. For that reason I shall not institute any minute comparison between the merits of the Motion and of the Amendment.
I listened with great admiration to the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald). He has always taken a straight and sincere line. He has never concealed his opinions, even when those opinions were very unpopular with most sections of his fellow countrymen. For that reason he has my respect, and I will not differ in the least from the general expression of principle which formed the greater portion of his speech. I agree with him that armaments lead to war. I agree with him that at the present moment it is the duty of our Government and of all Governments to avoid any recurrence of competition of armaments, and I think that at the present moment there are many ominous signs which indicate that the future of humanity is by no means safe. At the same time, is he wisely inspired in recommending the Government immediately to summon an international conference to consider, as I understand it, not merely the question of the limitation of armaments, but a comprehensive revision of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles?
My only reason for intervening in this Debate is that during the past three years I have served upon the Commission of the Assembly of the League of Nations, which has been charged with examining the question of disarmament, and consequently I have had occasion to consider the question with some particularity. For the past three years the League of Nations has been working at the question. Last month, at the Assembly of the League, it was decided to invite the Council to summon two international conferences. First of all, a conference to deal with the regulation of the manufacture of armaments and the trade in arms, and it was decided that this invitation should be extended, not only to members of the League, but also to the countries at present standing outside the League. It is true that the conference has not yet met. Perhaps if my Noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal (Lord R. Cecil) intends to 114 address us he will inform us whether the invitations have yet been issued. In any case, the Assembly of the League of Nations has come to the decision, that such a Conference should meet.
Hon. Members may think that the regulation of the manufacture of armaments and the traffic in arms is a small matter, but when we consider the scandals which were connected with the international trade in armaments before the War, when we consider that many of the great armament firms on the Continent were connected with newspapers, whose policy was to foment military schemes throughout the world, when we consider the inducements which are offered by Continental armament firms to barbarous or semi-civilised countries to exchange their bows and arrows for the latest refinement of warfare, that in our campaign against the native races of Waziris Pass our enemies were armed with the best weapons which Great Britain and other European countries could supply, we shall conclude that this is no small matter. But it is impossible to advance a step in the direction of the regulation of the manufacture and the traffic in armaments without the concurrence of the United States of America. Reflecting upon the many evils which have come to the world through the failure of America to ratify the Treaty of St. Germain, which was signed in 1920, for the regulation of the traffic in arms we shall realise that the assembly took a wise step in urging the Council to summon such an international conference.
That is not the only international conference which, if the programme of the last assembly is carried through, is to be summoned this year to deal with the question of armaments. The right hon. Member for Paisley very truly alluded to the importance of the Convention of Washington. That convention did put an end to naval competition between the great naval Powers. The Assembly of the League of Nations at its last meeting took into consideration the advisability of summoning a conference of those Powers which were not represented at Washington, for the purpose of considering the extension of the principle of the Washington Convention to the non-signatory Powers, and to that conference America and Russia will be invited. And I was very glad to notice in the paper a statement of Russia's willingness to 115 attend such a conference when, and if, such conference is summoned. That international conference will, if the programme of the Assembly be carried out, meet in the current year.
In view of the fact that we have these two international conferences in prospect, and seeing that the Assembly of the League of Nations which is an International Conference, at which 52 States will be represented, will meet next September, and that at that meeting it will give detailed consideration to the project of a Treaty of mutual guarantee and disarmament, which will be presented to it very largely owing to the work of my Noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal, is it necessary to summon an additional International Conference? The hon. Member for Aberavon says very truly that the League of Nations does not command universal confidence. It is quite true that in Germany the League of Nations is regarded with some suspicion, very largely by reason of its proceedings in the Silesian question. For myself, I believe that that decision was arrived at after an impartial investigation and under no malign or sinister influence. Nevertheless, we have to face the fact that the decision is very unpopular in Germany, and that for the moment Germany is averse to associating herself with the League, but this does not affect the question of disarmament. Germany is already disarmed. Why should we therefore, on the invitation of the hon. Member for Aberavon, set aside the League of Nations and invite a special International Congress to deal with the question for the solution of which the League of Nations was created? Of course, it is also true that America stands outside the League. Much as I regret the decision of America to abstain from European affairs and to take no share of work either upon the Council of the League or on the Reparations Commission; much as I regret her decision not to ratify the Anglo-American Pact, I am bound to observe that a very large scheme of land disarmament in Europe could be carried out without the co-operation of America.
American co-operation is vital if you are to deal with the regulation of manufacture and traffic in arms, but American co-operation is not so vital when you are merely dealing with the limitation of land 116 armaments on the Continent of Europe The right hon. Member for Paisley very truly observed that the question of security was linked indissolubly with the question of disarmament. I think I agree with the hon. Member for Aberavon that a guarantee to France by Great Britain presents great difficulty. It is very questionable whether British public opinion would support such a guarantee at the present moment. Opinion has changed in this country very considerably since my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) offered the British Pact to the Government of M. Briand. Nevertheless, we must look facts in the face. If we are to have peace in Europe, France must feel reasonably secure. That is a cardinal condition of European peace and European security. That is also our interest. There is, I venture to think, a very deep harmony of interest between France and Great Britain. Indeed, I remember reading some time ago a very remarkable article which was published in the "Revue de Deux Mondes," in September, 1870, by the great French savant, M. Ernest Renan. It was at the time when France was at the nadir of her fortune. Renan observed that the time would come when England would find her account in a strong France, and France in a strong England.
Our difficulty is that all the offers which have hitherto been made to the French Government have been found insufficient. It is insufficient that Germany should be disarmed. It is insufficient that France should be guaranteed under Article 10 of the Covenant of the League. It is insufficient that Germany should have offered a guarantee to observe the peace for 30 years. It is insufficient that Great Britain should have offered the great weight of her guarantee for a period of 10 years. Who can doubt that if things had gone as we hoped they would go, such a guarantee would have been renewed at the expiration of 10 years? All these securities have hitherto been found insufficient by France, and the difficulty is to devise some security which France would accept, which would pacify her, and which Germany would also respect. What we now fear is that France is seeking something to which the German conscience and the German heart will never be reconciled. I was in Germany the other day, and I had some opportunity of gauging German 117 opinion in different parts of the country. I went to some of the popular entertainments, at which German public opinion translated itself into manifestations which you could not misinterpret. I was alarmed by the growth of hostile and militant feeling which had been excited by the French occupation. That occupation, so far from bringing France security, is likely to bring her just the reverse.
I do trust that this Government will put every ounce of its energy into a settlement of the question of the Ruhr. It is the key to European peace in the future. It is perfectly clear that the Treaty of Versailles no longer contents the French. They are anxious for more, they are anxious for the Rhine frontier, the secular ambition of French diplomacy ever since the age of Philip le Bel. They are anxious for a control, more or less permanent, so far as I can see, over the Ruhr district itself. In that policy Great Britain can have no part or lot. At the next meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations, that great association of Powers will be invited to consider a scheme which will offer to France an alternative form of security, which will, so far as I see, be consistent with the honour, dignity, and integrity of Germany. I hope His Majesty's Governmen, when they are considering the manner in which the Reparation question shall be settled, will make it part of their conditions that Germany shall be admitted to the League. The Government of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lloyd George) last year did intimate to Germany that if she then applied for admission to the League of Nations she would have the good will of His Majesty's Government, and there can be little doubt that if Germany had then applied she would have been admitted. The position has somewhat changed now, by reason of the situation in the Ruhr, and by reason, also, of the very widely diffused suspicions in Europe that Germany is not doing as much as she should do to meet her Reparation payments. Nevertheless, if, as I believe, the League of Nations is to be the instrument for securing the object which we all have in view, the avoidance of future war, it is necessary at the earliest possible date that Germany should be brought within the circle of the associated Powers.
I have only one more observation to make. In the past, statesmen who have 118 endeavoured to deal with the limitations of armaments have addressed a considerable share of their attention to the vexed problem of how best to mitigate the horrors of war. To my mind that is not now the main object to which we should attend. There is one suggestion which I will respectfully make to His Majesty's Government. There is a Clause in the Treaty of Versailles forbidding to Germany the use of chemical warfare. I should be only too glad if chemical warfare could be banished from the repertoire of destructive instruments. It is very difficult to draw the line between chemical warfare and the use of typhoid germs and other microbes. I should not at all wonder if the next war began—if there be a next war—by a systematic attempt to introduce typhoid or other germs into the water systems of the great towns of the belligerent Powers.
If chemical warfare is to be maintained, as it is being maintained by the armies of the Allied Powers, surely we must delete that Clause from the Treaty of Versailles. It is perfect hypocrisy to say to the Germans, "You must not use chemical warfare, on the ground of its barbarity," and at the same time to perfect our own organisation for chemical warfare, as we are doing. I have, I think, indicated to the House my warm and general sympathy with the motives which animate the Mover of the Motion. I am glad the Motion has been brought forward. I think there is no question more important than the question of disarmament. I am profoundly concerned with the present state of Europe, and with the maintenance, the growth, and size of its armies. For that reason I welcome this Debate. At the same time, I think when my hon. Friend framed his Motion he had forgotten the existence of the institution which has been created for the purpose of maintaining peace and for the purpose of reducing armaments, which has already achieved a considerable amount of valuable work, and which has yet more valuable work to accomplish in the future.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Sir Samuel Hoare)
I do not rise to deal with the general questions raised by the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House, but I assure him I shall inform the Prime Minister of what he has said, and the Prime Minister at the end of the Debate will deal with 119 the general questions which have been raised. I rise simply to speak for the Air Force, and to put before the House certain practical considerations, and to ask hon. Members to give their thought towards solving the various difficulties with which we are faced. If any one thing has emerged clearly from the Debate so far, it is that there is general unanimity on all sides of the House as to our horror of war, and as to our desire, if it be possible, to avoid in the future the race of armaments of the past. On the one hand, we have had that consideration in our minds, and, on the other hand, we have had the equally urgent consideration that, as long as the world is what it is, the first duty of any Government, whether it be Conservative, Liberal or Labour, is to see that the defences of the country and the Empire are secure. I intend to devote myself to the consideration of what appears to be an insoluble problem, namely the problem of reconciling the need for maintaining the security of our defences, and particularly our air defences, with the equally urgent need of preventing a recurrence of the race of armaments. I suppose my Department and the policy for which I am responsible illustrate in the most conspicuous form the difficulty of reconciling the two propositions which I have just stated to the House.
Take my own case. I took over my present office last autumn and I was then faced with the obvious necessity of attempting to avoid, as best we could, any increase in expenditure upon armaments, but I was also faced with the fact—which no one in the House will deny—that from the point of view of air defence, we could scarcely have been in a more unsatisfactory position. I went to the late Prime Minister and asked him to appoint an inquiry into this very urgent question. The Committee of Imperial Defence was accordingly authorised to make an inquiry into the problem. The Committee sat week after week, almost day after day and it has come to the conclusion, the general terms of which were announced by the Prime Minister a fortnight ago, that in the interests of national defence the expansion of the Air Force is urgently needed. Whilst few people regard this increase with hostility—that I think has been exemplified in the course of this Debate—and while still fewer regard 120 it with satisfaction I believe a great majority regard it as a regrettable necessity. How could it be otherwise? The hon. Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield (Mr. Ponsonby) has just painted to the House a picture of the horrors of air warfare. I assure him that picture is in no way over-painted. Let the House apply that picture to the situation with which we were confronted. Here we are, the capital of a great Empire, the centre of a great industrial nation, and, from the point of view of the most dangerous form of foreign attack, almost defenceless. We have ceased to be an island. Indeed, the fact that we are separated from the Continent by a narrow streak of sea makes the problem of air defence not less difficult, but more difficult. We see the great developments that are taking place all over the world in the air arm. We see the fact that whilst air raids were sufficiently terrible even in the sporadic and infrequent form they took during the War, they would be 100 times more terrible now. We see the fact that whilst these air raids, sporadic and infrequent as they were during the War, were none the less able to cripple the national effort and at times almost to bring the national life to a standstill, their effect would be 10 times and perhaps 100 times worse to-day. I say to the House that the risk is so terrible that, however remote it may be, and however friendly may be our relations with our neighbours, no Government—Conservative, Liberal or Labour—and no Secretary of State for Air, can afford to allow it to continue. On this ground the Government, greatly against their will, were forced to authorise the expansion of the British Air Force and to use the words which the Prime Minister addressed to the House a fortnight ago:In addition to meeting the essential air power requirements of the Navy, Army, Indian, and Overseas commitments, British air power must include a Home Defence Force of sufficient strength adequately to protect us against air attack by the strongest air force within striking distance of this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th June, 1923; col. 2142, Vol. 165.]Will any substantial body of members say that the Government was wrong in coming to this decision—a bare minimum for home defence and for no other purpose? During this Debate, first the Leader of the Opposition and subsequently other Members who addressed the House, 121 emphasised the fact that in war it is impossible to distinguish between defensive and offensive action and that the only real form of defence is offence. That is a proposition with which I suppose most of us will agree, but none the less let me point out to the House this fact connected with the projected expansion of the Air Force, for it will show in an undeniable way our pacific intention. We intend organising this new home air defence force to a great extent from non-regular and civilian elements. That in itself means that the force will be based upon this country. It will be a home based defence force and, on that account, it will not be available even if any Government were sufficiently foolish to wish to make it available, for aggressive and hostile operations beyond the reach of its home bases.
I venture to put these considerations before the House to emphasise as far as I can the difficulties with which we are faced in approaching this Resolution. Do the undeniable facts, to which I have drawn attention, block the way to any possible reduction of armaments? Is the question of national security absolutely irreconcilable with either the reduction of armaments or total disarmament? I do not wish to dogmatise on this question, nor do I wish to say anything likely to throw cold water upon the aspirations we all share and our desire to see armaments reduced. I would not go so far as to say that the two propositions are irreconcilable, but I do go so far as to say that it is not easy at the present moment to find a basis of reconciliation.
I am equally sure that the only possible way to reconcile them is to proceed upon two definite principles. Firstly, disarmament must be general. You cannot ask one country—you cannot ask this country—to disarm when other countries are not going to disarm. Secondly, if disarmament is to be general and is to be carried out successfully, moral disarmament must precede material disarmament. By moral disarmament, I mean the laying aside of the feelings of suspicion and insecurity which are now undermining the bases of European peace. Both these considerations make me think that the demand of the Labour party for an immediate international conference is unwise. I do not say that because I wish 122 to rule out altogether the idea of an international conference or because I wish to throw cold water upon the proposal. But I say that for certain definite practical reasons, and first of all for this reason. Suppose the British Government issued an invitation to the world for an international conference at this time, have we any reason to suppose that all the great Powers of the world would attend it? To go no further than Europe, have we any reason to suppose that Russia would attend it, or that if Russia attended it, France would attend it?
