§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Austen Chamberlain)
The House of Commons fixed to-day for a discussion, which I think we shall all agree is one of the highest importance. It is of the proposals beginning with the Note from the German Government and ending with the reply sent by the French Government, after consultation and in agreement with this country and Belgium, as embodied in the White Paper. There is a reference in that White Paper to conversations that have proceeded and which are not recorded in the Paper itself. There have, of course, been conversations in this matter in Berlin, in Paris, and in London, but I would at once assure the Committee that nothing has passed in conversations which impairs the fulness of the information which we have laid before the House or which in any way affects the material of which it is already in possession.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I propose to repeat to the Committee the verbal explanations, which are, I think, what must be referred to in that case, but there have been elucidations offered by the German Government to our Ambassador and elucidations, in conversation, of the views of the French Government and of our own. There is, perhaps, one other preliminary observation that I ought to make. It has been impossible for me to be unaware of the suggestions which have been made that the Foreign Secretary is pursuing a personal policy of his own which has not the full agreement or concurrence of his colleagues. It is apparently suggested that, in escaping to Geneva and there falling a victim to the atmosphere of that town and to the seductive wiles of M. Briand, I conducted a personal policy of my own and, without the assent of my colleagues, committed His Majesty's Government to a line of conduct which has not had their previous approval.
I need not say in this House that such an idea as that is the purest moonshine. No Foreign Minister could if he would, or would if he could, take such a personal responsibility upon himself, and every line of the material in the White Paper has been carefully scanned by my colleagues, and every word that I have written has had the approval of the Prime Minister and the support of the Cabinet. That it should be the policy of a united Cabinet is, of course, essential. But that is not enough. We want it to be, not the policy of the Government of one party, but the policy of all parties, and of the nation as a whole, which we pursue in matters of such consequence not only to this country and to the British Empire, but to the world at large. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister struck the note of our intention in the first speech which he made after taking office, at the Lord Mayor's banquet at the Guildhall. He said on that occasion:I can say, with the full approval of my colleagues, that in regard to foreign policy, the one object of His Majesty's Government will be stability and continuity. We stand by the Peace Treaties, and we will cultivate good relations with foreign countries on the basis of those Treaties. That this policy is not a policy of stagnation, is shown by the action taken by the last Unionist administration, which led directly to the Dawes Report and the London Con- 1557 ference which, under the able direction of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, proved so successful.It is in the spirit of that declaration, building upon the foundations left to us by our predecessors, that we have endeavoured, and are endeavouring, to conduct the foreign policy of this country. After all, we all have but one purpose, to whatever party we belong. We all have but one object. It is to make peace secure and war impossible, if we can, and, if we cannot attain to certainty, at any rate, to make it as remote a danger as it is possible for human ingenuity and human goodwill to make it. I say we all share this object. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), when he was the Prime Minister of this country, pursued that object with the same singleness of purpose as we are pursuing it now. My right hon. Friend sought to lay the foundations of it, first in the Anglo-American Treaty of Guarantee, which lapsed when the United States declined to ratify; secondly, at Cannes, by a British Pact of Guarantee, which lapsed owing to political episodes in another country. My right hon. Friend was working upon that object, but it was not given to him, in the time when he was Prime Minister, to bring it to a successful conclusion.
Let me observe, that though I was a member of his Administration on both occasions, and fully concurred in the methods which he adopted at that time, those methods of securing the common purpose are no longer possible or acceptable to British public opinion. Those methods were the methods of a Pact of Guarantee among the Allies directed against Germany in certain contingencies. No such unilateral Pact can now be contemplated by a British Government. No alliances directed against a third party who is excluded from them will now form the basis, or can now form the basis, of a British policy, but the object remains, and the assurances and the declarations which my right hon. Friend made in the name of the British Government remain on record also, and require fulfilment and completion.
I need not dwell upon the intervening Unionist Administration, whose contribution it was to bring the Dawes Report into existence, and to bring about 1558 the conference held under the auspices of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I come to his time. He took up the most pressing side of the general problem of European unrest—I mean the problem of reparation—and he succeeded in carrying it through to a satisfactory solution. How did he achieve that success? He achieved it in close and friendly co-operation with the Belgian Government and the other Allies, and in conference with Germany. But he obtained that French co-operation by the assurance which he gave that the British Government were prepared, that question once out of the way, to proceed to the consideration of the question of security, and see how security could be provided. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition attempted to fulfil that undertaking by means of the Protocol, but I would beg the Committee to observe, for it is important, that the Protocol was not accepted at any moment by the French Government as being the full discharge of the undertaking given by the right hon. Gentleman, but merely as an instalment towards it. If the Committee will permit me, I will quote a passage from the speech of M. Herriot in the French Chamber on the 28th January of the present year. M. Herriot had observed thatThe Geneva Protocol did not solve the problem of security, though (he added) no more decisive step had yet been taken in the direction of universal pacification.He went on later to say, in meeting the criticisms which were directed against the Protocol in the French Chamber:There was also a danger of which you have thought, M. Fabry, that is to say the-danger that, once the Protocol was adopted, nations would be pledged thereafter to rest for their security on a kind of abstract and general alliance which it would be difficult to put into action.Here again M. Boncour intervened with that practical common sense which gives to his talent so much safety and precision. He defended the thesis according to which the Protocol should not render separate agreements between individual States impossible.And if now, gentlemen, you refer to the draft Protocol, Article 12, paragraphs 2 and 3, you will see that the Protocol allows the substitution of separate agreements provided that these agreements are concluded in the general spirit of the Covenant, provided that these alliances are not combinations directed against other alliances, pro- 1559 vided that a genuine attempt is made to put an end to that old policy of balance and see-saw which, as a matter of fact, in the past has caused more wars than it has avoided.4.0 P.M.
You will see, then, that in the opinion of the French Government of the day, the Government which negotiated the Protocol, the Protocol was not by itself a solution of the question of security; it was merely a step on the way to such a solution which was to leave intact all the partial agreements and separate alliances which already existed and was to be supplemented by further agreements of a similar character in which it was hoped and expected that we should take part. That Protocol was unacceptable to His Majesty's present advisers. I need not go with any detail on this occasion into the reasons for which we rejected it. We found ourselves, in doing so, in harmony with the whole of the British Empire. Neither any Dominion nor India was prepared to ratify the Protocol, and our refusal to do so had their sympathy and their support. The Protocol was at once too wide and too narrow. Its responsibilities were too great and too vague in some respects and too precise in others. It was framed—and that from the point of view of the British Empire was the fundamental objection—as a Continental Pact for Continental conditions without sufficient thought for the position of a great Empire, which is trans-oceanic as well as European, which is world wide and does not belong to a single continent, nor is represented by a single centralised Government. The problem therefore remained unsolved, and the policy of the present Government has been directed to endeavouring to find a solution which had not yet been reached. It is, in fact, in pursuance of a continuous national purpose and in the search for a really national policy that we have engaged in the conversations, the results of which are recorded in the White Paper.
Here, perhaps, I should turn aside to answer a question which is widely put. Since the proposals which my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs fathered have fallen to the ground, through no fault of our own, and since the Protocol has not been adopted, why cannot you let things alone? Isola- 1560 tion, the complete preservation of our independence in all circumstances and from all engagements is, it is argued, the true policy for the British Empire and for this country. May I, very briefly, submit some considerations to the Committee which lead me to a different conclusion. I venture to say, in the first place, that the abstention of the British Empire, and of this country in particular, from European affairs never has served, and, if history teaches us any lesson, never will serve the interests of peace. The direct result of the failure of the Anglo-American Pact to mature was the conclusion of those alliances between France and Eastern Powers which pre-occupy and render anxious so many hon. Gentlemen opposite.
In the second place, I will observe that, whatever may have been possible in the past, no nation is isolated or can isolate itself to-day. I do not mean that there may never again be some minor war or minor struggle which is confined to a small area or to a couple of nations, but I do say that anything which seriously affects the peace of Europe is in the condition of the world to-day something which affects and must affect every nation vitally, whether that nation is a belligerent nation or not. Is it not within the knowledge of all of us that the neutral nations in all but loss of life have had their whole economic existence almost as much disturbed by the War as ourselves, that their financial systems have been almost as much affected by the cost of the War as ourselves, and that they have had to face problems of reconstruction and reorganisation, not as great, but comparable in character and in kind to those which have confronted the belligerents themselves. But, apart from that, if the policy of isolation is still a policy which commends itself to any party in this House or any section of opinion, they cannot carry out that policy by simple inaction. We have signed the Covenant of the League of Nations, and our signature to the Covenant is incompatible with isolation, incompatible with isolation or indifference to anything that may cause a war or provoke disturbance in any part of the world. If, therefore, you want to take up a position of isolation and to reserve your complete independence, you have got as your first act to leave the League of Nations and to abandon the 1561 responsibilities which you have undertaken and the rights which you have obtained in virtue of your membership of that League.
This country and the British Empire have not only obligations under the League of Nations, but we have special obligations and rights under the Treaty of Versailles. I need not again read to the Committee, as I read on a previous occasion, Articles 42, 43, and 44 of that Treaty; it is enough to mention these things in order to show that this dream of isolation is a dream and nothing more, and that we are already, by the engagements we have undertaken, inextricably bound up with the fortunes of Europe whether for good or for evil; and our safety lies, not in trying to ignore those obligations, not in seeking that isolation which is impossible, but in a wise and prudent use of our influence and power to maintain peace and prevent war from breaking out again. I submit, therefore, to the Committee that we are involved, whether we like it or not, and that the question for us to consider is within what limits, upon what principles, and for what purposes we can undertake any fresh obligations. It appeared to His Majesty's Government that it was impossible that the British Empire, or that portion of the British Empire for which we are most immediately and directly responsible, should undertake any universal extension of the obligations which we have already incurred as members of the League and as signatories of the Covenant. In the second place, it appeared to us, as I stated on behalf of His Majesty's Government at Geneva, that no such universal extension of obligations, which, to use M. Herriot's words,Might rest our security and the security of the world on a kind of abstract and general alliance which it would be difficult to put into motion,would meet the needs of the present moment, or give that sense of security whose absence is at the root of all our trouble, economic as well as political. We hold, therefore, that the special need of the moment must be met by special arrangements, and that these should be purely defensive in character, framed in the spirit of the Covenant working in close harmony with the League and under its guidance. Here I will again permit myself to read, for I cannot hope to better 1562 its expression of the views of His Majesty's Government, a paragraph of the despatch which I addressed to Lord Crewe of 28th May last in the name of His. Majesty's Government. It is No. 6 in. the White Paper, and the paragraph I am reading is No. 5 on page 19:The basic principle, then, by which His-Majesty's Government are guided in their approach to the matter now under discussion is, and must be, that any new obligation which they undertake shall be specific and limited to the maintenance of the existing territorial arrangement on the western frontier of Germany. His Majesty's Government are not prepared to assume fresh obligations elsewhere in addition to those already devolving upon them as signatories of the Covenant of the League of Nations and of the Peace Treaties. At the same time, it may be well to repeat that, in seeking means to strengthen the position in the West, His Majesty's Government do not themselves question, or give any encouragement to others to question, the other provisions of the Treaties which form the basis-of the existing public law of Europe.We feel that any new contribution by us must be limited to the maintaining of that frontier, which has so often been; alike the cause and the scene of European war, and in the securing of which we have a direct national interest. I desire to repeat that in seeking to make that frontier secure and to prevent war from breaking out there, nothing could be further from our thoughts than to cast any doubt upon the stability of the position elsewhere, or on the sanctity and obligations imposed by other provisions of the Treaties. Human foresight cannot pretend at any moment to make arrangements, that shall serve for all time, but if frontiers are to be changed, or if territorial arrangements are to be altered, there are only two methods by which I can contemplate that that should be done; the one is under the provisions of Article 19 of the Covenant relating to Treaties which have become inapplicable through lapse of time, and the other is in respect of a question which, I believe, has no actuality in the minds of any Government concerned at this moment—the union of Austria and Germany—which can only be contemplated as a result of action under Article 80 of the Treaty of Versailles or the corresponding Article of the Treaty of St. Germains. These Articles, whether in the Covenant or the Treaty, are there, and the idea that we should set to work within six years of the signa- 1563 ture of the Treaty, and after all the labour they involved, rewrite the boundaries of Europe and tear up the settlements then arrived at—to try to create a fresh one—seems to me to be an idea that cannot be conceivable to anyone outside Bedlam. I am certain that whatever their intention, whatever their object, those who at this time raise these frontier questions, and keep the minds of the nations concerned unsettled and disturbed, are not serving the interests of peace or the renewal of the prosperity of Europe.
The need of the world is stability. Unless the position is stable there can be no security. Unless there is security, the removing of fear, the allaying of apprehension, and the restoring of confidence peace will remain a name and will never be translated into fact. It is on this basis that His Majesty's Government, after careful consideration of the proposals made by Germany and after the exchange of views recorded in the White Paper with the French Government, concurred in the terms of the reply sent by the French Government to Berlin, as correctly expressing the views of His Majesty's Government no less than those of the French. On this point I would beg to observe that we are not now discussing a treaty, that there is no treaty and no draft of a treaty in existence, and that what we have before us is merely a preliminary statement of principles and of what on the one side or the other the countries concerned feel it would be possible for them to undertake and in what direction they think they can make an advance.
Obviously, if these negotiations and this exchange of views leads to serious negotiations many questions of difficulty, many questions of great complexity will have to be resolved by those who ultimately draw up the Treaty. I beg the Committee not to expect from His Majesty's Government that we should dot every "i" and cross every "t," as if a Treaty were already in existence. I repeat the assurance already given both by myself and the Prime Minister that no obligations will be undertaken by the Government on behalf of this country except subject to the approval and ratification of Parliament.
1564 What, then, is contemplated by His Majesty's Government? The whole of the last conversations and the exchange of Notes arises, as the Committee is well aware, from the initiative taken by the German Government. I have already, publicly, from this place, expressed my conviction of the good faith with which the German Government made the proposals, and of the good faith with which they propose to maintain and continue the negotiations. I should like to add that I pay my tribute not only to Their good faith, but to the courage and statesmanship of the men who took this bold initiative. It seems to His Majesty's Government to offer a more hopeful prospect than anything which has yet occurred since the signature of the Treaty of Versailles. So far as Great Britain is concerned, we have held, as I say, that our engagements must be strictly limited to the Western Frontier, and any engagement in regard to that frontier into which we might enter must be, not a unilateral alliance directed against some other nation or group of nations, but a mutual pact amongst those Powers whose past differences have destroyed peace and provoked war, to maintain peace in future and to avoid recourse to war.
In the third place, we hold it to be essential that at least contemporaneously with the coming into force of any new mutual arrangement of this kind, Germany should enter the League of Nations, and accept the obligations while receiving the rights of every other member of that society, and thus take her proper place and have her proper influence in the comity of nations and in the councils of Europe. Lastly, we hold that nothing in the new Treaty should affect the rights and obligations attaching to membership of the League under the Covenant, and that in those cases, and among those nations, where the danger is greatest and trouble has most often arisen, the Covenant shall be reinforced and underpinned—if I may use that expression—by mutual guarantees and treaties of arbitration. It results, then, from this statement of our objects and our principles that our new obligations will be strictly limited and confined to the frontier between Germany on the one side and France and Belgium on the other, and that our guarantee of that 1565 frontier cannot be invoked by a wrongdoer to shield him in his wrongdoing.
Thirdly, our guarantee becomes effective only—and in this case becomes immediately effective—if in defiance of the treaties of arbitration and of the obligations of the Covenant the wrongdoer resorts to force. For instance, one of the parties refuses to arbitrate, or, having gone to arbitration refuses to obey the award. In that case our guarantee cannot be invoked to protect him, though if he does that and no more we retain our right, our liberty, subject always to our obligations under the Covenant, to decide what, if any, action we shall take. If, however, the wrongdoer not only refuses to arbitrate in defiance of this treaty or to carry out the award after an arbitral tribunal has pronounced the award against him, but also resorts to force, in that case our guarantee becomes effective to protect the wronged partly against the wrong which is done to him. Thus the application of the guarantee proposal in Section 4, paragraph 3 of the French draft it is intended to ensure that the procedure of the League for the prevention of resort to force shall be respected, and the guarantee is only brought into effect if the violation of the treaty of arbitration is coupled with hostile measures, a situation which is, of course, already in some measure dealt with in the Covenant, and brings into immediate effect those provisions and sanctions contemplated by Article 16 of that document. I hope I have succeeded in making the extent of, and the limitation of, any new obligation upon us clear to the Committee. But they may ask me a further question, What would be the effect on our western guarantee, and on the position in the West, of a dispute, if one broke out, upon the eastern frontiers of Germany? How would our position be affected?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Before the right hon. Gentleman comes to the eastern question, I would like to know whether the Arbitration Treaty applies to action taken by one of the Powers under the Treaty of Versailles?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman is asking me to do that which I deprecate, and to say, before there is any treaty in existence, exactly what its provisions will be. I will make the posi- 1566 tion as plain as I can. The whole object of these new proposals is, and in that light we shall consider them when we come to consider the Clauses of the Treaty, when we come to their drafting, to eliminate causes of war, to refer questions in dispute to arbitration, and only to permit recourse to war when some wrongdoer, in defiance of the obligations he has undertaken, supports his wrong by force, and the rest of the world is called in to repress his wrong-doing and to bring him back again into order.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
If the arbitration is accepted, if the award is carried out, all danger of war is eliminated. I turn now to consider the question which I was just opening to the Committee when my right hon. Friend put me his question.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I recognise to the full the importance of the matter on which my right hon. Friend put his question. I was saying, that being the position in regard to the West, taken by itself, I may be asked what effect upon that position in the West would any dispute have which might break out on the eastern frontier of Germany? How would our Western Treaties be affected in such circumstances by the engagements which exist between France and Poland or France and Czechoslovakia? The Committee will realise that in discussing this matter I am on delicate ground. I am on delicate ground because, for the purpose of answering the questions which I assume the Committee wish me to answer, I must assume that somebody has grossly defaulted in his obligations, and has done an act of criminal folly; but I think it is best to deal with these possibilities quite frankly. It is not that I anticipate that either Poland or Germany is going to provoke a war with the other or suddenly fall upon the other and attack it, but I must assume for the purpose of the examination of the position that one or other, in defiance of obligations voluntarily undertaken, makes unprovoked war on its neighbour. If, for example, Germany, in violation of her 1567 arbitration treaty, attacks Poland, Article 16 of the Covenant comes into play at once. France will be entitled in such circumstances to treat such a resort to war by Germany against Poland as an act of war committed against France, but in such a case we have no obligations other than those which are already incumbent upon us in virtue of our signature to the Covenant. We have obligations, but they are obligations of the Covenant, and not any new obligation imposed upon us by the suggested new treaty. If, on the other hand, Poland, in the same way, in defiance of an arbitration treaty to which she has consented, attack Germany, neither France nor we have any obligations whatever other than those which are contained in Article 16 and the other articles of the Covenant.
It may be asked, what is the relation of all this to the question of disarmament? It is in our conception a step, a practical step and a very large step, towards disarmament. What causes these big armies to be kept up?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
What causes these big armies to be kept up? It is not the desire of military aggrandisement; it is fear, lest the calamity of war and of invasion should again fall upon countries which think themselves threatened. If you can remove from men's minds that fear that haunts every cottage in France, haunts, under the consideration of different eventualities, every home in Germany, haunts all the workmen's houses and hearths in the new countries which owe their present boundaries to the Treaties signed after the Great War—if you can remove that fear you remove the obstacle to disarmament, and you do not then need, in my opinion, provisions to secure it, for the economic forces will oblige countries with large armaments to diminish them at the first moment those countries feel they can breathe in safety with diminished forces.
I repeat again, and I desire to emphasise it, that the proposals which the House is now considering are not a, treaty, they are not even the draft of a treaty. No treaty, as I have said, will be ratified by His Majesty's Government without Parliament having first had full and proper opportunity to consider and 1568 discuss it and to give their opinion upon it. And I would add that no treaty not sanctioned by Parliament, even though His Majesty's Government were to advise His Majesty to authorise it, could not have any value for the other nations which are parties to it. The consent of this House, their approval, is the necessary condition of any successful dealing with this question. All that we are considering at present is a statement or outline of a principle.
My task has been to elucidate and explain, as far as I could, the proposals and the ideas which have animated His Majesty s Government and their Allies, and which are recorded in this White Paper. If I have had any measure of success I think I shall have removed some misapprehension, that I shall have allayed some fears, and that I shall have shown hon. Members that not only is the object we are pursuing the same as that which is pursued in every quarter of the House, but that the methods we have adopted are such as they can all approve. Earnestly would I appeal for an impartial and even a friendly consideration of these proposals; for a criticism of them which shall be directed to help and not to hinder a work which I believe to be a work of peace; and earnestly do I plead for national co-operation to meet a great national problem and settle it in a national spirit.
Which among us can regard with satisfaction the history of the past few years? Which among us can view without apprehension the prospects of the future? Europe to-day, six years after the signature of peace, still stands ranged in two camps, hostile in spirit, mutually suspicious, apprehensive, with distrust not lessened but deepened by the progress of time, with the danger of a new struggle breaking out in the future not growing less as time goes by, but becoming greater. Everybody knows, I repeat it, and I repeat it because it is the fundamental fact of the situation—my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who has been responsible, knows it, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) knows it as well as I—fear dominates the whole position of the world and the attitude of every country. Everywhere, among the conquerors no less than among the 1569 conquered, there is this psychology of the vanquished. Every Government in succession, every British Government in succession, have felt the danger, every British Government in succession, working in their own day in the situation of events which then confronted them, have sought how they could lead us out of that impasse. It was not given to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs to succeed, but it was given to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to take or to secure that under his auspices one great step forward should be taken.
Now, Sir, a new opportunity is open, perhaps a last opportunity, and it arises on a German initiative. It has received a most friendly and conciliatory response from France. The suggestions, which are made, give umbrage to no one, cause anxiety nowhere, and their fate is watched with sympathy in quarters where other solutions have been regarded with anxiety and dread. Already, and who can doubt it, merely because this exchange of views has taken place, and because of the spirit which has been shown, a sensible change has occurred in the situation. I opened my paper this morning and I read there news as new to me as to any hon. Member of this House. I read that the French Government has spontaneously announced its intention of evacuating the Ruhr before the date which it had fixed for that operation. If the great Western Powers, who have been so bitterly divided, set the example to the world not of renewing their alliances against one another but of coming to mutual agreements to keep the peace with one another, and to refer their differences to arbitration, who can say what effect that example set by the great Powers may have upon the lesser Powers, or what effect this example set in Western Europe may have among the Powers whose quarrels have disturbed in the past, and whose jealousies disturb to-day, the peace and tranquillity of other quarters of the world?
