§ Sir, the statesmen of this country have some responsibility. Our policy, not wholly through our own fault, has been wavering and inconsistent. Our influence—no one can move as I have done amongst the statesmen of Europe, and of more than Europe, and not feel it—has lost something by our hesitation and our inconsistency, but a new chance is coming to us. I see in these proposals the possible dawn of a better day. Without our help nothing will be done. Without our help we shall march surely though slowly to a new disaster. With our help the war chapter may be brought to a close, and a real triumph of peace may begin. The British Empire, detached from Europe by its Dominions, linked to Europe by these islands, can do what no other nation on the face of the earth can do, and from east and west alike there comes to me the cry that, after all, it is in the hands of the British Empire, and if they will that there shall be no war there will be no war.
Marquess of HARTINGTON
While I altogether dissociate myself from the sentiments expressed by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway, I 323 are their feelings of disappointment at the general tone and character of the Note which the Foreign Secretary read at Geneva. I do not pretend for one moment that the Protocol was immediately attainable, and I do not see how this Government or any Government of this country could have ratified it. There are several reasons why they could not have done so. It is admitted that it was far from being a perfect document, and the need for substantial amendments was universally admitted, and there is the much more important objection that the Dominions are opposed to ratification. I do, however, very greatly regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary should so uncompromisingly have shut the door, or tried to shut the door, in regard to any further discussion of this subject.
If the Foreign Secretary bad contented himself with stating his objections which everyone realises, he would have found complete agreement in this country and on the Continent of Europe, because his objections to Clauses 7 and 8 are universally agreed to be perfectly sound. If he had stated his objection, and if he had said that while there might be some possibility of arriving at some agreements, he could not agree to it at this time, and if he had been content with the best possible arrangement that could be made, there would not have been one voice raised against him. By taking up such an extremely hostile attitude the Foreign Secretary has placed himself in a state of isolation and a state of not very splendid isolation.
Even now I do not actually understand what is his position. He stated at Geneva that he held fast by the principles of arbitration, security, and disarmament. He also voted that the Protocol should be the main subject for discussion at the next meeting of the Assembly in September. He further stated that he is fundamentally opposed to the Protocol. Those two statements contradict one another. The right hon. Gentleman may be opposed to every detail of the Protocol, but ho cannot be fundamentally opposed to it without being fundamentally opposed to the principle of arbitration, security. and disarmament upon which the Protocol is based. I realise that the Protocol cannot be ratified now, and we are 324 in a different position to any other country in the world. I am fully prepared to agree that at the present moment some such pact as the right hon. Gentleman has suggested is the best solution, but I do hope that the pact which we are contemplating will not be regarded as a final arrangement or the ultimate end of our European policy. If it is, then we have quite definitely taken a step back, and we shall have laid the foundation for a new war. There was a time when this country could afford to pursue a policy of isolation. I for one, and I am sure most hon. Members are of the same opinion would have been heartily thankful if it were possible for us to pursue that policy now. As a matter of fact, it is not worth discussing now, and we have to recognise, however we may desire to keep clear of European entanglements, it is utterly impossible for us to do so.
In the past there have been times when we have sought alliances with one Power or the other or with a group of Powers on the Continent of Europe. That policy has been more or less successful at different times but it has always led sooner or later to another war, and that risk is complicated at the moment and will be more complicated in the future by the new difficulties which have arisen since various parts of the British Empire have grown up into self-governing Dominions. After all we have to remember that the Dominions object to the Protocol but I would like to ask, is it really the Protocol they object to or is it the possibility of being asked to go to war in regard to someone else's quarrel? Is it not possible that that difficulty may hold good equally in any pact or alliance we may make.
I know that the policy of making Treaties has its uses but it never succeeded in averting war for more than a certain number of years. Until comparatively recent times the certainty of war at intervals did not threaten the whole fabric of civilisation nor was the burden of preparing for war an intolerable burden although it brought many Governments to their fall. War did involve whole populations, but the burden of preparing for war in past years did not involve the crushing burden which it must involve in the future. We talk about disarmament but is any substantial reduction of armaments likely to be possible for some years to come? Unless we can 325 adopt some different basis for our national policy we shall be forced to incur great expenditure for airships and one thing and another, and this kind of thing is bound to grow, and unless we find some other means we shall be compelled to continue to bear the burden of preparing for war, a policy which bears so heavily on the whole of our trade and commerce and tends to make unemployment an absolutely insoluble problem. I am not a Radical who refuses to face the facts, and so long as armaments are necessary I shall not vote against them, but it does seem to me that there ought to be some limit to the extent to which we can go in regard to any vast increase in armaments.
The question I want to put to the Foreign Secretary is whether he is really convinced that the Protocol is absolutely unattainable. Are we afraid of the far-reaching commitments which the Protocol contains, and is it the view of the Government that it might involve us in wars here, there and everywhere which would otherwise not be the case. Have we not such commitments already, and shall we be able to keep out of any war that may occur on the Continent of Europe or elsewhere? Constantly in our history there has occurred a war which has not concerned us in the very least, but it has eventually led to another war, and sooner or later to another war, and we are bound to be involved in the end. I believe it is probable that never again can there be a serious war on the Continent of Europe from which we shall be able to remain permanently aloof.
So long as there are wars of any magnitude, either on the Continent of Europe or elsewhere, we shall never be able to do anything else but go on increasing our gigantic burden of armaments. We are afraid of the principle of arbitration and of giving up our right to go to war because we feel that we may be put upon and stripped of our assets by unjust judges. We feel that there is no international Court we can fully trust in matters of life and death for us. There must be reservations. We stand to lose too much and we cannot allow ourselves to be arbitrated out of our vital trade routes. For example, our Dominions cannot agree to lose their right of control of immigration, and there must be reservations. Even with these reservations, is it so impossible for us, 326 after all, to contemplate a very considerable extension of the system of arbitration? One cannot make even reasonable concessions to an enemy. That is a lesson which my right hon. Friends behind me have not always learned, and it is fatal to make concessions to an enemy.
Once a demand has been made in a hostile spirit, even if it is reasonable it has to be refused. The path of concessions is too easy and smooth a path for it to be safe, and always ends in a downward slope. Once a bird has shown the white feather it is as good as dead. The white feather refers to feathers on the side of the tail which are only visible when the tail is no longer held stiffly erect. Under such circumstances a nation will have to fight, and it will not fight on ground of its own choosing. The case is not quite the same when it is a question of making concessions to an international Court, because then you can go vastly further in making concessions.