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
The French Minister for War in the Debate in the Chamber of Deputies said that he would sympathetically consider it.
§ Sir S. HOARE
So would I say the same, but I do maintain that the whole history of the last four or five years has shown the extreme danger of summoning these international conferences until you have got a definite measure of agreement, and until you have got your programme carefully worked out. Secondly, there are at the present time a number of practical differences, and I am not sure that these have been sufficiently considered. Here, again, let me take the case that I know best, the case of the Air Forces. In considering the reduction of the Air Forces, we raise a number of difficult and complicated questions, much more difficult than the question which was considered at Washington, where a certain number of the great Powers, who to a large extent had mutually agreed on the matter, were considering the comparatively simple problem of dealing with a definite and comparable unit. In the case of Air Forces let me suggest to the House certain practical questions which we have all of us got to face. First, is it possible to limit or restrict the use of aircraft in war? We should all like to hope that it was, but, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the whole tendency of war is to increase its boundaries rather than to restrict them. In the case of air there is the practical difficulty of defining between civil aviation and military aviation. There is the fact that if you restrict or prohibit the development of military aviation you may be impeding or restricting the development of the means of communication which, judging by all standards, should be directed towards peace rather than towards war.
123 Take another case. Is it possible to restrict the number of military machines? Here, again, there are certain very definite difficulties. There is the fact that in the case of the Air arm new inventions are constantly taking place, machines become obsolete quickly, and can be replaced quickly. Moreover, there is the further fact that it may well be that certain countries will wish to develop their Air Arm rather than their Army or their Navy, and, obviously, in any scheme of general disarmament, a country should be left a certain latitude to develop whichever of the three arms is the most suitable or economical for its purpose.
There is another question. It may be said that it will be easier to restrict the military air personnel. By that I mean to restrict the actual number of pilots. That was a proposal which was made at the Washington Conference by the Italian Delegation, and on the face of it there is a good deal to be said for it. At the same time, there are very definite practical difficulties. There is the fact that the conditions of service in different countries might make that restriction of little avail. For instance, in a country where there is conscription as against a country where there is voluntary service, there would be considerable difficulty. Then, again, take a country which passes a large number of its pilots into its reserve as against the country where the terms of service are long term service, and there is still the fact which I mentioned in connection with the restriction of air material, the fact that civil and military aviation are growing up together, and it might be possible for a country to develop civil flying and to increase the number of its civil pilots, who, obviously, would be highly effective if war were declared. Then, over and above all these difficulties, there is the fact that air power does not consist in the actual number of machines or in the actual number of pilots. It consists really in the capacity of any country industrially; its capacity of material and its capacity of wealth to develop an Air Force quickly. One need not go further than the late War and the two most conspicuous examples of that fact, the United States of America and ourselves, where the production of Air Force reached such 124 a pitch that I believe in one case 100 aircraft were turned out in one day by a single firm, and, at the height of our own production, there were turned out something like 3,000 machines and 3,000 engines in the course of a single month.
I point these difficulties out to the House to bring hon. Members back from the generalities of the Motion to the hard facts of the situation as we find it. As I say, the Government do not think that an immediate International Conference is going to help solve the practical difficulties which we all of us wish to see solved, but I venture to put to the House the suggestion that there are several ways to approach this question quite apart from the summoning of an International Conference. The right hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House has emphasised one of them. He emphasised the possibility of approaching this question through treaties of mutual guarantee. I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition set aside so lightly that alternative. I, like him, see the difficulties and the dangers of a course which might, if not properly guided, lead us back into the old grouping alliances of the past, but I do not think that that result is inherent in the idea of a treaty of mutual guarantee, as put forward in the special Commission of the League of Nations and subsequently in the Assembly.
Here, again, I realise a dilemma. If the guarantee is too general, it is useless. If it is too definite, instead of leading towards the reduction of armaments, it might actually lead towards an increase of commitments and an increase of armaments. At the same time, I believe that both these horns of the dilemma can be avoided if they are properly approached, and, in any case, it appears to me to be undeniable that the proposal is supported by the two principles to which I have alluded. Namely, that in the first place, there must be a general reduction of armaments, and not a partial reduction, and in the second place the whole basis must be that of moral disarmament and the setting up of an atmosphere of greater peace and security. That course, again, will be considered with an open and sympathetic mind by the Government. I can assure the House that although we do not think it wise to call an immediate conference we are generally doing our utmost to explore all these 125 approaches towards a reduction of armaments. We say, however, that the moment is inopportune for an international conference, and we say that, not because we wish to postpone the consideration of the question, but because we believe that by choosing the wrong moment you will make it much more difficult to succeed at the right one. In this country we can point, as no other country can point, to the great reductions we have made since the Armistice. We can point to the fact that, although our Imperial commitments have increased, the number of men in the armed forces of the Crown to-day, even including the Air Force, is many thousands less than it was in 1913. That is the evidence of our good will, and I ask the House to trust the Government to choose the best time, and to accept the Amendment of my right hon. Friend rather than to force us into an action that may have the directly opposite effect to that which we all of us desire.
§ Major BOWDLER
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air expressed the opinion that in this House there is general unanimity of opinion on the question of armaments. It must be within the memory of many hon. and right hon. Members that on Thursday last, when the House was discussing Naval Estimates in Committee, several hon. Members on the benches opposite, and more particularly the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), reasserted the old doctrine that, as a precaution to peace, we must prepare for war. The right hon. Baronet opened his remarks with the statement that some Members of the House never learned anything at all. If he wished to imply that hon. Members have failed to learn the same lesson from the records of history as he would wish to (have us believe he himself had learned, he might make a successful appeal to history proving that, under the conditions which have obtained for centuries, and which obtain to-day, any nation that neglects to maintain armaments on a scale sufficient to guarantee a reasonable prospect of success in war at any moment against potential enemies is living in a fool's paradise. The lesson to be learned is surely this, that while maintaining the machinery for war in a warlike world, we have failed to devote any considerable fraction of the cost of armaments, in material or brains, 126 to the development of the machinery for peace and in encouraging the idea of peace.
Let us face the facts in Europe to-day. The Treaty of Versailles, and the many conferences which followed it, including the Washington Conference, have failed to secure peace. I submit that it would be true to state that the whole of Europe would be in a blaze to-day if the nations were economically able to wage war. France is at war with Germany. This country is building aeroplanes in competition with France, and naval armaments in competition with Japan. We should be at war with Russia now if Russia were in a position to assert herself. It must be abundantly clear even to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who so enthusiastically rejected the spirit and the letter of the 14 points after the Armistice that the Treaty of Versailles has utterly failed, politically, economically, and, above all, on moral grounds. His Majesty's Government at the moment is attempting to find a solution to acute difficulties abroad, the inevitable consequences of that Treaty. I would respectfully submit to the Prime Minister and to his colleagues that the outcome of present negotiations can effect no more than the staving off for a time, and a short time, of war and revolution, unless the main issue centres round the limitation of armaments under mutual guarantees. I submit that the occasion is long overdue when it should be made quite clear to the world that reparation is not the main issue. If payment to the utmost capacity of Germany were made, France would not be satisfied. It is full time that this country took the lead in asserting that the whole world, and not merely France, is in urgent need of security, that the Treaty has failed to attain that security, and that the Treaty must be drastically revised or superseded.
The only sane hope for the next two generations is a League of Nations free from the compromising bonds of Versailles and of the Supreme Council, with a revised Covenant, free and authorised to put into operation what appears to be the eminently practical scheme which they are at present drawing up for a limitation of armaments under effective guarantees. And when I say guarantees, I do not refer merely to the guarantee of armed assistance. There is no other way. I do 127 not wish to introduce too deep a note of sentiment into this Debate, but I cannot help speaking with a shade of bitterness, remembering the high aspirations which led so many men to sacrifice their lives in War, not only for their country, but to destroy militarism and all its trappings. They were martyrs to the folly and the failure of human counsels. In almost every village in the land we set up memorials in their honour. May they never stand to perpetuate the memory of a great betrayal. Those of us who survived—the more fortunate, or, it may be, the less—thought that we had opened out the gates of a new era of peace and righteousness. Are we to have it recorded in history that we deliberately turned back and plunged again into the old evil courses which led to the catastrophe of 1914? It was a war to cast out devils, but we have taken those devils to ourselves. We are on the Gadarene slopes, and soon, very soon, it may be too late to recover. I most earnestly appeal to hon. and right hon. Members of this House to recognise the world's despairing cry for courageous statesmanship in etablishing the means to peace.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WINDSOR-CLIVE
I hope I may have the indulgence of the House on this, the first occasion of my addressing it. I feel sure that the object of this Resolution that we are discussing to-night must command the sympathy of hon. Members in all parts of the House, and more especially of those who have had personal experience of war. As far as I see it, there is no difference between the Resolution and the Amendment, as regards the desirability of bringing about a reduction of armaments. The only difference is as to the best means of doing it, and I venture to agree with the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment that the time is not yet opportune for summoning an International Conference to discuss the question of a reduction of armaments. I would suggest that at the present time there are in the world in general, and in Europe in particular, so many possible points of conflict, so many acute antagonisms and animosities between nations, that if such a conference were summoned it could hardly hope to arrive at any measure of agreement on this question. It may be argued that the fact of there being these acute differences makes it all the more necessary that some step 128 should be taken with the least possible delay to bring about a reduction of armaments, but I would suggest that the very fact that these differences are so acute makes it less likely that an agreement could be arrived at. I do not think that we can make a very close comparison between such a Conference as is proposed and the Conference at Washington. The Conference at Washington undoubtedly solved many problems which, if they had been left unsolved, might have caused trouble in the future, but all the nations who were represented at that Conference had fought on the same side in the War, and there was no animosity or bitterness of feeling between them to make agreement more difficult; but what would happen in the case of such a conference as this Resolution contemplates?
I think it was the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) who said that the League of Nations was the proper machinery for such a discussion. I believe I am right in saying that Russia is not a member of the League of Nations, and I think it is quite evident that a conference of that sort would be entirely futile unless it included the representatives of Russia. All countries must be represented, all countries, with their antagonisms, their animosities, and the acute differences which exist between them to-day, and is it likely that in such an atmosphere there is a reasonable chance of an agreement being arrived at? If such a conference did meet, and if it broke up owing to the impossibility of reaching an agreement, then it seems to me that the position would be worse than it is to-day, that animosities would be accentuated, and that we would be further off than ever from the object that this Motion seeks to achieve. I do submit that until the present state of tension has been very considerably relaxed and until the various grave problems that agitate the world have been brought a great deal nearer solution than they are to-day, it would be very unwise to summon an International Conference to discuss this question.
§ Mr. ROSE
The few observations that I propose to make will not be altogether pleasant hearing for the Secretary of State for Air. He emphasised to-night the fact that the aerial question is the predominant question so far as national 129 defence, or offence which amounts to the same thing, is concerned. The Air Ministry I regard as the most mischievous creation, the most pestilent idea, of all the numerous progeny of the one-time Prime Minister of England. I have read somewhere a legend of Roman history about an emperor who used to feed his horse with gilded oats out of a golden manger. He was a pattern of rigid, almost Scottish, frugality beside that archbureaucrat and super-squandermaster of all the ages, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). He used to get up in the morning and make a couple of Departments as a sort of constitutional exercise before breakfast. He would spend the rest of the day in supplying them with blank cheques which were called by the euphonious name of Token Votes. He took the name plate off the Treasury buildings and substituted the legend, "Tom Tiddler's Ground. Gold and silver to be picked up here. All that you cannot stuff into your hats and pockets, put a chalk mark on, and it will be sent home for you." Among the things he created in his time was the Air Ministry. I regard the Air Ministry as being an organisation utterly unfit and too absolutely irresponsible to have the handling of public money in any shape or form. If the defence of this country has to depend on the Air Ministry, then heaven help us if we are ever attacked.
On the question of the extension of the Air Force, let me remind the House that on the 4th August last year, the last day but one of the last Parliament, in answer or in obedience, to a deliberately engineered stunt, the then Prime Minister stated that £2,000,000 was to be allocated to the expansion of the Air Force, of which £1,100,000 was to come from new money and the other £900,000 was to be raised by effecting economies in other Departments. In the middle of this Session we learn that that provision is totally inadequate for the necessities of the situation, and the Minister wants another £5,500,000, in addition, presumably, to the £2,500,000 already granted in this year's Estimates. That is how the thing has grown. In the four years of this Ministry it has spent £64,000,000 and has produced—what? A perilous situation. Sixty-four million pounds seems a lot to pay for inadequacy and an admittedly perilous situation. What 130 became of that £2,000,000? Did they spend it? We were told at the end of the last Parliament last year that orders were to be given out immediately for 500 aeroplanes. What became of all the aeroplanes?
I wonder whether the House would feet interested in knowing what became of tens of thousands of air-worthy machines or the components of air-worthy machines only three years ago? These machines were capable of flying 100 miles an hour. They were machines that were made, or were in process of being made, to overwhelm Germany. There was a suggestion that they have all been disposed of. If any Member doubts my word, I have all the evidence here. I do not want to fatigue the House with a great deal of it, but I want to read one or two extracts ins a moment. A company, the Handley-Page Company, were asked to tender for a contract which gave them the right to half profits or half proceeds of the sale of all this material. They offered £750,000, I believe, speaking from memory. They offered at any rate a considerable sum which was turned down by the Disposal Board as being inadequate. A company known as the Imperial and Foreign Corporation—whether it was a company formed for this purpose or not, or whether it was a company already in existence, I do not know—offered £1,000,000 for these rights. Their offer was accepted at 11 o'clock in the morning. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon that contract, being then the property of the Imperial and Foreign Corporation, was transferred to a company known as the Aircraft Disposal Company, whose capital was £600 in shares and all the rest in debentures. My right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), who was Chairman of the Select Committee on National Expenditure at the time, expressed himself very strongly about the transaction. We had not time at the end of the Session to make a report about it. Among the stock that was handed over there was sufficient broken down to produce 38,000 finished engines. It will perhaps interest the House to know what became of the planes for which these engines were made. This is a part of my own questionnaire:Mr. ROSE: What do you do with the planes?—Smash them with a pickaxe or hammer.131 I asked,Is there any neecessity for that?and the answer was,Well, an aeroplane is no good,and the Secretary interjected,They found they would not pay £1 a ton.We had a trained air force at that time, which has since been disbanded. I do not know how far it was adequate to have manned these machines, or what proportion of them could have been manned. This company, of which Mr. Godfrey Isaacs is chairman, has had the contract for two years, and they are still operating, although I do not know whether it is under the old contract. I observe that as soon as all the aircraft was disposed of and destroyed the whole of these commercial people started this new cry, that danger faces the country through the inadequacy of our Air Force. So we have to start all over again, and we start under the auspices of the Air Ministry. I have been all through the Select Committee on Estimates, and this is what I want to suggest. I am not going to speak about anything that is in the report, because that is published, but about something that has been left out of the report. There is an aircraft factory at Farnborough, and that factory is capable of making all the aircraft needed for this Empire. In one shop there are 240 up-to-date machines. When I went through the place there were only six men working. The policy of the Air Ministry is to devote the whole of that prodigious place, with 10 acres of roofed floor space, to experiment and research. They are doing very wonderful things there. I have seen things in that place for which I have nothing but the highest praise from an engineering point of view, but the management at Farnborough are not permitted to duplicate anything they make. Private enterprise is given the whole result without royalty.