These proposals offer a great and a happy prospect of a better and more peaceful world. Initiated by Germany, and received in this friendly spirit by France, they will come to nothing unless this country will lend its co-operation. In view of suspicions and hatreds, too new 1570 as well as too old, and too-deeply rooted, such a mutual pact has no chance of ever being signed unless we take our part and give to each side the assurance that our co-operation will give, that that mutual pact will be observed not only in the letter but in the spirit which prompts its origination. I plead with my colleagues in this House, and I plead with my countrymen outside to lend this co-operation. I plead not for these proposals as a party Measure but as a national policy. I plead for them with all the earnestness that deep conviction gives, because I believe the peace of the whole world and the peace of our own land depends upon their coming to a successful fruition. Nations, like individuals, have responsibilities proportionate to their opportunities and their powers. Our nation can go to the bar of history and we can plead that we have a good record, and that our fathers were not slow to pay their tribute to the service of humanity. I plead now that we should in our day, for the sake of our children and for the sake of the generations yet unborn, show ourselves worthy of the great position we have inherited, and the great traditions of which we are proud.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
The speech of the Foreign Secretary leaves no doubt whatever about the spirit in which he has approached this very difficult task. If the same task had fallen to my lot I should have employed, the same appeal, and I should have told this House that so far as I was concerned, after considering the very rich national inheritance which has been ours, after considering the tremendous responsibilities placed upon our country to-day, it is our duty to do our best to lead the world in the ways of peace. After considering proposals that have been made from time to time by other Governments for pacts and agreements, I have really come to the conclusion that the Protocol and the Protocol alone gave the foundations which secure the aims which I have assumed, and I am sure have assumed rightly, are common to all sides of the House. Therefore it is not so much the spirit of this mutual pact that we have to consider, but this House must go further than that. It is the duty of this House to apply the microscope as well as to apply the telescope. It is the duty of this House to consider details. It is 1571 perfectly true that we are not considering a Treaty, and what remarks I may make will be determined by that consideration. The Foreign Secretary said we are only considering a principle. I suggest that we are considering something else. We are considering a principle, it is true, but we are also considering a situation.
What is the situation in Europe? What is the relative position between us, Germany and France and between both of them and ourselves? Unless this House, in considering this question to-day, has got a clear conception of what the problem is, then it can lay down all the principles it likes in what spirit it likes, but it is not advancing the cause of peace. The Foreign Minister quite rightly said that both my right hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Lloyd George) and myself, when responsible for foreign affairs, were constantly reminded by France that she felt insecure. There was hardly a day that passed in the Foreign Office but that I was overwhelmingly made aware of the fact that if I could only charm away that fear from the hearts of the people of Europe, then I should have no trouble as Foreign Secretary. The foundation of our trouble is here, and therefore I discussed with representatives of all the nations of Europe who are interested, and who came to me, the question of security. The Foreign Secretary will not find in any Foreign Office records that I agreed to take their view of what the problem of security was.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I was afraid from the way my right hon. Friend put it that I myself had made rather a disastrous slip.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
Probably it was my fault. First of all, in facing the problem of security, may I mention the country of France without in any way intending anything more than the Foreign Secretary intended when he referred to the possibility of Germany breaking its Arbitration Treaty with Poland. It is unfortunate to have to use instances of this sort to make our points clear, and I do it with a great deal of hesitation. 1572 Take the case of the security of France. We can guarantee the security of France in one or two ways, or with one or two meanings, or with both meanings rather irrationally mixed up. We can either secure France, the geographical expression France, with its boundaries, with its position in Europe and the world, or we can secure a much more settled thing which is also called France, and we can secure the policy of France in the world. We can secure France as a political entity mapped out in the map we can secure the Quai D'Orsay.
I leave it there, but I do impress upon the Government that in all thinkings about security and all proposals about security, they will not be able to come to conclusions that will safeguard ourselves, because we are just as much interested in security, and I hope hon. Members opposite indulging in the quixotic enterprise of securing France, Germany and all the countries will not forget Britain. In facing that complicated problem of security it cannot be stated in a very simple sentence in a simple despatch, and I beg the Government to analyse out in its mind what the problem of security is. If we cannot keep ourselves secure, we cannot really secure peace.
I should like to associate myself, before going any further—I meant to do so before, but an interruption, which was a perfectly justifiable one, rather sent it out of my mind—I should like to associate myself with the Foreign Secretary in congratulating Germany on the very bold step she has taken in sending that Note to France. There are one or two positions which this country could take up. It could take up the position of isolation, and as to that I do not require to add a word to what the Foreign Secretary has said. We can only take up the position of isolation by scrapping the Covenant of the League of Nations. I believe that that is final, and we do not want to hear any more about it. On the other hand, we can take up this position: We can say that we will interest ourselves in separate pacts, as I think the Foreign Secretary is suggesting. I explored that for weeks and weeks, not with a desire to reject it, but with a desire to find out what were the conditions of security for my own country. I do not desire that this country, owing to any acts of my 1573 political opponents or any act of my own, should find itself one day going into a war, not because it has pronounced a judgment upon it, but because events have compelled it to do so without any moral judgment being passed upon it, without any political judgment being passed upon it, but simply because certain events have occurred. There is a tremendous temptation to any diplomatist at the present time to create something like a penny-in-the-slot machine, so that when the penny is put into the slot and the handle is drawn, the result appears automatically.
My right hon. Friend has referred to the Protocol. I am surprised again to hear these suggestions about the Dominions and the Protocol—that the Dominions never had the Protocol adequately, fully and properly placed before them. What this House apparently forgets is that the Protocol, at every stage of its creation and building up, was brought before the representatives of our Dominions in Geneva. It was brought before the representatives of India, and there was not a single part of the British Empire that was represented at Geneva but had its representatives in council. I attended several meetings myself at the beginning. Day by day and week by week, Clause by Clause, stage by stage, point after point, the official representatives of the Dominion and the Indian Governments were there, were discussing it, and agreed to accept it. I hold in my hand a very interesting copy of the Canadian Hansard Report of the debates in the Senate where Senator Dandurand made a very fine defence of the Protocol, and indicated quite plainly that if it had been discussed before it was rejected, it might never have been rejected. Every word of it was not meant to have been regarded as sacred. We never would have signed it even if we had the power—and we had not the power—without further consideration and consultation. The Leader of the Opposition in the Australian House of Commons—the Commonwealth House of Commons—agreed with it. I do not know what his fate is going to be in a month or two. All that I want to appeal to hon. Members opposite to do is not to imagine that this document was drafted by two or three hon. and right hon. Friends of mine representing us at Geneva. This 1574 document in its inception and in its working out is an Imperial document, in so far as Imperial representatives can make an Imperial document.
Let us get the facts. The Foreign Secretary has laid great emphasis upon the fact that we were only guaranteeing the Western Frontier. There is no such distinction as that. Even if the right hon. Gentleman was going to come to a pact to guarantee only six inches of the Western Frontier that is all that is required, because if a war breaks out, it will be those six inches that will be attacked. Do not let us make distinctions in the matter that do not exist; a guarantee of the Western Frontier is a guarantee that we will go into a European war if the occasion arises. Has the right hon. Gentleman come across anybody of authority in Germany who will assure him in his most private and confidential moments, that the Western Frontier is likely to be the cause of a new European war? I have not heard of it, and, what is more, I do not believe it will ever happen. There is no problem in the Western Frontier, if the Western Frontier can be isolated from the Eastern and all the other frontiers. I do not believe that Germany will ever declare war upon France again in order to claim a single square inch that was taken from it on the Western Frontier, and, therefore, there is nothing whatever in that guarantee. But what have we to provide against? I am not going to say that it is going to happen, but in working out these things we have to be a little brutal, sometimes, even to our friends, and a little brutal even to ourselves, and a little risky in getting right down to the nerve, which is the troublesome thing in problems of this kind.
What is going to happen? Supposing that we guarantee the Eastern Frontier, and we can do it in a way that I will suggest, although it is not the only way, the Eastern Frontier of Germany can be broken in a score of different places and in half-a-dozen different ways. This is what would happen. Supposing that Russia quarrelled with Poland, and France had a treaty of defensive alliance with Poland for the purpose of defending Poland against Russia. I am not saying in the least that anything of the kind exists. It may exist or it may not—I do not say it does or does not. I do say, 1575 however, that, if we are going to take a step that ultimately means the guaranteeing of Poland, we had better assume that certain very likely things will happen, because otherwise we are going to be sold, and I do not want my country to be sold. There is the situation—Poland attacked, France guaranteed under a treaty of mutual defence, and asking Germany for the right of passage for her troops. What is going to happen? Russia says to Germany, "If you allow a French soldier to cross your frontier I will take it as an attack upon me"—I think the technical expression is "an unfriendly act." Germany, disarmed by our decree, is compelled to do what? She is compelled to resist France on the one hand, or to face the threats of Russia on the other. What are we going to do, supposing that Germany refuses the right that France would claim to send her troops across the frontier, and supposing she begins to fight? If we had guaranteed the Western Frontier, then, because Russia was at war with Poland, we should have to enter into a European war.
That will not do. I think we ought to ask, while the Government are considering the problems they will have to face when they turn this correspondence into a treaty, shall we be bound to enter into a European war because Russia and Poland come into dispute? It is perfectly clear that we have no such obligation whatever under the Covenant of the League of Nations, and we should have had no such obligation under the Protocol unless and until all sorts of processes had been gone through, into every one of which we should have entered as a controlling agent. From beginning to end, every consideration under the Protocol, assuming that in the end we were to go to war—every process, every step that took us to that unfortunate end—was going to be under our own control, and we could stop at any moment we chose. There are all sorts of other ways, which I am not going to elaborate, because one illustration, I am sure, of what is in my mind is enough for the Government. I give it simply as a sort of typical case, and ask the Government whether, in drafting these proposals, and in agreeing to these proposals and conditions, they had this possibility in mind, and are prepared to take definite and meticulous care to prevent an issue such as I think is possible unless that care 1576 is taken. I was reading that unfortunate review which appeared in a French paper the other day, in which the Foreign Minister was attacked very unjustly—I mean the Havas interpretation of what he was speaking about—
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
This is so important that I know the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for interrupting him. That message was not a communiqué, but, as my right hon. Friend has just said, it did the Foreign Minister of France a great deal of injustice and a great deal of harm in the cause which he has at heart.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I mentioned it because I felt I could mention it, and that it would not be quite easy for the Foreign Minister himself to mention it. It did a great deal of damage to the French Foreign Minister, and it did considerable damage, I understand, to the right hon. Gentleman himself and gave rise to many suspicions. He is much too much a man of the world, when he was stating that it was not a communiqué, to assume that five minutes afterwards the whole evil effect of that communication was gone. Of course it will hang about. I saw the Havas communication the other day, after I had studied the White Paper and getting the general idea and the possibilities of it in my mind. This is the unfortunate thing about the Havas communication. If the Foreign Minister would like to read the Havas communication into this, he can do it. I hope great care will be taken against that. The fact is that if this is read in a hostile and critical frame of mind—we must put these tests up—he knows quite well that this is not mere hostility to his words—and see exactly where we stand. If these documents, various letters, drafts and re-drafts and alterations are read with a very vigilant mind and, say, with the Havas Agency communication at one's elbow and also in one's mind, you can see that practically everything that is important in the Havas Agency can be worked out in this White Paper.
I am sure it is not necessary for me to say, but I want to say it to make it quite clear, that I did not suggest that these things are either in the Foreign Secretary's mind or in the mind of the French Foreign Minister, but a document is a document, a phrase is a phrase, and a 1577 turn of a sentence is a turn of a sentence, and when he has gone and is no longer able to control affairs there may be others in his place, and he has to produce documents which cannot be twisted, as these documents unfortunately could be. Take, for instance, this single point on page 41 in the White document. In the third paragraph of the second section there is this expression:Those two Allies cannot in any case give up the right to oppose any failure to observe the stipulations of these Treaties even if the stipulations in question do not directly concern them.How is that being read in France—rightly or wrongly? All I am concerned with—I would not like to say as a critic exactly, but as a student of the Paper—is trying to discover the maximum of possibilities in this very important business. How can that be read? How is it read in France? It is read as an admission on the part of His Majesty's Government that in future any question arising out of the Treaty of Versailles, or the sister treaties, can be settled by one Power and action can be taken upon them by one Power. In fact, at last we candidly recognise that the Ruhr action of M. Poincaré was perfectly justified and at any rate was legitimate and within the provisions of the Treaty. I am not willing that this country should be misrepresented in that way, but there it is. I am informed to-day that the "Echo de Paris" correspondent, who is very well known to all who have anything to do with French affairs, is laying it down that it is quite clear now, from that paragraph, that France is going to have an absolutely free hand to do what it likes in Europe, and that only when it is convenient are the League of Nations and the League of Nations machinery going to be called into play.
That brings me to another point. I am not at all satisfied that this White Paper displays a clear and a definite conception of what the relations of these pacts and treaties are to be to the League of Nations itself In order to make it perfectly clear, I should like to put this question to the Foreign Minister. Will all disputes arising out of these pacts—that is the ones contemplated in the White Paper—be dealt with by the League of Nations in accordance with the provisions of the Covenant, and even if this be the rule, is any excep- 1578 tion possible, or contemplated? It is of the greatest importance that we should clearly understand whether His Majesty's Government proposes to impose upon this country obligations and war risks over and above those that we have contracted under the Covenant of the League of Nations. For instance, is there more rapid action contemplated as the result of the breach of an arbitration treaty between A and B than is contemplated in the operations provided for in the Covenant of the League of Nations?
§ Mr. MacDONALD
That is the lawyer's mind. It is quite right. Not a breach really but an alleged breach. If one party to any one of these Treaties that are contemplated there alleges that the other has committed a breach is it contemplated in any way, or is it possible in any way even if it is not contemplated—I am not at all satisfied about it—that power A, alleging the breach against B, can take more rapid action to produce a war, or military operations, than it would be able to do if it referred the matter to the League of Nations. Certainly if it can act outside the scope of the Covenant, and we are involved in the decision of the Council, we shall then be made to increase our military risks. But so long as references to alleged breaches of agreements go to the Council of the League of Nations we, being represented on the Council of the League of Nations, can always hold out our hands and raise our voices against a decision that a breach has been made, and unless the decision is unanimous no obligation falls upon us except under 16 and one or two other minor sections. I want a very clear and definite "yes" or "no" to that. Are we supplementing—is it possible to supplement procedure under the League of Nations by provisions under these new Treaties or by any agreements which are made supplementary to the new Treaties?
There is another uncomfortable feeling I have which I hope can be dispelled Of course, nominally and on paper this is a bilateral treaty that we are contemplating. The Committee must not be under any delusion about this. The whole of the drafting of these papers, the beginnings, the use of the expression "Allies" and so on, shows that whilst on paper it is so, there is a very great 1579 danger that in actual working it will not be so. There is the suggestion still remaining that this is the Allies on the one hand and someone else on the other. Therefore, when the Treaties are drafted they will be worked, not as we wanted to work our arrangements, by a body that really felt itself to be, because it could not avoid it, a real community of nations, which is one of the great safeguards of the Protocol as against this. They will be worked by a body which will really, when the challenge comes—not in quiet times, not in times when there is nothing happening—by the force of that most powerful of all influences in the human mind, the force of reminiscence, naturally fall into two. For us to guarantee something that is going to be judged in that frame of mind is to enormously increase the risks that we have taken upon ourselves already.
One other point. I was very glad to hear what the Foreign Secretary said about disarmament. I am sorry to say I profoundly disagree with his conclusions. I do not agree for a moment that any individual nation is ever, by the force of economic pressure, going to reduce its armaments by a ship or a gun unless it gets a conference with other nations and comes to an agreement with them. It seems to me to be the height of impossibility that a nation, with the stake of its national existence, at any rate in its own conception of its position—it may be absolutely false, it may be futile, but, nevertheless, it believes it itself—a nation feeling that its national existence depends upon its army, is going to voluntarily say: "We have 20 per cent. too much spent on armaments, let us reduce it." I do not believe it for a moment. Moreover the impetus to arm comes not from the large States so much, or, at any rate, it need not. It will come from the smaller States, especially as the Foreign Secretary is encouraging now groups of defensive alliances—
§ Mr. MacDONALD
Really, I cannot see all those distinctions. It is like the old distinction between offence and defence.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Surely, if so, I have expressed myself very badly, because 1580 the distinction is one the right hon. Gentleman appreciates as much as I do. It is the distinction between an alliance of certain Powers against another Power or group of Powers and a mutual guarantee of the peaceful settlement of disputes between a group of Powers interested in a particular area.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
The distinction is quite clear so far as the verbal definition is concerned and I am not making a debating point at all, but the distinction is just as clear in the actual operations of European diplomacy as the division between the animal and the vegetable kingdom. It is the marginal case that is the important one. It is not the case that is right in the centre of a dispute. It is where the margin comes in. How the Foreign Secretary can ever believe that he is going to have what he calls a mutual Pact confined to guaranteeing the signatories against certain events, and always confined to that, and not to be upset when it is set in a world which is simply a whirlpool of causes that contribute to war, and not to drag these signatory Powers into war, passes my comprehension. The origin of the last War, on paper, had nothing whatever to do with the war. The origin of the South African War, on paper, was not the origin of the war at all. Here we are again. We are going along these false roads where we find, or imagine that we find, security in words, in alliances which are limited to guaranteeing the signatories, and we may discover very soon that they are not limited at all, because no limitation is possible to be put upon these obligations.
I was dealing with the question of disarmament, and the point I was making was that I doubted it. I am sorry, because apparently that is going to be the policy of the Government—a policy of doing nothing and waiting for economic pressure and economic wisdom, a policy which will lead us nowhere. There must be a conference. There must be an agreement, but unless someone provides for calling that conference, there will be no progression towards disarmament. Surely the right hon. Gentleman could have made a disarmament agreement an essential part of this Treaty? He has made one thing an essential part of bringing the Treaty into operation, namely, that Germany must enter the League of Nations. I suggest that 1581 France, Germany and the whole lot of them must consider a disarmament pact. Unless disarmament is allied to security, the right hon. Gentleman can have his mutual Pact as soon as he likes, but the measles of a feeling of insecurity will break out again and again as soon as he has satisfied one side. This is all the more important, because he is really taking a much more important step than he has admitted in stereotyping the present conditions in Europe.
I agree that to begin pottering about with the boundaries of Europe at the present time is sheer madness: it is worse, it is criminality. I have yet to find anyone who understands, who knows the peoples of Europe, the movements of Europe, the great creative movements of Europe, who will say that the present boundary condition is going to last. Take the case of Austria. What is going to happen there I do not know; I have not the ghost of an idea. That being so, I should be all the more careful not to tie my hands. The less one knows of what is going to happen the more chary one should be against tying one's hands to support this person, that person or any other person, this nation, that nation, or the other nation. We must be free, not isolated, free to take what action we think necessary. What is Austria? A political expression, not much more, with an insufficient economic basis, with a racial problem. How can one go gingerly enough when that racial problem is such as will defy the wisest Austrian, German, French and British statesmanship in the future? We should be careful with regard to any Clause which contemplates action in Austria and which ties us up. I do not know what is going to happen. I hope nothing untoward is going to happen, but if in the progress of events certain things do happen, I should certainly hope that my country would be free to act in the matter.
These are preliminary explorations. The remarks that I have made are of the nature of criticisms of these preliminary explorations and are made with the idea of pointing here, there and elsewhere to the possible difficulties which the Foreign Secretary will find. I harbour another hope. I hope that his hands will be strengthened when he starts these negotiations by being able to say, if he 1582 is pressed to do one thing or the other, that things have been said in the House of Commons to-day which he has to take into account. I hope that nothing has been said which is incapable of being used in that way. I should always have been very grateful for any such criticism, when I had to face very difficult questions in negotiations with foreign countries which were not always fully aware of the state of the British mind and of the difficulties of British Ministers.
We have come to the parting of the roads. I have a conviction that, on what is done as a result of these communications in the White Paper, our policy for the next 50 years is to be settled. If the wrong road is chosen, it will be war again.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
If I may say this of myself when I went to Geneva and met the Assembly, I met a body of representatives whose minds, to begin with, were somewhat remote from mine. The old diplomatist is a very worthy person; he is a very wise man in the ways of the world, and there is nobody and nothing that inclines him more to smile than a fresh mind, full of enthusiasm. I came away from Geneva fully convinced that peace was possible; fully convinced that the change that had to be made was not a great big somersault, so that men who had been standing on their feet for all the previous years of their life had to stand on their heads and see the world inverted. Nothing of the sort. After very intimate conversations and a very thorough exploration of the problems, I came to the conclusion that the alteration that was required was the very smallest fraction of a change in the angle of vision. I want to put a few practical suggestions to the right hon. Gentleman. In the first place, no one Power should dominate Europe, or should be allowed to dominate Europe.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
Secondly, the method of alliance is futile if we have peace as our object. If we give up peace, in 10 years from now, with a full knowledge of everything that is going on in Europe, in the War Offices of Europe, in the Foreign Offices of Europe, in the Admiralties of Europe, a statesman who 1583 is determined to defend his country may say: "It is no use talking about peace. The chances have gone. I have to prepare for the inevitable day when there will be war." To that man, alliances are useful, but until that day comes we ought not to pursue the diplomacy of alliances.
The third thing is, that no nation of hard-working people, of tremendously thrifty housewives, of brains, of great professional and scientific attainments and vast economic power—no nation possessing those riches can ever be kept down for long. We may like to do it, and we may say that it deserves it, and we may bring the whole of the Decalogue to defend ourselves and to justify ourselves in the policy of repression, but we cannot do it. What is worse, every day that you continue in that policy you are only disciplining that nation to take its revenge out of you.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
My fourth point is this. We want a British policy. It has very often struck me as odd that if you go to the colleges, the schools, the institutions, where our naval men are trained, where our military men are trained and where, I suppose, by-and-by our airmen will be trained, you find that an essential part of their training is a study of the history of their profession, all the great campaigns, the Crimean War, and so on, yet, somehow or other, British diplomacy has never followed the same necessary exercise. We have had that British policy, but not recently, I think. I want a British policy, but not British in the sense that it is selfish, that it simply looks after Britain and does not care one halfpenny for the rest of the world. What I mean when I say "British policy" is a world policy pursued by this country, the keynote of which is neighbourliness and friendship with the whole world, and the application of those ideas to the actual condition of affairs. We want a British policy with ideas which are more consistent with the ideas of our past, of our great liberal past, a policy which, if it is going to show itself with a maximum effect upon the world, cannot tie itself up at the present moment, when there is so much formative, unknown and 1584 undiscoverable influences in Europe and the world.
My fifth point is, that we must pursue a policy which has a triple object, and those objects must be pursued simultaneously—security, arbitration and disarmament. I trust most sincerely that whatever I have said to-day, and however it may be critical of some things in the White Paper, may be helpful and may assist the Government and the House to come to a European agreement which will contribute to our own security, our own honour and our own safety, as well as the security of other people.
As long as the guiding principles which I have laid down control the action of the Government I, and I think I may say my hon. Friends, will do our best for the development of that policy. Unless we pursue that end loyally and sleeplessly our intentions may be the best, but if we misread the conditions of Europe, if we make mistakes in estimating its possibilities, if we do not make provision against things that are almost inevitable, then we are liable at some future time to write our history once more in bloodstained pages. Everything that we can do to avoid that shall certainly be done.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Whatever opinion anyone who has heard the two last speeches may form about the Pact, all will agree with regard to the perorations at any rate of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary and the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. Therefore that means that we are entirely in agreement as to our ideals, and that in so far as we differ we differ rather as to methods. I do not start from the same angle as the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I was rather surprised to hear him say that his main principle was that we should not enter into any arrangement which would bind us. It was one of my objections to the Protocol that it bound us hand and foot. I do not object in the least myself to any binding engagement, provided that it is an engagement which will promote the peace of Europe. The test which I would apply to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman is whether, subject to elucidation which we may hope he will give later in the course of this Debate, this Pact does really accomplish that purpose. I hope that it may, as I sincerely desire to be able to support it.