These important reservations are allowed for arbitration. Can there be any doubt that the most disastrous possible judgment of an international court subject to the reservations I have suggested would be a thousand times less disastrous than the most successful possible war. For these reasons I think we ought to keep the door open for a further extension of the system of arbitration. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will not do anything, either when he replies to-night or at Geneva next September, that will close the door further than it has already been closed with regard—I do not care so much about this particular Protocol, but to something on the lines of the Geneva Protocol, that is to say, an all-embracing rather than a partial settlement. I should like, therefore, to ask the right hon. Gentleman three definite questions. In the first place, is this pact to be framed so that it will be capable of expansion, so that it will be open to other Powers to join later? If so, I think the friends of the Protocol can give it a very hearty welcome as a stepping-stone, and the only kind of stepping-stone which we believe can ultimately make for the peace of Europe and of the world. If not, I still feel, even after what the right hon. Gentleman has said, that it will be definitely a step in the wrong direction If it is going to tend to solidify a pact 327 between a certain number of Powers exclusive of others, there is a tremendous danger of the Powers being divided into two camps.
The agreement is not a pact of one set of Powers directed against another set of Powers, but is a pact of Powers interested in particular directions out of which trouble has arisen in the past, or might arise in the future, mutually guaranteeing one another in the possession of their present territory and against the danger of war.
Marquess of HARTINGTON
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I understand that part, but I say that the pact deals with troubles which are visible at the moment. There have been very many troubles in the world's history when people have thrown up their hands and said that there was going to be no more war, that all possible causes of dispute had been settled. I would ask whether, later on, it will be possible for other Powers to join in this pact, so that it will tend to become all-embracing rather than merely local. Then I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is prepared to consider the possibility of going as far as the Dominion of Canada has gone, and, by the way, the reply of the Dominion of Canada, was far less hostile than some others. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is prepared to consider accepting compulsory arbitration by a permanent Court in justicional disputes in a comparatively small class of cases. We have made reservations about the questions which are really likely to damage us severely, and I think it would be a definite gain to have the principle of compulsory arbitration accepted as regards the comparatively unimportant class which remains outside. My last question is this: September is not so very far off now; do the Government intend to call an Imperial Conference or otherwise to take means at once to discuss this question with the Dominions? Just as in the case of the Protocol, we must have their agreement about any pact into which we may intend entering. It would be fatal if we were to enter into obligations without having the fullest consultation and agreement with the Dominions. Unless 328 steps are taken at once to consult the Dominions on this subject, there is a, grave risk that next September at Geneva we may be in the position of having to ask for further time in order that the matter may be kept open. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will reply to-night to these three questions, and I hope and believe that his reply will dispel finally and absolutely the entirely wrong impression which, however, does exist, that the attitude of the British Government on international affairs is, "Give us an armed truce in our time, O Lord, and let the next generation look after themselves."
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
No more important question has been discussed in the House of Commons than that which has been raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) to-day. It is a question on the solution of which may depend the future of civilisation, and, therefore, it is very vital that the House of Commons should shoulder its responsibility with the Government in the settlement of this very grave issue. I agree with the Noble Lord the Member for West Derbyshire (Marquess of Hartington) in the appeal which he has made to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary not to turn down the principle of arbitration at the coming Assembly at Geneva. I am afraid I must also agree with the Noble Lord that a good deal of what was said by the Foreign Secretary went far beyond what was necessary in order to criticise the-Protocol. It did create an impression, certainly in Europe, and I think in this country also, that the Government were rootedly hostile to the application of the principle of compulsory arbitration. I do not think my right hon. Friend really meant to go quite as far as that; at least, I hope he did not but it is no use discussing the question of the Protocol on a false issue.
It is not an issue of whether we are for-or against arbitration. Some very good friends of arbitration—men who have devoted a lifetime to the principle of arbitration—are opposed to this interpretation of it. They think that it would be attempting arbitration in circumstances which would not give arbitration fair play. They think that, under the guise of an arbitration pact, the Protocol is a military convention to sustain the status 329 quo. Nothing could be more likely to provoke war than that, and, therefore, I would not like it to be assumed that, because some of us criticise the Protocol, we are opposed to the principle of arbitration. On the contrary, we would like to see the principle of arbitration boldly applied. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary pointed out very truly, this was a compromise between the position taken by the late Foreign Secertary and M Herriot, the result being that by the Protocol the French view prevailed, and, instead of a general treaty which would settle disputes by arbitral methods, there would be established something which is purely a variant upon the old French policy of a guarantee of Eastern frontiers. The French Press have claimed this as a moral triumph for France, and one paper exclaims, in very pharasaical language, that it hopes that "the light will one day dawn upon the eyes of England."
There is a real test of whether the Protocol applies the principle of arbitration or not. I listened with very great care to my right hon. Friend the Member for Burnley, and I listened with exceptional attention when he came to deal with the matter of the status quo. There is one objection to the Protocol which I think is fatal. The Protocol does not refer to arbitration a single question which is likely to provoke war in Europe. I make that statement, and I ask anyone in reply to point to a single question which is likely to provoke war and which is to be referred under the Protocol to arbitration. My right hon. Friend started by saying that all questions were to be referred, but that is not so. All questions are to be referred subject to the Treaties. I will give a few tests, and they are vital tests. We must take care that we do not commit ourselves to the status quo under the guise of arbitration. Some of our French friends claim a moral triumph. I should like to ask them, is there a single question on their Eastern frontier between them and Germany that they would be willing to refer to arbitration under the Protocol?
I am not talking of Alsace-Lorraine. The German Nationalists say they are going to claim Alsace-Lorraine, and, certainly, the French would not refer that to arbitration. Would they refer the question of the Saar? Would they refer 330 the question of Reparations? I ask any one to quote the opinion of any French statesmen that indicates that they are willing to refer any of these matters. Take the question of Reparations. The Dawes Report now is at its lightest. It is going to grow till the burden is double, treble. There is no doubt at all that it is going to have a great effect upon the wages of the workmen in Germany and upon their hours of labour. That is clear. It has already had an effect. The time will come when there will be a revolt amongst the workmen in Germany, and they will stand it no longer. I have never had the slightest doubt about that. Now I come to the question of policy, and I am only discussing it from that point of view. Supposing that a Government in Germany is established which voices the view of both Nationalists and workmen—because you will have a combination of both—will the French Government agree that that question should be settled by arbitration under the Protocol? Will they refer the question of the Saar under the Protocol? Will they refer the question of evacuating the bridge-heads of the Rhine under the Protocol, or the question of disarmament? Is there a single question which is likely to provoke conflict between France and Germany that these gentlemen in France, who claim a moral triumph for the great principle, would refer to arbitration under the Clauses of this document? Not one.