§ Mr. ROSE
I do not know whether it is pure graft or not. It is very impure something. All the new building—and I am going to assume for the purposes of argument that it is necessary—is done on designs invented and contrived by State servants. Private enterprise has not the wit to do it, nor the ability to do it. 132 Nearly the whole of these wonderful things of aerial development that you read about in the newspapers are the result of State research and experiment, and the skill and ingenuity of State servants. This is all given to private enterprise without royalty. Even at that what is private enterprise doing? Private enterprise is not delivering the goods it is paid for. It never has from the begining of the armament race, from the day that the "La Gloire" was launched at Brest, to be followed by the "Warrior," the "Black Prince," and so on. There has been nothing done by private enterprise of moment for which private enterprise has not been paid ten times its value.
Let me refer for a moment to what has happened in the Navy. Before the Washington Conference it was decided to lay down the keels of four super-Hoods, vessels that were to be bigger than anything that had yet been attempted. The Washington Conference came and we modified that programme. Orders were placed for smaller super-Hoods, and these are under construction at the present time. In October, 1921, the four ships were placed. In December, 1922, the two substituted ships were placed. In the 15 months that have intervened wages have fallen one-half. The price of materials had fallen one-half. For wages are governed by market prices in the steel trade. They have fallen to about a half, yet the first two vessels were to cost £8,000,000 apiece, a monstrous price under the circumstances, and the two smaller vessels are going to cost £7,000,000 each. I wonder whether my hon. Friends on these benches have ceased from wondering why it is that economies must be effected. Do they wonder why a few hundred thousand pounds is not available for child welfare? They do not understand the elements of economy. You do not need to fatten babies when later they are to be killed with bombs. Thin babies are quite as good as fat babies to be hit by bombs. Another thing is that if you do not give children milk they will die of malnutrition. Then you will not need so many bombing aeroplanes. You do not want a Ministry of Air unless it is to kill babes, and if you want to kill them, well go on with this policy!
I am in favour of the Resolution which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. There may be 133 some words that I might alter, but I am agreed as to the general sense of it. I am as sure that now, as in the beginning of the armament race, that commercialism lies at the bottom of it, and that the desire for commercial profit has over-ridden every other consideration. France has got these machines—these bombing machines. Is it possible that the Aircraft Disposal Company, Limited, sold the duds to France, that she has now? Is it not a fact that the armament manufacturers are responsible for more war and more of the enormities of war than any other thing. We on these benches stand here without disguise—whatever our opinions may be as to the new social order or the new economic order—to stop private enterprise in armaments as one of the first necessities of the situation. It is the one practical thing that Britain can do to-day without imperilling her own defence in the slightest degree. You can stop it all over the world if you get America to help you. Britain and America are the two greatest iron-and steel-producing countries in the world, with America immeasurably the greater. Is it possible that America, if properly approached on a subject like this, would not at least sympathise? Her full acquiescence would only be a matter of a little time in a proposal to join hands with us in stopping the traffic in the machinery of murder and massacre. That is where we ought to begin. Hon. Members talk a good deal oftentimes about the horrors of war. Five years ago I heard the first whisperings of the recrudescence of the war fever. Hon. Members may say that they hate war. It is their duty to make it impossible so far as they possibly can. It is the commercial stunt-mongers who are trying to stampede our people into an unEnglish panic about danger that ought to be remote, and is not. This seems to me to be about the meanest thing ever entered into—that it is possible to talk about patriotism, the love of country, the desire to defend the country from war. What is it but the desire of those concerned to pack their pockets with Government plunder. That is what it is, and the answer to it all is in the words of the greatest Seer that ever trod this earth—Woe unto ye scribes and pharisees, hypocrites.
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose) into the somewhat discursive speech which he has given us. I could not quite make up my mind which he hated most, the Ministry of Air or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. He went on to deal at considerable length with the Air Ministry, but as the Air Minister is quite capable of looking after himself, I need not go into that matter. I would like to say a word or two with reference to the speeches which we have heard in this Debate. It has been pretty generally recognised by every speaker, I think, that this is not, strictly speaking, a party question, and that we on this side of the House desire that there should be limitation of armaments by agreement just as much as anyone else, and we on this side of the House, I think, just as fully appreciate as do hon. Members opposite the horrors of the past war and what are likely to be the greater horrors of a future war. I listened with great interest to the great speech of the hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition, who spoke with great eloquence, though I must confess I thought there was a suggestion of superiority in the tone, as if the hon. Gentleman considered there was only one party who are anxious for agreement in these matters. I should like to criticise one or two of the references that he made. He spoke, and other hon. Members spoke, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher) and the hon. Member who has just sat down, and in their speeches they made an appeal to the United States of America. I cannot help thinking that these appeals to the United States, even by the most eloquent of our speakers, do a great deal more harm than good. The more you appeal to the United States to come in and take a hand in European politics the less likely are you to get it. America will come in when it suits her. The more you go about asking: "Why does not America come in?" the more will the people of the United States, or a large portion of them say, "There is some catch in it—[An HON. MEMBER: "There was no catch in it in 1917."]—and that they are not coming in. I deprecate, I say, these appeals as being likely to defeat their object.
One other point I should like to mention, and that was the references to Singa- 135 pore. I am not dealing now with the economic position, but purely with the claim put forward by several speakers that this base at Singapore is a menace to Japan. It is no more a menace to Japan than the fact that the Japanese are building a large fleet of light cruisers is a menace to us. It is no more a menace to Japan than it would be to New York if we in this country thought fit to increase our dock accommodation at Plymouth. The distances are practically the same. So that I deprecate these somewhat false arguments being brought into the Debate; they are not germane to the issue. I, like other speakers, desire to see agreement on this matter of armaments, but when you are dealing with a question of this kind you must wait till the psychological moment. It is no good proposing a conference when you know perfectly well the time is inopportune. I go further. I believe, while the situation remains as it is, with various aspects of the matter to settle, the Ruhr and so on, it would be not only absolutely futile, but criminal folly to propose such a conference. I myself think that there is great hope that something may be done by the League of Nations. I know there are people in this House, and elsewhere, who have been disappointed by the work of the League of Nations. But we have to remember that the League is a plant of recent growth. We have to remember that it has done quite a considerable lot of work in the past. We must remember, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) said, that such a thing as the abolition of duelling is a comparatively recent phenomena in our social life, and it is not so very long ago—in the history of nations certainly—when this country was split up into warring factions, and I am not at all sure that to the people of a few hundreds of years ago the plan of a League of Nations amongst themselves to avoid constant conflict would not have seemed quite as fatuous as it seems to some people at the present day. Yet we find that the warlike Scotch and the Welsh have all settled down together with the English, and have forgotten the past. In like manner it is desirable for proper time to be given for the League of Nations idea to permeate, and for 136 people to get used to the idea of referring questions of the sort to it. With natural evolution things move more quickly, but let us give proper time and opportunity for the League to settle this question. If I may make use of another simile, hon. Members who are interested in gardening know that if you want to get flowers in early Spring, you do not put your bulbs into heat at once, but you put them into a pot and leave them in a cold frame, where, apparently, nothing can happen; yet all the time the roots are developing unseen to the gardener. Then, when the opportune moment arrives, you put the bulbs into heat, and they bring forth flowers. It is the same with the League of Nations, which must be allowed first to take root before we interfere with it.
A word about another movement. Probably many hon. Members will not agree, but I cannot help thinking that the No-More-War movement, which is being fostered in various parts of the country, is a dangerous movement. It is being run largely by the Socialist party, and it is, in many parts of the country, an attempt to capture the League of Nations machinery for the Labour party. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I believe this movement at this moment is a really dangerous movement, and will injure the League of Nations, and the cause we desire to assist.
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
That exactly bears out my argument. The No-More-War movement is a movement purely to help the Socialist party, and has nothing whatever to do with the movement many of us wish to support, which is to bring the nations of the world into friendly relations.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I am quite sure my hon. and gallant Friend would not like to misrepresent this movement. He must surely be aware that on the Committee responsible for the No-More-War movement are men and women who have no connection whatever with the Labour or Socialist movement.
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
I willingly accept the hon. Member's statement. I do not wish to overstate my case, but I think, in the main, he will 137 agree with me that the prime movers in this No-More-War movement are members of his own party, and, if he really thinks it over, he will realise that this duplication of machinery may do a real damage to the League we wish to support.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I do not want the hon. and gallant Gentleman to misunderstand my interjection. I simply say that, as far as we are concerned, we do not want to capture the League of Nations. We are quite content to go on with our own organisation in our own way. If the League is of any use at all, let it go on with its own work.
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
What I say is that if you have two movements with the same object, you are weakening the object you have in view. I have often heard it said, generally by long-haired youths, fired with the enthusiasm of youth, that if we only laid down our arms, all the other nations would follow suit. It is difficult to follow an argument of that sort, because to ordinary people such pathetic simplicity is not borne out by any knowledge of either human nature or history. I think most of us realise that in youth it is a good thing to have ideals, though you often find that the lessons of history contain no message to the young. It is only by applying common sense to those ideals that we can hope to advance to any great extent towards the peace of the world.
I wish to present another aspect of the case. This Resolution deals, to some extent, with the desirability of economy in armaments, in order that money may be spent in other directions. Mention is made of measures of social amelioration, with which, needless to say, I am in sympathy. I think economy can be carried out in another way. I wonder if the Prime Minister, should he reply to this Debate, would tell us what has been the result of the investigations of the Sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence on the advisability of the formation of a Joint Imperial General Staff representing the three arms of the Service? To my mind, this would lead to great economy in administration. It would lead to a great deal of proper coordination of the three Services. I cannot help thinking that, sooner or later, this House will be compelled to consider 138 the advisability of establishing a Ministry of Defence which will correlate and co-ordinate the work of the three Services. I believe by that means you would get cheaper and more effective administration. I do not suggest for a moment that there would be agreement on the part of the War Office or the Admiralty, though, possibly, there might be in the Air Service, but I feel the moment is come when, in the interests of national safety and national economy, a Ministry of Defence should be formed, and, with one Joint Imperial General Staff, should co-ordinate the work of the three Services.
In conclusion, I must say I feel strongly that the moment is not opportune for the presentation of an invitation by this Government as is suggested in the Motion before the House. When the Ruhr question is out of the way, and the peace of Europe seems fairly assured, I think the moment would be more favourable, and I am sure it would be the desire of every one of us—a desire which Members really feel from the heart—that some solution of this question of armament might be arrived at, and that that might be done in the very near future.
§ Mr. MOREL
The speech to which we have just listened is the kind of speech, and represents the kind of sentiment, that has brought the world to its present pass. It is never the time to do anything; the moment is never opportune, though the League of Nations has been dealing with the armament question for three years, during which the nation has been arming more and more to the teeth. There was a very pregnant sentence in the speech of the right hon. Member for the Combined Universities (Mr. Fisher). He said, "Let us face the facts." I do not suggest that he faced the facts himself very clearly, but the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Major Bowdler), in a speech of sincerity and pathos, which affected the whole House, did face the facts. The Resolution we are asking the House to pass does face the facts. I do not believe that any thinking man, whatever his views may be purely from the national standpoint at the present time, can have listened to this Debate without feeling in his heart that civilised society is once more treading the path which led to the catastrophe of 1914, and I venture to suggest that no thinking man in this House who has not entirely lost all 139 his sense of proportion and is capable of reasoned judgment as to cause and effect, can have the slightest doubt as to where the explanation is to be sought for the situation in which we find ourselves. It is to be sought, primarily, in the misuse of victory by the politicians. It is to be found, secondly, in the triumphant survival—and it is the proof of the misuse of victory—of those very appetites and lusts which produced the War in 1914. And, more profoundly, the explanation is to be sought in the delusion which is still held, especially on the benches opposite, that a stable international order, and peace and goodwill among men, can be secured by the periodical massacre of men.
One of the most able and one of the most sincere protagonists of the late War, or rather of the eruptive stages of the late War—because the War has never ended, and because the War has never ended we find ourselves where we are to-day—described it as almost a miraculous vindication of the moral over the material factors of life. But I would ask this House, what has morality to do with these periodical slaughterings which we dignify by the name of war—slaughterings much more futile and much more hideous than the last; slaughterings which find the same people alternately fighting side by side and against one another, in accordance with the shifting ambitions of ruling statesmen, in accordance with the constant pressure of economic Imperialism, and in accordance with the fluctuating circumstances of international finance? If the last War differed in any way from previous wars, if it were possible in any circumstances whatever to identify morality and ethics with military victory, should we see what we are seeing to-day—the victors in the last War, associates of yesterday, potential foes of to-morrow, building new armies, creating new and more destructive weapons, intriguing against one another, plotting and planning against one another, working out new balances of power and prostituting science to the most ignoble and abominable ends? Four millions of men under arms in Europe to-day and three million more being instructed in the arts of war! There is the tangible savour of your fruits of victory. There is the tangible proof of the futility of successful war.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted; and 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. MOREL
I was pointing out that four and a half years after the Great War we have four millions of men under arms in Europe, and three million more training and preparing for the next war. Whose is the blame for that state of affairs? Where is the remedy? Can nothing be done to stop these destructive forces from gathering in momemtum and wrecking the world once more? What can this country do? What can this House do? As to the blame, it is easy enough to put the blame on the shoulders of one country. It is always an easy thing to do, and, generally speaking, it is a popular thing to do. But is it the kind of action which really leads to constructive reform of the sort we want? Armaments are, after all, merely the barometer of foreign policy. Has the foreign policy of successive British Governments during the first four years been such as to make for peace? Was the Sèvres Treaty, with its sordid economic clauses, a Treaty which made for the lessening of armaments and for peace? Did the encouragement which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) gave to Greek imperialism make for peace? Did it not precipitate the Turco-Grecian conflict, which resulted in such appalling misery and wretchedness throughout the Levant? Was our policy at the first Lausanne Conference calculated to lessen the burden of armaments?