1585 We have had a rather reminiscent Debate. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has referred a great deal to the past few years, and my right hon. Friend who has just sat down has done the same thing. We have had practically the same experience of the very great difficulties and complexities of this problem, and it is very easy to theorise and dogmatise and to say that we ought to do this, that, and the other, and everybody has his own ideas, but those of us who have been dealing with the problem practically know perfectly well what a morass of conditions, traditions, ancient feuds, new feuds and temperaments we have to deal with, and the best any Foreign Secretary can do is to adjust himself to the conditions of Europe, as he finds them, and try to make the best arrangements in those conditions.
I agree with my right hon. Friend as to the Pact proposed by President Wilson in 1919 which we accepted, and which the House of Commons accepted without a Division. It was not challenged here on the part of any party in this Parliament. Therefore we offered a unanimous national guarantee to France against what—against unprovoked aggression. That was a simple pact. We retained in our own hands here the right to judge at the time what was unprovoked aggression. That was a different proposal. I renewed that proposal in 1922. I felt that we were in honour bound to do so. The French had given certain conditions in the Treaty of Versailles on the understanding that they were to get a pact, a guarantee. The United States of America having failed to come into that arrangement, I felt that we were in honour bound to renew that offer to France. She rejected it. That was her doing, but I consider that we are in honour absolved from any obligation to renew that proposal again, and that now we are free to consider the whole field and to decide what is best, not merely in the interests of France, but in the interests of ourselves and of Europe.
One reason why I am very anxious to be able to find all that is good in this Pact is that it is the result of the very remarkable proposal which came from the German Government. I agree with all that has been said by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last with regard to that. It is a proposal to guarantee the western frontier. 1586 It is a voluntary offer never to challenge that frontier again. That is an invaluable offer. It is as if France, seven years after her defeat in 1871, came voluntarily of her own accord, not under pressure, and said to Germany, "We are willing to accept that frontier and not to challenge it, and we offer to you a pact on that basis." France always said that she was forced to sign the Treaty of Frankfort. Germany might say that she was forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles, but this is something done of her own volition. Finally, it is so valuable that it is worth preserving in the form of some documents. There are one or two other very important considerations which I think have their value as an element in European peace. There is no doubt that if this goes through you will have the evacuation, not merely of the Ruhr, but of Cologne. There will be a settlement, and I think a satisfactory settlement, of the whole disarmament dispute, so that therefore we shall have cleared out of the way, if it were possible to have a pact at the present moment, many of those elements which are imperilling European peace to-day, and are imperilling it more from day to day and from year to year.
Therefore, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that, if I put questions to him and state criticisms, it is because I am anxious that this Pact should go through, but I should like to say this to him. He himself, I can see in the correspondence, is not very clear as to the intentions of the French Government. In his letter to the French Prime Minister he used a phrase in which he said that some of the most important sections are very obscure. The explanation given by the French Government does not make them any the less obscure. We must not have obscurities in a document of this kind. We must know what are those guarantees. As any lawyer knows perfectly well, most of the trouble that comes from guarantees and securities comes from the fact that the man who signs them does not quite understand what his liabilities are. He is always told that it is only a matter of form, and that it will be all right, and then ultimately he finds what his liabilities are.
A country cannot do that. You lose money when you sign a document of guarantee, but in this there are millions 1587 of lives involved. There were from 15 to 20 million lives lost in the War, which came partly through documents, to say nothing of the thousands of millions of pounds which were spent. We must have something which is very definite and very clear, something about which there is no obscurity in a matter of this kind. I do not say that you can always do that. There will always be some phrase of which you will have a double interpretation, but in so far as the human mind is capable of making clear what we are guaranteeing and what it means that must be done. We have had some experience of pacts and guarantees. I remember very well that in 1904 we were greatly delighted with the Entente Cordiale. All these documents are entered into, I will not say light-heartedly—that is not true—but very joyously, and I remember that the very day that the Entente was announced in the papers I was staying with Lord Rosebery, and he made a statement which I know he will not mind my repeating. He said to me, "I suppose you are like the rest of them, very delighted with this document which has been signed between France and ourselves." I said, "Yes, I am pleased. I know that there have been a great many difficulties, and now we shall be friends with a people with whom we have had a great many disputes and misunderstandings." He said, "You are all wrong. This will end in war." I do not say that it did end in war, but it shows the danger of having documents unless you are very clear about all the things against which you might conceivably have to make provision.
The same thing applies to the Cambon conversation. This country always gives a liberal interpretation to its guarantees. It does not stick to the letter of the guarantee. If there are differences and the other party says, "This is what we thought you intended," this country as a rule gives the benefit of the doubt to the other side. It is, therefore, vital that we should make clear now what we mean, and I frankly say, after reading and re-reading these documents, that I am more doubtful than ever as to what we have bound ourselves to, and each subsequent perusal makes me more doubtful still. I know how difficult it is when you come to discuss foreign affairs to be quite explicit, but it is far better to be explicit than to take undue risks. I 1588 do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that it is difficult for him to discuss possibilities and contingencies. This kind of excessive daintiness is a thing that leads to mischief in the end.
It is always far better that we should look the facts in the face and look at all the possibilities to see how this Pact deals with them. They are well known. They are discussed in France. The French newspapers are full of them. The debates in the French Chamber of Deputies are always referring to them. Why should we here avoid them? We are discussing the question of a pact of guarantees which will involve our honour. We are pledging the whole strength and resources of this country without the Dominions—it may be driving the Dominions into the ambit of American foreign policy, which is a very dangerous thing to do, but I agree that we might be driven to do it, because after all we have an interest in Europe. I am not an isolationist. I do not sympathise in the least with the isolationist policy, for if there is a devastating fire next door which cannot be put out except with the greatest difficulty, we have a very special interest in seeing that it is put out. Therefore I am not an isolationist, but it does make it all the more necessary that we should be quite clear what we are guaranteeing.
Take the West. To begin with the right hon. Gentleman very properly first of all divided our obligations into those in the East and the West, and then he said, "In the West we have obligations; in the East we have none." I agree. My right hon. Friend who spoke last said that you cannot separate them. Trouble may occur in the East. It is more likely to occur in the East, and we are involved in the West. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question. Really the House of Commons ought to know, before we commit ourselves here. I am speaking as one who has a most friendly desire to see a pact go through. The right hon. Gentleman says "This is not a treaty; this is purely the preliminary examination and exploration of the ground." It is more than that. It is what lawyers know as an agreement to enter into a deed. That is the basis of the document. 1589 The main principles and the main stipulations are included. What are the questions which are likely to arise, which in fact have arisen? There is no need for any delicacy about it. Many of them have arisen already, and I will mention them. Take the evacuation of the Rhineland, the occupied area. There are three areas, the five-year area, the ten-year area, and the fifteen-year area. Although we were to evacuate on the 10th January, we are still there. There is a dispute. That is an area occupied by us. The next area will have to be evacuated by the French, and the third area by the French. If there is to be all that difficulty about our carrying out our Treaty, is it going to be very easy for France five years hence or five years later still? Why have we not evacuated? We have said "You have not carried out the contract." You can always find reasons of that kind if you do not want to go.
The question is this: Suppose that at that date the German Government say, "We insist upon your carrying out your own Treaty," and the French say, "You have not carried out yours, and we decline to evacuate." Is that a question to be decided by France on her own account, or is it a question which is to be referred to arbitration under the Rhineland agreement? That is a very vital question. Does the Treaty cover that point? We ought to have an explanation. Take the question of the Saar. As everyone knows who has been watching what is going on there, the Germans have some reason to complain of the interpretation of that part of the Treaty by the French Government Suppose that at the end of the term there is some difficulty about the evacuation of the Saar and its restoration to Germany. There are economic temptations against the evacuation of the Rhineland. There are economic incitements to remain as far as the Saar is concerned. There are very considerable temptations in both cases. Who is to decide, if there is a dispute at the end of the term? Is it to be left to France to decide? Suppose that a conflict arises out of the differences between the two countries. Is that going to be referred to arbitration under the Rhineland pact 1590 of arbitration? It is vital for us to know before we can proceed. Then there is the administration of the Rhineland. There are constant incidents arising there. If there is a dispute there, who is to settle it? For instance, a dispute about administration, such as that which very nearly provoked open conflict during the last three or four years, and which, if there had been an unwise government in France, might even have brought about trouble last Sunday as a result of the demonstrations. Suppose that something happens there. Who settles that dispute? Is it arbitration or is it left to France to interpret the Treaty herself?
Then there are disarmament and the other questions which will arise; for instance, in connection with the factories. I can see questions arising as to whether a factory is fitted in order to make munitions of war, or whether it is not. These are very delicate and difficult questions. Then, of course, there are unforeseen incidents, and those are the things that provoke war. The last Great War arose over an incident in Bosnia—nothing to do with the great conflict between the nations. It set Europe aflame. Suppose that an incident happened on the Rhine or in Silesia or Dantzic or the Corridor. Is that to be referred to arbitration? Then, when you. come to the East, it is still more difficult. The right hon. Gentleman, when he came to deal with the East, and also the West, constantly used the word "wrongdoer." "We are against the wrongdoer," he said, "if there is a gross and flagrant breach of obligations." That is not the way. There will be a dispute as to what the obligation is; there will be a question as to interpretation. The Germans will say, "We are keeping within the Treaty." The Poles will say, "No, you are not." There is a dispute. There may be some incident in Upper Silesia, and, as I shall point out, the question of frontiers is not finally settled in the Treaty of Versailles. I shall come to that later. The Treaty itself is not a final settlement, as M. Clemenceau pointed out. In those oases will the Pact of Arbitration entered into on the Eastern front cover all those probable disputes?
The right hon. Gentleman knows the troubles that there are over Dantzic and 1591 over Silesia. Will those questions be referred to arbitration? The words used are that the Arbitration Pact of the East shall be of the like character to the arbitration on the Rhineland. So the Rhine-land arbitration will cover the whole ground? We ought to know before we sign this document whether France or Germany—it does not matter which, because they are both in this Pact—is to be allowed to pull the trigger without our having a word to say at all in the matter, and whether all that we have to do is to rush in with our armies and navies and money and the blood of our people. We ought to know. I ask another question of the right hon. Gentleman with a view of eliciting information. Take the Arbitration Pact. Have we nothing to say to it? Do we come in only when the award is made? Have we any voice in the terms of reference? Have we nothing to say to the appointment of referees to the conditions under which the examination of the problem takes place? As the right hon. Gentleman knows, that was the trouble in Silesia. We undertook to keep away and to leave the parties to settle it amongst themselves. It would have been far better if we had taken a more direct interest in the matter and if we had seen that the Court was properly constituted, that the evidence was of the kind that would enable the Court to adjudicate upon the facts. Are we disinteresting ourselves in the arbitration? Have we anything to say to it? I do not like certain words here. The right hon. Gentleman knows them perfectly well. Take the second paragraph of Clause 4:It must be understood that as between France and Germany …I agree with my right hon. Friend that there are too many indications here that it is a question between France and Germany, and that France has a right to take isolated action. There are too many paragraphs of that kind here. After all, the War was won by the Allies as a whole, and the peace was made by the Allies as a whole. The document indicates clearly that the Allies as a whole have a right of interpretation, and not one of them, and we ought, I agree most emphatically, to make it clear that we do not accept the Poincaré thesis, that France has a right to isolated action on 1592 a document which we all signed. But let me read the quotation again:It must be understood that, as between France and Germany, such a Treaty ought to apply to all disputes ….If you left it there it would be most satisfactory, and I should regard it as an immense achievement. The quotation goes on:and ought not to leave room for coercive action, save where such action shall be undertaken consistently with the provisions of Treaties in force between the parties.What does that mean? Does it mean that all disputes are to be referred, or does it mean that all disputes are to be referred save those that arise under the Treaties? If so, it is not worth the paper it is written on. We shall be bound hand and foot; we shall be entirely in the hands of these two Powers. I am drawing no distinction between France and Germany. Either France or Germany could commit us, one side or the other, and we ought not to do it unless there is an arbitration, unless we have a voice in the arbitration which decides these disputes by juridical methods. It does not leave us where we are. It leaves us in a worse position. My right hon. Friend has pointed out that there is a danger of its imperilling the existing machinery of the League of Nations. I am in complete agreement with the argument which he advanced. The matter, certainly, ought to be elucidated. I will take another illustration. It would leave us in a worse position. One reason is, that there is an appearance of accepting the Treaty of Versailles as it exists, and to say that that has to be enforced as it is and that you must not allow modifications. That is not carrying out the bargain with Germany—the bargain which was made in the famous letter to the President of the German Delegation, covering the reply of the Allied and Associated Powers. My right hon. Friend knows to what I am referring. It is part of the whole Treaty, but it is hardly ever referred to. It was the document signed by M. Clemenceau, on behalf of the whole of the Allied Powers, when he enclosed the Treaty of Versailles for the consideration of the Germans. Therefore, it is a vital part. I would remind the Committee of the words which were used. He said, first of all, in reference to this document, that it is not only a just 1593 settlement of the Great War, but that it provides a basis upon, which the peoples of Europe can live together in friendship and equality:At the 6ame time, it creates the machinery for the peaceful adjustment of all international problems by discussion and consent, whereby the settlement of 1919 itself can be modified from time to time to suit new facts and new conditions as they arise.I know that my right hon. Friend does not want to depart from that in the least. But I do not like the wording of the document.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
That reference in the letter is to Article 19, which I spoke about specifically in the Statement I made.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
There is power to modify and adjust with regard to reparations. We have done it. The Pact of London was a very considerable modification of the original terms, and that was within the Treaty of Versailles. Let me point out what the right hon. Gentleman has agreed to in this document. I take page 49, section 2:The search for the guarantees of security which the world demands cannot involve any modification of the Peace Treaties. The agreement to be concluded ought not, therefore, either to imply a revision of these treaties or to result in practice in the modification of the conditions laid down for the application of certain of their clauses.That, I believe, is a clear departure from what was laid down by M. Clemenceau—that under the Treaty of Versailles you had the means by which you could even modify the 1919 settlement itself. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will deal with that point later on. The second point which I wish to bring forward is this. We seem to be parting with our rights as Allies to control the application of the clauses of the Treaty. I agree here so completely with my right hon. Friend who has just spoken that I do not wish to emphasise the point any further. It is a very serious departure from the practice—I will not say the practice now but certainly the practice up to the time of M. Poincaré I know it is said that Germany is likely to accept this compromise. Let me say at once that I do not think that that is conclusive. The German interest is a different one in many respects. Germany has to consider her own difficulties, and especially her temporary 1594 difficulties. It suits her present situation. She wants to have France out of the Ruhr and she wants to have us out of Cologne, but she wants above everything else credits. I would ask Members of the House of Commons who have not yet done so to read a very remarkable report which appeared in the "Daily Telegraph" from the Berlin correspondent of that paper yesterday. You there get an indication of the serious division of opinion in Germany at the present moment in reference to this matter. The Conservatives, who take the Nationalist point of view say, "Do not sign; it binds your hands." Brock-dorff-Rantzau, whom I remember very well at Versailles—I do not want to say a word about him—has gone to Berlin, and what is his plea? He says, "Do not sign this document until you have an arrangement with Russia. Bide your time. By and by Russia will be restored, and then you will be able to demand a revision of the Treaty." That is the thesis of the Conservatives of Germany. Then come the industrialists. They say, "Sign. Unless you sign you will not get France out of the Ruhr, you will not get the British out of Cologne and, what is worse, you will not get credits." Their difficulty, as everyone knows, and the difficulty in Germany at the present moment—and it is that which is preventing them from competing effectively with us—is that they cannot buy raw material because they have to pay such high prices for the money which they borrow. The very best firms there are paying 15 per cent. for money.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That is so. The stream of dollars has suddenly dried up, and they cannot get money. The result is they cannot buy their raw material at a price which enables them to turn their goods out into the markets of the world to compete with us. So the industrialists say, "Sign this Pact. The world will then be satisfied that we mean peace." That is all right. I am not complaining or criticising, but what do they say afterwards. They say, "After you have restored your credits, after you have put Germany and her industries right, after she has grown in strength and power, then you can negotiate with 1595 Russia, you can make your arrangement with Russia, and you will be in a position to demand a revision of the Treaty of Versailles." That is my apprehension—that we are going to lose both ways. It would be worth our while, if we got peace in Europe, to run the risk of the immediate danger which comes from restoring the credit of our most formidable competitor. I do not think that ought to stand in the way of peace, so long as you can get peace, because although we would suffer immediately and temporarily, in the end we would benefit. But, supposing we do not get peace. Supposing we only get the restoration of credit and do not get a document that in the end ensures peace, we are hit immediately and in the long run we are plunged into a very great war.
Before we sign this Pact let us see exactly whether we have made provision against that eventuality. It is not for Germany to press that there should be arbitration on all these disputes. She may say: "I prefer waiting until I am strong enough to have an arrangement with Russia in order to compel a revision of these treaties." Is it not our interest to see that there is an arbitration treaty which covers the whole ground now, so that when the time arrives Germany will be bound, if there is a dispute, whatever it may be, to refer it to arbitration and to abide by arbitration? I do not say that the right hon. Gentleman does not intend to do so. I am sure he does, but this document does not do it as it stands. I am all for a pact of peace, but I have the same objection to this as I had to the Protocol. I objected to it on the ground that it did not seem to cover the real points in dispute. If it did, then I was wrong, but I want to know the same thing with regard to this. If you can get now—and I do not say the right hon. Gentleman cannot get it—I think he can—a document that will not merely ensure a declaration from Germany that she regards the present frontiers on the west as inviolable, but a document from France, Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia that all questions likely to arise between the nations shall be referred to arbitration, it would be the greatest achievement towards peace that has yet been accomplished. I believe he can do it, 1596 and I will tell the right hon. Gentleman why. He can do it because it is the need of both Germany and France at the present moment. Germany wants a pact to restore her credit. So does France. I am not saying something now on my own conjecture. It is the ground upon which the Nationalists in France are justifying this Treaty. They say, "It is essential. We do not like it, but it is essential that we should sign it, because we cannot get our credit restored in America and Great Britain unless there is something of this kind."
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The Nationalists in Germany and in France. Both take the same line—that it is essential to sign some sort of pact in order to restore credit in both countries. I believe if the right hon. Gentleman, in the name not merely of the British Government but the British Parliament, in the name of the British nation, says we are quite willing to enter into a pact and will take risks—you must take risks for peace as well as war—that we are willing to take risks, and to take great risks, but that we must know what the risks are, and we must see that there is arbitration, I believe we can get it now. But I think if he is to do so he must quite firmly, explicitly and definitely lay down the conditions under which Britain is prepared to go in—conditions which she will not in any circumstances transgress. If France and Germany will not sign it they do not mean peace, and if they do not—well, then Britain ought not to be in it.
§ Mr. R. S. HUDSON
I think the House has been very much interested to hear how far the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) have gone in defence of the proposals now under consideration. Surely the demand of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs in the concluding sentences of his speech is met by the provisions of this Pact? We are under the Pact really getting a series of arbitration treaties, and we are also getting a very definite definition of the obligation which we are undertaking. I admit when I first read through the White Paper it appeared to me that we were letting ourselves in for something 1597 that was not very clearly defined, but I think if any hon. Member works out all the possible permutations and combinations he will find that they are all covered by the terms of the White Paper. The Leader of the Opposition, although apparently anxious to help in the solution of the problem with which we are faced, did a good deal to make that solution more difficult. The Secretary of State explained to the right hon. Gentleman—and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs himself knew—that the value of any international agreement lies in the fact that when the crisis comes the whole country, whose signature is put to that agreement, will honour it and implement it without any difference of opinion. Unless you have that conviction no foreign statesman is justified in appending his signature to such an agreement.
The Leader of the Opposition did his best to mislead the country—I think unintentionally—as to what was meant and implied by this Pact. He was speaking on the question of Russia, and I think he was influenced by the very widespread lack of realisation among Members of the party opposite, as to what our obligations at present actually are. He said in effect, "Suppose you had a treaty between France and Poland, and that France wanted to go to the assistance of Poland in the event of Poland being attacked by Russia." I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman has read the Franco-Polish Treaty very recently. I have taken the trouble to read it, and I cannot find in the terms of that Treaty anything which binds France to go to the assistance of Poland if the latter is attacked by Russia. I may be wrong, but I took the trouble to get a copy of the Treaty from the League of Nations Union, and I went through it, and there is nothing in it that I could find to bind France to go to the assistance of Poland if she is attacked by Russia. Under the terms of the Covenant to which we are also parties, we are ourselves bound to go to the assistance of Poland if she is attacked by Russia, and if Russia refuse to accept the obligations of the Covenant. I cannot conceive how the Leader of the Opposition can have overlooked those two points.
He went further, and he said: "Supposing that France asks the Germans to allow her to send her troops to the assistance of Poland across Germany, 1598 and supposing Germany is hostile and there is a conflict between the two countries' troops, then we, under this proposed Pact, shall have to go to the assistance of France against Germany," but surely one of the conditions which the Leader of the Opposition had overlooked was this, that Germany, as part of this whole arrangement that we are proposing in the White Paper, is to become a member of the League of Nations, and as a member of the League of Nations she is bound, under the terms of the Covenant, under certain circumstances to give facilities for the transit of troops going to the assistance of another country which is being attacked, either by a member of the League acting against its obligations, or by a nation which does not happen to be a member of the League. I, therefore, think that the point made by the right hon. Gentleman is entirely devoid of any sort or kind of foundation, and, in so far as it may be taken by the country as being well-founded and as entrapping us into assuming obligations which we have not got at the moment, it is very definitely a step in the wrong direction and far from carrying out his expressed desire of giving assistance to arrive at some general understanding.
The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs and the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) dealt in two different ways with the question of the Dominions, and the latter said that one of the reasons why the Dominions had rejected the Protocol, or had not agreed to it, was the fact that it had never been properly explained to them. But in the very next breath he went on to say that the Protocol had been negotiated with the full acquiescence and knowledge of representatives of the Dominions. Surely you cannot blame the present British Government for not explaining a thing to the Dominions which had been negotiated in part by the representatives of those very Dominions; but I very much doubt really whether the point was made as having any real substance. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs went further, and said we ran a very definite risk, if we agreed to this Pact and carried out the suggestions in the White Paper, that the Dominions would be gradually dragged 1599 into the ambit of United States policy, as distinct from ours.