But the East is more serious. With regard to the questions between France and Germany, I am very hopeful that there will be no conflict. The French peasant has had enough of war. His losses have been so colossal that he will not voluntarily go to war for the Saar, or the bridge-heads of the Rhine, or Reparations, and therefore I am hopeful, although not altogether confident. That is not the case with regard to the East. The Eastern frontiers are throbbing with trouble from the Bosphorus to the Baltic. Every European frontier is marked in red, but the frontiers of Central and Eastern Europe are a deeper red than any. There is none of these borderlines that has not been fought over for centuries. There is not a tract of territory in regard to which any country cannot claim precedents for saying that it belonged to them at one time, and there have been conquests and reconquests. There 331 is a tangle of races there and a general inextricable mix-up, as anyone knows who has ever been trying to decide whether a particular territory ought to belong to Czechoslovakia or Poland, or Hungary or Roumania or Yugo-Slavia or Poland. There you have questions of racial pride and racial and religious antagonism. There is no mix-up of races, records, and religions like it outside Gehenna. That is the position in Eastern Europe.
Take all the questions that are likely to provoke war, and where does the Protocol come in? I am all for arbitration. You do not get it here for any questions that matter. Begin with Constantinople—furtive eyes gleaming at it from North and South, and envious eyes watching them. The Protocol does not touch it. Bessarabia—trouble fermenting, armies gathering. I do not know whether Roumania is prepared to save the Protocol. I have no doubt the is one of the 47. Is she willing to refer her dispute to arbitration and to the Protocol? There are disputes between her and Hungary; will she refer those? Czechoslovakia was prominent in promoting this Protocol and has taken a leading part in it. She always does when France asks her. I should like to ask are they prepared to refer the disputed questions of boundaries between them and Hungary to arbitration? I remember territories there which they claim for Czechoslovakia. Statistics in Central Europe are like the statistics of a Tariff Reform controversy. They can prove anything. A Hungarian deputy has been returned for that very territory. Are they willing to refer that to arbitration? The worst of all is Poland. Poland is sad, because the Protocol has not been recognised by Britain, and she also is claiming a moral triumph. What has happened there? Alsace-Lorraine provoked a war in Europe. Poland has five Alsace Lorraines-Eastern Galicia, White Russia, Vilna, the Corridor, Silesia-she is not satisfied and she now wants to add a sixth, Dantzig. That is exactly the way she annexed the other places. She is annexing them now by pillar-boxes. That is the beginning.
The right hon. Gentleman is talking very rashly. I am grateful to him for giving me the oppor- 332 tunity of dissociating myself from what he has said.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do not know whether it is to Danzig or the rest that the right hon. Gentleman refers. Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that Poland annexed Vilna in spite of the protests of the League of Nations, annexed Galicia in spite of the protests of the Supreme Council, that she has annexed part of White Russia, where the majority of the population is Russian, beyond the Ethnographical line drawn by the Supreme Council? Does he say the decision in Upper Silesia is one which he would be prepared to go to war in order to maintain? I should like to know which of these statements he is challenging. With regard to Dantzig, ho knows perfectly well that Poland is persisting with regard to the Post Office policy in spite of the ruling of the British Commissioner who represents the League of Nations, and it has now been referred again for consideration. But she did not accept the decision of the League of Nations—
There has been no decision by the League of Nations, but the Council, which has probably given more study to the subject than the right hon. Gentleman, thought it was desirable that there should be an opinion from the High Court before they themselves took a decision
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The right hon. Gentleman has misquoted me. What I said was the decision of the British High Commissioner who represented the League of Nations.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
If I said that, it is wrong. I certainly thought I said the decision the British High Commissioner took of this question. [HON. MEMBERS: "You said so."] I thought I did. Does anyone imagine that Russia, when she recovers, will accept these decisions as final? If so, I ask, is Poland, who is in favour of the Protocol, prepared to refer these questions to arbitration? If not, what is the good of it? There is no question which threatens the peace of Europe at present which, under the Protocol as it is drafted, would be referred to arbitration. What 333 is the good of it? See what would happen. Let us look at it. It is all very well to say that Great Britain would have the choice as to how she would carry out the decision of the Court of Arbitration. Britain stands by her word in these matters, and if she signs a Protocol to say that she will accept the decision of a Court of Arbitration, and that she will do her best to enforce it, she will do it. That makes it all the more necessary that we should examine very closely what the Protocol means. What would happen in a case of that kind?
Suppose Russia on her recovery—and revolutionary countries when they recover are apt to be very extreme nationalists; that is the history of the past—suppose there is a reaction in favour of nationalism and Russia claims back her lost territories. She says, "I want White Russia." The question then is referred to the Council of the League, and they appoint a Court of Arbitration. The first thing that happens is that the Treaty of Riga, which was accepted by us, very un fortunately, in March, 1923—we had re fused to accept it up to that point; we never accepted those boundaries, never ratified them, never endorsed them till March, 1923—that Treaty debars us. Poland says: "That is the boundary. If you want to refer questions of the interpretation of the Treaty of Riga, we are quite willing to refer it to arbitration." Russia will say: "There is no question of interpretation. Tinder the Treaty of Riga, these territories are undoubtedly assigned to you. But we want to test the question of whether it is right that millions of Russians should be under Polish rule." What happens? We are bound, if we sign the Protocol, to use our strength for the purpose of making war. Is that really what we want? It is just a variant upon the policy which the French, one Government after another, have pressed upon us—an attempt to engage us with the whole of our strength in supporting the status quo not merely upon the West but upon the East as well. It is a booby trap for Britain baited with arbitration. I am certain the right hon. Gentleman does not want that. France is naturally obsessed with the question of security against this very menacing Power on her eastern frontier. I am not surprised. She has been obsessed since 334 1871. She is obsessed at the present moment after her victory, and I run not surprised.