To-day is not the Government actually starting in the Far East, amid the open resentment of Japan and the cold suspicion of the United States, an era of competitive naval bases, negativing in effect, although it does not in fact conflict, with the lines of the Washington Conference—negativing, in fact, the whole spirit and purpose of that Conference? A far-reaching scheme, such as the Singapore base, is the result of long-matured plans. Soldiers and sailors may play a part, but the real instrument in initiation and the real object of a policy of that kind are withheld from the knowledge of the nation. I do not suppose there is one man in a hundred thousand who associates this scheme with one, at least, of its principal objects—the object of establishing a potential 141 stranglehold over the fabulously rich oilfields of the Dutch East Indies, which involves a constantly superimposed pressure on the foreign policy of Holland, aiming at giving adequate protection to those powerful interests of the two great oil combines—the Shell and the Royal Dutch—and giving adequate protection to the enormous fleet of tankers constantly passing to and fro through the narrow seas of the East Indian Archipelago. Singapore has become the centre where the three main indissolubly connected interests verge—the interests which lie behind the perpetuation of the war system, the interests that lie behind the economic Imperialism, and the interests that lie behind international finance.
I see no sign making for peace in this regard, neither do I see any sign in the speech made by the Secretary of State for Air to-night. I see no sign either of a desire to work for peace in the statement made by the Air Minister the other day, to the effect that he wanted to see the British Empire leading in the air and possessing the great air power in the world. Why should this country, or any other country, claim to be predominant in the air? Such a statement made at this moment of international tension by the Air Minister is intolerable; it is provocative and not calculated to keep the peace. Hon. Members on the benches opposite talk about defence. Is it defence they are thinking of? No, it is mastery over the natural element of the air, mastery in the markets of the world, mastery over the natural resources of the world. That is what a great many hon. and right hon. Members opposite mean when they talk of defence. They claim as by Divine right dominion over hundreds of millions of men, over millions of square miles of territory, and mastery over the natural resources of the globe. Then they talk of defence! If the nation as a whole benefited by these Imperial politics, there might be a logical case to be made out for them. But it is becoming clearer and clearer in every decade that Imperial politics are being fostered at the expense of the interests of the great mass of the working population of the country. They have to shoulder the burden. Money is spent lavishly on the wings of the edifice, but the centre of the edifice is neglected and allowed to fall into decay. In that way lies national and Imperial suicide.
142 If the political amenities allowed it, I would like to say that for my part I believe the present Prime Minister is sincerely desirous of working for peace in the world, but it is at least unfortunate that the abandonment of the policy of doing nothing in Central Europe should coincide with the initiation of a policy in Asia which will almost certainly bring about what almost came about in 1901–2—a Russo-Japanese combination. It may be that it will become a Russo-Chino-Japanese combination, but at any rate it will make it much more difficult to secure a peaceful solution of the stupendous problems of the day. The principal explanation why Europe is to-day, as has been said in the course of this Debate, very largely an armed camp, and why expenditure on armaments is leaping up in every country, or, at any rate, in every one of the victorious countries, is what I have already called the misuse of victory. In my belief, the only thing that is going to prevent the law of retribution from working full circle is for us to take, as it were, our moral courage in our two hands, to recognise that the policy which has been pursued ever since the 28th June, 1919, when the Versailles Treaty was signed, in regard to the problem of European politics by the victorious Allies—which, in effect, means official France and Britain—has been a disastrous policy for all concerned, and to break away from that policy absolutely and entirely. The statement as to the doubling of our Air Force which was made by the Secretary of State for Air in this House ten days ago heralded the birth of the latest offspring of the marriage of stupidity to revenge which took place at Versailles in 1919.Fatal Versailles"—to use Sir Ian Hamilton's words—not a solitary line of your Treaty to stand for the kindliness of England, not a word to bring back some memory of the generosity of her sons.That announcement as to the doubling of our Air Force was also the implicit admission of the failure of the whole policy crystallised in that instrument of wrong and folly at Versailles, and pursued by the victorious nations ever since. It is one of the cheapest of assertions, as it is one of the most dangerous of illusions, that, in considering the problem of the present and of the future, we need 143 have no regard to the past. Why is it that, four years after the War which was to have brought security and peace to our people, we are to-day spending £60,000,000 more per annum on our armaments? Why is it that the Government of this country to-day come forward with a proposal to double the most destructive fighting arm of modern warfare? That is a question which is being asked by vast masses of our people to-day all over the country, as they remember the specious promises made to them when the War broke out and during the War. They are asking that question with all the more insistence, inasmuch as they are suffering from unparalleled unemployment, from shortage of houses, from the starvation of social services, and generally their conditions are infinitely worse in many cases than the conditions prevailing before the War broke out.
In tens of thousands of homes in this country to-day—let the Government be under no illusion on the subject—in the wretched hovels in which we are content to allow so many of our people to dwell, homes saddened by the memories of those who fell in the great War, darkened by poverty and ill-health, shadowed by the thought of the impending morrow and its peril, when these vast sums are spent on ships, munitions, guns, aircraft, "Why," they ask, "should we go on sweltering and toiling and sweating under these conditions, when all these millions are being spent for the next war, of which our children will be the predestined victims?" How is the Government going to answer them? Is it going to tell them the truth at long last? Is it going to tell them that the principal cause of this unemployment in its present proportions, of this debt, of this burden upon our revenue and our finances, which forces the Government, as it says, to cut down all these home expenses—that the fundamental cause of that is that the country, responding to wrong and incompetent guidance, embarked upon the wrong road in 1909, and has been treading that road ever since, and that it is time for us to get off that road and start on a new road and resolutely fix our eyes upon a totally different goal? Is the Government going to tell them that, or is it going on talking of security, talking of defence, talking of preparing for war in order to preserve peace? I warn the Government that 144 millions of the people of this country are not going to be taken in again. They have learned their lesson. I am afraid that that is the kind of statement which the Government is making—that this bounding up of armaments, this doubling of our Air Force, is all the fault of the other fellow—as was done in 1911, 1912 and 1913—except that it happens to be a different "other fellow" now.
France seems to have a very much larger number of aeroplanes than we have, although, as the Secretary of State for Air well knows, the organisation of the French Air Fleet, its matériel, its motors, and the technical training of its men, are all very much inferior to ours. The Secretary of State for Air drew a terrible picture of this impending menace, but he altogether failed to touch upon this point, that this is not a new situation. It has existed for 2½ years. If we are in the desperate position in which we are said to be to-day, who is the criminal who ought to be hanged for allowing us to get there? The upshot of it is that we are going to build against France. That is what it really comes to, and the House knows it. The Secretary of State for Air talks of a one-Power standard in this House, but outside, at the Constitutional Club, perhaps in more genial surroundings, he talks, as I have already quoted to the House, about making this country the most powerful of all in the air. That may mean anything up to a 10-Power standard.
As has already been stated in the Debate to-day, to speak of defence in connection with the Air Force is a contradiction in terms. The warplane is intrinsically a weapon of offence, not of defence in the sense in which an Army or a Navy can be declared to be a weapon of defence. There is no effective defence against air attack. The element in which man's latest invention to destroy himself is to be found is much too vast to allow of effective defence. You cannot, with a one- or two- or three- or even four-power standard, wait until the enemy planes are over your country and then meet him with your own 'planes. You have to send your 'planes to his country and bomb his centres, so that the technique and the philosophy of the thing comes to this: We say to France: "Bomb London and Birmingham, and we will bomb Paris and Lyons." That is what we are reduced to four and a half years after the War 145 closed. That philosophy means the destruction of civilisation. That is one policy—inflated armaments, extended naval bases, mastery in the air, mastery over markets, mastery over the natural resources of the globe, and all the rest of the Imperial policy. It can neither give security nor peace nor prosperity to the people of this country. All it can do is to fasten more securely the war system round their necks, leading eventually to national bankruptcy.
Is there another policy? We think there is, and we have crystallised that other policy, in one of its aspects at least, in the Motion which we have brought before the House to-day. We ask this country, as befits its power and influence in the councils of the world, to take the lead in a decisive step to induce the nations to get off the road which they are following. We believe that an invitation from this country, aye, at this moment, would receive such an overwhelming response throughout the world, that any one Government which stood out against accepting such an invitation would pro duce a state of affairs internally which would very shortly lead to its having to change its mind or clear out. And we believe that in the present conditions of the world this nation, with the exception of the United States, which we should desire to see not only co-operating with us, but co-operating in the initiative which we suggest, is the one which can really give an effective lead. That is a view which is sincerely and passionately held on these benches. It is based upon the conviction that if such a lead is not given, if such a step is not taken, the nations of the world will rapidly march in sinister disunion to a catastrophe infinitely worse than that of 1914. It is based on the belief that no time is to be lost. The time is now. If we allow the grass to grow under our feet the situation is not going to get less complicated but more complicated. And it is based on the firm conviction that the genius of our race, the high and noble qualities of our people can find their fullest expression and their most noble aspirations in the realisation of those high ideals—we are not afraid of the word—of international brotherhood and of social regeneration, ideals which fell so glibly from the mouths of statesmen during the War when they were calling the youth 146 to the shambles, ideals which the statesmen of the world have so shamefully, so grossly, and so unpardonably, betrayed.
§ Mr. MURCHISON
I should like to call attention to one or two aspects of the matter which I think have not yet been touched upon. The Resolution speaks of the enormous and growing expenditure on the Naval and Air Forces. The hon. Member who has just sat down spoke of a figure of £60,000,000. I think we are apt to forget, when we compare these figures with pre-War figures, that the purchasing power of the sovereign at present is only about 11s. 6d. compared with what it was in 1913, and that in the expenditure on armaments since the War a very large amount of money represents not so much additional armaments but increased pay and better conditions. The Resolution speaks, too, of the expectation of the nation that the great world War was to end war, an expectation and a hope which the whole nation shared, but where difference of opinion comes in is how that expectation and that hope could best be realised. I am strongly of opinion, in spite of what the last speaker said, that it is as true to-day as ever it was what the Roman said, si vis pacem para bellum, and we must be prepared for war if we are going to have peace in the future. I believe the right way of going about this difficulty is the way suggested by the Amendment, that the League of Nations which, do not let us forget it, this country was more responsible for, perhaps, than any other, and which owes so largely to this country its constitution, is the right instrument for us to use when the time is ripe, as I believe at present it is not ripe. I notice that the Mover of the Resolution referred to the League of Nations as being lacking in the confidence of the world. Nothing would give the League of Nations greater power and influence than submitting such a resolution to it as is proposed in the Amendment, and I believe it is quite possible that the outcome of their deliberations would have some tangible form and some really lasting result. A great deal has been done since this Government came into power, and in recent months, La the direction in which we all desire the world should go, by the Washington Agreement. That is something really tangible, and is 147 surely a more effective means of gaining peace among the nations in the future than adopting the Resolution which has been put before us by the Labour party.
I noticed, too, that the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. J. R. MacDonald) referred to the Motion as "this gesture of ours." It is interesting to compare it, if we look at it as a gesture, with the much more practical suggestion which was laid before the Conference of the Labour party at Queen's Hall but a short time ago. It urged the Members of the Labour party to vote against military and naval expenditure. The right hon. Member for East Newcastle (Mr. A. Henderson), whose name I notice is not one of the four attached to this Resolution, described that Resolution as absolutely absurd and futile, and a very large number of people throughout the country will agree with him. It is interesting also to compare the Resolution with the very practical action of the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Newbold), who, it was reported in the "Daily Telegraph" a few days ago, while in Moscow actually signed a statement urging the workers in Russia to obtain mastery of the air, in order that they might successfully oppose the alliance of what he described as the Western bourgeoisies. If we are sincerely desirous of peace in the future the only practical way in which at the present time we can hope to obtain that end is not by passing such Resolutions as that which has been moved to-day, but by waiting until a suitable opportunity comes, and then in the words of the Amendment to use the League of Nations in orderto prevent a recurrence of such international competition and bring about a general limitation of armaments.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON
One noticeable feature of the Debate so far has been the very apologetic character of the speeches of Members who have opposed this Motion. For that there is much cause to be thankful on the part of those who want to see some Amendment in our peace policy. Contrasted with what took place some years ago, this is a very marked change. It has been suggested that the Resolution goes too far for practical politics, but I would rather see it go a good deal further. The Resolution 148 asks that a Conference should be organised to take steps towards a policy of disarmament. I should like this House to pledge itself to lead the way, and whatever might be the policy of the Conference, I think we ought to set an example by reducing our armaments to a much greater extent than has been done up to the present time.
The hon. Member who spoke last said that we have overlooked the extent to which our armaments expenditure has been reduced, but if the hon. Member will forgive me for saying so, I think he attaches too much importance to the value of the reductions which have taken place, because we find that for this year our armaments expenditure, including the revised Estimates of the Minister of Air, and our commitments in the Middle East which are really of a warlike character, show a total amount of over £140,000,000 as compared with £86,000,000 in 1913–14. I know we have to take into account the decreased purchasing power of the sovereign, but when that is allowed for we find that five years after the War we are spending more money to-day than we did in 1913–14, and that surely is a most deplorable fact. In 1913–14 the whole of Europe was an armed camp, and yet to-day we are spending more than was necessary then. What is more disquieting still is the fact that this year we are going to spend more money than we did last year, possibly £15,000,000 or £16,000,000 more. It is a movement in the wrong direction that we should be budgeting for a greater expenditure this year than was necessary on armaments last year.
What is the end of it all. The hon. Member who spoke last quoted the Latin tag, "If you want peace, prepare for war." Surely the whole experience of the past has given the lie to that. We know that the only end to that policy is one of destruction, and surely that is borne out by the experience of the last War, because the nation which more than any other had made military preparations, and which above all others had done everything possible within human foresight and capacity to arm itself to the teeth, found that, despite all that, it was defeated by those who had made less preparation, and who did not believe in a warlike policy. I submit that there you had as a result of the War the mighty ones of the earth confounded by those 149 relatively weak, and you had them defeated by the moral power of the world which grows when the occasion arises. I deprecate some of the remarks made with regard to the attitude of this country towards the last War. I think the highest motives animated those not only on recruiting platforms but also those who went over the seas and made the great sacrifice that was called for. I am sure the highest motives animated them all. [An HON. MEMBER: "Compulsion."] I know there were a few who were compelled to go, but the great majority of them went voluntarily, willingly, and gladly, and they did it not because they were animated by any spirit of Jingoism, but by a spirit of patriotism. They felt that they were fighting in the cause of right and were engaged in a war to end war.