I do not believe, personally, that any such result would follow, because the essence of the whole Pact is that we shall define our liabilities, that we shall so restore the confidence of Europe that conflicts are less likely than ever to break out, and would only break out in certain very defined circumstances which we can, more or less, as far as it is humanly possible to prophesy, foresee and define. We must, under any circumstances, assume that the Colonies have a free right to take whatever decisions they like. They took their own decisions in 1914. Some of them adopted conscription, and others refused to. We made no complaint—we had no right to do so—and surely what we have to rely on, if our foreign policy is to be worthy of the name, is that we shall see, if the time does come, that we are fighting in such a good cause that the Dominions, of their own free will, without any obligation whatever, will come to our assistance, as they did before, and indeed as the United States of America, with no sort of obligation, also eventually came to our assistance.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am sorry to interrupt a very interesting speech, but I did not use that as an argument against entering into the Pact. On the contrary, I think I said that we had our own difficulties in Europe, which we must face, and that we must take our own responsibilities, whatever the Dominions did. I used it as an argument in favour of defining more clearly what are the obligations into which we are entering.
§ Mr. HUDSON
I apologise very sincerely if I misrepresented or misunderstood what the right hon. Gentleman said. However, it does not alter the fact—omitting his name as being sponsor for that argument—that my point is still a good one, that we must, in these matters, take our own responsibility on our own shoulders—
§ Mr. HUDSON
—and trust to our policy being a just one. There is one other point I wish to make, and that is in connection with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition when he said 1600 that we were, in effect, binding ourselves to guarantee two different aspects of the French problem, namely, the French geographical entity and the results that might follow from a divergence from its present lines of French political policy. I venture to think that there again the argument is based on a misunderstanding and a misreading of the proposals now before us, because surely, if anything is clear, it is this, that we are definitely guaranteeing the French geographical entity only in certain defined circumstances, and that if a divergence of French political policy brings that geographical entity into jeopardy, against what we consider to be right, and against the terms of the Arbitration Treaty, then the fat is in the fire, and she has to take the responsibility herself. Let us assume, for the purpose of making my argument clear—and I would like to make the same safeguard that both the Foreign Secretary and the right hon. Member for Aberavon made, that I am not quoting this as an actual, possible example of what might follow, but merely to illustrate my meaning—that the Poles attacked the Germans, and the French decided that they were entitled to go to the assistance of the Poles, and were involved in war with Germany, and the Germans drove them back across the frontier. I take it then, under this Treaty, that we should not be compelled to go to the assistance of France and guarantee her border line. The French would have undertaken something which was entirely their own responsibility, and our obligation would not come into force.
§ Mr. HUDSON
We should not be compelled to prevent the Germans attacking the French. It is a difficult point, but I think it is a good one, and I think perhaps the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), if he ware here, would support me in it, but I think it does prove that the point made by the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition was not a good one, when he said that we should in any case have to guarantee any French policy that might happen to come along. I would like to have gone further into the various other arguments and statements made by the right hon. Gentleman which I think are 1601 capable of controversion—in particular, the one in which he accused the members of the Diplomatic Service of having no training in history as compared with the members of the Army, Navy, or the future Air Force. I happen to be one of those individuals, and have vivid recollections of the stiffness of the training I had to go through, and the forcible, indigestible cramming that I had to suffer, in order to join the Diplomatic Service and Foreign Office, and, considering the experience of the right hon. Gentleman at the Foreign Office, I do not think his gibe was altogether fair or at all justified.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
The difficulty with which we are confronted in examining this Paper is that we are obliged to fall back upon interpretations rather than actual words and facts. The hon Member for Whitehaven (Mr. R. Hudson), who has just sat down, and who has made a very interesting contribution to the Debate, has been able to put a very rosy interpretation on what this Paper contains, and in doing so found that he was not able quite to support all his arguments satisfactorily, because he cannot, any more than the rest of us, be quite certain of what this Paper contains. In a diplomatic document of this sort it is not really so much what is said as what is implied, it is not what is stated, but what is omitted, that has to be carefully gone into. I should be very sorry to think that our Debate should degenerate into a more or less party wrangle of the Protocol versus the Pact, and I am sure it is not the intention of anybody on this side of the House to do anything but to contribute all they can to a settlement which may really bring the very long delayed recovery of Europe to a satisfactory point.
I should like to add my tribute to what has been said by other right hon. Members who have spoken as to the great welcome which we all give to the German Note of February last. The German offer really dates a new era in European polity. They offer in that Note the settlement of a thousand-years-old dispute. For a thousand years, from the time of the events which are now being celebrated in the Rhineland, on to Philip IV, Henry II, the Thirty Years' War, the Seven Years' War, Louis XIV, the War of the Spanish Succession, Napoleonic times, right up to 1870 and 1602 1871, and to the Great War itself, this controversy has been the bone of contention and the cause of hostilities between these two great nations. If, by a stroke of the pen, this thousand-years-old controversy can be settled, then I feel confident that there is nobody in this country who will not unite with any Government which is prepared to assist in that very much to be desired consummation.
But there is a great deal more in it than that. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, it is our duty to regard this question, not so much from the point of view of Germany and of France, but from the point of view of Great Britain, and the point of view of Great Britain is not so much that we should be always eager to defend injured nations, but that we should be to the front in preventing war in Europe. The intention undoubtedly is good. The right hon. Gentleman has struggled with the situation, which has defied the efforts of statesmen for a great many years past, and he comes to the House of Commons with a document which foreshadows a new attempt at solving the European problem. Much as we should like to applaud him and congratulate him, it is our duty as a Parliament to analyse very carefully a document of this sort, because on it in the future rests the issue of peace or war. Governments have moved very slowly. Governments in this matter have always moved slowly. We are desirous of urging them on, but we must see they proceed in the right direction, and not take a wrong turning. We recognise in the suggested agreement the principle of arbitration is acknowledged and brought forward. We notice, too, that Germany is to be admitted into the League of Nations. But if the points which have been raised by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and the right Hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) are put together and carefully analysed, and if there is validity, which I think there is, in the objections they have brought forward, I think we should hesitate very much before we subscribe to, and approve, any pact or treaty drawn up on the lines foreshadowed in this White Paper.
Let me take general considerations first. The root objection, to my mind, 1603 is that this is a sectional Pact, that it forms a group. The Foreign Secretary said just now it is not an alliance, because the Powers concerned are mutually agreed, and have no aggressive designs against any Power outside. But once you group a series of nations together, that group becomes ipso facto a group against those outside. It is perfectly true that, by drawing Germany into the orbit of Western Europe, and by uniting Germany and France together, you are doing a great deal to prevent the old balance of power in Europe between Western Europe and the Central Powers, but it does not follow that you are not framing a new balance. It does not follow that when you have got Germany, France and Great Britain united by this Pact, the Powers outside are not going to form themselves also into an alliance.
I want to refer more especially in this connection to the position of Russia. It has been the consistent policy of this Government since it has been in office to refuse to draw Russia into the family of nations, and now if Germany be drawn into the orbit of Western Europe, Russia is going to be thrown into the Asiatic orbit, and, instead of getting your balance of power in Europe, you are going to get the balance of power between the Continents of Asia and Europe. Although the possibilities that may arise out of that may seem to us in this generation remote, we are to-day laying the foundations of what in future is going to be, perhaps, a very serious conflict between those two great continents. That first general consideration, that is to say, the sectional character of this Pact, is, to my mind, dangerous, and highly objectionable. It is in that respect that it differs so completely from the effort which was made by the Protocol. The Protocol proceeded by international co-operation altogether, all united, all declaring to guarantee one another, and safeguard one another, and this proceeds by a group of nations, sectional, partial and what might be described as one-sided.
The second general consideration to which I should like to draw the attention of the Committee is that these pacts and treaties, these agreements, are valueless unless they are the stepping-stone to a disarmament conference. Without 1604 disarmament, you are not going to get in Europe any possibility of real security. The words that are so often used, "security, arbitration and disarmament," I think should be always put in this order, and in this order alone—disarmament first, arbitration next, and then—and only then—will you get security. I do not believe security can be reached by any other method. We have got to analyse the proposal contained in this White Paper, not only as a peace settlement, but from the point of view of the war obligation that it imposes upon this country. I wish I could think that we could make European peace. We know that is a dream. We have got to think of future generations. We have got to think of the changing ambitions of Governments, and we must take very great care to safeguard our country from any new obligations which may draw it continually into European conflicts.
We have got to face the fact that this Pact, if it is to be drawn up on the lines here foreshadowed, means there can never be a dispute between France and Germany, there can never be a recurrence of this thousand-year-old quarrel between those two great peoples, without Great Britain being brought in. The attitude we adopted in 1870 and 1871 will be impossible in future. There would be no objection to that if our presence could secure peace between the two nations. I very much doubt it. We are rather apt to regard this bilateral guarantee simply from the point of view of defending France against Germany. That is to say, the war mentality remains still so strong that we keep on regarding Germany as if she were the eternal enemy, and France the eternal ally. But history has taught us that Governments arrange different enemies at different periods, and we have got to take fully into account that we shall have to defend Germany against France as a likelihood, just as much as France against Germany.
I put to the Committee this point. Should dispute arise, should arbitration fail, should there be a breach, and one of these nations becomes an aggressor, we have undertaken to defend one of those great nations against the other. We have undertaken to defend France, the most highly-equipped military nation in the world, against Germany, which is practic- 1605 ally disarmed; but we have also undertaken to defend Germany, which is practically disarmed, against France, the most highly-equipped military nation in the world. That is a big obligation. It is a very serious obligation. We have got to look at this agreement in terms of war, and, in doing that, we see we are undertaking something which really I can hardly believe the War Office and the Admiralty can regard with any great faith.
Let me analyse further what must happen if the Pact be drawn up on these lines. France will say, "We are dependent on your support in certain contingencies. We hope they may not arise; we cannot tell." Germany will say the same. France will say, "We cannot be content merely with a vague promise on your part, or an obligation on your part to furnish military, naval and air assistance. We want to know the exact nature of that assistance. We want to know how it will fit in with our forces. We want to have what is now known as conversations with your staff with regard to the necessary preparation which has to be made of a. defensive character against the alleged aggressor." That means that we have got to enter into military conversations with France, with a view to settling what steps should be taken against Germany should she be the aggressor, and we have got to undertake military conversations with Germany against France should she be the aggressor. This really seems to reduce the thing to an absurdity. I cannot believe any Government can undertake obligations of that sort, hut I should be very glad if whoever answers later in the evening can really tell us why those obligations will not be forced on us should a Pact be signed on the lines described in this White Paper as it stands at present. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has already described the awkward dilemma if France wishes to pass her troops through Germany to the assistance of an ally on the Eastern Front. Under Article 16 of the Covenant of the League of Nations she can do that.
Is France going to have an extra obligation apart from the Covenant of the League of Nations to assist either Poland or Czechoslovakia in the event of Germany being the alleged aggressor? When we know 1606 that France is going to be bound on Germany's eastern frontier and that we are going to be bound to France on the western frontier, what my right hon. Friend said is perfectly true; you cannot detach one from the other, and any hostilities arising on the eastern frontier of Germany will undoubtedly involve as in war.
Then there is a very doubtful question as to whether France, by her interpretation of the fulfilment of the Treaty of Versailles, may make incursions into German territory. When she has done that before we have disputed it as illegal, and France has said she was only carrying out out the stipulations under the Treaty of Versailles. We must really know where we shall stand, because Germany has a great weight of obligation to carry out during the next generation, and it may well occur that Germany will default in some way or other before all these obligations are discharged. If Germany does default in some way or other, France may very probably take steps as she has taken them in the past. Where shall we stand? Is this frontier of Alsace-Lorraine going to be a really guaranteed frontier that neither can violate, or are we going to have all these exceptions that have allowed France to do things under the pretext that she was carrying out the Treaty of Versailles? The traces of the Treaty of Versailles are smeared all over these proposals. It is regarded as something sacrosanct, that cannot be altered. You can see the hand of France insisting that the articles shall be respected and that nothing in this Pact shall in any way invalidate or weaken all the rights that she maintains she has at present under the Treaty of Versailles.
Italy, apparently, is not coming into this arrangement. Therefore, this complicated Treaty, bristling with possibilities of new occasions for war, is to be guaranteed, not by the League of Nations, not by all the other States, not by the corporate and co-operating nations of Europe, but by Great Britain alone. Great Britain is to be the sole guarantor and is to be drawn in when any of these extremely intricate and complicated circumstances arise. I cannot contemplate, and I do not believe that many of my hon. Friends can contemplate, a prospect of that sort with anything like complacency. We want to endeavour to 1607 remove the causes and the occasions of war, and it appears to me that we are adding to them now. We know perfectly well that war is not caused by breaches of certain articles of certain treaties, by phrases in diplomatic documents, or by isolated crime or murders, but by the tendency and the strain over a number of years of jealousy and suspicion, ending at last in hostility between two peoples; and, when you have that mentality between two nations, it only requires a small incident, an occasion, to bring about the final collision. We are presenting Europe in this Pact with a perfect maze of pretexts for war, if this most intricate document ever does emanate from this correspondence. We shall be making a document which is fraught with the possibilities of allowing Governments to find a breach here and a breach there, some legal complication here or there, which will give them the opportunity they want, if at that moment they desire, to go forward in an ambitious way and declare war.
If the League of Nations were behind this genuinely, and it were not that lip service were merely being paid to it, as it is in one or two paragraphs, and if we with other nations were coming forward as guarantees, it would amount to a method advocated by the Protocol, and would merely mean that the League was detaching one problem in order to settle that apart from others. I believe that that is possible. I believe that if the League were to do that, you could get settlement of particular problems. I do not believe, if you are going to begin in a partial way without the backing of the League, but with simply a British guarantee, that that will be a stepping-stone to general international co-operation.
This is really a very much more important moment than I think any of us understand it to be at the moment. We are deciding now something which will be quoted by posterity time and time again, and the question is whether they are going to bless us for our decision or curse us. They will remember this, and if it comes to fruition as we desire, they will bless us, but, if it is constructed in a treaty and signed in the form indicated in this White Paper, then I believe and I feel very confident that they will 1608 curse us. We want not only this bi-lateral arrangement to help these two Powers one against the other, but we want to feel that we have advantages and benefits coming out of it as well. I have read through this Paper very carefully several times, but I cannot for the life of me find where Great Britain gains any advantage, except the general advantage which Europe and the world will gain through the settlement of a long drawn-out dispute. That I admit is an enormous point, but why should we, isolated and apart from all other nations, be the sole guarantor of the arrangement? I cannot understand why we should not enlist the League as the guarantor. We should not be doing our duty if we did not subject this arrangement to a very close scrutiny. We recognise that arbitration must take the place of war, and that you cannot reach that desired end until you get disarmament. We want to get not merely physical disarmament but mental disarmament, and that, so far as the Governments of Europe are concerned, has not yet begun.
The Foreign Secretary, in an eloquent phrase towards the end of his speech, said that fear was behind the whole problem, and he described how the workers in France, Germany, and Britain were cowering at the fear of war. I do not regard it in that way. I think their fear is as to what their Governments are going to let them in for. I think they have a great mistrust of European statesmen, and they do not know what they are going to be let in for. They have no quarrel with one another. They do not want war, but they feel that their Governments are going to let them in for fresh obligations. If they fully understand what this document means, they will see that the occasion for warfare is going to be increased. It is a very vital and important issue for the workers, and I am speaking more especially of the workers of this country. While to some people war may be an exciting and dangerous adventure, an opportunity for displaying courage and heroism, war to the workers, whether it ends in victory or defeat, always means a further lowering in their conditions and a further postponement of all their hopes of improvement.
That is why I feel they will watch our proceedings very jealously in order to see that we are not sowing seeds which will 1609 produce a conflict on a confused issue which they will not understand, which will not be explained properly to them, and which will not immediately concern them, notwithstanding that it may be a conflict far more barbarous and damaging not only to the economic and industrial life of the country, but to the spiritual and moral welfare of the people themselves, than the awful shattering struggle which went on 10 years ago. Anything which risks such an eventuality must be rejected, and I think we are justified in putting our criticisms as strongly as we can. But it should not be beyond the bounds and the powers of statesmanship, considering what the mood and temper of the peoples throughout the world is to-day, to find a way and to devise means, not based on partial alliances, not contemplating the use of force, but springing from the international co-operation of nations in their firm and express determination, not only to reject the intention to fight, but to abandon finally and irrevocably the means and equipment, the very armaments themselves, which make fighting possible.
§ Mr. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
During the course of this discussion there was one very interesting point mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). He questioned whether the Germans would be really willing to discuss the terms and conditions laid down in the reply delivered on the 16th of this month to the German Government by the French Government. I think we must really look for some definite explanation as to why the Germans made their original proposal on 9th February. It was clearly stated in the German Press at that time, and also by many German statesmen, that their real object in making that proposal was to offer to the French a definite guarantee of security on their Western frontier, in order that they might subsequently be allowed to modify the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles in many essential respects—on their Eastern frontier. The French, however, have not accepted the proposal in the spirit in which it was made, and the reply sent on the 16th of this month definitely eliminates any possibility of offering to Germany any hope of revision of certain Clauses in the Treaties of Versailles and of the Trianon. 1610 Thus it is unlikely that we shall hear any more of the Pact of Security on the Western front from Germany, because if she is dissatisfied with the Treaty of Versailles, it is very unlikely she will go further to shackle herself with bonds which will perpetuate the Treaties of Versailles and of the Trianon for all time. Her object was to obtain concessions on the Eastern front. That has definitely failed. Thus it would seem as if this discussion we are having to-day is somewhat premature, and perhaps in a sense a little unfortunate, because it discloses the whole of the differences of opinion that exist among the Allies, while the Germans themselves are under no obligation whatsoever to state what modification they desire on the Eastern front, or what course they propose to pursue in the future.
I am one of those who are opposed to the Pact as well as the Protocol. In fact, I do not see very much difference between the two. Under the Protocol we are obliged to go to war under the auspices of the League. Under this Pact we accept limited obligations. We are obliged to fight on the Western front only if Germany makes an attack on France. We are not acting under the auspices of the League of Nations, but really under the guarantee given to the French Government. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench whether the Treaty of Versailles is in existence or is it not? Because our position is clearly defined by the Treaty of Versailles. We also have certain obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations, and if we are going to observe the Treaty of Versailles, and to stand by our engagements under the Covenant, it seems unnecessary to draw up a fresh document, which in reality duplicates the same documents we have already signed, with the essential difference, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, that in the Treaty of Versailles there was a hope held out to the vanquished nations that in the future they might possibly look for some revision of certain of the Clauses, whereas in the Pact there is none. Revision is essential, more especially in the case of Austria-Hungary.
I am also rather inclined to question the morality of this Pact because we are 1611 drawing up a definite line of demarcation between what we consider our obligations to be towards the French and our obligations towards our other Allies. We regard our obligations on the Western Front as sacred, and are prepared to fight on behalf of France, but we are not prepared to fight on behalf of our former Allies on the Eastern Front. In the East we are only prepared to go just so far as moral suasion will take us, and only to carry out the economic sanctions under the original Covenant of the League of Nations. Have we any right to draw any distinction between France and the. Western Front, and our attitude towards the Eastern Front and our former Allies there? Apparently we do not regard the Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty of the Trianon as final. If we announce we are not prepared to go to war over the Eastern Front, it is a direct encouragement to our enemies, and we lay ourselves open to a charge of acting in bad faith towards some of our former friends. I would be in favour of a Pact if that Pact were not framed to perpetuate the existing state of affairs in Europe which is so unfair to millions, and if it were a pact which followed a general conference designed to rectify some of the injustices under the Treaties of Versailles and the Trianon.
Take the case of a country like Hungary, which was completely dismembered by the Treaty of the Trianon. There are over 3½ millions of her nationals living in Czechoslovakia, Jugo-Slavia and Rumania at the present time. Yet one of the main principles laid down in Paris in 1919 was "Self-Determination" or right of all nationals to live under their own flag. If this Pact is now signed in its present form we shall be definitely consigning—I am just taking this one case, but there are many others—these three or four millions of Hun garians to live in perpetuity under alien flags and cut off from their fellow countrymen. They are living in a state of constant oppression, and their country is powerless to help them. Till, however, we have some definite revision of these Treaties I do not suppose we shall find—perhaps not even then—a perfectly satisfactory solution to these difficulties If we were able to right some of the grievances in Eastern Europe then the Pact and the guarantees of the frontiers 1612 would be an admirable thing, and would go a long way towards preserving permanent peace in Europe. There are many injustices which ought to be remedied before they are allowed to assume a permanent form.
It is a curious thing that in all these negotiations we arrive back in the same vicious circle. Every Foreign Minister since 1919 has fished in the troubled waters of Geneva, and has endeavoured to bring back with him a fish palatable to both the French and English palates. Not one has succeeded yet. M. Herriot had no hesitation in signing the Protocol on behalf of his Government before even consulting the Chamber of Deputies or the Senate, because the Protocol meant that France got a definite guarantee on her Western front, not only from England, as is the case of the Pact, but from all the Powers who were signatories to the Covenant of the League of Nations.
Under this Pact exactly the same thing has arisen. France is perfectly satisfied with it, because, although she has not succeeded in getting a definite guarantee from the signatories of the League of Nations, she has got the next best thing. She has our guarantee. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) when he said in the course of this Debate that it is quite impossible to separate the question of the western frontier from that of the eastern frontier. Supposing there was war or a dispute between Germany and Czechoslovakia, or Czechoslovakia and Poland, and the French claimed the right to send troops through the demilitarised zone, and Germany resisted, we should find that we were automatically dragged into the struggle with the French. Every other nation would do everything to encourage that, because they would prefer to see us fighting on their side, rather than taking the field alone against Germany or possibly Russia.
We should have no possibility of escape from taking part once a war broke out in Europe. Under this Pact exactly the same position will arise, as under the Protocol which was rejected by the House of Commons. I cannot see that there is any need for us to intervene in Europe at the present time. Europe has not settled down as quickly as one would have liked, but, on the other hand, there are no well-defined storm-clouds at the present 1613 moment. There would seem to be a better spirit among the mass of the people of Europe. If you attempt now to perpetuate those grievances and hardships under which so many people are suffering, that spirit of goodwill which has sprung up lately, due to the hope that evils may be redressed in the future, will at once disappear, and you will find the, old animosities and hatreds stronger than ever.