I wonder how many hon. Members have taken the trouble to read this Blue Book which was issued by the late Government? I very respectfully urge that they should read it, containing a document dealing with the question of security. Let them read what France proposed in 1917 in the middle of the War. They proposed it, first of all, to Sir Edward Grey. They afterwards proposed it to Lord Balfour when Foreign Secretary. They did not give the full proposals, but, after the revolution in Russia, the Russian Government published the actual proposals made by M. Doumcrgue on behalf of the French Government to Russia. What is the proposal? The western frontier of Germany to terminate at the Rhine, and that the Rhine should be the means by which France would curb Germany. The Russians said. "We are quite prepared to agree if you give us a free hand on our western frontier." The French Government then made this declaration, that they were prepared to give complete liberty to the Russian Government on their western frontier, but there was no question of Poland then. "Peace at Warsaw" meant a Russian peace. Russia fell. Poland is substituted. A free hand has been given to Poland. What is the result? This is the real menace to European peace. It is no use shutting our eyes to this fact. The real menace to European peace is the fact that out of 27,000,000 people in Poland, 9,000,000 are, there by force of arms—Russians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, and Germans—most of them there in spite of the protest of the League of Nations and of the Supreme Council. Does anyone imagine that that is going to be accepted by Russia and by Germany once they are restored in power? And when that moment Collies, what is our position? I do hope that whatever happens in the way of arbitration, we are not going to base arbitration upon those explosive treaties in the East of Europe, and the acceptance of those annexations, which would be fatal.
The right hon. Gentleman has just been telling us what we ought to do. I agree with the Noble Lord who spoke last that it is not enough merely to set the Protocol 335 on one side. You must go beyond
that, and the right hon. Gentleman to-night has stated clearly what is his attitude with regard to the community on the western frontier of France. He rather indicated that he was personally in favour of the revival of the Tripartite Treaty. He did not state the Cannes proposals quite fairly. They were conditional upon France agreeing to a pact being established throughout the whole of Europe and also upon disarmament. However, that is rejected. It is no use entering into that at the present moment. The right hon. Gentleman agrees that is something that can never be revived. He now states the proposals put forward by Germany for a Five-Power pact, and I am very delighted that he takes a friendly view of that proposal. Germany is prepared, as I understand, to accept the status quo in the West. She undoubtedly looks forward to arbitration, and the action of the League of Nations for the revision of the injustice which has been perpetrated on her eastern frontier, and I sincerely trust that the Government, with the whole of their strength, will endeavour to put that through. That is not inimical to a general pact of arbitration. In fact, it is a very good start. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary pointed out to the Noble Lord that it is not a pact directed against other nations. It is a pact dealing with the frontiers of those particular nations, and, therefore, it is all helpful to a general agreement. Surely the League of Nations would not interfere with the possibility of arrangements between two or three groups of nations to settle difficulties amongst themselves. On the contrary, by the Covenant of the League it was provided that where there are agreements of that kind, they should be registered. If it were an agreement for the purposes of aggression against other countries, that is a different thing, but in the Five-Power Pact, there is nothing of that kind contemplated. Quite the reverse; they are settling their own frontiers, their own difficulties, and that is very helpful in making the League of Nations a more effective instrument.
I hope, with the Noble Lord, that when the Foreign Secretary goes to Geneva he is going to be armed, and that he will not allow it to be said, as it has been said, that the British Government have com- 336 mitted themselves to opposition to arbitration. I do earnestly hope that the Government will take the lead in framing a more general treaty of arbitration for the purpose of settling international disputes by some more effective method than an appeal to the savagery of war. A treaty of arbitration, to be effective under present conditions, must have two characteristics. The first is, that all questions that are likely to provoke war in Europe should be included. Unless you do that it is no good. It is simply a snare. It is simply a method of encouraging forces of their own behind arrangements and treaties which the conscience of this country repudiates. [An HON. MEMBER "What about the Versailles Treaty?"] That was a very anxious and difficult time, and we always did the best according to the difficulties we had to meet. Whatever it is, it is not a question whether the Treaty of Versailles was wise, or that of Riga was right. It is a question that whatever treaty has created conditions which will provoke war, nations should settle it by judicial methods and not by methods of war and violence. That is what really matters. Therefore, I think as the first condition of any treaty all questions that provoke war should be included.
What is the second? This is vital. It is that the tribunal to which these questions should be referred must be a tribunal that commands confidence. Now what is the tribunal under the Protocol? I wonder how many gentlemen who support the Protocol have read it. Well, I have read it very carefully, I can assure the House, not merely once but twice and three times. I have gone through it with a sincere desire to support it, because it contains arbitration, and I honestly cannot. At any rate, I can assure my right hon. Friends I am criticising as a sincere believer in arbitration. Let me show the character of this tribunal. The tribunal at the present time in the dispute between Poland and Russia would be a tribunal appointed by a body which has shown itself at the moment to be more partial to Poland than it is to Russia, more partial to Poland than it is to Germany, and do not let us make any mistake as to the position.
It is a disagreeable thing to say, but there is no doubt at all that the decision 337 on Upper Silesia has broken confidence in the League of Nations. I could have gone info that, but I do not wish to do so. There is no doubt at all that the method with which that was engineered has created profound distrust in the League of Nations, in Germany and in Russia. Russia is naturally suspicious. All revolutionary countries are. There is no more suspicious person than the idealist who has become a doctrinaire. Suspicion is the hall mark of orthodoxy. I have discovered it. There is no doubt at all Russia is full of suspicion, but she has reasons. You do not want to patch the Covenant of the League. You want to restore confidence in the League. Take Vilna. The League of Nations says, "You must not go to Vilna." The Poles sent 20,000 troops there. They say, "We are not responsible for them. They went against our will. They annexed Vilna." And it has now been accepted by the Council of Ambassadors. As to Galicia, the Supreme Council said to Poland, "You must not go to Galicia and annex these 4,000,000 of Ukrainians." The Poles went along under a French General and nothing happened. The Supreme Council stopped Galicia's army that was approaching. The Poles went on and marched, and, when a telegram was sent to the General, he said he had not received it. Afterwards, he said, "I have lost my code, and I do not know what your telegram means." Meanwhile the army advanced, and Galicia was conquered. You really cannot expect Germany and Russia to have confidence in a body which at the present moment is dominated in that way.