When I recall the recruiting meetings which were held in 1914–15 there was no spirit of Jingoism, but there was more like the spirit of the revival services at religious meetings, for the men went animated with a desire to make the sacrifice which they felt was needed. To-day I think it is deplorable that, after the huge sacrifices that were made willingly by men in a just and righteous cause, nine years afterwards we should be facing the position we are in to-day, which is a travesty of all the hopes and ideals which animated them. I think it is up to those of us who remain to be true to the pledges and promises we then gave. Those of us who were overseas, who watched the steady tramp of the thousands of fine lads, the flower of the manhood of the nation going to the front line trenches, as we realised that many of them would never come back, we vowed that no effort would be too great to make a repetition of that kind of thing impossible in the future. I believe it is possible to make war a thing of the past. I believe as we made as a nation great sacrifices in the cause of war, we can likewise make great sacrifices in the cause of peace. It has been said that the time is not opportune, but when is it opportune to take the lead in a progressive cause? I think we can afford to give this lead.
Something has been said in this Debate about the inexperience of youth. I suggest that the inexperience of youth, with all its drawbacks, is sometimes a safer guide than the maturer wisdom of those who are trammelled by the evil practices of the 150 country. It is the youth of the country who will have to make the sacrifice and pay the bill if war comes again, and I would rather be guided by the idealism of youth rather than tread the old paths which proved so calamitous in the past. I hope it will not be considered that this Resolution is in conflict with the spirit of the League of Nations or in antagonism to any movement which helps to make war a thing of the past. You cannot have too many organisations or too many people interested in pursuing the right path. It is suggested that, because there are many organisations and various efforts being directed towards this end, we are weakening our forces, but in my view by mobilising every organisation and utilising every effort towards the consummation of these ends we are not weakening but strengthening our cause. It has been suggested that the teachings of history are against such a policy. You have on the Continent of America a vast stretch of territory between Canada and the United States which is the longest line of frontier in the world. It has not been defended by a single ship, or gun, or port. That has been possible for more than 60 years there, and surely it is possible here.
I would like to make a reference on this question of the possibility of a peaceful policy to a well-known idealist, William Penn, who settled in Pennsylvania, and there, unarmed, dwelling among those who were armed, he and those who succeeded him managed to live in concord and peace for generations, contrary to all the teachings of the exponents of warlike power. Those small examples show that a policy of faith and idealism, if only carried out in a broad spirit, will succeed. We have come to the parting of the ways. The old system of piling up armaments, one Power against another, has proved to be not only false, but fatal to a continuance of the human race. Burdens will be piled up which we cannot bear, and they will break us economically, even if they do not destroy us absolutely. If as a nation we should cut down our expenditure on armaments by half, we should find that other nations, from the industrial standpoint and in their own defence, would have to follow suit. They would find that the very heavy burdens of armaments were crushing their enterprise, and merely from the economic point of 151 view, and in self-protection, they would have to follow suit. Therefore I hope that we may stop this mad competition in armaments.
I notice that the right hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), who is an economist, speaking last week, said that even if Singapore dockyard meant an expenditure of £20,000,000 or £30,000,000, he would willingly incur it to preserve the Empire. Surely we may say, is it not worth running the risk, in order to preserve the Empire, of cutting down the burden of taxation, because if we do not reduce this burden of taxation those who have any remembrance of the last War cannot but be anxious as to the risk of a repetition in the future of horrors which are too awful to contemplate. It would be much less risk to run to set the example and to show that we believe in right rather than in might, and that we are willing as we led in the War to lead in peace, and begin by cutting down our own expenditure on armaments. If we do that, we shall not be going back to any mad, fanatical peace policy, because we shall only then be at the ratio of expense which we had in 1909. Let us lead the way, and I am satisfied that our experience will be that other nations, out of self-defence from the economic point of view, will have to follow our example.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Lord APSLEY
While listening to the speeches delivered by hon. Members on the benches opposite it occurred to me that some of those hon. Members are under what I hope sincerely is an hallucination. I refer particularly to speeches of the hon. Member for Aberdeen and the very eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Dundee. They remind me somewhat of the novels which I used to read as a boy, I think by Mr. William le Quex. One can almost imagine the little group of financiers meeting together in the rooms at the Ritz Hotel and discussing the means by which they will bring about great convulsions, great international wars which will inflict loss and distress all over the world, and all in order that the shares of some oil company may appreciate or depreciate. One can imagine them pulling the strings with Ministers in their pay actually as their guides or their 152 dupes, and the whole thing, all this world catastrophe due entirely to the wish of private individuals. I hope sincerely that that is not the case. Indeed, so far from it being the case that Ministers of the Government are planning some gigantic world war in the future, I consider that the whole trouble lies in the fact that the present Government, and the Governments of other nations, are finding it all they can do to keep the world peace. While there are discussions on disarmament at Washington and in Switzerland, all over the world there are trouble, civil war, and discontent. The hon. Member for Dundee drew attention to the theory that expenditure on armaments was the cause of distress and unemployment in this country. I could put forward another theory, that it is not the actual expenditure on armaments, but it is the fact that in our markets all through the world there are unrest and discontent—in places like Egypt, India, China, and Mexico, the buyers are not there, the sellers are not there. There are trouble and discontent. You cannot carry on trade in such circumstances. That has affected us here and is the cause of discontent and trouble in this country.
The hon. and gallant Member for Tonbridge (Lieut.-Colonel Spender-Clay) pointed out that there was a time, not so very long ago, when individuals in this country used to make a practice of settling their personal differences by personal combat, but that they do not do so now. But I should like to submit that that change is not due so much to the ever-advancing tide of progress and thought as, to my mind, to the fact that it is prevented by the strong arm of the law. In countries like Ireland, where the tide of progress has flowed a stage further towards the realisation of crude democracy and freedom, and so people have been able to defy the law, the private individual is able to fight whenever he pleases. The same thing applies to China, where the rival leaders are able to carry on their warlike operations unhampered. The fact that they are able to do so not only causes people there temporary inconvenience, but causes a tremendous amount of trouble in this country, and how are we to prevent it? There wag a time when, if a British subject was insulted or maltreated in any 153 part of China and no explanation was given, an explanation was obtained from that country by the common concerted action of Britain and her Allied Powers. Now if we asked an explanation from one of these leaders he would merely say, "What are you going to do if I do not give satisfaction?" and all we can say is, "We shall report you to the League of Nations, and they will be very much annoyed."
I welcome, and I think all hon. Members will welcome, an organisation for international peace; but that organisation must be able to keep peace, otherwise it will be entirely useless, and instead of creating international peace it will only bring about international chaos. In the meantime, until such an organisation is formed and perfected, and until every nation has consented to take part in it, I shall oppose any Motion that would desire to reduce our naval and military strength if, by so doing, we imperilled our national safety. I think that is not an unreasonable point of view, and I believe most hon. Members on the opposite site of the House will agree with me. I deplore any race for aerial supremacy, especially when it is between Allies. I confess that, when it is suggested that our increase in air armaments is directed against France, I am totally unable to understand it. To begin with, supposing we and the French were able to forget the ties of sentiment that exist between us, and if all went by the board, is it likely that the French would attack us, with Germany on her flank; or is it likely that we should commit any act of aggression, without any cause or need, against the French? I cannot think that His Majesty's Government have any designs whatever of directing a race in air armaments against the French.
If the Air Force is being increased, it is in order that we should maintain our position among the nations as an air nation. I would remind hon. Members that this is not only in regard to military aviation, but also civil aviation. The science of aircraft is developing very rapidly, and we should be the last country to have an enormous force of aeroplanes on our hands which, in a year's time, might become obsolete and would have to be replaced. I submit, however, that we must not lose our place among the nations of the world in regard to aircraft. 154 We must train the best pilots we can, and produce the best machines, so that they can be constructed if required. If we are to have a conference to achieve the end of war, which we all desire, then that must be done at the best moment. That moment can only be when we know that we can get every nation in the world into such a conference. At the present time, I doubt very much whether we should be able to get every nation to sit at a round table and discuss disarmament. I doubt very much if the French and Germans would sit at a table together until the question of the Ruhr is decided. I doubt if the Americans would come in at the present moment, after having said that they would have nothing to do with European politics.
§ Captain BELLAIRS
Both the American Senate and the American House of Representatives passed a Resolution requesting the President to summon a conference on disarmament.
§ Lord APSLEY
If the Americans are willing to come in and attend a Conference that is one sign that America may take part in European affairs, but up to the present moment I have seen no sign of willingness on America's part. The fact that it may be possible to discuss national disarmament must not make us take the lead in disarmament, as an hon. Gentleman opposite suggested, before other nations have disarmed. We must maintain our place amongst the nations at such a conference, and we must sit at the conference with the prestige of a great and strong nation. Some hon. Members say that prestige is nothing, but I can assure them that whether on a Committee or anywhere else prestige goes a long way. We must begin our proper position at that Conference, and I should deplore any reduction or attempt at reduction in armaments beyond the actual financial necessities of the present moment.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
I feel this to be an exceptionally solemn occasion. On all hands in the House we hear the perfectly clear indication of approaching international disaster, and that, to me, shatters completely, without shadow of doubt, all the professions that were made at the time of the war as to the alleged noble and exalted objects which we were said to have in view. An hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Liberal benches was in- 155 clined to compare the meetings which were held as being Somewhat akin to meetings for evangelical purposes. It beats me completely to attempt to harmonise the idea of evangelical meetings for the salvation of mankind with the idea of meetings for men's slaughter in all parts of the world. It goes to show the absolute incongruity with which these matters are dealt with in this House. The Noble Lord who spoke last said that until every other nation had agreed to disarmament he would not support the proposal before us. That proposal, to my mind, certainly marks an advance. I thought the hon. Member who spoke from this side of the House was going to emphasise the idea that the words of the Motion might be tightened up in order to make it clear that every Member on the Labour Benches who believes in partial prohibition in armaments should not in any way misunderstand the situation. I hope that this Motion means what it says; that it really intends disarmament; and that, as has already been said from these benches, it does not merely indicate some sort of change of policy. I do not know whether that is the official reading of the Motion. I earnestly hope it is, and that the Motion stands for a deliberate purpose and that hon. Members on this side, from whatever quarter they come, are deliberately opposed to armaments of any kind whatever.
The Minister of Air told us that we ought to go more deeply into the question, and that there was a moral question with which we had to grapple. He said we had to safeguard ourselves from the suspicion and mistrust which were prevalent among the nations. The trouble is the system of competition in our nation and in all nationalities. It is not a matter simply of foreign affairs, it is a matter of home affairs. It is no good giving recitations here on disarmament or on foreign affairs unless you deal with home affairs whenever you have the chance. It is no good talking about what we all know, the question of home defence, while at the same time there are masses of people finding it difficult to discover a home within these islands, and while there are masses of people unemployed. Yet we want to be the most powerful nation in the air. That is an open air treatment of a kind which does suggest 156 absolute hypocrisy to men and women who get no chance of obtaining an honest living, and who even find a difficulty in getting something like a decent old age pension. The right hon. Gentleman told us that we were going to guard our great Empire, and that we must see that we are absolutely secure on land, sea, and in the air. The tragedy of the thing is appalling. I stand by the Motion, which honestly declares a conscientious conviction that the maintenance of armaments is a transaction against mankind, and the human race is being desolated. Day in and day out we are poisoning mankind, and therefore it is not surprising if we find among all parties in the House more or less agreement that in some way or another we have to carry on manslaughter. It is just a question of different ways of reaching the same end. At present you do it by poisoning, and you are seeking to get it done by chemical operation, and you prostitute the finest brains in the country in order to accomplish your ideas while you hold out to mankind no hope of any real advance or progress. To me it is an insult to the majesty of Almighty God. That Book which tells us, "Thou shalt not kill," is deliberately and blasphemously misused by the Government representatives on that Front Bench.
So far as the constituents whom we represent are concerned, it is the duty of the masses of the people to combine and say: There shall be no more war. There should be no shadow of doubt as to where we stand on that question. Why should you go on seeking for victims out of constituencies such as that which I represent—out of those wretched hovels of which we have had evidence? You have taken these poor lads and thrown them on this pile of manslaughter and then you have raised great memorials in the centres of your great cities—memorials for the dead, but no houses for the living. You say you are going to save the Empire. I know what you mean by the Empire. It is the colossal wealth which a comparatively small minority control and use for their own selfish, accursed interests while allowing mankind to sink down into a condition of despair, agony and misery. I express my indignation in the short time which is at my disposal, and I trust that every man on the Labour Benches will support me 157 and that even other Members elsewhere will break through the trammels by which they are bound. If the greatness of this nation is to be assured we should stand out before all other nations. You ask for the greatest power in the air. I ask for a manifestation that the Christ who died for us is elevated among us as a living, true, realistic factor in our lives—the Way, the Truth and the Light. If we are prepared as a nation to recognise the fact that righteousness alone exalteth a nation, we shall shed our glory around the nations of the world, and we, as a nation, should proclaim our determination to enter an international conference and say we are willing to shed freely those conditions which are worse than the cannibalism that existed in years gone by. The cannibal, who did not understand, took the scalp of his fallen foe, but you yourselves, with a clear understanding, engage men to discover insidious means of extinguishing that spark of life which God Almighty gave to every man and woman. I urge and implore you, as you have made your appeal to the Almighty, let no considerations of home life and international life, intervene, but let us, whatever it may cost, manifest our readiness nation to pledge ourselves before the world that as hitherto we have followed the path of godlessness, henceforth we are going to serve Him who died that we might live.
Major-General Sir J. DAVIDSON
I have listened to a great many of the speeches made this afternoon from both sides of the House, and I have been rather surprised to note the tenor of many of the speeches made from the Labour Benches. They seem to indicate that the Government and those on this side of the House have no desire to reduce or to limit armaments and are taking no steps towards effecting that purpose. I can see no justification whatever for that view. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) in his speech just now said that many of the speeches made from this side of the House were apologetic. I cannot see any cause for apology. To my mind anybody who desires war or who visualises war in any form whatever, as in itself a desirable thing, has no business outside the walls of a lunatic asylum. If one looks back into the history of war and then looks forward to the prospects of any future 158 war—which I hope will not be realised—one cannot do so but with horror. With modern means of transport and communication, with modern armaments and modern organisation, war in the future will be absolutely unlimited. It will not only be waged between armies but between nations, and, as has been said already, it will very largely affect the women and children of the nations engaged in it. I think it is obvious to anybody that the whole country wish to do all in their power to prevent war. I recognise that there may be a few who think otherwise. There are always a few lunatics in every nation, but I rule them out, and I rule all those out who want to see armaments increased to such an extent as to give provocation. We all agree that it is desirable to have a mutual limitation and reduction of armaments among all nations, but, so far as I can see, the Government is doing all in their power in that direction. After all, the Government of this country cannot lay down the law to other countries. They have to encourage the other countries to take this step.