Have we any moral right to tie down future generations, as we propose, under the Pact? They have got their own responsibilities to fulfil. The friends of to-day are not the friends of to-morrow. The hates of to-day are not the hates of to-morrow. It would be impossible for us to lay down a foreign policy which will have any relation to the state of Europe 10 or 20 years from now. As time passes and Europe recedes from the War, we can only hope that the old hates and passions will die down, and that there will be a general and spontaneous desire on the part of all nations to modify the conditions of the Treaties of Versailles and the Trianon. If, however, we now put our signature to this Pact, as it stands, it becomes increasingly difficult to change these Treaties in any respect in the future, and we merely tie the hands of future generations and make it still more difficult to redress the evils from which Europe is suffering. Nobody in this House wishes more for permanent peace in Europe than I do, but if the Pact is going to be signed in a qualified form, or even in its present form, I do not think we ought to neglect our own interests. This Pact or agreement with France should be coordinated with and is inseparable from the questions of armaments and debts. If we give a guarantee to France for the security of her Western frontier, we should, in the most friendly spirit, obtain some guarantee as to debts and armaments. At the present time we are in the position of a man who has a friend who owes him an enormous debt. The friend says, "I am sorry I cannot pay you at the present time." You accept that situation. But it is another matter when the same friend comes along and asks you to insure his house against all risks, and adds, "In the event of a fire, I wish you to come to my aid, although I tell you frankly the cellars are filled with high explo- 1614 sives." We are now in that position. All these questions would be best settled by calling a general conference of all the European nations. Without actually reopening the questions pertaining to the Treaties of Versailles and the Trianon it might be possible, by general agreement, to arrive at certain modifications in those Treaties which would go a long way to disperse the storm-clouds in Europe and enable that economic recovery to take place which no country in Europe needs more than we do. I hope we are going to stand by our old Allies as we stood by them in the past. I also hope we are going to see justice done to all peoples in Europe; above all I hope we are not going further to commit ourselves to definite pacts and agreements, but, rather, allow some elasticity in our policy. Let us revert to the time-honoured old English policy of trying to keep an equitable balance between all the nations of Europe, only intervening when one particular Power has reached such a state of domination and has become so aggressive that not only the freedom of Europe is threatened, but our very existence as well. That has been our time-honoured policy in the past. It has paid us very well, and it has paid Europe very well. It is a just policy, and I should like to see us revert to it at the present time.
§ Sir ROBERT HUTCHISON
I find myself a good deal in agreement with the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken. He speaks with the knowledge of a traveller who knows Europe well, and I feel that the remarks he has made really express views which are held by a very large number of people in this country. I agree with the Foreign Secretary when he said that foreign policy must be national, and I go further and say it must be accepted by the Empire. We cannot have a policy which is to last laid down by any one party, however strong it may be in the Government. The real difficulty that we are up against is that there is a sense of insecurity in Western Europe. The French, unfortunately, see the situation with eyes which have had experience in the past. I have no doubt that if I were a Frenchman I should see the situation very much as they see it. But the fact remains that no pact of this kind is going to give them that security which they imagine they will get by such a Pact. After all, this 1615 Pact, which I am glad to see includes Germany, will ultimately, in my view, create dissensions, and possibly lead to hostilities. In that way it is bound to lead to hostilities against one of those Powers which form the Pact, and it will drive that particular Power, whichever it be, into the arms of other combinations, and we shall be back to the position as it was before 1914, when we had the balance of power and competing nations in the world. On this side of the House at least we believe that no real peace can be found in that way. The objections to this Pact are exactly the same as to the Protocol. They try to avoid the real seeds of trouble. The real seeds of trouble to-day are ouststanding, but under this Pact they are avoided and put aside. The real troubles will arise in Poland, will arise in the Saar, will arise in the Rhineland, all of which are covered by the Treaty of Versailles. If we eliminate arbitration on these particular difficulties we are running our heads straight into trouble.
I, for one, fail to understand how it is the Foreign Secretary can say in this White Paper that His Majesty's Government are in complete agreement with the French view on the subject, which he does on page 49. Again, he emphasises the fact that he is going to condone, and in the future to give guarantees for, France moving as an individual power alone in settling certain disputes. Section 4 of the draft agreement is to allow any one power to deal with certain eventualities which may occur, and it seems to me we are going in the reverse direction to that for peace. The real danger that I see in this Pact is that it will be read differently by the various signatories to it. We, possibly, will understand it in one sense, and our Allies in the Pact will read it in another sense. Already we see the French Press claiming a victory for the French view, and saying the Pact means this and means that, and our Press saying it means something entirely different. Talking to anyone in the street, as we say, as to what this Pact means one gets conflicting views, which all express simply the views of a partisan. In this particular agreement, as drafted, it seems to me there is a great deal of trouble and a great deal that can be misunderstood. Even the Foreign Secretary, 1616 in his various notes to the French Government on the reply drafted by France, says he finds great difficulty in understanding what is the real meaning of any particular section. Therefore, I think this Pact ought to be very much more carefully drafted, and the situation it has to deal with put more carefully into black and white, before we advance at all in the direction of such an agreement.
I will go further. I doubt very much whether we are in a position to enter into such a Pact. Before very long we may find ourselves up to our necks in trouble in Asia and in our own Dominions. We have got troubles in front of us in India, and troubles at present in China. If we are going to guarantee something, we must look to see whether we have the resources to back up that guarantee. Perhaps, however, we are going to be like the Scottish character in an old story. He was quite willing to back a bill for a man, and did so repeatedly, but on one occasion when the usual drawer came to ask him for his signature to guarantee the bill he said: "Nae, nae, I'm no gaen tae dae it. My uncle's deid and I've got some money now." Having resources, he refused the guarantee. We are in the position of giving a guarantee without having the necessary resources, which is, I think, a very unfair thing to do. This guarantee may lead us into sending forces of all descriptions, naval, air and military, to the Continent of Europe once more. Are we in a position to do that? If we lay down a policy we must have sufficient force to carry it out; and, further, I suggest we would find great difficulty in getting the population of this country to go to war on a particular event. Even in the last War we found some difficulty, to begin with, in getting our population roused up to take their side on what we believe to be a fight for right, and I am satisfied we shall never get this nation to go to war simply because a certain section of a Pact has been broken. It would be very unfair to those whom we guarantee to enter upon such a Pact on a false basis.
The real difficulty I see in this Pact is that we are trying to put all disputes that may arise before a board of arbitration. Who is the arbitrator? I do not know, and I doubt whether there is any idea in 1617 the mind of the Government as to who is to become the arbiters of our fortunes. When disputes arise and they are going to be referred to a court of arbiters are we to have any say as to the conditions of arbitration? Are we to be bound entirely by the results of the arbitration, as undoubtedly we will be? I cannot for the life of me see why we cannot stick to what we have already agreed to in the Treaty of Versailles, which includes the League of Nations and the Covenant of the League. It seems to me that this Pact is going dead against the Covenant and thereby will cut out any hope we have of building up that instrument into a really efficient guarantor against war. Immediately one takes a few nations out of the family of nations and tries to bring them into a group, the other nations are left stranded and helpless.
If we wish to mend the ills of Europe what we ought to do is to strengthen and build up the League, strengthen and build up the Covenant of the League, and use that instrument to try to mend those ills. Certainly we ought to do all we can to get the nations now outside the League to come into it. I am satisfied that with fair treatment Germany would come inside the League—if she thought she were going to get justice and equal treatment with other nations which we, I am sure, believe she ought to have. After all, the Treaty of Versailles is not unchangeable. As my leader pointed out to-day, there are processes by which we could get alterations of disputed frontiers; it is a matter of convenience and arrangement between the Powers concerned to settle their own disputes in that particular direction. I feel we are drifting into a position which will be extremely difficult to justify to the next generation. The Foreign Secretary has talked about the wisdom of our fathers. I do not know whether fathers' sons quite agree with that, and I only hope that the fathers of to-day will be able to show more wisdom in legislating for the generations of their sons. I feel very strongly that we ought not to enter into any military commitments on the Continent of Europe. It is true that this old country is a European Power under the conditions of present-day communications, but we are also a world power, very much in the position of America. We have got all our great Dominions, children at the moment, growing, and 1618 rapidly growing, and I am satisfied that no military commitment can possibly be undertaken by this House or by any Government without the consent of the Dominions overseas. The whole idea of our Empire is that we should try to knit the members of it closer together, not by what we can give them but by pure friendship and kinship, and I believe myself that if the time comes when we have to face even great odds we shall find them coming to our help once again. We want to have a really just and right cause on which we can ask for that help. The real danger to this country does not come from the near West, but from the far East, and if we do anything during the next few years to drive Germany or Russia further into the East we shall be making trouble for ourselves.
The trouble in China has undoubtedly been fomented from outside, and that trouble might easily spread southward and into our own Possessions, and we may want all our force and vitality to meet troubles in those parts. It has often been the case in the past that when we require our energies concentrated in a particular spot they have invariably been spread in directions in which they were not wanted. We may find ourselves up to the neck in trouble in the East, and our far-distant Empire may find troubles will break out, and then we shall have to come along and take our part and fulfil our guarantees, and thereby put a great strain upon ourselves which may possibly break our Empire. I believe that the only hope we have in the future for the welfare of all the countries of Europe and the world is for them all to back and build up the League of Nations, making it a stronger and better body, and no Pact ought to be signed by our Government unless it is most clearly laid down what we are signing, and we should be quite sure that we have the necessary force to carry out any guarantee we may give.
§ Commander FANSHAWE
It seems to me that every hon. Member is discussing the best means of securing a stable state of peace, but we all seem to be approaching the matter through different channels. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down in all he has said, because he and some other hon. Members who have spoken appear to have accepted this White Paper as being 1619 final, when, as a matter of fact, it only explains the proposals for a Pact with Germany, and it is in no way to be regarded as an international measure awaiting the assent of this House before it becomes law. I should like to draw attention, firstly, to the fact that Germany, if she comes into this security Pact, is bound to be a member of the League of Nations; and, secondly, that the terms of the Treaty of Versailles are bound to be upheld. That is definitely laid down in the White Paper, although I admit that most of the wording of the White Paper is very elastic.
The Foreign Secretary has said that if this Pact is to be a reality we must have the co-operation of all nations taking part, and we must also have a sense of security removing all small differences and what I may call pinpricks which exist to-day. In my view, the principal pin-prick in Europe to-day is that we have in Germany—a Military Commission of Control. I do not speak entirely without knowledge on this subject, because I was a member of the Naval Commission of Control in Germany, and I was closely allied with, the Military Commission chosen during that time. I understand a great many of the questions which appear in the White Paper which sets forth under the date of 4th June a number of questions which were, raised on the Naval Commission years ago.
There was the case of the Krupp Works at Essen, and particularly No. 10 shop. On the naval side we put forward concrete proposals to deal with the whole of this machinery at No. 10 shop, but we were not able to carry out our proposals, because we found certain naval opposition amongst our Allies. I find that No. 10 shop at Essen still figures, and there is no necessity for that. On the disarmament side No. 10 shop at Essen is the only thing that matters, and on the personnel side the only thing that matters is that the Reichswehr should be definitely reduced to 100,000 men to be used only for internal police purposes. If we read Germany history we find that an attempt was made to limit the manpower of Germany by Napoleon in the case of the Prussian Army to 2,500, but that attempt ended in disaster. Not only that, but what is worse, it ended in the establishment of conscription in 1620 the world, which, more than anything else, is the most potent force which led up to the last great War.
Under conscription it is usual to pass your men through a military formation and register them and otherwise how is it possible for the inspecting officer to recognise every man who has been trained. The great German General Scharnhorst defeated Napoleon's efforts in the same way, and the German officers are quite capable of treating our efforts in that way. If the Germans come forward in close co-operation with the other nations under this Pact then, and only then, can we ensure the personnel side of the German Army being reduced to 100,000 men as provided by the Treaty of Versailles. I believe that the military control in Germany is only acting as a pin-prick, and is causing much trouble, for it is only keeping open an old sore. We finished off the naval part of disarmament quite well three years ago and there is nothing existing to-day in Germany with the exception of the heavy gun lathes at No. 10 shop at Essen which would enable Germany to make war again. If this is taken up again as a special point and dealt with, the Germans will no doubt attend to it and it will be finished off. I appeal to the Government to withdraw our military control in Germany because it is causing ill-feeling, and we cannot afford that if we are going to have this Pact.
I rose particularly to ask for this to be done, and for that purpose only, because, having been in Germany myself, I know how important this matter is, and I thought it would be just as well to submit my suggestion to the Government and to this House. You can go throughout the length and breadth of Germany and you will find all Germans will say "No more war; we do not want it, except the next war with France." That is an old sore. I have been out of Germany for the last two years, and I left there when the French forces were going into the Ruhr. I believe what I have stated is an old sore dating from the days of Napoleon, and it is aggravated now. But there is no doubt that feeling does exist in Germany to-day, and if we can withdraw all unnecessary provocation, by evacuating Cologne and other places, it will have a, good effect. We find that the French have now announced their intention of 1621 coming out of the Ruhr for the first time, which shows a good feeling, and if we can back up that example of French good feeling by withdrawing the military control, we shall have made a valuable contribution towards that safety which I am sure every hon. Member in this House is seeking.
§ 8.0 P.M
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I wish to offer a word of explanation to the hon. and gallant Member who has just resumed his seat. It is very interesting, coming from him, to have confirmation of the statement made with regard to the disarmament which is taking place in Germany generally. The point I wish to make is, that I believe that Germany, after the German revolution, when the Armistice was declared, did attempt to set up a democratic Government on a very wide basis, and I believe at that time that a great mass of the German people were desirous of setting up a democratic form of government. They widened their franchise and, in my opinion, the growth of the war feeling against France in the last two or three years has been the result of the reactionary policy of the Allies towards Germany, treating her as a sort of outcast, and as a nation not fit to enter the comity of nations. This Debate is a very striking commentary on the statements which have been made with regard to the last War. It is undoubtedly a fact that millions of men died in the four years of the War because they believed that their deaths would conduce towards bringing about in Europe a profound and lasting peace. Those who took the line that the War would not settle the question of peace are strikingly justified by the Debate this afternoon, because it has been admitted that this Pact is based upon fear. The Foreign Secretary has admitted that there is throughout the whole of France a great fear in every workman's cottage and in every peasant's cottage of the war that may come. That is only a confirmation of the line taken by those who say that pacts and alliances bring no security, and that war gives no security, and it would appear that the only reliable thing is an agreement based upon mutual disarmament of the nations of Europe. I am bound to say it seems to me that, so far as we are concerned with France, this Pact offers no security whatever. France takes 1622 no notice of her Allies when it suits her to take her own line, and this White Paper indicates very clearly that most questions that affect France now with regard to Germany are to be left open for her undisputed decision. And what France decides upon, France does. We declared that the French occupation of the Ruhr was illegal, as being contrary to the Treaty of Versailles, but France went on with the occupation. We question many of the doings of France, but France goes on. The Allies' opinion of France makes no difference whatever so far as French action is concerned.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) raised the question of the Saar Valley, and it seems to me perfectly clear that that is a question upon which controversy can very easily arise. There is some question arising as to whether France will ever get out of the Saar Valley, and, if Germany then were to make trouble or raise any questions, the settlement is to be left, I suppose, undisputed in the hands of France herself, and we might actually be embroiled over some question that arose through the illegal breaking of the Treaty of Versailles by France herself. Under the Treaty of Versailles, France is compelled to evacuate the Saar Valley at the end of a given number of years, but some time ago I was passing through that valley, and it was very clear, from what was going on there that the French War Department were making preparations for a continued stay in the Saar Valley, if one were to take notice of the kind of buildings they were putting up for the housing of their troops—cavalry, artillery, and so forth. That is a question that might easily form a bone of contention between Germany and France over the Clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, and might bring this country into war against Germany by means of this Pact.
The Foreign Secretary told us this afternoon that this Pact confines our interference strictly to the western frontiers between France, Belgium and Germany respectively, but there is one question which has been left out of the whole discussion, so far as I can gather up to the present, and which, I think, needs to be dwelt upon. I believe that the danger lies not so much in China, as was suggested a moment or two ago by 1623 the hon. Member for Montrose (Sir R. Hutchison); I believe the danger lies on the eastern frontier of Poland. Up to the present the Allies, very unwisely in my opinion, have to a large extent ostracised Russia. Any policy, any pact, any agreement made between the Western States of Europe that leaves out of consideration the question of Russia, is, to my mind, doomed to failure.
I think it would be admitted on the Government Benches that an attempt to overthrow the present Government of Russia, in order even to re-establish Tsardom, would be looked upon sympathetically by the present Government and their supporters. At least, I have plenty of evidence that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the present Government has done his level best to bring that about. But supposing that were possible—I do not think it is—does anyone think for a moment that the existing frontiers of Poland would remain intact, that the new Government that would arise in Russia would not put in a claim for the restoration of the old Russian frontiers? And if the Poles put up a demand for independence and claimed the support of France, where should we be under those conditions? We should certainly find ourselves embroiled over a question like that; and, even apart from the question of any overthrow of the present Russian Soviet Government, there is always the question that must arise as to the instability and insecurity of the eastern frontiers of Poland with regard to the Russian Republic itself. Those frontiers were drawn quite regardless of race, quite regardless of language, quite, regardless of ethnographic considerations, and they are probably the most unstable and least satisfactory of any of the frontiers drawn since the Armistice of 1918. A difficulty arising there, as between, say, Russia and Poland, invoked by either one side or the other, would certainly bring in France, and we should find ourselves embroiled under this Pact if France called upon us to aid her in any struggle that took place. That is one of the questions that complicate the whole of this Pact.
Historically, I think the word "pact" can be read for "alliance." In the past we have had many alliances, framed and formed for all kinds of purposes, but 1624 they have always led to war. We began the Entente with France in 1904. That arose over the question of Egypt, and there was the mutual question of Morocco, that was hidden at the time. We went on from point to point, and eventually we were landed in the War of 1914. As has been pointed out already this afternoon, that arose over an incident that occurred in the town of Serajevo, in Bosnia, and there were pacts binding the various countries together. Evidence has come to light very recently, revealed by the Government and in books written by the Soviet Government, that goes to show that the plot regarding the murder of the Grand Duke at Serajevo was known to the Serbian Government; the whole thing was being connived at by the Russian Government, and had the connivance, more or less quiescent, of the Serbian Government itself. These things were known to the Austrian Government and to the other Governments concerned, but Sir Edward Grey himself admitted, in the negotiations that took place, that he was not concerned with the details of the quarrel, but was bound by other considerations
Pacts and alliances may be made for certain definite and well-defined causes or reasons, but, with the lapse of time, other questions arise, and nations find themselves embroiled for quite other purposes than they had originally supposed. This Pact, to my mind, is a danger from every point of view. If we were wise, we should rely upon the League of Nations, and leave pacts and alliances severely alone. I am convinced that there is no safety or security to be gained by pacts of this description, and I should believe more in the sincerity of those who are drawing up the Pact if they laid it down that its acceptance implied at once the beginning of all-round disarmament so far as the signatory States were concerned. It would be a guarantee of good faith if Great Britain and France began to disarm. Germany is already disarmed, and, if we brought Russia into the comity of nations and made the same suggestion to her, there would be no force in Europe that could stand against the moral lead that would be given by this country. I should believe in the sincerity of those who are attempting to bring about pacts, of either a bilateral or a unilateral character, if in those pacts it 1625 were laid down that they should be based upon the acceptance of all-round and mutual disarmament.
At any rate, this point should be borne in mind. There will arise in this country, sooner or later, a Government that will repudiate pacts of this description. It may be that that will not come in the course of the next four or five years, but it will come sooner or later. A Government will arise that will repudiate all alliances and all pacts, and so far as I am concerned, I shall do my level best inside the party with which I am connected to urge that on their coming into power on the next occasion—which may be sooner than some hon. Members opposite think—we should as a Government repudiate this Pact if it be entered into, because of the danger it brings to our people generally—the danger of universal war, with all that war implies.
We are now going through a most terrible period, which should induce everyone to make every effort that is possible to do away with the arbitrament of war and rely upon reason and common sense, and if, instead of establishing pacts and forming alliances between groups—which are always dangerous and have been proved to be fatal to the cause they were supposed to be framed to support—we were to use the League of Nations as a basis for attempting to build up a United States of Europe, in which frontiers will tend to be obliterated and disappear and general interests will take the place of partial interests, which, economically and from almost every point of view, is becoming the one essential and necessary factor in human life and development, that, to my mind, is the most fruitful stage of development. The nation that takes that line and begins to develop in that direction will serve humanity far more than by aiding and abetting attempts to build up pacts and alliances for the purpose of maintaining peace, but ultimately destroying what they are intended to maintain, and landing the signatories and the nations of the world as a whole in war with all its horrors.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and, 40 Members being present—1626
The Debate we have had I am sure will have done a great deal to remove the misapprehension and misunderstanding which has existed with regard to this White Paper. We have had every class of argument brought up except the one from which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) entirely dissociated himself, and that was the argument of isolation. That has not come up. Therefore, I think we are entitled to assume that it is no longer practical politics either for Members in this House or for writers in the Press on foreign affairs to talk as if it were possible for us to become a nation without any concern with the rest of Europe. The hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. Ponsonby) in his optimistic and cheerful speech, marshalled the arguments against sectional agreements. My hon. Friend the Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) raised the question of the balance of power and the revision of treaties. I should like to deal for a moment with the hon. Member for Brightside and his sectional pacts. He seemed to have forgotten Article 21 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, which definitely recognises the usefulness of such sectional agreements. In looking over the world we might almost say it is like a lot of children out in a storm—little groups of children huddled together for warmth or companionship—and some benevolent old gentleman is coming along with a very large umbrella as soon as the rain begins to fall. That is the analogy of sectional agreements. You have small groups of nations gathering together for warmth and friendship, and you have the big umbrella of the League of Nations, which we firmly believe will keep out the rain when the tempests arrive.
A further point, made by my hon. and gallant Friend and also by the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Wallhead), was that this agreement, if it comes to an agreement, does not sufficiently take into account the necessity for disarming by the countries, of the world. There, again, I think the two hon. Members have perhaps unconsciously forgotten Article 8 of the Covenant of the League, which definitely lays down that the maintenance of peace requires a reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety, and, naturally, no 1627 nation will do that unless it is secure. If you get security now out of an agreement founded on these general principles, you will have the opportunity to disarm, and, indeed, you will have under the Covenant the opportunity for the Assembly—because it is laid down that members of the League recognise the necessity for disarmament—to bring it into play.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
What I would ask for is that it should be made obligatory. If the Pact is accepted and security is given under the Pact—and it is agreed that you can give security—all-round disarmament should become obligatory upon the signatory nations.
That is a very good point, and there is no particular reason why it should not be brought into the Pact. We have not now got the Pact. We are only discussing principles for the foundation, and if we can get the nations to agree to that, I am perfectly in agreement with, the hon. Member. Nothing would be more desirable. The curious thing is that the second article of the answer of the French Government, is the one that has caused most trouble to the leaders of the Opposition parties. First of all, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. (Mr. Lloyd George) maintained that the phrase in the first paragraph prevents any modifications of the Peace Treaties. To my mind, all that means is that it could not be a quid pro quo for this part of the arrangement that we should say the peace treaties must be modified. Of course they can be modified. There again the hon. Member forgets the Covenant of the League of Nations. If you are talking about a Pact, which is to be founded on that document within the four walls of the League of Nations, surely it is necessary to be completely conversant with what the Covenant says, and there again you have Article 19 of that Covenant, which deals with the question of the revision of Treaties. The Leader of the Opposition had some difficulty with regard to the last Section of that Clause, a difficulty which was curiously enough shared by His Majesty's Government, and about which inquiries were made of the French Government. The answer of the French Government is on page 16: 1628The reservation … which has special reference to the Clauses which do not directly concern the Allied Powers and thus specially covers Austria and Sleswig.We must remember all the time that this is only the groundwork for future arrangements, and as such it certainly commands respect, and the speakers from the Opposition side have certainly made the very mildest of criticisms against it. Our whole policy, of course, and the whole policy of everyone, is to develop the influence of the League of Nations, and even the isolationists would have to get up and say they would have none of it. What section of public opinion is there in the country which would definitely say we should cut ourselves adrift from it? We are already far too much mixed up with it, not only in political but also in international labour matters, in questions of health and sanitation and also in questions of literary importance. We cannot cut ourselves adrift from it. Therefore, let us do all we can to build it up.