Everybody knows that on the Silesian question Britain and France agreed not to interfere in the decision. Britain kept her word in the letter and the spirit. France kept her word in the letter. You must first restore confidence in your tribunal, and in any pact of arbitration you must have the parties concerned represented, Russia, Germany, and it is vital you should have the United States of America. If you do that, then you have an effective Treaty of Arbitrations. That is essential, because, if you had another war, then God help the children of men. It would consume European civilisation. I do earnestly entreat the Government between now and September not to be satisfied with dropping tears over the Protocol. Having satisfactorily 338 got rid of a proposal which was a sham treaty of arbitration, let them take the moral lead in Europe, set up a Treaty and insist upon having a Treaty of Arbitration that will make it impossible to draw the sword except to enforce justice.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I will not attempt to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) either in his very wide roaming over European affairs, or in the intention of the speech we have listened to. I do not quite know what was the purpose he had in his mind. If it was to help those who have been unfortunate enough to be the inheritors of certain peaceful negotiations in which he played, at any rate, not an inconspicuous part, I do not quite understand it. I have never heard a more complete, and I was almost going to use the adjective violent, indictment of the Treaty of Versailles, and various minor Treaties that were drafted after it, carrying out its spirit, than I have heard from the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon. Until a week or two ago he was telling us that nothing was more mischievous than for men in authority to raise suspicions in Europe by hinting that the Treaty of Versailles might be made a subject of arbitration. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) made a statement in Burnley that it was necessary to consider the results of the Treaty of Versailles, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, speaking in this House on the 27th February of last year, said:I have known Ministers who have committed indiscretions, though not as serious as this, and I know it is not always easy to keep an experienced team together in, order. I am not at all sure that I did not give trouble once or twice to my chief. I think he used to scan my speeches with a good deal of anxiety and a good deal of relief at the end when there was nothing that would call for the attention of the House of Commons. But this is undoubtedly a very grave indiscretion.[HON. MEMBERS: "Read on!"]When you are making speeches about domestic politics, well, the matter is explained. It is something which is amongst ourselves. When a statement is made which affects 33 Powers—suspicion, very touchy, very ready to believe that we are out for some mischief against their interests—nobody knows better than my 339 right hon. Friend what embarrassment that must be to the Foreign Office."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1924; cols. 615–616, Vol. 170.]I quite agree that an impulsive member of a party is an abominable nuisance, especially to his leaders; but when an ex-Prime Minister shows his tremendous capacity to behave like a bull in a china shop, as the right hon. Gentleman has done this afternoon, it is not merely a party concern but a European problem.
Now I turn to the business of the Debate. I take, first, the question of the German offer. This is the first time we have heard of it in anything like detail, and before one can venture to make final commitments, one way or another, of course, one has to see what exactly it amounts to, and what field it covers. As I understand it, the offer only amounts to this, that Germany will guarantee certain territories, that is, the Western boundaries, and that as regards the Eastern boundaries she is willing to refer any problems arising out of them to arbitration. As far as I can make out, that is the beginning and the end of the proposal.
There are two comments that arise out of that. First of all, what is our part in it? The Foreign Secretary said, very emphatically and with a great deal of emphasis, that we were to play some leading part in this Pact. What is it? Are we going to guarantee it with horse and with foot? Are we going to get any quid pro quo. I think we ought to get an explanation as to what relation Great Britain and the British Empire has to bear to this agreement, which is primarily between Germany and France and France's allies, and perhaps Belgium, regarding certain boundaries the Western boundaries, made quite definite, and the Eastern ones being left the subject of arbitration.
The second observation is somewhat serious. If this be the best we can do, certainly let us do it. As far as I am concerned, I shall do everything I can to make it easy for the Foreign Secretary to do that, but do not let us live under any delusion as to how much we are doing when we have done it. We have hardly touched the causes of war in Europe. The causes of war in Europe have been well summarised in the speech of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon 340 Boroughs, who has told us some of the fruits of them. The mere fact that Germany is going to agree now to recognise the Western frontier, and is going to ask for arbitration on certain points of the Eastern frontier, hardly touches the big problem of European security. It undoubtedly gives France security for the time being—I admit that—and I think that is a very important thing, but if that be all we can do at this present moment in 1925—if the only thing that the British Government can do is to give France security from Germany in respect of territorial boundaries—then it is an exceedingly small thing, and it Las not advanced Europe to the least extent in the direction of a permanent and a secure peace
We have to remember that this Pact is subject to the weaknesses of all Pacts. It is a Pact that leaves all the outside dangers of war unprovided for. It there is going to be a war in Europe again, I doubt very much if that war will arise from a direct conflict between France and Germany over boundary problems. I do not think that is at all a likely event, If there is to be a war again, it will come because the larger Powers of Europe—we need not go on mentioning them—have formed friends with the smaller Powers, with the less-secure Powers, with the less-settled Powers, with Powers that we regard as being confined in the Balkans. Having made friends with these smaller Powers, groups have been formed, not definite, not put on paper, not emphasised as alliances, but groups of real military and political consideration have been formed, and something will happen between those Powers outside those groups, and the moment something happens outside, then percussion goes on inside and the Pact comes to an end. Because questions have been raised which creates antagonisms not on the subject-matter of the Pact but on things with which the Pact had nothing to do, then the old historical enmities come into play and Europe is once more in the throes of war.
That is one of the big problems that we have to face. That is one of the big problems that this Government or whoever forms a Government will have to face, provided they wish to take a much wider step than merely securing temporary peace by temporary arrange- 341 ments. If that is the best we can do, well I hope that the blessing of Heaven will rest upon our labour, because to a certain extent it is good; but unless the Pact is of the nature of something that will grow by its own impetus, in the nature of something that will grow by the law of its own being, into something that is wider, more comprehensive and universal, then the Pact is just the old Pact—we may say it is defensive or what we like—and the Pact will just grow as time goes on into the old-fashioned thing, which will eventuate in the balance of power in some shape or form, and no peace will be secured. This Pact is not going to get us nearer to disarmament.
I would like to know the scope of the arbitration. I was not quite clear on that point. Perhaps it may be made clearer. Is it a general arbitration Treaty that it is proposed Germany should make with France, and to which I assume we shall be a party, or is it that on these specified problems of boundary, East or West, particularly the East, arbitration will be applied? Is the principle of arbitration and the method of arbitration going to be applied merely to the specific subject-matter of the Treaty or is it going to be a general commitment on the part of both Germany and France as far as other questions are concerned?
There is another important consideration. When I hear objections to the Protocol on the ground that if you read this Clause or that Clause or the other Clause you are committing yourselves to risks to which you ought not to commit yourselves, I am left unmoved. The important thing we have to do now, is not to apply paper logic politics but to apply what I might call political common sense to the situation. To that extent I associate myself with the Foreign Secretary when he objected to logical deductions from certain premises. What is so essential in Europe now, and I think I shall carry the House with me in this, is to try to change the military mentality of alliances as the basis of security, until the mentality of the State becomes one that trusts to a, reference to an Arbitration Court of all questions that if allowed to develop without assistance will eventually become causes of war.
