HC Deb 05 March 1925 vol 181 cc704-7

Now I come to the last point. My right hon. Friend began with the question of Cologne. I think he under-rated rather than over-rated the clearness and definiteness of the statements that I have already made in this House, no less than my Noble Friend, Lord Curzon, in another place the other day. As to the principles, at any rate, which guide His Majesty's Government in their consideration of this matter, there should be no doubt, but, if a restatement is necessary, I will endeavour to do it. Let me first say, however, that my right hon. Friend himself was not happy in his statement of the conditions of the problem. It does not present a true picture to say, as he does, simply and without further qualification, at any rate until he had got into the middle of his next paragraph, that evacuation was due on the 10th January. The occupation of the total area was fixed for 15 years, with a proviso that there should be an evacuation of the Cologne area in five years, if Germany had fulfilled her Treaty obligations. The principle was a 15-years' occupation, but with this alleviation, that, if Germany faithfully fulfilled her obligations, one-third would be evacuated in five years, another third, speaking roughly, in another five years, and the whole, of course, in the 15 years. We have not got, even now, a considered appreciation of the points in which Germany is in default, but we did know enough some time ago to say that she was in default, and that she was not justified in claiming evacuation on the 10th January, or until those defaults were made good.

My right hon. Friend says, "Publish the Report of the Inter-Allied Military Mission on the state of disarmament in Germany"—this document of 162 pages to which he alluded. I have no desire to conceal anything, if its publication will lead to a solution of this question. The question whether there should be publication or not is, of course, not a matter for His Majesty's Government alone, but for His Majesty's Government in consultation and agreement with their Allies. I am not at all sure that the French Government would not desire it—I do not know. I think it is the fact that the German Government desire it. If His Majesty's Government have hesitated, it is not because we want to conceal it, but because we are not sure that the publication of a document setting out every default, large and small, without distinguishing between what is important and what is not important, without endeavouring to sift out things which may be passed over as of little consequence from things which are of primary and vital importance—we are not sure that that kind of publication is really likely to conduce to the object we have in view. What, then, is the object we have in view? The object of His Majesty's Government is to obtain at the earliest possible moment from the German Government and people the fulfilment of those things which may justly be demanded of them under the Treaty, in order that the contemplated shortening of the period of occupation may take place as early as possible.


Shortening? Is it not extension?


No, I am referring to the statement I made a few sentences back. The Treaty provides for a Jo-years' occupation, which shall be shortened, shall be reduced, in respect of one area to five years, if the conditions arc fulfilled, in respect of another area to JO years, and so on. And in order that we may evacuate, our policy 5.0 P.M. is directed to secure compliance with these substantial and necessary measures of disarmament, upon which the Allies must insist before they can bring that alleviation of the period of occupation contemplated by the Treaty into force. Accordingly, I could not alone, but if I could of my own motion at this moment decide whether the Report should be published or not, I should not desire to do so. What I have to do is to tell the Committee by what considerations we are guided in urging either its publication or its non-publication, and I have indicated that the whole object of our policy is to bring the occupation of the Cologne area to an end as soon as possible, by securing from the Germans the fulfilment of those obligations on which the Alliesire bound to insist.

Then my right hon. Friend says that he hopes the German Government will have an opportunity of presenting their observations to the Allies. Again, I cannot speak in the name of the Allies, except after consultation and agreement, but in that matter, also, my governing principle will be what course is most likely to render easy and swift the making good of the defaults which exist, and, in consequence, the evacuation of the Cologne area. As a last observation on this point, let me say this, that throughout all the Governments that have ruled in this country have held the same view as to what was to determine the evacuation or the non-evacuation of that area. The question of security is of immense, of overwhelming importance; but occupation o' the Cologne area rests upon the Treaty, can be justified only in terms of the Treaty, and cannot, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, be continued except in pursuance of the clear purposes and provisions of the Treaty.

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