This arrangement is founded on the ideals of the League of Nations. It commands more support, perhaps, anyhow in certain quarters of the House, than did the Protocol. Let us make use of it during the dangerous and intermediate period between now and the time when the League of Nations ideal has entirely captivated the imagination of the world. There is a dangerous time, and an agreement of this kind is one of the ways to bridge over that gap. If we can make things secure for a few years the youth of the world will have got to know something of the international ideals of the League of Nations. In the meanwhile let us trust to this and let us not reject this merely on the ground that I have heard described in many quarters, that there is no use in making any treaty with Germany in view of the events of 1914 and the "scrap of paper." That is a very false argument which should be combated, because, whatever one's personal feelings might be about Germany owing to the War, the whole foundation of the peace of the world, such as it is at present, rests upon the signature of Germany. It is only by the signature of Germany that the Treaty of Versailles has any validity at all, or, indeed, the Covenant of the League of Nations, which has to deal with the relationships of other countries. Moreover, that 1629 particular "scrap of paper"—treaty, if one might so call it—was signed in 1839 It did survive for 75 years, including the very grave, difficult times of 1870, when it was very nearly assailed by both the belligerents. If we in this House could be assured that the legislation we pass was going to be good for 75 years, we should have very good reason to be proud of ourselves. If such a treaty as this were to last anything like that time, we should certainly have done something for the good of future generations and to save, anyhow, our children from the dangers and difficulties which came upon us during the War.
This is a golden opportunity. This is really our last chance. Whatever the political reasons may have been, we have turned down previous arrangements. I am not blaming anyone; but we destroyed the Treaty of Mutual Guarantee. The Protocol has gone. Do not let us reject something else now, without taking it into the most serious consideration of which we are capable. I cannot help thinking that you, Mr. Attlee, like myself and others, when we were children, had a toy which was a kaleidoscope. When you looked through it, all the colours were jumbled up and hopeless; but when you happened to give a jolt with your arm they came out into the most beautiful of patterns. The world is a little like that to-day. It is all jumbled and hopeless, but we feel that the little jolt that has come from Germany—that can never be stressed too much—is the one thing that is going to bring back the kaleidoscope of the world into a beautiful pattern, in which peace and security will be the predominating colours.
§ Mr. RENNIE SMITH
The hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken emphasised the value of the Pact. It seems to me that in the next few years, in the terms of transition, the danger is that the Pact may become a substitute for the complete League of Nations, which should be increasingly the central thought of all of us who are wanting to build up a healthy foreign policy.
I do not think that a Pact between three nations can ever take the place of a Covenant between 56.
§ Mr. SMITH
Let us pursue that a little further. This is not the first time 1630 that we have tried to establish Pacts, and this is not the first time that we have discussed agreements amongst the nations of the world, and I think history would substantiate the point of view that I am now trying to put forward. I was very much interested in the argument of one of the hon. Members on the other side, who has had what many of us envy—namely, a great field of experience on the Continent. The contribution that he brought to the Debate was very helpful, I think particularly from the point of view of helping us to deal with real facts and real events and real circumstances in our discussions of foreign policy, instead of using so much, as we are apt to do, abstract words like Germany and Austria and Great Britain, and building up inside those words a whole series of contents which are far removed from reality.
The Foreign Secretary this afternoon discussed the situation which has been developing for the last six years, and emphasised the fact that we have now reached a very important stage in the post-War building up of our foreign relations What impressed me most about his speech was the sense of pathos with which he faced the whole situation; the fact that he admitted that six years after the conclusion of the World War, six years, broadly speaking, after the establishment of a peace that was to guarantee all the good things that we are now discussing, the distress among the great nations as well as the lesser nations of Europe and the world is deeper to-day than it was six years ago. He even went so far as to say that the likelihood of military conflict among the nations of the world seems nearer and more threatening to-day than it was six years ago. That is a statement, penetrating under the material of Treaties, which gives tremendous point and tremendous seriousness to our discussion.
We have been trying for the last six years to reach some kind of ordinary civic relations in the civilisation of the world. We thought that the Peace Treaty would do that, but we found we had to supplement that Treaty by all kinds of subsequent endeavours; and here we are confessing that from the practical, constructive statesmanship point of view we have most of the work still to do, that civilisation is to-day 1631 running in the direction of war, and, notwithstanding the efforts of all the great countries of Europe, the problem is really more acute in 1925 than it was immediately after the settlement in 1919. We have rejected a number of schemes, including that of the Protocol, and we are confronted with the fact that the League of Nations, from the point of view of efficient ordering and regulating of this world's affairs in its military, economic and broad social happenings, is a league of very restricted powers. We have turned down the very important proposition which emanated from that body last year, in the terms of the Protocol, and we are coming now to a stage where we are asking whether it would not be possible for some of the fragments of the world's civilisation to come together in terms of the proposed Pact, upon conditions still to be worked out in detail.
As a Member of the Labour and Socialist party I want to offer a few criticisms along the lines which have been made in this Debate. The first exception that I take to the proposed Pact outlined in the White Paper is that the Pact will make the existing territorial and civic relations among the nations of Europe more stable and more incapable of alteration than they are even now under the terms of the existing Treaty of Versailles. In the last six years some of our difficulties have grown out of the fact of the Peace Treaty itself. We have had the difficulties with regard to the Ruhr and with regard to the problem of reparation ever since 1919, and though we may now in formal terms from the point of view of the Treaty say that we have brought the problem of reparation to a successful issue in the Dawes Report, yet hon. Members will agree that there is a vast difference between the form of a treaty and the actual settlement of the whole matter of reparation. This problem is yet a matter for the future. We have had difficulties in the Saar Valley. A great many of the fundamental problems in Europe from the point of view of statesmanship and foreign policy have grown up directly out of the Peace Treaty itself.
It has been argued by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and others that in the actual Treaty it should be possible to modify that Treaty in the light of developing events and in the light of the 1632 wisdom which experience brings. As I understand the new proposal contained in the reply sent to Germany, we propose to make it increasingly difficult to secure by arbitration or subsequent discussions any alteration in the provisions of the Peace Treaty itself. This correspondence goes very much out of its way to emphasise that which we can begin to describe as the sacredness of the detailed findings of the Peace Treaty of 1919. In the general introduction they say:Wishing to give to all the States concerned supplementary guarantees of security within the framework of the Treaty of Versailles,and so on. Then in Clause 1 we have the statement:Now the Allied States are members of the League of Nations and are bound by the Covenant of the League which involves for them clearly defined rights and obligations with the object of maintaining general peace. The German proposals no doubt lay claim to the same ideal but no agreement could be achieved unless Germany on her side assumes the obligations and enjoys the rights laid down by the Covenant of the League.And most important from the point of view of stabilising and removing from subsequent discussion and arbitration the conditions denned in the Peace Treaty, is the sentence contained in paragraph 2 in the reply sent to Germany, which reads:The search for the guarantees of security which the world demands cannot involve any modification of the Peace Treaties. The agreement to be concluded ought not therefore either to imply a revision of these Treaties or to result in practice in the modification of the conditions laid down for the application of certain of their Clauses.There is a strong fundamental objection on the part of hon. Members on this side of the House to any proposed pact which is to be built up upon a condition of that kind, because, however much virtue there may be in a pact between the main belligerents in the late War for securing and maintaining pacific development in Europe, I do not believe that any pact can be made which will promote enduring peace on a basis which involves stabilising and removing from the field of arbitration and further discussion the Peace Treaty of 1919. Germany is a great industrial civilisation and, as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has reminded us in his speech, which was a very important and very sub- 1633 stantial criticism of the proposed Pact, German civilisation has taken what I think is regarded throughout the world as a very surprising and bold step in proposing the initiation of this Pact.
We cannot overlook the actual position which Germany occupies in Europe to-day. Prior to 1914 Germany was, as she is to-day, a great industrial civilisation. At the conclusion of the War she was a Colonial Empire. Prior to the War she was the dominant industrial civilisation in Europe. We know how, when the terms of peace were presented, the whole of the German nation without exception protested against what were felt not only by them but I think throughout the whole world to be flagrantly unjust terms of peace. They protested, on the ground of the 14 points specified by the late President Wilson, against their colonies being taken away from them. They said that if there was to be a mandatory system under the terms of peace it was only just that an industrial civilisation like theirs should be entitled to a share in the general process of Empire development throughout the world. They protested against many of the transfers of land and of people, their own kith and kin. They protested, with all the vehemence of which they were capable, against the taking away of tremendous quantities more or less permanently, and partly for a period of years, of the very foundations of their industrial life, coal and iron. They protested against the whole arrangement, particularly of the provisions of the Peace Treaty in Eastern Germany.
Obviously, no thoughtful person can imagine a great industrial civilisation destined in the course of events to reconstruct its life and to develop again an enormous foreign trade, and to require, as it did prior to the War, a market for raw materials and opportunity for development, as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon reminded us, ever being content to accept for all time the economic and colonial provisions of the Peace Treaty of 1919. Therefore, as the ultimate arbiter is not the written terms of a document but the logical development of events themselves, and as it is the wisdom of statesmanship to anticipate the development, and tendencies of civilisation, it is altogether against reason and common prudence and foresight to propose a pact which will 1634 involve Germany in terms which will more rigidly exclude the possibility of reopening friendly discussions for the purpose of arbitration on those very important points which are bound to be the chief cause of trouble and difficulty and the mainspring of war in the coming generation.
My second criticism of this Pact is that, unlike the Protocol, it does not make any specific reference to the question of general disarmament. Hon. Members opposite will appreciate the scepticism of representatives of working men and women in this House when we have propositions put forward which are intended to achieve peace, but which leave out all consideration of general disarmament. We had to face from 1906 to 1914 exactly the same kind of discussion as is now taking place—the aspiration for peace, the will to promote a peaceful development of civilisation. But year after year the armaments of this nation were steadily mounting, notwithstanding that there was a Liberal administration in power and that there was a conference on disarmament. It is one of the firm conclusions of the Labour party that we cannot hope to establish any real measure of security among the great peoples of Europe until we are prepared to face as a definite commitment in any kind of treaty the disarming of ourselves in agreed ratios with other civilisations.
However much virtue can be put into the proposed Pact, I do not think it will have any great reliability for European civilisation so long as two out of three of the main partners to the Pact are enforcing upon the third party a condition of compulsory disarmament. If you have A, B and C, and B and C are steadily building up land, sea and air armaments, and are compelling A, the German nation, to go entirely without armaments, or armaments restricted to 100,000 men and a few ships, I do not see how it is possible for any valuable Pact to be established. Therefore, we who have to advise millions of working men and women who have no connection with high politics, feel very strongly that we are not prepared to commit ourselves to a limited Pact unless there is included in it a definite provision, not that one country only shall disarm but that all parties to the Pact shall maintain equitable conditions of disarmament.
1635 The whole history of the last 20 years shows the danger of partial understandings and pacts. I am very hopeful of the present situation, because Germany, which has been the victim of the Peace Treaty, which has had great Imperial and historic ambitions thwarted, and which is bearing the full brunt of a dictated peace, is coming forward to propose some initiative for removing the causes of suspicion and unrest which are eating out the life of Western Europe. At the same time we cannot help seeing that, even if this Pact were ensured, there still remains the fact that it is a limited Pact, that it can, with the greatest ease, by the development of circumstances and events, become a Pact which, while it may ensure more or less internal peace among the parties themselves, may yet become very easily directed against enemies outside the Pact. It still remains true that Russia and the Far East represent for us problems in many ways similar to those which we were facing from 1902 to 1914. Therefore, there is the fundamental danger, In the whole policy of limited pacts for limited ends, of establishing precisely the situation of a balance of power, not here in Europe only, but throughout world civilisation. We are inclined to maintain very strongly our position that if we must definitely recognise that the days of splendid isolation for Britain are at an end, if we must enter into the arena of the world and into commitments, we are not prepared to enter into limited military alliances of the character now under discussion, but rather to cling to the idea of building up and broadening and strengthening the instrumentality of the League of Nations, based upon a policy of total and universal disarmament, and in that way to associate all nations with the great crusade of peace.
§ Major GLYN
I have listened with considerable interest to the last speaker, but I have yet to learn what is the alternative proposal which he would put forward. All of us recognise that this is the opportunity to take, as Germany has come forward and has made certain proposals. We cannot escape the fact that we and France and Germany are the three great European Powers to whom all the smaller nations look. We may dislike certain terms of the Peace Treaty, but I am sure 1636 that the hon. Gentleman who so criticised the Treaty of Versailles does not mean that he and his party would rip up that Treaty and have ail the small nations plunged into uncertainty.
§ Mr. R. SMITH
I would not rip up any treaty. I would open wide the door to enable negotiation and discussion to take place, so that the Treaty could be modified.
§ Major GLYN
Of course, I accept that explanation. But at the same time the hon. Gentleman, in part of his speech, said that his objection to the Pact was that it was harnessing round the necks of nations the iron-bound ribs of the Treaty which he disliked. There is a great deal to be said for that. If we agree that Germany, France and Great Britain are the three main Powers in Europe, we have outside them Russia and Italy. I would say to hon. Members opposite, in regard to Russia, that there is a fear in the minds of many as to what use Russia is to make of the great force of the Red Army. I would like to see the influence of some of my friends in the Labour movement directed towards securing that the Russian Army will turn its swords into ploughshares rather than remain a great menace to the Middle East and Far East. Then there is the case of Italy. Italy is at the other end of the scale. She has not come into this Pact. She, for the moment, has organised forces which are also strong, and she is guided apparently by different ideas. I only mention these two things because I believe that our mission and the mission that men of all parties wish to see adopted by our country to-day is that we should not bind our people—I am dead against doing so. either in this generation or the generation to come—to the possibility of suddenly finding themselves confronted by a situation over which they have no control whatever, and which would have the effect of plunging our children into that Hades through which we have ail passed. Those who have gone through that experience have surely the right, in this House and outside, to legislate and provide, against the possibility that the children who come after us shall not, by our fault at any rate, have to go through the same experience.
I believe that the Pact which the Foreign Secretary has, so far, pushed forward, in 1637 consultation with the Ambassadors in Berlin and Paris, is a real step in the right direction. It is not perfect; it does not pretend to be perfect. It is but the preliminary to something else, and it is for this House to hammer out a national policy. This is not a party question at all. If we are sincere, we have to recognise the good points in this Pact and try so to model it and shape it that it will be useful. I listened to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition with great interest, and I was sorry to realise that the right hon. Gentleman was not very well. We all know of the services which he rendered to this country while Prime Minister, and we all want to continue, as has been said, to build on that foundation. We cannot afford to slip back, and if this House gives the impression that no instrument of this sort is going to be effective as a stepping stone to bigger things and to making the League of Nations a reality, then it will do something to discourage people all over the world, and certainly in Europe, and such an action will not be understood by our own Dominions. It may be or it may not be, that the Dominions will support this country if a crisis comes. They must be the judges of their own fate as we must be the judges of our own destiny. But I am perfectly sure that if we are loyal to those traditions which we have always held up during the past and if we show that we are not going in for a selfish policy, we shall receive the support of the Dominions. I would draw the attention of the Committee to a sentence in the letter of the Foreign Secretary to the French Foreign Minister in which it is stated:The Pact and its cognate agreements must necessarily be so drafted that, on the one hand, they will give the fullest possible security to all the Powers concerned so long as they abide by their Treaty undertakings, and that, on the other hand, they cannot be invoked by a guilty Power to protect it from the consequences of a wilful breach of its Treaty obligations.9.0 P.M.
It seems to me that that is a very good summary of what we are all trying to do. I do not think any Member of either of the parties opposite would object to that summary of what we are trying to do. We want to make the League of Nations effective. It is not effective now, and it is humbug to pretend that it is. What some of us objected to in the Protocol 1638 was that it placed too great a strain on the League of Nations before the League was strong enough to bear that strain, and the best friends of the League did not wish to see it overborne by having an undue weight thrust upon it. I believe this Pact is a temporary thing leading up to the strengthening of the League of Nations and making that League a reality. I believe the forces which are going to make the League of Nations the effective instrument of our hopes are just those forces which, through many generations, have made our country the great country which it is. I believe that Members of all parties in the House will recognise that in this Pact, though perhaps there are one or two small objections to it, there is much that is worth hanging on to, because we do not know that we shall ever get this chance again.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I did not hear the whole of the speech of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. R. Smith), but I heard sufficient of it to gather one or two of his arguments. He argued that in the past the Liberal Government had been responsible for increasing armaments. That only goes to prove that disarmament, whenever it comes, must be mutual, because as a matter of fact the Liberal Government before the war with Germany, three times set an example of disarmament, and each example of disarmament was followed by a fresh increase of German naval armaments. I think the hon. Member himself rather implied in his speech that disarmament should be mutual and, if so, I agree with him.
§ Mr. R. SMITH
The point I made was that we have compelled Germany to disarm, and therefore we cannot expect to make headway until we follow the policy that we should also disarm.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
Necessarily, having lost the War, and having brought about the War in the first instance, Germany as a nation is more or less under punishment. But I agree that whatever disarmament comes must be mutual, and that the increasing armaments surrounding Germany are objects of fear and suspicion to her. We have had enough speeches from the Opposition to gather their views on one aspect of this question. I understood the Foreign 1639 Secretary to say that, if the Pact is to go through, it must have the support of the country and of all parties. Therefore, any pact which is going to become a treaty will have to fulfil those conditions, and the criticisms which have been made from the Opposition will have to be taken into serious consideration by His Majesty's Government. There is another point. The hon. and gallant Member for Stirling and Clackmannan (Commander Fanshawe) is not present now, but I should like to congratulate him upon a very courageous and informing speech. He was a member of the Military Commission controlling German disarmaments, and he says that the Military Commission is now merely a policy of pinpricks. I rather agree with him. I said the other day in this House that in all essential matters Germany has disarmed. Certainly the Navy will tell you that Germany has disarmed; the Air Ministry will tell you that Germany has disarmed, and, from the point of view of the Army, you have only to consider the powder factories, and these powder factories have been demolished. Therefore, Germany has disarmed.
I have read carefully through the report of the Committee setting out the offences which Germany is supposed to have committed, and I really think that in substance they do not amount to anything, with the single exception mentioned by the hon. and gallant Gentleman of the heavy guns and, as he says, it was due to the opposition of one of our Allies that the heavy gun foundry at Essen has not been demolished. He did not follow up his argument, however. If his argument be correct that Germany has not defaulted and has disarmed, and that the Military Commission is a policy of pinpricks, it follows that we have no right whatever to continue in non-fulfilment of our Treaty obligations by occupying the Cologne area. There is one other point I wish to make in regard to this policy. To my mind it is essential that the Empire should be brought in with it. If one of our great Dominions objects, I think you are working towards the disunion of the Empire, if you go in without that Dominion. That, to my mind, is absolutely vital. The alliance of the nations of the British Commonwealth is infinitely more important to us than any Pact.
1640 Another point that I think is essential is that we should do nothing whatever to imperil that alliance, to which we all look forward in the future, with the great American nation. Jefferson was an advocate of that alliance, and he favoured it for the sake of peace in the Atlantic. I urge that alliance for the sake of peace in the Pacific, and if we are to go making Pacts, which, to use an expression which was a favourite one of the late Sir Wilfred Laurier when Prime Minister of Canada, draw us into the vortex of European armaments, we are bound to travel further and further from any possibility of an alliance with the great American nation. Another point, which has been made by different Members on both sides of the House, is the question of how far this Pact is associated with disarmament. To my mind, it is absolutely essential that it should be a certainty that a reduction of armaments should accompany any Pact into which we enter. What are the facts of the situation in regard to France? We have all thought that we were going to have a conference summoned by America to bring about a reduction of armaments, but suddenly all talk about this conference has been damped down. We know that this country is not the obstacle, and the only conclusion that one can possibly draw is that France is the obstacle.
There have been two speeches made by Reporters of the French Naval Budget in different years. A year ago the Reporter of the French Naval Budget said that the object of France was to turn the Western basin of the Mediterranean into a French lake. That is a definite militarist policy which is not in any way aimed at gaining security from Germany, Then there is the Reporter of the French Naval Budget this year, and he says that France was tricked in connection with the Washington Conference, and that before ever she enters into another Conference she must make sure of what is going to be proposed at that Conference, and that she should accept nothing less than this, that all the great Powers should have equal navies Nothing is said about armies. Obviously, if that be the point on which France is insisting, we shall never have a conference with France in it.
We know perfectly well that France nearly wrecked the Washington Conference. We know perfectly well that 1641 France—and M. Briand was the Minister representing France at that meeting—signed the Root Resolutions. The Root Resolutions were for the prevention of the horrors of submarine warfare, and now we have also to consider the horrors of air warfare. All the nations of the world that took part in the Washington Conference have ratified those Root Resolutions, which are directed against this cruel system of warfare, except France, and in France it is still hung up, and we hear nothing whatever about any conditions attached to this Pact with France to the effect that she shall help on disarmament and ratify the Root Resolutions. We know perfectly well, as the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Rennie Smith) said, that much that France has done has been an object of suspicion to Germany. We ourselves vehemently criticised the Ruhr occupation. I think the description given by the Government of the day was that it was grave and disastrous, but it is far better, to my mind, that we should speak quite frankly of these things. Instead of that, the King's Speech, in 1923, simply put in a paragraph saying that our policy was that of acting in such a way as not to add to the difficulties of our Allies. If that be the policy by which we are to meet the militarist and imperialist ambitions of France, we shall never make any headway at all.
We are going to get forecasts in connection with this Pact, and I would like to draw attention to the forecast which the late Mr. Bonar Law made, as Prime Minister, on 10th November, 1922, at the Lord Mayor's banquet. He then knew that the French policy was the occupation of the Ruhr, through they did not proceed to carry it out till the following January, and in the full knowledge of that policy, he said:I, for one, can look forward to the future, not only with hope, but with complete confidence.That forecast was certainly not verified, and we ought to be very careful as to how far we enter into Pacts and other Alliances based on forecasts, because, after all, although this is called a Pact of mutual guarantee, it is in essence and purpose an alliance with France. No one can for one moment suppose that we shall ever go to war with France on behalf of Germany, but a great many people believe that we may have to go to war with Germany, under this Pact, on behalf of 1642 France. If it be the intention of the Government not to go forward with this Pact unless it has the assent of the country and the assent of all parties, when we come to the Treaty it will obviously be their intention that when the Treaty comes into this House the Whips march out. Then we shall really get the verdict of the country on the whole thing, and if it be a good Pact we shall enter into it, but we cannot possibly judge it until the Treaty is made.