The advantage of the Protocol over the Pact is that the former gets the nations of Europe into the habit of thinking of 342 arbitration. Give us 10 years of the working of the Protocol, and we will have Europe with a new habit of mind. I hope that is not too idealistic. if one had time, and the House would care to undergo the exercise, it could be shown that nothing is clearer in the evolution of the civilised mind than that at certain critical moments the masses have been open to a new suggestion of method, and when that method was advocated every logical objection to it was contained in its statement to the ordinary mind, but when the method was put into operation the logical objection disappeared, the common sense came out at the top, and habits were established which were unshaken. It is a fundamental reason in favour of the Protocol, that it is going to make the nations of Europe consider a new system of security, and to scrap for ever the old ideas of military pacts and military alliances.
There is no use in hon. Members on that side or any other side coming and preaching to me about French security. We have discussed the problem of French security with Frenchmen, with Czechoslovakians and everybody else, to an extent and with a thoroughness that I believe very few Members of this House realise. I believe that France has to get that psychological frame of mind which is described as a feeling of security, but when we admit that, that is only the beginning of our trouble, because, when we admit that, I am not going to say to France or anybody else "Give me your programme, tell me what you want and I will agree to it because I am in favour of giving you security." We must then admit that the feeling of security is essential. Security is not essential. Security is a fiction of the mind. The great delusion of the militarist is that security is a thing that is shaped like a gun, that can be worked by someone at the end of it. That is where he always goes wrong. That is where he misleads the nation. Given the need of security, we have to work out a programme. We have to work out the substantial thing that gives security.
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs reminded us quite properly that in order to defend British policy and the British position in Europe we have fought Spain and fought France and we have fought Germany. Have we got to the end of it yet? I was reading Bolingbroke's. 343 Instructions to his Ambassadors at the end of a certain war, and in that you will find whole pages of the same instructions that could be lifted out and put into the Foreign Office now as drafts of instructions or of dispatches or something which serves a similar purpose. We fought France, and we rendered ourselves for the time being secure. Germany then appeared. We fought Germany, and we were the victors. Now are we going to allow the opportunity to pass? We have now got the chance of adopting the old line of security, which is based on compacts and armed forces. It does not matter what words you give to it, that is the meaning of it. That means that in the course of a generation there will be another conflict, or we can take the position that considerable risks on paper must be taken, and that those risks can only be justified by the creation of a habit of mind which would mean that, at the end of a few years, the European nation would automatically, just as we do as individuals, whenever matters that would have been the cause of war 20 years ago arise, go to Court and have them settled there in the same way as we settle our differences when we go before a Magistrate or a Judge.
My colleagues and I worked for that ideal. We found the draft treaty of mutual assistance left to us as an inheritance. I do not like—I confess that some of my friends quarrel with me about this—the mere changing of things because a party of a different colour has come into office. I think that one of the great accusations that will be brought against my right hon. Friends is that they are a little bit too hasty in making those changes, but that is a matter perhaps for another day and another Debate. After having carefully studied that agreement, I said that it would not do, that it was on the old lines, that it was going to damage this country, not in 1925 or 1926, but perhaps in 1940 or 1950, and on that account I should advise my colleagues to turn it down. I was comforted very much, when I came to that decision, by the fact that our predecessors in office had come to the same decision, so that it was not exactly a party decision. Now I find that they have changed their mind, and there is a sentence towards the end of the Foreign Secretary's speech in Geneva 344 which indicated that that was the right hon. Gentleman's intention, but I will not take that up now. I will put it in this way. There is a sentence which I read to mean that. I read it more than once, because I was surprised to find it in the document to which I refer.
I will not now go into detail, but let me give the House this assurance. This Protocol, as it emerged from the Committees 1 and 3 at Geneva, was never intended to be a gospel. Our colleagues did not imagine that this was a thing done by the British Government and that it was a somewhat casual thing. It was nothing of the kind. I did not quite recognise the description of my adventures in Geneva as retailed by my successor. Here and there I recognised sober events dressed in somewhat romantic language, but here and there I did not recognise anything at all. The situation at Geneva was such that the whole existence of the League of Nations I believe, its reputation and authority, depended upon some idea being started, some proposals being made alternative to that draft Treaty of mutual assistance. We knew what we wanted. We had made up our minds after careful consideration. Not long ago we divided the question of arbitration from everything else. My right hon. Friend is still in the depths of darkness in that respect. He thinks that he can propose an arbitration treaty and that it is all right. I do not think so. It must be embedded in a large expression of European policy that meets the essential needs of the nation at the moment. Therefore we have security, arbitration, and then disarmament. The question was, how were those three to be embodied in one instrument? That was all.
French interests are not always the same as ours. I have said so in public several times and in private very often. But France has got no interest so diverse from ours that France and ourselves, approaching the problem in a friendly spirit, cannot find agreement upon it. I am profoundly convinced of that. It may take us six months to find agreement. That does not matter. I am certain that agreement is there if the situation be properly handled on both sides. This was not a mere evolution of good will like the pentecostal peace that we read about in the Acts of the Apostles. Not at all. 345 The greeting was cold and critical, but that changed. I am not going to pursue the whole story, but an essential part of the story, which the Foreign Secretary ought to have told, was that weeks after that, weeks after I had gone and had been forgotten in Geneva, weeks after the hard struggle of those two Committees, when they got down to the uninspiring heart breaking details at the bottom, my right hon. Friend came up with his colleagues and his Protocol, and then the whole of the League decided to recommend the Protocol for the acceptation of the Governments.
One must not belittle such an achievement. It was a great hope in international affairs, and I was profoundly sorry that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should have made at Geneva the speech which has been circulated in the White Paper. I think that it did him an injustice. I know that it did this country an injustice. I have had to defend it, to explain it. It was a very great pity. The Canadian Resolution was much more hopeful and much more helpful. What was in our minds about this? We have never said that this was to be done in the proposed forms straight away. I know that there are serious problems in this Protocol, but I maintain that it is a splendid foundation for consideration, and for negotiation for change, and it is in that spirit and conception and with that idea that I am sorry on account of the attitude which the Foreign Secretary has taken at Geneva. It will come again. There will be no security except on those lines. Not in those words and not in those clauses, but on those lines. You can have your sectional agreements and arrangements, you can, as the occasion demands, pacify France to-day and Germany to-morrow and please Poland the next day and smooth down Dr. Benes the next day. It is only for the time. That will go on until you turn down that policy, or you run on until you fall down, and then destruction is going to overtake you. Only along the lines of a combination of those three great essentials, security, arbitration and disarmament, is there a hopeful chance of a successful termination of our difficulties.