How far have we gone in setting an example? To my mind, we have gone to very great lengths. Who were the first to demobilise their enormous forces after the War and to go back from a compulsory to a voluntary system? Who were the first to reduce their land forces very considerably? Who, as the greatest naval Power before the War, reduced their sea forces down to the strength of any other Power? Who reduced their Air Force to a point which, it must be admitted, was criminally dangerous? Great Britain did all those things. Who is the moving spirit in the League of Nations? Who is the soul of the League of Nations? An Englishman, the Lord Privy Seal, backed by the English nation. I dare say we could do more, and I think we shall do more in the course of time, but, in the meantime, and until some provision has been made for a general limitation of armaments, we cannot do more. Until we get a general agreement among the nations of the world there are only two alternatives of which I am aware. One is the alternative put forward by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour). I gather that his alternative is that we should disarm 159 completely, put ourselves at the mercy of the other nations and hope that they will follow our example. I do not believe that such is the wish of the nation or even of a small minority of the nation. I believe it is the wish of this nation to take the other alternative, and that is, while doing all in our power to induce the other nations to follow our example, to take measures for our own protection but without provocation. I presume if the hon. Member for Dundee were a jeweller he would not at night bar or bolt his shop, but would take out the window-pane and tell the police to go away. He would say that human nature ought to be perfect and, therefore, he was going to treat it as being perfect. One cannot do that. It is not practical politics. Many of the ideas which have been put forward by the Labour party both here and outside are based on the assumption that human nature is perfect or that, if it is not, it ought to be.
Our first duty to the country is to insure ourselves adequately, but not to overinsure ourselves. We must realise at the same time that it is we who have led the way so far in the reduction of armaments. It is all nonsense to say that we are encouraging an armament race. It was pointed out a short time ago that there was no justification for saying that the establishment of a naval base at Singapore was establishing a race in armaments. It is like saying that if we mobilise the dockyards at Portsmouth we are starting an armament race with the United States of America. We have perhaps been doing too much in the way of reduction of armaments. Sometimes I think that hon. Members do not realise the vulnerable and widely dispersed character of our possessions across the seas. Do they realise that we are policing more than half the world? If they look towards the Indian Ocean they will see that we are patrolling the seas there. We are responsible for navigation everywhere and we are responsible also for policing the countries which border on those seas. That, in itself, is very nearly half the world. How can we do that without an adequate police force? Human nature is admittedly imperfect and so long as human nature is imperfect the nature of any nation will be imperfect too, and so long as individuals quarrel so long will nations be apt to go to war. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough 160 (Mr. T. Thomson) pointed out that we were overinsured; that we were paying more this year than we had been before for our national defences. Does he realise that not only has the cost of all materials gone up, but in addition the pay of the Army and Navy has been, very rightly as I think, increased.
Mr. T. THOMSON
I said we were paying more this year than we did last year, and therefore we had increased our armament expenditure.
Sir J. DAVIDSON
There may be cases where there have been small increases, but the hon. Member was talking about a large increase from £80,000,000 to £160,000,000. I think that we have been erring on the side of too great a reduction, and we want to take stock carefully of the whole position. There is another point which I want to press, and here is where I disagree with the Government. I am very glad to see the Minister for Air on the Treasury Bench. We have been making a very big mistake since the Armistice in making unscientific reductions. We first of all reduced the Navy, and then we built docks at Singapore. We reduced the Army by 20 battalions. We reduced the Air Force and then we increased it. What on earth are we at? Are we working on any scientific principle? I do not think it is properly realised that the functions of each Service are interchangeable, and there is no joint scientific staff to deal with the three Services, and to see that any reduction which is made is made carefully. We have heard that the Committee of Imperial Defence is the proper body to deal with these matters. As a matter of fact, ever since the War, it has proved itself to be a totally inadequate body. I have been boring the House systematically for the last four and a half years trying to get a joint Staff established, comprising all three Services. We have delayed this for four and a half solid years. How much longer are we going to delay? We shall never get any proper judgment in these matters until such a staff is established.
What do we see every day in this House? We see the Admiralty and the Air Ministry fighting each other; we see the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) and the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain Benn) both attacking the Admiralty 161 when they get the chance and the Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon) is not very much behind them. Let us realise that we are all Englishmen, and that we are all out for the same object and that we want to work together. We ought to have an effective body to deal with the question of the reduction of armaments and to say what is the necessary police force for the Empire and what safe reductions can be made.
§ Mr. G. THORNE
I do not very often trespass upon the time of the House, but in view of the experience of the late War, this is the one subject that keeps me in public life, and I should like to be allowed therefore to say two or three words upon it so far as the time available permits. I am glad to observe one thing about which I think the House is unanimous, and that is the recognition of the serious position in which the country and the world are placed, and if the House recognises that the country recognises it even more vividly. I noticed that at Bristol on Saturday the Archbishop of Canterbury, addressing the great Wesleyan Conference, said that the issues of to-day transcended in their magnitude all ordinary experience and that in effect we have reached the most important juncture in the history of the world. If that represents in any degree the truth of the situation in which we and the world are placed, it beholds us to face the situation with the gravest sincerity at our command, and, at whatever cost and whatever risk, to go to any length that our conscience demands in the direction that we desire. Perhaps I may be permitted to illustrate the position. Many of us do not possess that capacity for speech with which our more distinguished colleagues are so richly endowed, and we are therefore dependent upon the kindly services of that most patient and most long suffering body of people whom we know as reporters. I have discovered that they show their benevolence towards our faulty utterances, not by reporting what we say but what they think we ought to have said. I had an interesting experience of that a short time back. I was venturing to speak on a subject akin to the present, and I used that grand old phrase of the past, "Seek peace, and ensue it," and when I found the record 162 in the morning, I was reported as saying, "Seek peace, and ensure it."
I have made that my motto ever since. To me, it is the only thing now worth living for, to take such part as one can in helping to ensure peace, and if I take the speeches which come from all parts of the House that really represents the general view. I quite recognise that hon. Members opposite as earnestly desire to ensure peace as I do myself. I am not quarrelling with them in regard to their motives. The only issue comes in regard to the method. The issue is so vital to the welfare of the human race that, if there be one way in which we can ensure peace, and every other way is only uncertain, surely common sense demands that we shall strive for that which is certain and absolutely effective, and, as I am convinced; that as long as the world lasts the means to do ill deeds will make ill deeds done, therefore, I believe that the means to produce war will produce war, and the only way to get rid of war is to get rid of the means which produce it. Holding that view, I am bound to take a course, whether it be popular or unpopular, in tat direction. I observe that in the Resolution now before the House reference is made to the real object which many of us had during the late War, which was to end War. I notice that the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) said last Thursday that while that was talked about, he did not believe that any sensible man believed it. That writes me down as a man who is not sensible, for I did believe it, and I believed it for this reason, more than all else in that great struggle. It had been dinned into our ears in the decades and generations previous that the way to secure peace is to prepare for war. No nation in the whole history of the world prepared for war like Germany did, and if Germany, so prepared, and was beaten, what is the good of telling us that preparations for war secure peace? You may prepare, and you may prepare, but you will forget something, or you will forget somebody; and in some way or other all your preparations will come to naught. Therefore, the only sure and safe way is to get rid of the armaments which make war, and to that end we ought to devote all our energies and all our strength.
163 I share the expression of opinion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), in the words he used at the commencement of his speech, when he regretted that an Amendment had been proposed to this Resolution, because at this stage, and in view of the tremendous issues involved, this great pioneer nation of ours wants to show one united front to the world, and if we could do it by unanimously passing this Resolution, what a boon it would be. Even those who moved the Amendment ought to have no objection to the Resolution, for this reason, that the stronger the body of men and women there are in this country who are prepared to devote their lives to promoting the doing away with armaments altogether, surely they are the greatest strength to those who see their way only to try to reduce them. The greatest strength which can come in the whole course of the nation's life, to my mind, is a great body of men and women, and especially women, after the experience of the last War, to demand that the world shall not be cursed by war again. In the moment or two left to me, I would like to make this appeal. The right hon. Baronet to whom I have referred, speaking on behalf of the City of London, used expressions which amazed me. I should have thought that the financial interests of the world were the most involved in preventing the world being cursed again by war. To-night we are discussing this Motion in place of another, which apparently they hated worse, and that is the Motion in regard to a Capital Levy. They manifest horror at the Capital Levy, and, what is more, that if once it were imposed there would be the terrible danger of imposing it again. To me, the capital of our country is infinitely more its men than its money, and in the last War we bad the most crushing Capital Levy on our men. Our cry is now "never again," and according to our strength we will demand and achieve it.
One word more, to keep the promise I have made to the Chair, and that is this, that if another war come, does the financial world realise what it means? I can assure them this, from my knowledge of the uprising feeling of the men and women in this land, that if another war does come, one thing results, and that is 164 that there will be no profiteering going on, for the one demand that the people will make first, if another war come, will be the conscription of the whole wealth of the country, with all the means that produce wealth, and all this talk of fearing Socialism, coming by slow degrees, by compensation, will be swallowed up in confiscation without appeal. The worst thing that can happen to the financial world, to the social world, to our country; and to every other country is another curse of war, and, therefore, I appeal with all my soul, not suggesting wrong motives in the slightest degree to any hon. Member opposite, but I appeal to them to realise that nothing in this world can stop war except getting rid of the means of war, and I ask them, therefore, to join in this Resolution to-night.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MOORE-BRABAZON
I have always been taught not to see unworthy motives in one's adversaries, but, listening to many of the speeches to-day, I find an impression conveyed that the Conservative party is a warlike party. A party composed, as it is, so much of the middle classes can, I think, easily be proved not to be a warlike party, because if any section of the community suffered at all during the War, it was the middle classes, not only in this country, but in other countries, and in many countries the middle classes have disappeared entirely, and no longer exist. So I do hope that that accusation will not be pursued, because I consider it a very objectionable one indeed against the party to which I happen to belong. I feel inclined to say to hon. Members opposite, in the words of W. S. Gilbert:Hearts just as pure and fair, may beat in Belgrave Square,As in the lowly airOf Seven Dials.You have not to convert us on this side, but you have to convert the countries abroad. I have heard this Session speeches frequently from those benches with regard to the Ruhr—perhaps too many speeches. What is advanced from the point of view of the Ruhr is always what we should say to France, and what France should do, always with the idea that if the emergency came we could compel France to do these things. I always deplore the policy of the big stick, which, I think, is unsound; but if 165 you are going to take up the policy of the big stick, do see that the stick is not a fool's balloon If you are going to wave the stick, see that it is a big one; otherwise, do not advise other countries to do what you cannot compel them to do. I have not always agreed with my side with regard to armaments, but to-night I find myself in complete agreement with the Government, because I think they have got a very very sound case.
After all, on this question one has to go into what the Government have done with regard to the whole three Services. First of all, let me take the Army. At the end of the War, many of us were thoroughly afraid of the domination of the whole country by a vast military machine. The first thing we did was to abolish conscription. We reduced our Army to such small limits that they were barely safe. I was one of those who, when I saw a brass hat, absolutely saw red figuratively as well as literally. I could not stand the sight of it. But now all that has gone, and we have got back to the civil country we were before. I do say that what the Government have done with regard to the Army has been a great gesture to the whole world. It has shown our sincerity, and the fact that we are not going to continue to be a military nation, and that we want peace. From being the biggest military Power in the world, to shrink into nothing again is surely the kind of gesture the hon. Gentleman opposite wants us to make to the whole world, and in that respect I maintain we have done almost more than could be expected of us.
I come to the question of the Air Arm. The other day I felt compelled, perhaps from my conscience, to vote against the Government on the Singapore position, and in a speech following mine, my Noble and gallant Friend said he thought I wanted the money spent on the Air. I assure him that is not so. I have been connected with the air for many years, but when we started the thing, we never thought it was going to be such a military threat and horrible nightmare. We had visions that we were introducing to the world something that was wholly beneficial, which would knit the whole world together, and bring it into a smaller compass; that would act as shuttles that would weave together the whole world, so that the nations, understanding each 166 other better, would forgive each other so many faults. But because the thing has become a nightmare, and so efficient as a weapon of offence, do not think a bright day is not coming for aviation. It holds an enormous future for the world, and I am as confident now as I was then that one day it is going to be of enormous benefit to the world. Consequently, I shall advocate the getting of machines for the air as much as possible. At the end of the War we had, undoubtedly, the biggest aerial fleet ever seen in the world, and we could, by our aerial position alone, have dominated the world. What happened? In a year and a half we have shrunk to practically the smallest Power in the world in the air position. Surely that also was a gesture to the world of our lack of warlike intentions. For three years we had one-seventh of the power of France in the air. Our policy at that time, I think, was based on a sort of modern phrase, which runs, "Yes, we have no bananas to-day," because we pretended to have an Air Force, but we really had nothing that counted at all. What has really made the change in our policy with regard to the air? It is that suddenly we find France introducing 50 naval squadrons. The "Morning Post," one of our humorous journals, has told us that the air power is directed to the East, and not to the West. I am not versed, perhaps, in all military matters, but how France is going to take Berlin or Moscow by dropping torpedoes I am unaware. On that question I do hope we shall not be blamed for the very small increase from the point of view of defence in the air that we have made, and do not let the idea that aircraft is no protection against aircraft be indulged in too much.