There is one question I should like to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and it has not been asked in this Debate up to the present. That question is: Will there be a military convention accompanying the Pact? It is a very important question, because, if the Committee will refer to the negotiations for an Anglo-French Pact which were published in the Blue Book, called, I believe, a White Paper, Command Paper No. 2169, in the year 1924, they will see that it formed a very important part of those negotiations as to whether or not there should be a military convention, and our own representative in Paris, in Letter No. 56, 25th November, 1923, recorded what took place in the Debate in the French Chamber of Deputies. He said:It appeared from statements made by M. Briand and M. Poincaré that they were in agreement that the offer made by Mr. Lloyd George was unacceptable, as it was not accompanied by any offer of a military convention. M. Poincaré stated that Mr. Lloyd George had refused such conventions even before M. Poincaré had formed his Cabinet. At a meeting in Paris after the break-up of the Cannes Conference, Mr. Lloyd George had stated that military conventions were impossible. Some discussion ensued on the relative value of a Pact with and without a military convention, at the conclusion of which M. Poincaré agreed that a Pact of the latter nature might have value, but would contain an element of danger in that the other party might be tempted to impose certain measures of disarmament on France without offering any compensating securities.I think that shows conclusively that the French policy of that day, at any rate, both of M. Briand and M. Poincaré and the Chamber that they had to satisfy, was one of having a military convention accompanying the Pact, and also that they were not willing to accompany the Pact with disarmament under the conditions of that day. I do not know what the situation is at the present day, be- 1643 cause we have had no communication from France published on that point. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Leaders of the two Oppositions in this House attributed most of the evil in Europe to fear. It is due to fear and, I should add, suspicion as well, and, as far as Germany is concerned, it is necessary that it should be said quite frankly that there is reason for fear and suspicion. Apart from the Ruhr occupation, apart from what is going on in the Saar Valley, apart from the fomenting of the Nationalist movement in the occupied provinces, we have the Report of the French Military Commission in 1922 asking for economic as well as military supremacy, and there have been many other pieces of evidence to show that it was the determined policy of France to cripple Germany economically, as well as in a military sense, which has already been done.
I believe that the only cure for the difficulties in Europe is compulsory arbitration, accompanied by a reduction of armaments. I know that people say, "Oh, if you have compulsory arbitration, you must have a military force to enforce it." I am not so sure about that. What is perfectly evident is that all nations are much more susceptible to public opinion than ever they were in the past, and that international public opinion in the world, if it is in agreement, is sufficient in itself very largely to restrain a wrong-doer. After all, compulsory arbitration and the prohibition of carrying arms is the way we maintain civilisation within the nation. We want to introduce that as far as we possibly can among nations themselves.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I did not decide to enter into the Debate until the last speaker but one asked a pertinent question, "What about the Red Army? Would the Russians turn their swords into ploughshares? "Then he asked what they were going to do with that army. One might ask in the same manner, what is Great Britain going to do with her Army, and what is France going to do with hers? The position is that there was unwonted aggression against Russia, as a result of which many millions of British capital were spent, and, as has been said, Great Britain had done more to foment civil war in Russia than any of the Allies.
One question I must ask. What is going to be the position if this Pact is 1644 entered into, and the rest of Europe is ignored? We can only get our information about Central Europe from the newspapers, but I should imagine that Poland, being left out of the agreement of the Allies, may be in a worse position, almost, than any country in Europe. A large slice has been taken from her neighbour on the East, and another large slice from her neighbour on the West, and anybody who reads the newspapers can see that in the whole of the Balkans there are alliances and agreements, some for defensive purposes, and some for offensive purposes. I am a very small, humble student of international politics, but I can say this: If there is going to be a five-Power Pact in the West, and the East is left severely alone, there are all the elements for our children or grandchildren to witness a bigger conflagration in the world than there was between the years 1914 and 1918. If there is to be an alliance of five Powers for offensive or defensive purposes in the West, to my, perhaps, immature judgment, there is bound to be a reactionary effect both in the Middle East and in the Far East. The whole of the Balkan States eventually must amalgamate, confederate, or, at least, work together because of the possible danger. And, of course, amalgamation, federation and agreement are made not for immediate danger but for possible future danger. They must amalgamate or federate together to save themselves, and then the ultimate event is going to be that the great Russian Empire—what is left of it, and nobody can afford to ignore it; you cannot shut your eyes and say it is not there, when it is there all the time with its 130,000,000 people—this great Russian Empire will be bound to enter into an alliance with the yellow races.
I foresee, like the ex-Foreign Secretary and the hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. Ponsonby), that the more nations we can draw into a pact or agreement, the better it will be for humanity to-day and for humanity tomorrow. I have got a feeling that while the Red Army may turn their swords into ploughshares it is impossible for them to forget the unnecessary aggression made upon them. I want to suggest, very seriously, that some day, some time, some statesman will have to 1645 recognise there is a Russia. I do not suggest that the 130,000,000 people and the army they have intend aggression, but I think even the hon. and gallant Member who spoke last will admit that even a country which is outcast must have an army in case of aggression against her. I think it is only fair to put that point, and for that reason I have intervened in the Debate.
§ Mr. HURD
There is one aspect of this question which is causing some Members of this House a good deal of anxiety, and I am glad of the opportunity to make a few remarks upon it. It is the Empire aspect. To us it is a matter of very first importance, and immediate practical importance—Are we, the nations of the British Empire, standing together in this matter of foreign policy? We know from answers that nave been given in the House by the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary that the Dominions have been informed of the progress of negotiations, but I gather there has been no reply to or comment upon those communications. I do not know whether they were asked to give their views or not, but, at any rate, it is a significant fact that no comment of any kind, apparently, has come from them showing what their view is of the present proposals. But there is no doubt of the point of view to which expression is given in authoritative quarters in all parts of the Dominions. Their policy, like ours, at the last Election was a policy of home first. We in our Election here interpreted that, as I have no doubt they interpreted it in their various Dominions, as a policy of their own home country, and then home in the larger sense of the British Empire. No one will question, I believe, the devotion of those Dominions to the ideals common to the British. 1914 and onwards proved that conclusively. But I venture to think we must face in this House more than we do the grave, engrossing problems these Dominions have at home, and their natural desire to escape from commitments, so far as they can consistently with their citizenship within the British Empire.
I believe it is true to say that if the crisis of 1914 recurred, we should find the Dominions standing by our side to-day just as they did then. But it is no good blinking the fact that the ques- 1646 tion they are asking themselves is: "Is this Pact really necessary?" They are asking that question all over the Dominions, I believe, but certainly they are doing so in the Dominion with which I am particularly associated, and they are asking the second question: "Are the signatures of the nations of the British Empire"—for that is what it is—"really essential to bring this Pact into existence?" I listened to the Foreign Secretary on that point, and I gathered that his conclusion is that such a guarantee on our part is absolutely essential. Of course, I would not venture to doubt his word. He has come from the centre of discussion, but, from such despatches as reach us, it seems an entirely new spirit has entered into the German mind, an entirely new desire to shake hands with France over the eastern frontier, a new desire to find some new means of peace in Europe. I should like to hear a little more on this part of the question. If there is this new spirit abroad in Europe, is it not possible that these nations may compose their differences without our signature, without bringing us into commitments of a kind that we cannot define very exactly and that we do not know where they will end? I am quite certain, so far as I can understand Dominion opinion, that they are not convinced on this subject; but they are convinced that their first concern is their own problems, the solution of which is dependent upon Empire development. They are convinced, also, I believe, that it is extremely irksome to them to enter into commitments which it is difficult to define and the limits of which they cannot measure. I am quite certain that opinion overseas would welcome from the Foreign Secretary as clear a definition as could be given at this moment of the real extent of the liability implied in this Pact. They signed the Versailles Treaty under patriotic feelings evoked by the War, and they are asking themselves whether the Versailles Treaty and the obligations they entered into then, and the membership of the League of Nations, were not really sufficient to meet the present crisis.
It is a very great disability at the present moment that we should be without means of personal consultation between statesmen from overseas. I 1647 know the efforts that have been made by British Ministers to bring about such personal consultation, but it is a lamentable fact that in great problems of this sort, where it is so essential to our interests that we should work together, we have had no means of bringing about that close discussion across a table which can never be achieved by cable communication. If we are going to pull through our present troubles, we as the British Empire must find a means of tackling this problem of communication, but in the meantime, I do earnestly beg His Majesty's Ministers to fashion their policy in sympathy with Dominion feeling. We cannot afford to be divorced from that feeling. I have heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) say how he trembled to think what would have been the issue in 1914 to 1918 if it had not been for those million men who came to our side from the various parts of the British Empire. I am certain also of this, that Sir Robert Borden in Canada, General Smuts in South Africa, and Mr. Hughes in Australia would tell you that they also tremble to think what would have happened if this country had not taken part in 1914 and the succeeding years. These facts surely show that if we are going to continue our place in the world and to carry on what we are pleased to think our mission, we can only do it if we march together. A great statesman said in this House 100 years ago:For 'Europe' I shall be desirous now and then to read 'England.'Canning said that. I think the day is coming when this House, and especially for those who are charged with the affairs of this nation, must really come to think more and more of foreign affairs and of the great affairs concerning ourselves and Europe in terms of the British Empire and of our absolute necessities as a united people. To me that is a matter of the very first importance; I am sure it is in the Foreign Secretary's mind as strongly as it is in mine, and I wish him success in his efforts to bring about the foreign policy which will commend the fullest sympathy of every one of our Dominions.
§ Brigadier-General CHARTERIS
The Members of the House who have listened to this Debate will realise that such criticism as has been made has been in the 1648 main devoted to two points—is the Pact necessary, and does it involve us in responsibilities which are unduly large for the occasion? The last speaker dealt with the point as to the Pact being necessary. The Foreign Secretary urged in the initial speech in the Debate that it was necessary, and though perhaps it may be rather superfluous for me to add anything to what he has said, yet I remember how it represented itself to me in 1914 from a study of the military problem alone. At that time, had Germany known both that we were committed, and were in a situation to give effect to, our commitment as to taking part in that war, it is reasonable to have some doubt as to whether the War would have taken, place at the time that it did.
It is quite true that Germany and France, apparently now for the first time, realise that their true interests lie in coming to an agreement with one another, and not in relying upon force, but it is equally true, so far as I can see into the minds of the two people, that while each is convinced of his own intention, neither is convinced of the good faith of the other. It is for that reason, to my mind, that a Pact of this kind means a very great advance. If either of these two nations realise that, not necessarily at the first blow or the first word, but when it is established as to which is indeed the aggressor, the whole might of Great Britain will be thrown into the balance against the aggressor, then I think it will certainly think twice before it has recourse to war. We must realise how immensely strengthened is the tendency towards peace.
We have also to think of what is the alternative. Are we to stand aside entirely and leave these two nations to adjust their differences in the atmosphere of suspicion that each entertains of the other—a suspicion thoroughly justified by history and by the recent dealings of both nations since the War? Are we to stand aside, or, on the other hand, seek to bring into the Pact more than is at present involved? If we stand aside, it must be realised perfectly clearly that, in so far as the risk of war is increased, just in that measure is the possibility of disarmament made more distant. So long as these two nations stand opposite one another and war is 1649 in the minds of both, it is clearly quite impossible that any effective measure of disarmament can be made by this country. I, personally, look forward with confidence to some very great measure of disarmament in our own country when conditions are sufficiently advanced for it. So far as I can see, it is only by that means that there can be any effective step towards the readjustment of our economic conditions. If we stood aside at the present moment we should be facing a long vista of years burdened by our present expenditure on armaments, and more than that, burdened by the fear to which the Foreign Secretary referred, almost the certainty, that we should ourselves be involved in any war which takes place in Europe. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) took rather another view so far as I could judge it. He may have only been asking for information but his argument was that we were not ourselves getting sufficient out of the conditions in this Pact. In so far as he argued that as we were to stand by the results of any arbitration, to that extent we ought to have a deciding voice as to who should be the arbitrators, I feel sure that the whole House will agree with him, and we hope that the Foreign Secretary will give the assurance that that is so. But if the argument is that because of the credit and economic condition the requirements of Germany and France are so great that they are bound to accept whatever we dictate, I would urge most strongly that we should not seek to take advantage of that opportunity and endeavour to take anything more than is absolutely necessary for the requirements of the situation? Are our own needs of peace any less?
Reference has been made by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Mackinder) to Russia. There, I think, there lies now a very real danger. It is a danger which to my mind must be very much in the mind of the Foreign Secretary. There you have a, great armed nation, and so long as she is not herself in the comity of the nations, it is perfectly clear that there is not likely to be disarmament in Continental Europe, or in this country, although we are not so intimately concerned with Russia as are other powers. I do not, however, think that that is any reason why the 1650 Pact should not go on now. I do not think the argument sound that because you are not able to introduce a Pact which will cover the whole of Europe that we should not go forward with one which, after all, is going to cover the most important parts. The argument, I should have thought, would rather be that if you do manage to bring about a state of affairs in which we get permament peace as far as Western Europe is concerned then, most certainly, the tendency will spread to the other countries, and ultimately we may find the civilising effect of the state of peace not only in armaments but in the minds of the people of Eastern Europe, and that may bring a result which we all desire.
In the course of his speech there was one point put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs in which he referred to incidents which might bring about war. He gave the instance of Serajevo which brought about the War in 1914, but it is in the knowledge of the whole House that long before the War we were being warned in this House that war was approaching. I think possibly the House will agree with me that it was only Members of this House and Ministers who were themselves blind and deaf to the warnings that were put forward. War is not brought about by these small issues. They may light the actual conflagration but war comes about when the minds of the people are prepared and the whole tendency of their Governments is towards war. They must have been educated up to it. Only when the minds of the Government and the minds of the peoples of the country who are going to engage in war are educated up to war does war start. It seems to be spontaneous and set up by a spark, but it is not so. I favour the Pact. I think it is one which will tend to bring about peace. So far as human judgment can tell I believe that in the countries with whom we are concerned there is a very real desire that a a pact or treaty shall give expression to what is already the settled conviction of the people of the country. In the years immediately after 1919 there was a search for a formula amongst the nations which would express not that which the people had decided they require, but that which the Governments thought they ought to wish. But the search for that formula 1651 was futile because those in power were inclined to go further than the requirements of the moment. There followed all those missions about Europe which have brought no result but disappointment. Now, however, at this moment the conditions are entirely altered. Now we have an adequate expression of the intentions of the people. Surely we are justified in believing that that expression of opinion, although it has been delayed until it appears to have been brought about by economic pressure, is genuine. We have the expression of the opinion of the two nations that they do for the moment, both of them, agree to seek a peaceful issue out of the present situation. Surely, then, we are entitled to accept that as genuine and to take great risks in doing all that is necessary to make that desire have a permanent effect upon the policy of Europe.
I will just say a word or two about the argument used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. It appeared to him that, because the Nationalists on the one hand in France, and on the other hand in Germany were using the same arguments, that in that there was a danger signal. To my mind it is no warning, but rather a sign of encouragement, because it seems to show that the economic question which, after all, is bringing about this state of affairs is becoming prominent in the minds even of the most unlikely of Frenchmen and Germans at the present time. Surely our desire for the relief of the economic pressure which exists, and the unsettled state of the people, leaves us anyhow justified in taking considerable risks in achieving our object. I would ask and would hope that the House will see its way to give its unanimous support to the Pact, even if there be a feeling that it does not satisfy all that we may hope to attain; even if it does involve the country in risks which I think rather we are justified in taking.
If there is a real hope of peace in Europe being brought about by this Pact it is the more justified, because there is hope that by peace in Western Europe that that peace might spread throughout the whole of Europe. Therefore I think the House ought at this time to do its best to strengthen the hands of the Foreign Minister and of the Government in 1652 helping to bring about the acceptance of this Pact.
§ Mr. A. CHAMBERLAIN
I think it would be as well that I should endeavour now to answer in anticipation the final reply of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and that I should endeavour to answer the crucial questions which were put to me earlier in the Debate by some of the first speakers. I would like to express to the Committee my regret that I have not been able to give continuous attendance during the whole sitting, but questions of the kind that were put to me require some consideration and careful thought before they are answered, and apart from that, as the whole House knows, there are urgent matters which an official in my position must deal with, and which cannot afford delay. My first desire, in replying for the Government on this Debate, is to acknowledge the spirit in which it has been conducted in every quarter. I gladly recognise that the inquiries, or the criticisms if you will, which have been addressed to the Government from the other side of the House, above or below the Gangway, have been intended to help the great work in which we are engaged and not to hinder it, to guide the Government wisely in the policy which they are pursuing, and to warn them of dangers that may lie in their path. But more than that, much more than that, I am glad to recognise that not only is there this general desire to help any Government which is trying, in association with other nations, to relieve Europe from the incubus of fear and suspicion under which it has lain for four or five years, and continues to lie, but that there is amongst parties in this House a measure of agreement at least as large as, and perhaps larger than, I had ventured to anticipate in my opening observations. It is common ground amongst us all that, whatever other policy is possible for this Government, a policy of isolation is not possible, and that we cannot dissociate ourselves from the fortunes of Europe, or from the peace of Europe, with any regard to our own interests, our own honour, or our own security; and that if we wish to revert to or to adopt a policy of isolation, our first act would have to be a repudiation of the Covenant and a secession from the League of Nations.
1653 More than that. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition concluded his speech with the enunciation of four points which, he said, it would be well that any British Government should bear in mind in any negotiations into which they might enter. I find myself not only able to accept, but already inspired by, the same principles which the right hon. Gentleman laid down. Let us look at what they are. I was saying when the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition entered just now that I find myself not only in a position to accept his four points, but that those were points which were guiding lights of my own course and the course of His Majesty's Government in what we had done and what we contemplate. Let us look at what they are. He said that no one Power must dominate Europe. I profoundly agree, and I do not exclude my own country; for though, as an Englishman, I believe British domination would be better than anybody else's domination, I believe that any domination by a single Power is fatal to the peace and to the well-being of Europe. The right hon. Gentleman's second point was that the method of alliances is futile if friendship and peace are our object. I said the same thing in different terms in my opening speech. The method of alliances was the method of the Paris peace negotiations was the method of the Cannes Pact, and was the method that applied to that time and the circumstances of that time. But, as I have said, that time is past, we stand in different circumstances, and the method of alliance among certain Powers directed against another Power or another alliance of Powers is not one which any British Government can pursue at this moment, and it is not the policy which we are pursuing. It is not a policy of alliances by one set of Powers against another set of Powers, it is a policy of mutual agreement between Powers who come in contact at specific points, and might come into dangerous contact, to take the precautions that will prevent an explosion at the point of contact. The third point of the right hon. Gentleman, and it is one which all history teaches us, and which I am the last to dispute, was that no great nation can be permanently held in humiliating subjection. It is because we are too close to that position to-day 1654 that I am so profoundly interested in getting out of our present position, and opening up a new and a better and a more peaceful future. Lastly, said the right hon. Gentleman—
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Yes, and I have got it on my notes. His fourth and fifth points are closely connected, and I may be excused for having thought of them as one. Fourthly, said the right hon. Gentleman, we want a British policy. So I felt when I entered on my present office, and my endeavour has been to find the basis for a British policy. By a British policy I mean a policy which is not at the mercy of this or that Parliamentary majority, but is a national policy which is accepted by the nation, and will be applied by all parties, whatever our party fortunes may be. The fifth point was that this British policy should have three objects—security, arbitration and disarmament—and should serve those three objects. Again I am in complete accordance with him. The whole object of the proposal is to produce security and the method by which it proposes to promote security is the method of extended arbitration; the application of arbitration to disputes which might otherwise lead to the application of force; and the effect of this on disarmament is one upon which I think my language perhaps led the right hon. Gentleman to misconceive my intention. I did not mean for one moment to set on one side the idea of an International Conference upon disarmament. This country will join with any great Powers in any conference for the further limitation of naval armaments or for the reduction of land armaments.
What I had in mind in the observations I made was that perhaps the initiative in regard to naval matters, if they are to be treated separately, had better come from that Power to which we owe the summoning of the Washington Conference, which resulted in the first decisive international act of disarmament that the world has seen. If we are thinking of land matters, security is the necessary preliminary, and I would like to point out that this country and the United States have already reduced the land forces to the scale of what is no larger than the police required for the interests we have to guard, and therefore we are 1655 perhaps not in the best position to summon such a conference. I think it is for some other country to take the initiative in summoning an international conference or inviting the League of Nations to do it, and then those countries could come before the Conference or the League of Nations with spontaneous reductions in the armaments which they have hitherto thought necessary for their own safety. The right hon. Gentleman made a criticism that, though I had spoken of a mutual agreement with Germany, an enemy of four years ago, and with nations who were then at war, the language of the note was not mutual but unilateral. I admit that at once, but is that not an obvious necessity? This is not the Treaty of mutual guarantee and this is not the accompanying treaty of arbitration. This is the answer of the French Government after conference and in agreement with its Allies to the German Note. It is, therefore, necessarily a unilateral expression of our views which I trust the German Government will find no difficulty in accepting as a basis for negotiation, but which we are not entitled to put into language that the German Government will accept, or has already accepted, as the result of a common agreement. If there is language indicating that the Note is unilateral it is not to be considered as an indication that the spirit of the agreement will be unilateral, or that the language of the agreement will be anything but mutual, representing equal Powers dealing on an equal footing, and giving a voluntary assent to the undertakings to which they put their names. This Note is one addressed by the French Government to Germany to the terms of which the French Government have previously obtained the assent of His Majesty's Government and the assent of Belgium. I do not know whether, if such a Pact eventuates, it would be confined to those Powers, but ourselves and Germany are the Powers immediately interested in that, and all I wish to say is that there is nothing exclusive in our attitude.
There is a limit quite clearly denned which I have again expressed to-day to any new undertakings or guarantees which His Majesty's Government can give, but if, subject to those limitations, 1656 Italy, when the agreement and the new treaty takes shape, feels herself in a position to associate herself with us, I can only say for ourselves, and I say it with equal confidence for France, and the terms of the German Note authorise me to say it with equal confidence for Germany, we should welcome Italy into our Western pact of guarantee. Be the Powers who enter that Pact greater or fewer, each of them enters the Pact voluntarily and as equals, and there is no obligation which one member, signing the new agreement in which we are proposing to participate, undertakes which does not, in all the circumstances, equally apply to the other parties. It is in its essence, in its nature, and it must be in its language when it is drawn up, not an alliance of one set of nations against another set of nations, but a mutual guarantee amongst those who sign of their peaceful intentions and mutual provision for the preservation of continuous peace, and the cultivation of amity amongst the nations.
I think I have now dealt with the broad issues and I ought now to come to the more specific questions which have been put to me. I will deal with them quite frankly. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs that although in some cases you tread upon delicate ground we must know what we are doing, and to what we are committing ourselves. I have never liked the expression "find a formula." I think it too often means when that phrase is used that the parties are more concerned to find words which do not embody an agreement but conceal a difference, and that would be fatal in any transaction of this kind. Let us be perfectly clear, but, at the same time, the whole Committee will understand that I cannot speak with the exact precision that I could use if I were interpreting or explaining a document which was already in draft. I think, however, I can answer every question put to me by the Leader of the Opposition and by the Leader of the Liberal party, in a way that they will say has fairly met and squarely answered the points which they put. At any rate, that is what I am going to endeavour to do.