I am rather tired of these details, because if a Committee had been appointed by the Government, right hon. Gentlemen and some of us here could have gone through the Protocol in order to 346 try to make a good settlement. Ninetenths of the points made by the right hon. Gentleman at Geneva would have been eliminated, because nine-tenths were—if I may use House of Commons language—none of them Second Reading points at all, but purely Committee points. But there is one thing about which I want to warn hon. Members. It is said that you are committed to much more by the Protocol than by the Covenant. I doubt it. Technically, in one respect, you arc, and that is that, under the Protocol, you refer to the arbitration of the Council of the League of Nations certain things which, under the Covenant, if not settled unanimously by the Council, are left unsettled, and may therefore be the subject of war. Under the Protocol you close that up, and you make no events or situations outside the scope of the arbitration provided for in the Protocol.
Has the House really considered its obligations under the Covenant? The thing that alarms me most of all, if you are ever going to war under the Covenant, is that it is uncertain. You do not know what you are committed to The definitions in the Covenant are so vague, that if a crisis were to arise next week, and the Foreign Secretary met the representative of France, and they began to discuss what their commitments were under that Covenant, I venture to say the Foreign Secretary would be at one end and the French representative would be at the other. Both would be absolutely honest in their intentions to carry out their obligations under the Covenant, and there would be more ill-will created by that perfectly honest disagreement about the weight of our burdens, than if we had been enemies for a large number of years. That is one of the difficulties of the Covenant, and it is one of the difficulties which everyone will have to face, as soon as it comes to the actual details of the relations between France and ourselves.
There are many other points upon which I do not think I need dwell in detail, but there is just one which was made by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd George) who said how cheap the whole thing was. He asked, what provision has been made in the Protocol for arbitration, say, about Constantinople, or about territorial lines in the Eastern corners of Europe—none. The 347 Protocol approaches it from a totally different point of view. The Protocol makes provision for the arbitration of every difficulty that is reaching a war stage. If Constantinople comes into that position, it is provided for ill the Protocol. If the boundaries of the East enter that position, arbitration is provided for in the Protocol; and so on.
§ Mr. A. CHAMBERLAIN
Surely it was not understood by Czechslovakia that her boundaries were liable to be challenged, and to be subject to arbitration the moment the Protocol became law?
§ Mr. MacDONALD
That is not the way it will work. That is the difficulty. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend—I have no grievance against him—was not here when I was agreeing with him most cordially that you must not apply logic to politics. That is not how the thing will work. The Protocol is not a complete machine—that is one of the mistakes constantly being made. It is part of a general machine, to which we have already committed ourselves. I do appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, and I appeal to this House—and the very excellent speech which was delivered by the hon. Member for West Derbyshire (Marquess of Hartington) gives rue hope—that between now and September we will go on with this, and not bang the door against tins great experiment, this floe idea. I wonder if, by September, it will be possible for us to try to create an international platform for considering this question of the Protocol, so that when the Government go to Geneva in September, they will not go there saying, "If you make your compacts on these lines it will be part of our duty to upset them." It is a horrible position, and, so far as I am concerned, I hope it will not be adopted, but that we shall go to Geneva on a platform which will -secure international security and disarmament. I can assure this House that is the problem which my friends put forward, and did their best to find, at any rate, an effective solution in the Protocol.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
Everyone, I think, will share with the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down the feeling of admiration for the motives that have inspired the Protocol, and of re- 348 joicing that it was possible to get so universal and so cordial a support to the principle of peace, and the moral rejection of war as was shown when the adopted. But I want to lay before the House the view that the Protocol is a far less serviceable instrument than the Covenant for the purposes for which it was designed, that is, for the purpose of security and the purpose of disarmament. My objection is not an objection of detail; it is an objection that goes to the root of the Protocol, as I distrust profoundly the method of compulsory arbitration. I speak throwing an emphasis on "compulsory." I do not, myself, believe that, at the present stage of European civilisation, compulsory arbitration is a means for peace.
What is the problem of peace? I suppose everyone will agree that the great Powers of Western Europe form the serious menace to the peace of the world. That is to say, the machinery of the Covenant, and even before the Covenant was invented, the old machinery of the Concert of Europe-was not wholly inadequate for preserving the- peace between the smaller Powers. The anxiety of lovers of peace is how to preserve the peace between the great Powers of Western Europe. That is the problem, and in that sense it is regional, and not universal. If you can secure peace there, the rest of your task is relatively easy, and the machinery of the Covenant would usually be adequate for the purpose.
When we say peace, we mean, of course, that you put an end to international war. There are a certain number of quarrels which might lead not only to international, but to civil war. Those are, obviously, beyond your machinery altogether—tremendous questions of principle, such as cause a civil war even within a community, because, plainly, no diplomatic apparatus, no treaty, whether a protocol, pact or covenant, would be adequate to restrain a certain degree of human passion, such as occasioned, for example, the great-Civil War in America. But our problem is to get rid of international wars, that is, wars which really arise out of conflicts of interests between the nations concerned. I believe arbitration to be only a very subsidiary instrument in preventing those conflicts. What is the 349 weakness of arbitration? The weakness is, first of all, that in respect to a true conflict of interests, it is inappropriate altogether. Arbitration means, I suppose, the judicial decision of the dispute; but there can be no judicial decision of a true conflict of interests, because there is no common basis.
Let me take a case out of Europe, because it is less controversial, and, unlike the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), I do not want to be a bull in a china shop. Let me take the case—a very improbable one—of a dispute arising about the Monroe Doctrine in America I take it purposely, because it is so utterly unlikely. Suppose a dispute arose, and came before the Court of Arbitration. It could not, really, get to work at all, because there would be no common basis. The United States would say, "We stand by the Monroe Doctrine." The other contending Power would say. "That has no meaning to us; it is only a doctrine of the supreme interest of the Government of the United States in the American Continent. That has no meaning to any body except the United States. There is no common basis for a judicial decision to be made at all." Accordingly, you could only get a judicial decision if you allowed the Court of Arbitration to say, "We wilt consider whether your Monroe Doctrine is a sound international principle." That amounts to denying the sovereignty of the individual State You cannot go to a State and say, "We the Court of Arbitration, or League of Nations, or any other authority, are a better judge than you are as to what are your essential interests, and what are your rights in that respect." Because that is to go with the authority of a superior, and destroy the independent authority of the State concerned.