My last word is about the Navy. I maintain that in regard to the Navy we have also made a great gesture at the Washington Conference of our intention to reduce our armaments. I do not think we could go much further than that. I opposed the Singapore position two days ago on the ground that it was an Imperial question to protect our seas, that, being an Imperial question, it was a very fit and proper one to be considered by the Imperial Conference later, and that there was no hurry. In that I still believe. I opposed it also because I object to big questions of policy being decided by Departments. I look upon 167 the combination of the First Sea Lord and the First Lord of the Admiralty as a sort of Beattie and Babs stunt, which is very bad for this country, and wants often sitting on, and I shall be prepared to sit on it. I have shown to the best of my ability that the Government with all three Services have acted in a manner wholly admirable. They have done their best, and, I think, in many cases have run a great risk. I do not think any country could have done better, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite were sitting on these benches, they would not, and could not, have done more than the present Government have done. In conclusion, may I say that here we have the Resolution and the Amendment and, frankly, I am quite prepared to vote for either of them. I hope, however, when the Prime Minister winds up this which is, after all, an academic discussion, he will tell us which he wishes us to vote for and which he wishes us to vote against. The whole thing is so involved that Resolution and Amendment practically mean the same thing, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will make it clear to the House what we ought to do.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
As no Member of the House has spoken against both the Resolution and Amendment, I take it for granted that a certain part of the Resolution is accepted by the whole House. May I for a few moments call attention to the differences between the Resolution and the Amendment. The Resolution begins by deploring the enormous expenditure on armaments. The Amendment declines to express an opinion of that kind. We shall insist on putting our statement to the Vote, that we deplore the expenditure on armaments in this country. Then we say that these preparations are beginning to cause the armament race again. The Amendment deletes that expression of opinion, and says there is only a danger. We shall vote for our words because it perfectly evident to us that the increase in the Estimates is the beginning of a race of armaments with France. We go on to say that we regret that through this expenditure the expenditure on necessary social services is depleted. The Amendment cuts that out. We again insist upon putting that to the vote because we 168 do regret that necessary social services are pinched and starved because of the expenditure on armaments. We call attention to the pledges given and here again we intend to put to the vote our statement that these pledges were given. The Amendment wants to take them out of the Resolution. I can understand hon. Members in this House not wanting to record the fact that certain pledges were made, but it is in the interests of the country that these pledges should be remembered, and it is because we believe it to be in the interests of the country that we shall put that to the vote along with the other. Then comes the difference in the wording as to the conference that is to be called. There is a suggestion in the Amendment that the League of Nations should call a conference. There is no party in this House that believes more in a League of Nations than does the Labour party. There is no party that has more consistently advocated the League of Nations and its development than has the Labour party until it becomes, not only a League of Nations or of Governments, but a league of peoples. What we desire is a conference of a fully international character so that it may deal with this question of armaments. It does not matter much to our party whether the League of Nations, or our Government, or whatever body it might be, calls the conference, so long as the conference is realised and we get a full international discussion on the question of armaments.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SHAW
I know something of Hamburg, and the Noble Lord, I suspect, knows much less, so that that argument would be unequal if we continued. This conference that we envisage is a different conference from the League of Nations Conference, as the League of Nations exists now. There is not only a European problem in the world. There is a problem of the East as much as the West. Everybody knows that what is making anxious the people in France and in Britain is also causing anxiety in America and in Japan. America is not a member of the League of Nations, neither is Germany, or Russia. We cannot possibly deal with the question of armaments unless we have the United States and Germany and 169 Russia taking part in the discussions. These observations are intended to show the difference between the Resolution and the Amendment.
May I now turn to some of the criticism that has been levelled at the Resolution. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Antrim (Mr. O'Neill), who moved the Amendment, gave two principal reasons for so doing. The first was that he felt it undesirable frankly to negative the Resolution. We on these benches are extremely thankful for small mercies. Take the "guts" out of it, yes; but do not vote against it, because it might be rather dangerous so to do. The second reason of the right hon. Gentleman was that an immediate conference is impracticable, and, in the present situation, undesirable, and that the Ruhr question must be settled before a conference is possible. He gave a brilliant picture of what has been done in Europe. He said that the old militarist empires had been annihilated; that personal rule had given way to popular rule, autocratic government to democratic government, that armies had been very much limited, particularly in the countries that had been conquered. He referred to the canker of the Ruhr. He referred to what had been done with the air armaments, but he never referred to the central point of argument of the hon. Member who introduced the Resolution, that we as a nation are precisely the nation that can with prestige, with effect, and almost with certainty, take a leading line in promoting the cause of peace in the world. Fears have been expressed that if the British Government sent out an invitation to the Governments of other countries they would not respond. That might be the case. But the Government that did not respond to such an invitation publicly stamps itself once and for all as a nation that is not ready to consider the cause of peace.
What is the alternative suggested by the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment. Apparently the alternative is that negotiations should proceed on the old lines, that diplomats should secretly make arrangements as before. Frankly we are in favour of smashing that method. That course is dangerous. Only by publicity and only by letting the people know openly what is going on is there a likelihood of peace being brought to this world of ours. The right hon. Gentleman 170 spoke about France, and told us what guarantees we ought to give for the security of that country. I made an interjection and asked "What is France going to do in return?" With great portentiousness and solemnity the right hon. Gentleman said that was a question that could not be discussed on the Floor of the House. Evidently everything the right hon. Gentleman wants to say about France can be discussed on the Floor of the House, but what we have to say about France ought to come in—
§ Mr. O'NEILL
The hon. Member, I think, misunderstands me. What I said was I think that it is undesirable to discuss this by means of interjections across the Floor of the House.
§ Mr. O'NEILL indicated dissent.
§ Mr. SHAW
I accept the correction, and continue, and shall deal with the Seconder of the Amendment. He objected to the Resolution because it coupled the question of social legislation expenditure with the expenditure on armaments. He said we ought not to discuss little questions of the kind in connection with matters like this! He said in effect that the house is burning and that we cannot attend to small matters of health. If the house is burning, it is an admission which goes much further than our Resolution regarding the gravity of the position. If the house is not burning let me deal with the small matters of health, and the position in this country. In 1914, in Lancashire, one out of six was fit for active service; in the West Midland counties the vital statistics during the War were simply appalling. I myself heard the then Minister for National Service, not only qualified as a Minister, but qualified as a medical man, express the opinion that the position of the health of this country was so bad and so appalling that no Government dared in future allow the existing conditions which were responsible for the health of the people. The majority of the people had had no chance of ever becoming healthy, their circumstances were so bad, their feeding was so bad and their hous- 171 ing was so bad, that it was useless to expect good health. So that this small matter of health in the burning house is to us a vital and burning matter, and we insist, as far as we are concerned, in season and out of season, in bringing forward the question of the necessary things for the people and protesting against the enormous, unwonted expenditure on armament.
Now let me deal, if I may, with one remark made by the Minister for Air. He said that we have no reason to assume, if such a conference were called, all the countries would attend. His fear was that the calling of the conference was not for the moment within the scheme of pratical politics. He claimed that he brought the discussion back from generalties to the realities of the situation. The realities of the situation are that, unless some big country takes a decided step and publicly makes an announcement and gives an invitation, we are apparently drifting inevitably to another huge war. That is the reality of the situation, and no amount of generalities or clouding of the issue by details, no amount of talking about things of the future will divert attention from that solid fact. All signs are pointing towards war again. We have the Ruhr, we have our own Air Force being built up apparently in opposition to France; we have France as a military power, and when we are told these are not the realities of the situation, but are generalities, we reply, that they are the realities of the situation and dangerous in the extreme.
Then we were told we ought to have moral disarmament. How can we get that until there is a country which is willing to say to all the world, "Let us get into conference, and discuss the question of armaments, and try to solve the questions that have made the world a dangerous place to live in in the past." When we get a country of that kind—we more than any other can adopt that role—there may be some hope. Even from a military point of view the present method of a Budget that is overbalanced by military expenditure and is underfed for social services is bad in the extreme. Health and intelligence are certainly better, even in case of war, than bad health and ignorance, and there is bad 172 health and ignorance in this country because the people never had had a chance of living decent healthy lives, of having the education which would really make them intelligent. Some of us hoped that after the War the type of Army with which we finished the War would be maintained. There was an entirely different relationship between officer and private soldier from that previously existing. In the War the two were nearer together than before, and one could become the other. Since the War we have drifted back to the old state of things. Men in the War were wearing clothes which were reasonable for war. We have replaced them by the gilt and scarlet and the tape and the glitter, all terribly expensive and absolutely useless for soldiering purposes. Money is ruthlessly wasted and thrown away, and then we are told we cannot have money for social services and the country must save every penny. You see people walk about with bearskin busbies—hideous, idiotic, silly. The great expense is the most idiotic thing connected with it. It is neither useful nor anything else. You say you are severely practical men, yet you throw this money away on these things, and then you turn to us and say, "You are well-meaning, but you are not at all practical." If I thought the party I belonged to could ever permit such unpardonable folly as has been committed in the Army since the War, I should go over to the other side and try to find common sense.
So much, then, about this talk of economy. There is something worse than that. It is not long since we saw this thing of parade and glitter producing exactly the same effect as the thing produced in Germany. According to the newspapers, there was a policeman engaged on point duty, a difficult and responsible operation, and the British police, certainly the Metropolitan police, are the admiration of the world. One officer endeavoured to interfere with a man engaged on that duty. That is what you are bringing into the Army. You are re-introducing the differences between the officer who is the fine china and the man who is the clay-pot, and in which there can be no intercourse between the two sections. It is the old system in effect. Now we have the old system reintroduced in diplomacy. What is the theory underlying this Amendment and 173 the speeches made in favour of it? The theory surely is that it is wrong to make a public appeal and that it is right to keep to the old method of private negotiation. We are against that, even if it means telling France frankly that we intend to be treated openly, and squarely, and fairly, as a first-class nation and not as a fourth-class nation. I will tell you what you are doing. You sent the Prime Minister to Paris with certain plans and the French replied, "We cannot even consider them." You sent reasonable communications, and if you are not satisfied in eating humble pie the time will come when you will be satisfied. The time has come to tell France that the Government of this country expects from her reasonably courteous treatment and answers to Notes plainly stated, and being treated properly.
§ Mr. SHAW
I cannot stop to deal with the Red Army. As an example of militarism that is the worst I know. But we are dealing for the moment with practical politics, and with men who, after all, look at things from different angles, but may try to understand each other's point of view. We have had reference made to what is likely to be the next war, if any war takes place. Surely, it is too horrible to contemplate in silence. It is bad enough that men should be torn and riven by shot and shell and shattered by gas. It is, surely, infinitely worse to envisage the probability of little children and women suffering in the same way. Why, after all, should not the House go with us in our Resolution? Surely, it is a quite simple thing for Britain, the centre of the British Empire, to take the lead. I am going to say this, there is no greater guarantee for the peace of the world than the British Empire is, or could be, if it would take its real part in the affairs of the world. It is an Empire big enough, bold enough, courageous enough, and generous enough, in the hearts of its people, to take such a course.
What would be a greater object lesson to our friends across the Channel if the British Government announced to the House of Commons that we were asking the whole world to meet together in order to eliminate the danger of war? Do you think the French people would not rise to 174 the occasion? Are they not generous enough to know that when an offer of that kind is made it can be accepted with advantage to their nation? Are not the French bold enough, big enough, courageous enough, to say to their Government: "Here is an opportunity of living in peace and quiet with our neighbours. Let us explore the circumstances and find whether it is possible to bring peace to the world." There is no nation on the face of the earth whose people would not rise to the grandeur of the idea and to the noble morality of the intention.
There are no wars that are made by the common man in the street. They have been made in the past by men who have played with peoples as they would play with pawns on the chessboard. There was one distinguished member of the Foreign Service—he had been in it for forty years—who said:Men look askance at one who cheats at cards, or lies. I have been lying all my life. It was my business to lie. I was a diplomat, and nobody thinks a whit worse of me for that. I have a drawer full of orders, medals, and stars given me for my capacity as a liar.That is brutally frank, but it is brutally true. The old secret diplomacy undoubtedly was conducted on lines which meant trickery and deceit. You had to worm out the secrets of the country to which you were accredited and to mislead them as to the true conditions in your own country. That was the old type of diplomacy. We on these benches will work with all our power to prevent that being re-introduced. In our Motions on foreign policy and in our speeches we have over and over again insisted, and we shall continue to insist, upon open dealing between nations and no secret dealing, no trickery. Openness, frankness and helpfulness—these are our watchwords. They are contained in this Resolution, and I hope the House will support us when we go into the Division Lobby in its favour.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)
I think the course of this Debate has more than justified the House in assenting to change the Debate that was to have taken place to the one to which we have listened to-day, because there is no doubt that, however we may approach the means to attain a common end, the feeling in all quarters of the House is deep and sincere as to the evils which 175 are to be combated. I regret very much that I have not been able to-day to listen to as many of the speeches as I should have liked. Indeed, were one to attempt to deal in detail with the various points that have been raised, one would require a far longer time so to deal with them than is at my disposal to-night, and I think that perhaps I can best serve the interests of the House by saying in a few words what I think is the problem that we have to face, what are the inherent difficulties of that problem, and what I think, speaking for the Government, is the wisest way in which those difficulties may be attacked.
Very little, if anything, has been said to-day about one of the greatest difficulties which we find facing us in dealing with this question, and that is that fighting instinct which is part of human nature. I propose to say a few words about that first, with a view to explaining how, in my view, we have to attempt to eradicate it, or, at least, to combat it, so as to produce that will to peace without which all efforts by legislation, arbitration, rule or otherwise, must be vain. That fighting instinct in man is the instinct of the tiger. It dates from his creation, and was probably given to him to enable him to fight for the survival of his species, for the provision of space in which to bring up his race, and to provide food for it; and we find through the ages that that instinct, whether in democracy or empire, or among individuals, has had full play. We find it even among men whose political views can be classed as pacifist, and that is the reason why we have often found in history that men of pacifist views were advocating policies which must end, if carried to their logical conclusion, in war.
I need only remind hon. Members that there was a considerable agitation some little time ago, with which I personally had great sympathy, and which was conducted very largely by those who, in all other respects, were of a peculiarly pacific turn of mind, and that was that this country—if there is any work to be done in this world, it is always our country, and I am thankful for that—that this country should in some way or other rescue Armenia. The only means by which Armenia could have been rescued was at the point of the sword. I may remind hon. Members that for the 30 176 years preceding one of the longest and bloodiest struggles in history, the Civil War in America, the anti-slavery agitation in the North-Eastern States was very largely, if not entirely, in the hands of professional pacifists and anti-militarists, and when the agitation had brought matters to the point that it meant either surrendering the principle of anti-slavery or going to war the pacifists, quite rightly in my view, said: "It shall be war"; realising, as was said during the late War, that there are times when moral issues may even triumph over peace.
In the same way some of those to-day who are loudest in their protestations of international pacificism are loudest in their protestations that nothing but a class war can save society. No truer word was ever said by a philosopher than was said by Kant, a century ago or more, that we are civilised to the point of wearisomeness, but before we can be moralised we have a long way to go. It is to moralise the world that we all desire, and I have merely mentioned these innate characteristics of human nature to make us realise, as I think we sometimes fail to do, what difficulties there are before us in carrying out a policy with which everyone in this House is in sympathy. We have to remember one more thing besides that, that since the War we must not make the mistake of thinking that what may be war weariness is necessarily an excess of innate good will, and we cannot help noting that there has arisen in Europe, in the few years since the peace, a strong local feeling in different places of an extreme nationalism which, unless corrected, may bear in what is not of itself an evil thing the seeds of much future peril for the peace and harmony of Europe.
But, taking into full consideration these points, on which I have touched somewhat summarily, I think there are compensations, and I think before I have finished I shall be able to show that the human race is progressing, though slowly, and is full of a conscious, though hardly as yet articulate, desire for further progress in the same direction.
I have often thought, with reference to the late War, that one of the most terrible effects of it—possibly a double effect—has been that it has shown the whole world how thin is the crust of civilisation on 177 which this generation is walking. The realisation of that must have come with an appalling shock to most of us here. But more than that. There is not a man in this House who does not remember the first air raids and the first use of poisoned gas, and the cry that went up from this country. We know how, before the War ended, we were all using both those means of imposing our will upon our enemy. We realise that when men have their backs to the wall they will adopt any means for self-preservation. But there was left behind an uncomfortable feeling in the hearts of millions of men throughout Europe that, whatever had been the result of the War, we had all of us slipped down in our views of what constituted civilisation. We could not help feeling that future wars might provide, with further discoveries in science, a more rapid descent for the human race. There came a feeling, which I know is felt in all quarters of this House, that if our civilisation is to be saved, even at its present level, it behoves all people in all nations to do what they can by joining hands to save what we have, that we may use it as the vantage ground for further progress, rather than run the risk of all of us sliding in the abyss together.