The Leader of the Opposition put this as his first specific and test case. Let us assume, he said, that Poland is attacked by Russia, that France, going to the 1657 assistance of Poland, claims transit through Germany, that Germany is unwilling to admit it, resists by force, and war breaks put, what is our position? Surely, the right hon. Gentleman himself will recognise that the question he put to me is not a question concerned with this White Paper, or the new agreements which this White Paper contemplates, but is a question of what will happen under the existing Covenant. These new arrangements give no right to anybody to cross anybody else's territory—none whatever. This right to march across someone else's territory to the assistance of another nation which is wrongfully attacked and in danger is derived, not from anything in the proposals which are now made for the first time, but is embodied in an Article in the Pact.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Yes. Let me say, in parenthesis, that, the sooner we can cease to talk of the new proposals as a Pact, the better it will be, because the French for "covenant" is "pacts." I am afraid the mere fact that, last week and the week before, most of my conversation was conducted in French, makes it difficult for me to remember that the League of Nations is the League and not the Society, and that the Covenant is the Covenant and not the Pact.
At any rate, this right, in any circumstances whatever, to move your troops through another country to the assistance of a third country that is attacked, derives, not from our new proposals, but derives, if at all, from the existing provisions of the Covenant. It derives from the Covenant, under the conditions of the Covenant. It cannot derive from anything else, and the new proposals give it no extension, and alter in no circumstances the conditions under which it can be invoked. What are those conditions? If danger of war is imminent, the Council takes the matter into consideration. If it fails, and finds that someone is in the wrong and is the aggressor, and that the world is to be called in to protect the nation which is injured against the wrong which the other nation does it, first of all, if that other nation, the wrong-doing nation, be a member of the League, the provisions of Article 16 of the Covenant have to be exhausted. If the wrong-doing nation be not a member 1658 of the League, it has to be invited to take its place at the League for that purpose under Article 17. It is only when the League has exhausted methods of conciliation, has found them unavailing, and invites all its member nations to render what assistance they can to succour the injured and protect him against the aggressor, that any question of this right to march across another nation's territory can arise. Is there a living soul in this House, in this country, in France, or in Germany, that imagines that any military authority would entrust the armies of its country to the mercies of a long line of communications through someone else's territory, unless he were quite certain that that someone else was wholeheartedly his friend before he embarked on that course?
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I apologise for interrupting, but supposing that France—this is my supposition—has a treaty with Poland to defend Poland, that treaty will then come into operation, and where are we?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
We are where we are now. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to understand quite clearly that, in the mind of His Majesty's Government, there is no licence to anyone to make it possible to cross another country's territory to the assistance of someone else except the licence under those conditions which are embodied in the Covenant, and where the invitation to do so is given by the League of Nations.
I now come to the right hon. Gentleman's second question. He asked, shall we be bound to enter a war because Russia and Poland come into dispute? We shall have no obligation, if these new proposals go through, except those obligations which we have already incurred as signatories of the Covenant. Incidentally, the right hon. Gentleman drew a contrast between our position if the new proposals matured and our position as it would have been if the Protocol had been passed, and I think he himself will recognise that the contrast which he drew was not quite fair. He said that under the Protocol, at 1659 every step we toot, we should have had the proceedings under our own control. No, Sir. Under the Protocol, under the conditions which it was attempted to define, but which we cannot define, we might have been at war because a majority of the Council declared war. We had not control over that. There was no unanimity for the declaration under the Protocol. Unanimity was only required for the making of peace after war had been declared.
Now I come to his third point, which was equally raised by the Leader of the Liberal party. It was raised in connection with the second and third paragraphs of Section 2 on page 49. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said: "This infringes the letter of M. Clemenceau to the German Government when he transmitted to them the terms of the proposed Treaty of Peace. This closes the door to the possible eventual revision of the territorial arrangements of the treaty which was contemplated at that time and in M. Clemenceau's letter and is embodied in Article 19 of the Covenant." That is an entire misapprehension. Neither the second nor the third section has any such effect. What does this third section do? It says:The Allies cannot give up the right to oppose any failure to observe the stipulations of these Treaties,to which they have been parties. That is an inherent right in the signatory of every treaty. The violent one-sided abrogation of a treaty, or the right to violate it one-sidedly without actual recourse to violence, is a right which the Government of this country have always refused, and I imagine always will. But to assert our inherent right to defend if we will, and protect if we will, treaties to which we were parties does not in any way derogate from the provisions of those treaties themselves or from Article 19 of the Covenant, which is embodied in the Treaty of Versailles. All I said about that was that whilst statesmen should look ahead, it is folly for them to pretend that they know all the future or that they can tell at any one time what will be the mind of the world and the interest of the world at some remote period, but that no one serves the cause of peace by suggesting that you should now tear up the Treaty of 1660 1919 or attempt to re-write it No one serves the cause of peace by suggesting that Article 19, or for the matter of that Article 80, was intended for application at this time or ought to be or could be met if they were appealed to at this time by anything but a refusal on the part of all those concerned to alter the Treaty basis under these Articles. The Treaties must be the basis of any future scheme of arbitration. The revision of the Treaties, if there is to be a revision, must be by friendly negotiation and agreement between those immediately concerned or by recourse to Article 19 and the intervention of the League. The only basis for any arbitration is the territorial status quo and the public law of Europe as constituted at this moment. Facts arising out of it, difficulties arising out of it are proper subjects for arbitration, but you cannot agree to submit to a Court of Arbitration the question whether my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs ought to have signed the Treaty of Versailles or not, or whether in signing it he ought to have made it different from what it is. Obviously, that is not a question that we can submit to arbitration. The only basis on which we can proceed is the basis of the acceptance of the present Treaty as the starting point of any arbitration that will take place.
The fourth question put to me was, will all disputes arising out of this Pact be dealt with by the League under the Covenant? I would draw the attention of the Committee to the answer to one question which I put to the French Government for elucidation of their first intention. It appears on page 18, paragraph 8, in the communication made to me by the French Ambassador on the 22nd May:In placing the whole of the guarantee pacts and agreements under the auspices of the League of Nations, it is not our object to create for the other members of the League of Nations the same obligations as for the signatories of the agreements. Our intention was merely to place the agreements to be come to under the high moral authority of the League of Nations in order to enable the League, in case of need, to establish the legitimacy of action undertaken in accordance with the terms of these agreements and the conformity of 6uch action with the Covenant, and the very principles on which the Covenant rests.We preserve the obligations of membership of the League and the obligations 1661 and the rights of the Covenant intact for all purposes and for all the signatories. The moment a difference of opinion arises among the nations, the first thing to be done is for the nations to try to settle the dispute by ordinary diplomatic means. The second procedure which would be effective in the event of the agreements being entered into, and their having arbitration courts, would be to refer their dispute to those arbitration courts. It is only if all that machinery breaks down that the League is to come in and apply the machinery contemplated by the Covenant for a dispute which has reached such proportions that it menaces the peace of the world.
The fifth question put to me by both right hon. Gentlemen, though in different words, was, what is the merit of the words used in paragraph 3, Section 4, on page 50 of the White Paper? I venture to think that if they will read carefully that Section they will find the explanation that they seek in the terms of the Section itself:To give full effect to these two Treaties,"—That is, the suggested Treaties of Arbitration for the settlement of all disputes between France and Belgium on the one side and Germany on the other—their observance ought to be assured by the joint and several guarantee of the Powers which also participate in the territorial guarantee contained in the Rhineland Pact, so as to bring this guarantee into immediate operation"—I think it is those words which have excited a little anxiety on the part of both right hon. Gentlemen—if one of the parties refusing to submit a dispute to arbitration or to carry out an arbitral award resorts to hostile measures.This guarantee is to be brought into immediate operation if in defiance of the Treaties of Arbitration one of the signatories of those Treaties resorts to hostile measures, and the other Powers unite in defence against that hostile action. The letter goes on:When one of the contracting parties, without resorting to hostile measure, fails to observe its undertakings the Council of the League of Nations shall propose what steps shall be taken to give effect to the Treaty.Then my right hon. Friend—not that I have any enemies in this House, but I have been, and can never forget it, a colleague of the right hon. Gentleman in 1662 very difficult times—said, "Let us make clear what we are guaranteeing," and he put to me a series of questions. For example, he says, supposing Cologne is to be evacuated—as I hope it will be, and as it will be with the good will which I now anticipate on the part of the German Government, as I hope it will be within a couple of months, and as I know it can be with good will on both sides—who decides whether the evacuation conditions for the second and third zone are fulfilled? If any doubt arises as to whether the disarmament conditions are fulfilled, I would recall that from the moment that the present Military Control Commission is withdrawn from Germany, as it will be when those conditions are fulfilled which enable us to withdraw from Cologne the disarmament of Germany is placed under the guidance of the League, and it is for the League to tell us whether they have been fulfilled or not. If, on the other hand, my right hon. Friend means the Reparation Clauses, then the decision will be taken in accordance with the new procedure carefully safeguarded and hedged round with provisions against abuse, which are embodied in the negotiations that followed upon the Dawes Report. It is a severe catechism to which I have been subjected, and I hope that I am dealing with it frankly and to the satisfaction of those who put it to me. What, says my right hon. Friend, would be the position if at the expiration of the Treaty period the Saar votes for re-union with Germany and France refuses to evacuate it.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Or suppose there is any question as regards the fairness of the plebiscite, or that any dispute arises with regard to the evacuation of the Saar in reference to any of the conditions, is that referable to arbitration under this Clause?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
By whom is the plebiscite to be held? By the League of Nations. It is for the League of Nations to decide whether the plebiscite was a fair plebiscite and what the plebiscite decided, and the decision of the League on that point will be binding on us all, and no British Government will take action to support anyone defying the League, and may I say that no French Government—really we are considering impossibilities—would resist such a decision of the League, for to resist such a 1663 decision of the League would really be to declare war on the League itself. These are contingencies which ingenious minds can invent ad infinitum. They are not really the contingencies of practical politics. The conduct of the plebiscite is in the hands of the League. The decision of the plebiscite or the definition of the meaning of the plebiscite is in the hands of the League, and no party, ourselves or any other, would venture to defy the decision which the League reaches.
The whole object, or, rather, the primary object, of this agreement is to avoid the danger of war, and to secure peace by insisting and agreeing that all those questions which, in other circumstances and without any machinery for their peaceful settlement might lead to war, shall have such machinery provided, and that arbitration shall produce a settlement which, without arbitration, could be reached only by force of arms. I believe that I have dealt with every question of importance, every test question, put to me by the Leaders of the two parties opposite. I have dealt with them, I hope, with precision and with clearness. I only say in conclusion, that I thank the House profoundly for the consideration that they have shown to me and to His Majesty's Government, that I appreciate the help which their speeches and their suggestions and their criticisms will give to the Government in its future course, that I believe, as they believe, that we are at a critical point in our history, and that we have, in this generation, in this year and in these months, the future of the world, the future of our own land and of our race, in our hands. We will strive, my colleagues and I, to benefit by the suggestions which have been made, by the criticisms which have been offered, and we shall endeavour to conduct these coming conversations and negotiations in such a spirit that the ultimate outcome will be national unity in the work of peace at home and security and stability for the nations of Europe as a whole.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
At the beginning of his speech the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs asked us not to debate this matter from the point of view of party, but to remember that if ever there was a necessity for really national action, this is the 1664 necessity and this is the time to show a national and united front. I do not think anyone who knows Europe would dream of attempting to make a debating speech, or would dream of scoring points in a discussion of this character, or would dream of anything but attempting to get at the truth and contributing what one can contribute to the general well-being of the community in the great crisis through which it is now passing. Yet, having said that, I find myself absolutely unable to accept the conclusions of the right hon. Gentleman and the standpoint of the Government. The Government is not faced simply with an alternative as between the Pact and conditions as they are. There is a third alternative which the Government itself has rejected and I venture, on behalf of the party I represent, to call attention to some of the points in the rejected scheme and to suggest that the rejected scheme is infinitely better in our interests than the scheme which the Government is prepared to accept. It must be remembered that Great Britain was the country which prevented the Protocol at Geneva from being accepted, and if one can give a few moments to a description of the provisions of the Protocol, we may see exactly the difference between that instrument and the proposed Pact.
The Protocol provided certain very definite things. Its first provision was, in effect, that war was made, so to speak, a matter of outlawry. It defined aggression in a very simple way. People were asked whether they were or were not prepared to submit their disputes to arbitration. If they were not, they were considered the aggressors—a simple and effective way of defining aggression. The Protocol secured, in effect, the arbitrament of reason as against the arbitrament of the sword. It definitely laid down the date for the calling of a disarmament conference which would be held in conditions quite different from those suggested by the Foreign Secretary—a disarmament conference attended by nations who had the guarantee from other nations that no aggression would take place against them, a guarantee which would give every encouragement to proceed with disarmament as quickly as possible. Finally, if there were no disarmament conference there would be no Protocol at all. Think of what that would mean to a nation like ours. Think 1665 of what it would mean to a nation like France which is burdened with a huge Army, a considerable Navy, and an extraordinarily large Air Force. We in this country are paying at least eight and a-half times as much for our armed forces as we are paying for Old Age Pensions, unemployment, the provision of work and everything that comes under the heading of health services. I think eight and a-half times is the amount paid for the armed forces in comparison with all the social services I have mentioned, and surely one of the principal objects of a Government ought to be so to work that this crushing burden can be reduced. The Protocol would have given the best guarantee of a reduction in armaments and would have given the nation a chance to maintain its social services and to put in place of work for destruction, work of actual construction.
If one really took the amount of expenditure directly and definitely caused by the War, there would be a sum which would be staggering in comparison with the money we spend on the social services that really go towards the health and comfort of the people. The Protocol would have helped us enormously, not only in this way, but by bringing the nations of Europe into closer possible contact and, if I may say so, into closer friendship than ever before, and the Protocol, in itself, was merely dotting the i's and crossing the t's and making effective the provisions of Article 16 of the Covenant itself. It was to give life to the actual provisions that the countries which were signatories to the Treaty of Peace had already decided upon. It was argued that our responsibilities were very great, but let it be remarked that France, the country that has been so greatly criticised, even during this discussion, announced, through her representatives, that she was quite prepared to consider any amendments suggested by the British delegation that were necessitated by the peculiar and particular position of the British Empire, so that this country, and this country alone, was responsible for the breakdown of the negotiations on the Protocol. When we are considering the Pact, we must also consider the alternative the Government had, and still have, because, so far as I know, there is certainly no country in Europe that 1666 would refuse the Protocol if it had a chance of getting it accepted.
What is said in favour of the Pact? In these discussions and outside there have been certain arguments used that are really substantial in character. We are told by some of the advocates of the Pact that in itself it will be a stepping stone to the Protocol, but, if the Protocol be desired, why build stepping stones towards it when we can have the thing itself? Why go to the trouble of saying we shall get so far on the way if we accept this, when we are the only people who are preventing ourselves going the whole way? It is said that the Pact will help to stabilise Europe, and the Prime Minister, in a very eloquent passage in one of his speeches, referred to Europe as a quaking morass and the Pact as being designed to fill up part of the morass on the West and to act as the basis for a further filling up of the rest of Europe. That, I think, was the statement of the Prime Minister, but why confine yourself to filling up the Western edge of the morass if you have a means of filling up the whole of it at the same time and in the same operation? The most powerful arguments, I think, in favour of the Pact may be said to be that it gives France the security she needs, that it will provide for arbitration amongst the Powers, that it will bring Germany into the League of Nations, and, above and beyond all, that it is to be welcomed because it is a definite proposition made by Germany herself.
I admit frankly, and without hesitation, that all these things are eminently desirable and pleasant things when one considers the action of certain countries in Europe 18 months or two years ago, but what the Pact does not do is what the Protocol definitely did, and that is provide for a conference on disarmament under conditions that would give disarmament a real chance. If this Pact be accepted, in my opinion, it is equivalent to an indefinite postponement of any effective Disarmament Conference. How on earth can you get countries like Czechoslovakia and Poland, not knowing whether the Pact, if accepted, will mean their cutting off from France, really and seriously to consider the question of disarmament when they have no security, with all the discomfort of their position and all the uncertainty of their future?
1667 Then the Pact itself would bring our own country into an extremely peculiar and dangerous position. Yes, security be France against Germany—that the Pact would give in full measure; but assume France were the aggressor—and we know the possibility of that—are we or are we not to be bound by this Pact to go to the assistance of Germany? If we are, then I think the statement of the Foreign Secretary about the risks of the Protocol fade into insignificance in comparison with the risks we run in the event of France being the aggressor as against Germany. As to the question that was discussed a few minutes ago about what would take place if France demanded access through Germany for her troops to help her ally Poland, who might be attacked on the East, obviously if France insisted, and we were honourable, we must go to the assistance of Germany in case of the German frontier being crossed by French soldiers. If we are thinking of risks, certainly the Protocol is no greater risk than the Pact under discussion. Then another question that was asked, which the Foreign Secretary did not attempt to answer was, what was the position of our Colonies and Dominions with regard to this Pact? Have they been in any way consulted, and, if so, what are their answers? If they have not been consulted, or held in any way responsible for anything we do, what is the actual position of affairs so far as they are concerned?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I did not mean to omit reference to that question. The Dominions have been kept fully informed of all the proceedings of His Majesty's Government. With the exception of New Zealand, which has expressed its complete confidence in the policy of His Majesty's Government, and its readiness to leave the decision in their hands, they have not yet declared themselves. But no Dominion can be committed except by its own Government, acting with the consent of its own Parliament.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
We have had no such communication from either of those Governments. I think the Prime Minister of Canada, in an answer in the Canadian Parliament, said the Canadian Government were being kept informed, and that they were in no way committed to any participation in any agreement that might be arrived at.
§ Mr. SHAW
I cannot pursue the matter further. I made no assertion, but simply gave impressions we have got, and which we thought well-founded. There is a rooted objection on this side of the House—I am speaking for my party—to this Pact, because we fear that, instead of helping towards a general agreement, it will merely stereotype the old pre-War type of agreement, and act as an obstacle to a general agreement in the future. We are afraid that an agreement between the four Western Powers will increase the ferment in the East of Europe, and that in Budapest, in Belgrade, and in France there will be movements, there will be combinations, there will be uncertainties, and we shall have, in addition, a Balkan ferment that will be as dangerous as an open powder magazine. That we fear on these benches, and we fear it to such an extent that we are definitely against the Pact, because we fear the old method of balance of power again through these separate pacts, and we fear, also, danger from the East, because of the East being uneasy and disturbed owing to the arrangement of a pact of this description in the West; certainly in the Little Entente and the Balkans there are dangers, without running the additional danger of making the countries feel that they are being neglected by the nations of the West.
We were glad to hear the declaration of the Foreign Secretary that the "verbal assurances" referred to in the French press were not verbal assurances that in any way pledged this country to any serious step outside the declaration made in the White Paper. Certainly, those of us who take a rather keen interest in French matters fear that outside the statements made in the White Paper there have been verbal assurances given that were of a far-reaching character and that really mean something very serious indeed so far as our future commitments are concerned.
1669 We are against the Pact, to sum up, first of all, because it gives us neither security nor disarmament. I do not want to over-emphasise the fact that this Pact will not give us security. I think sufficient has been said to prove that in this Pact we run the very gravest danger, not only of having to intervene, but of having to intervene with all the dice loaded against us. If we had to intervene on the side of Germany—and the dangers are as great on that side as on the other—we should have to intervene in favour of a country without an army and without a navy, as against the most powerful army in the world and the most powerful air force. That is one reason why we cannot accept the Pact.
We believe that the Pact is a thoroughly retrograde step, that it is towards separate agreements and individual alliances, that it will inevitably lead to fresh groupings of nations of Europe, and just as inevitably lead to war because, on account of these fresh groupings, they will all be afraid of each other, and will literally produce the feeling that the Foreign Secretary claims has been responsible for wars in the past. Is the Foreign Secretary not quite sure that his fear of the Protocol is likely to lead to war in the future? Is he quite satisfied that if it were not for the fear that he has of a general peace proposal we might make a much better arrangement than this Pact can hope to give us? Is he not satisfied that this country can really take the lead in international matters through the Protocol and not, as it were, always be dragged at the tail of some other country? We are strong enough, and I think we are generous enough, to make a great movement for peace instead of playing second fiddle in the international orchestra—and playing it rather badly at that.
Finally, we oppose this Pact because we believe that it will weaken the authority of the League of Nations. In the Covenant itself, which would have been enlarged by the Protocol, the League of Nations is intended to be a real power. If we start these separate combinations of nations, obviously the League of Nations will fall more and more into the background and the grandiose view that the Foreign Secretary has appealed to us to keep in view will recede instead of approaching. I suggest that a greater ideal than this 1670 Pact is the ideal of the League of Nations, acting, energetic, supported by this country, really efficient, and efficient on the lines of the Protocol which lays down in simple language the principles—[An HON. MEMBER: "In simple language?"] Yes, in simple language, in quite simple language—and if I had time I could deal with the White Paper, which has been dealt with already, for the language of the White Paper is not so simple as it might be. In the Protocol the great features are simplicity. Is it simple to say that if a country will not submit its disputes to arbitration it should be considered the aggressor? That is simple enough for Labour men. For the first time aggression has been defined, and I am rather happy to say that the suggestion came from this side of the House. Is it simple to say that if a decision is not accepted, and an aggression takes place, that that shall unite the forces of the rest of the nations against the aggressor? Is it simple to say that a disarmament conference shall take place in order to discuss how the nations can bring about disarmament? Are these expressions simple or difficult? They are simplicity itself! They are grand in their simplicity. There are in the country and in this House people who say they are satisfied that human nature cannot rise to the heights; simplicity, therefore, of the kind I have put forward becomes a laughing matter. But there are those in the House who really believe that humanity is capable of these things; that the War itself proved to what heights our people can rise. It is not to give them much credit to believe that they cannot rise to these heights. There are those of us who believe that a spirited, courageous, foreign policy on those lines would give us security and peace, a chance to live, whilst the Pact never can, and is likely to lead to disaster in the future.
§ Mr. DUFF COOPER
There seems to have been some breakdown in the staff work of the front Opposition bench, for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Brightside (Mr. Ponsonby), speaking with some authority on behalf of the Labour party on the question of foreign affairs, and dealing with the suggestion that we should discuss the Pact as an alternative to the Protocol, said: "Do not let us centre our attention on the 1671 Protocol. Let us discuss the Pact and see what it is worth." A digression from the discussion of the Protocol was made by the Leader of his own party, and it has been continued up to this moment by the last speaker. I think, however, hon. Members opposite really are not much in error in talking about the Pact rather than the Protocol since the Pact commits us to nothing which the Protocol did not commit us to. The obligations we are committed to in regard to the Pact are limited 10 times over to the unlimited and vague obligations of the Protocol. We still hear the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has reasons for preferring the Protocol, for which he still, so unnecessarily, in my opinion, stands out, for it hampers him in all his discussions of foreign affairs. He has reasons for preferring the Protocol to the Treaty of Mutual Assistance which it so closely resembles, and which he turned down so vigorously. The Protocol was proposed to lead to disarmament. That is the great defence for it put up by hon. Members opposite. We, on the other hand, believe that you cannot begin by disarmament, but that you have got to keep disarmament as your final objective and not as your starting point.
§ It being Eleven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.