The conscience of the world is not stilled yet, but on the Government side of the House there rests a responsibility which cannot, in the nature of things, be felt by those who sit in opposition. We have to remember that a great deal of what has been said to-day, and if I may use the word in all good faith, some of the dreams which have been mentioned to-day are no new thing. We have to remember that in the French wars of Queen Anne's reign there was just the same longing for, and the same dream of, universal peace that so many of us feel to-day. One hundred years ago that same feeling, in different forms, animated many different breasts. Napoleon at St. Helena had dreams—too late for him—dreams of a united Europe with a united congress on the American model, of which he would be the chief and the dictator. At Vienna such dreams were heard of. The Tsar Alexander, a prototype of the late Tsar, whose dreams of peace were shattered only too cruelly, propounded a scheme of Holy Alliance which at that time came to nothing, because he spoke to a world that was not yet ready for it.
178 The difference between the Motion on the Paper and the Amendment that has been moved is really in essence a difference of time. It is a very easy and natural thing on the part of those who moved the original Motion to think that to take time as part of the essence of the Motion is in effect to say that we on this side of the House have no desire to do anything. We do not take that view, and we believe that any attempt at this moment to convene an international conference would not only not lead to success, but would lead to the indefinite postponement of any possibility of achieving the ends which we all desire. In my view the moment cannot arise to approach this problem, with any chance of success, until the condition of Europe with regard to Separations and the security of frontiers is settled, and I feel that it would be hopeless to expect a definitely favourable answer—to give only two instances; and I do not wish on this occasion to be more explicit—from France, for instance, before she had obtained a settlement of Reparation and security, or from Poland until she could feel that her frontiers were secure against that gigantic and powerful neighbour along her eastern borders.
The first step to be taken is the step that we are taking now. That is, to attempt a settlement of these existing problems of Reparation. In taking that step I am animated by as ardent a desire that it may lead ultimately, and at no distant date, to the consideration of these questions which we have been discussing to-day, as I am desirous of leading to a discussion and settlement those questions which have kept the countries of Europe apart during all the years which have succeeded the Great War. Let us never forget that sometimes in the darkest day the beginnings of better things are not only attempted but successfully achieved. It was in the darkest days of the struggle of the Thirty Years War that Grotius worked on international law and led to the foundation of that science which, though it has not brought peace to the world, has yet brought into being a code which has helped the world in its peaceful development, and will continue to do so.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It has been during these dark days of the last three or four years that the Washington Conference was held, leading to a limitation of naval armaments which, until that Conference was held, I am convinced the statesmen of all countries would have considered to have been impossible, impossible even to have been debated, and impossible in its fulfilment. This year, some of the most valuable exploratory work has been done, and is being done, by the League of Nations. The League of Nations has been occupied in considering this very question of disarmament, and the possibility of linking it up with guarantees of security, universal in their application as such guarantees must be: and such a universality is, indeed, a first and absolute essential to make any prospect hopeful of limitation of armaments. Now, those efforts of the League of Nations are on the point of taking concrete form in the shape of proposed Treaties, which will be submitted to the Governments of Europe for their consideration, probably after the meeting in September of the General Assembly of the League of Nations. I can promise, at least for this Government, and I am certain that the same will be true of all the leading Governments of Europe, that the work that the League of Nations has done, the form in which their work will be presented, will be examined, not only with the sympathy and the interest that such work deserves, but with an earnest desire, at the first moment when it appears to be practicable, that the aims of the League, if not in the exact form in which the League have suggested they should be brought about, shall be brought into effect in Europe.
As was well said by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw), in the course of his speech, there is one great instrument of peace in this world, and that is the British Empire. It is a great instrument, not only in its size, and its population, and its wealth, but more than ever a great instrument in this, that it is not only an Empire, but it is a large assembly of free nations, not all of the same kin or the same tongue, but animated largely by a common purpose, and all alike equally desirous of seeing extended in every corner of that Empire or Commonwealth those ideas of liberty, and justice, and 180 freedom which we believe are in our hearts, and which we hope to see spread throughout our Empire and throughout the world. In that collection of nations, which now spreads throughout the world, there is something of hope for the human race, because though it may seem a dream, it may yet some day be possible for peoples in so distracted a Continent as Europe to feel there may be something for them to learn from the development, from the union, and from the ideals of our great Empire, and we may possibly be able to show them a better way, which in years to come they may tread, and find the solution that to-day seems so difficult. As I have tried to explain to the House we cannot see our way to accept this Motion and take immediate steps, believing as we do that such steps would be rather a bar to future progress than a help. Yet I do say this, that when we are sufficiently fortunate, as I pray we may be, to have seen brought about, with our aid, some settlement in European conditions, then the time will be ripe and we shall be ready to take our part, in so far we can, whether through such schemes as have been proposed already or through others, in bringing about that limitation of armaments which we believe to be essential for the future progress of civilised mankind. It is an easy thing Co say, as many men say to-day, that this country should cut herself adrift from Europe, but we must remember that our island story is told, and that with the advent of the aeroplane we ceased to be an island. Whether we like it or not, we are indissolubly bound to Europe, and we shall have to use, and continue to use, our best endeavours to bring to that Continent that peace in which we and millions of men up and down Europe have an equal belief and an equal faith. Everyone on this side of the House, I am convinced, will vote with a perfectly clear mind and a perfectly honest mind for the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Antrim (Mr. O'Neill) with the fullest intention of carrying out in the letter and in the spirit the principles enunciated in that Amendment at the earliest moment that is possible.
§ Captain BERKELEY rose—181
§ Captain BERKELEY
I hope the Prime Minister will allow me, with all diffidence and all respect to comment on that part of his speech in which he referred to the intention of the Government with regard to the proposals which are now being considered by the League of Nations for bringing about a reduction of armaments. If I understood the right hon. Gentleman aright, he gave a pledge that the Government would use every endeavour to implement those plans. I should like, if I may, in view of the observations which were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) as to the purpose of the Motion which is now being considered by the House, to point out that he is really taking too restricted a view of the possibilities which are held out by the League of Nations' machinery for settling this great problem. It is perfectly true, as has been pointed out, that three of the great Powers, the United States of America, Germany and Russia, are not at present members of the League of Nations, and it is perfectly true too, as he also pointed out, that the presence of these Powers is very important for achieving the objects which the Labour party desire. [Interruption.]
§ Captain BERKELEY
It is quite true that it is of the utmost importance that the United States should be represented, but I venture to put it that the League of Nations machinery is important too. It is a question of adjusting the balance of importance, and this problem badly needs what the Lord Privy Seal
§ describes as "the atmosphere of Geneva." [Interruption.] As far as Germany is concerned, her armaments have already been limited. I quite agree with him if his contention is that the measure of disarmament in the case of Germany is an important measure, to be taken into account in estimating the requirements of other countries in this connection. The fact that Germany is not a member of the League does not preclude the League inviting Germany to participate in the discussion, and there is every reason to believe that an invitation of that kind would be accepted. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The rule is that private conversation should not be of such a nature as to prevent the orderly proceeding of the House.
§ Captain BERKELEY
As it is almost 11, and we wish for a division, I will not press my remarks any further.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House Divided: Ayes, 169; Noes, 286.185
|Division No. 304.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adams, D.||Briant, Frank||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Broad, F. A.||Darbishire, C. W.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Brotherton, J.||Davies, David (Montgomery)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Brown,, James (Ayr and Bute)||Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)|
|Attlee, C. R.||Buckle, J.||Davies, J. C. (Denbigh, Denbigh)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Burgess, S.||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)|
|Barnes, A.||Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Buxton, Charles (Accrington)||Duffy, T. Gavan|
|Batey, Joseph||Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Duncan, C.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Cape, Thomas||Dunnico, H.|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Chapple, W. A.||Ede, James Chuter|
|Bonwick, A.||Charleton, H. C.||Edmonds, G.|
|Bowdler, W. A.||Clarke, Sir E. C.||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Collison, Levi||Entwistle, Major C. F.|
|Falconer, J.||Leach, W.||Shinwell, Emanuel|
|Foot, Isaac||Lee, F.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Lees-Smith, H. B. (Keighley)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Gosling, Harry||Linfield, F. C.||Simpson, J. Hope|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Lowth, T.||Smillie, Robert|
|Gray, Frank (Oxford)||Lunn, William||Smith, T. (Pontefract)|
|Greenall, T.||MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon)||Snell, Harry|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||M'Entee, V. L.||Snowden, Philip|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||McLaren, Andrew||Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel|
|Groves, T.||March, S.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Marshall, Sir Arthur H.||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)||Sullivan, J.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Middleton, G.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Millar, J. D.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Hancock, John George||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Hardie, George D.||Morel, E. D.||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Harney, E. A.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Tout, W. J.|
|Hastings, Patrick||Mosley, Oswald||Trevelyan, C. P.|
|Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart)||Muir, John W.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Hayday, Arthur||Murnin, H.||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill)||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Warne, G. H.|
|Hemmerde, E. G.||Murray, R. (Renfrew, Western)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Newbold, J. T. W.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Herriotts, J.||Oliver, George Harold||Webb, Sidney|
|Hillary, A. E.||Paling, W.||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Hinds, John||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Weir, L. M.|
|Hirst, G. H.||Pattinson, R. (Grantham)||Westwood, J.|
|Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)||Phillips, Vivian||White, Charles F. (Derby, western)|
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Ponsonby, Arthur||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Potts, John S.||Whiteley, W.|
|Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Riley, Ben||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Ritson, J.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Roberts, C. H. (Derby)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Jones, R. T. (Carnarvon)||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Jowett, F. W. (Bradford, East)||Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)||Wright, W.|
|Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)||Rose, Frank H.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Saklatvala, S.|
|Kenyon, Barnet||Salter, Dr. A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Arthur Henderson and Mr. Spoor.|
|Kirkwood, D.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Lansbury, George||Sexton, James|
|Lawson, John James||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Adkins, Sir William Ryland Dent||Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew||Edge, Captain Sir William|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Burney, Com. (Middx., Uxbridge)||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Butcher, Sir John George||Ednam, Viscount|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East)||Butler, H. M. (Leeds, North)||Ellis, R. G.|
|Alexander, Col. M. (Southwark)||Butler, J. R. M. (Cambridge Univ.)||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Button, H. S.||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)|
|Apsley, Lord||Cadogan, Major Edward||Erskine-Bolst, Captain C.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Col. Sir Martin||Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Evans, Ernest (Cardigan)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W.||Cassels, J. D.||Evans, Capt. H. Arthur (Leicester, E.)|
|Astor, J. J. (Kent, Dover)||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. M.|
|Baird, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Fawkes, Major F. H.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Fermor-Hesketh, Major T.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm.,W.)||Fildes, Henry|
|Barlow, Rt. Hon. Sir Montague||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Flanagan, W. H.|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Churchman, Sir Arthur||Ford, Patrick Johnston|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Clarry, Reginald George||Foreman, Sir Henry|
|Becker, Harry||Clayton, G. C.||Forestier-Walker, L.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Fraser, Major Sir Keith|
|Bennett, Sir T. J. (Sevenoaks)||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Frece, Sir Walter de|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Collie, Sir John||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Berry, Sir George||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Furness, G. J.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Galbraith, J. F. W.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Cope, Major William||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Blundell, F. N.||Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Garland, C. S.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Cotts, Sir William Dingwall Mitchell||Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A||Craig, Capt. C. C. (Antrim, South)||George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||Goff, Sir R. Park|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Gray, Harold (Cambridge)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Greaves-Lord, Walter|
|Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham)||Davidson, J.C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Gretton, Colonel John|
|Brown, J. W. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Guest, Hon. C. H. (Bristol, N.)|
|Bruford, R.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.|
|Bruton, Sir James||Dixon, C. H. (Rutland)||Guthrie, Thomas Maule|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Doyle, N. Grattan||Gwynne, Rupert S.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Hacking, Captain Douglas H|
|Halstead, Major D.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Ruggles-Brise, Major E.|
|Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham)||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Russell, William (Bolton)|
|Harrison, F. C.||Manville, Edward||Russell-Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Harvey, Major S. E||Margesson, H. D. R.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.|
|Hay, Major T. W. (Norfolk, South)||Martin, A. E. (Essex, Romford)||Sandon, Lord|
|Henderson, Sir T. (Roxburgh)||Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Mercer, Colonel H.||Shipwright, Captain D.|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Sinclair, Sir A.|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Singleton, J. E.|
|Herbert, S. (Scarborough)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Hewett, Sir J. P.||Molloy, Major L. G. S.||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Hiley, Sir Ernest||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Smith, Sir Harold (Wavertree)|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)||Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Morrison-Bell, Major Sir A. C. (Honiton)||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Murchison, C. K.||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Hood, Sir Joseph||Nail, Major Joseph||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Hopkins, John W. W.||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Stockton, Sir Edwin Forsyth|
|Houfton, John Plowright||Newson, Sir Percy Wilson||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Hudson, Capt. A.||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.|
|Hume, G. H.||Nield, Sir Herbert||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Huru, Percy A.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Hurst, Gerald B.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Hutchison, G. A. C. (Midlothian, N.)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Hutchison, Sir R. (Kirkcaldy)||Paget, T. G.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove)||Parker, Owen (Kettering)||Tubbs, S. W.|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Pease, William Edwin||Wallace, Captain E.|
|Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Watson, Capt. J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul||Peto, Basil E.||Watts, Dr. T. (Man., Withington)|
|Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray||Wells, S. R.|
|Joynson-Hicks, Sir William||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel||Privett, F. J.||White, Lt.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Rae, Sir Henry N.||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Raine, W.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Lamb, J. Q.||Rankin, Captain James Stuart||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel||Winterton, Earl|
|Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Rawson, Lieut.-Com. A. C.||Wise, Frederick|
|Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Remer, J. R.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Rentoul, G. S.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Reynolds, W. G. W.||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Lorden, John William||Rhodes, Lieut.-Col. J. P.||Wood, Maj. Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Lorimer, H. D.||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Lougher, L.||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Lowe, Sir Francis William||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Young, Rt. Hon. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Lumley, L. R.||Robertson-Despencer, Major (Islgtn,W)|
|Lyle-Samuel, Alexander||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Strettord)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel The Rt. Hon. G. A. Gibbs.|
|McCurdy, Rt. Hon. Charles A.||Rogerson, Capt. J. E.|
|Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.