The Covenant proceeded on two great principles—the need of civilisation to avoid war, and the still unchanged resolve of the signatories of the Covenant each to maintain its own individual sovereignty. It is exceedingly difficult to adjust those two principles, but the Covenant did it, I think, by the very judicious, and, it seems to me, eminently practical machinery of Article 12, which 350 secures a delay of three months. The
Covenant does not deny that every nation is to be the judge in its own cause, in its own final and essential interests, and is therefore perfectly sovereign. What it does says is, "You shall at any rate refer the matter to the Council or to arbitration, and you shall wait three months after the Report." That is a different procedure essentially from an authoritative judicial decision imposed by compulsion on the conflicting States. It does not deny, whereas compulsory arbitration does deny, the sovereignty of the States. That is one objection. You agree in general that you will go to arbitration, but you do not contemplate the particular dispute, which is hid in future time. You engage beforehand that you will accept the decision, as of a superior, of the compulsory court. That is quite a different thing from an agreement made pro hac vice, when the quarrel had arisen, when you consent of your own free sovereignty to put that particular dispute before an arbitral court.
There is a second great objection to arbitration in the interests of peace. It aims at a just decision. That sounds like a paradox. Justice is very well for small disputes, but when you are entering on a great dispute about which the contending parties passionately care, there is nothing more unfavourable to a peaceful solution than to attempt an appeal to justice. Everyone knows that in his personal experience. If you want to bring together two old friends who have quarrelled and are really very angry with one another, the stupidest thing you can do is to talk about the justice involved in the point. The various leaders of political parties now within hearing of my voice—or who might be—who have from time to time to adjust quarrels among their own political friends, would be the last to make an appeal to considerations of justice. You can conceive what would happen. I want people to imagine what compulsory arbitration would be when feeling was deeply heated upon a question which was of vital national interest. It would be exactly the same thing as happens in a quarrel between friends. If you propose to have arbitration in a quarrel, you know what will happen. In the end the quarrel will be more heated between the original com- 351 batants and there will be added an independent quarrel with the unhappy person who has intervened.
Very much the same thing would happen if you applied compulsory arbitration when two nations were in a great passion with one another. Of course it would be said that the tribunal was unfair, that Mr. So-and-so, the eminent jurist, was deeply prejudiced, and that probably he was financially interested. There would be no limit to the unfair and angry things that would be said. The Treaty would not stand the pressure. People would not consent to adhere in a matter of that kind to the decision of the arbitrator. If you take another line and say "Do not let us consider the justice of a dispute, but is it worth while to plunge Europe into war?"; if you work diplomatically and not judicially, you have a far better chance. It is not merely an abstract proposition to say that according to the 'Covenant, the League of Nations is not a sovereign, a super-State, settling with authority disputes in other States. It is a Council of States. It should always act as a peacemaker and not as a judge. It should go with friendly counsels, with diplomatic methods, talking people round, bringing the pressure of public opinion to bear on them.
It is in that way that you will avoid war, and not by going with the hand of authority and saying that this or that shall be submitted to compulsory arbitration. My objection to the machinery is, that it seems to imply that even the most vital of disputes, things which must stir passions, are to be sent compulsorily to arbitration. I am sure that that will not make for peace. I am sure that it is an unsound way. And it is changing profoundly and in principle the character of the League of Nations. The Covenant of the League is essentially that it has set up the League of Nations as the home of friendly goodwill, as the honest broker, to use Bismarck's phrase, which brings everyone together. So I deprecate any effort to make the League of Nations a judge, to build upon the machinery of arbitration.
Let me remind the House that where you had a complete system of constitutional organisation, and a very renowned tribunal in America before the Civil 352 War, the decisions of the Supreme Court, so far from making peace, were among the most aggravating circumstances that led to war; so far from it being true that they made for peace where feeling was really deeply aroused, they actually aggravated the situation. So I welcome the statement of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, that the Government are aiming at another path towards peace. I noticed all through the Debate that there were antitheses—either you have arbitration or war. There is a third alternative. It is the alternative of diplomatic, friendly understanding and appeal, and that is a better plan than arbitration or war. Indeed, the Covenant is quite sufficient as it stands. If people keep their word, Article 12 will adequately preserve the peace, of the world. Let me read it—The Members of the League agree that if there should arise between them any dispute likely to lead to a rupture, they will submit the matter either to arbitration, or to inquiry by the Council, and they agree in no case to resort to war until three months after the award by the arbitrators, or the Report by the Council.If people keep that Article, peace is perfectly assured. The danger is that the nations will not keep that agreement. What is the problem? It is to buttress up that, to make it stronger. I do not know how the intended pact will turn out. Such an arrangement might be a powerful buttress to the Article, especially if it quotes this and other Articles of the Covenant so as to snake it clear that what the Powers are doing is not something different from the Covenant, or alien to its spirit, but setting up practical machinery which may strengthen it where it is weak. That is, to strengthen it not in form but in practice, so as to be sure that people will not break their word in respect of it. I am very sanguine that the League will be a great and effective instrument for the peace of the world. I am sanguine, because as I see it, it builds itself, not merely on considerations of moral appeal, but also on the recognition of a new reality, and that is the close inter-dependence of the great civilised Powers upon one another. War has always been a crime but it is increasingly becoming a blunder. As the League, and the friends of peace working through it, can always, if given time, appeal to this consideration, that no quarrel is really 353 worth a war between civilised people, I am persuaded that if we can preserve for the four Great Powers of the West an assured peace, we shall lay the foundation upon which will gradually grow up a sense of security, and we can lay aside the burdens of armaments which are no security for peace. From the League we get security, from security disarmament, and we do not need the Protocol which will be a danger rather than an additional help in the cause of peace.
§ Captain CAZALET
When hon. Members rise to address the House for the first time, I realise with what sincerity and earnestness they plead for indulgence. I intend to follow the example of my elders and betters, and to plead for that indulgence now. In the course of the various Debates to which I have listened in this House, it has sometimes been suggested by hon. Members opposite that we on these benches are not as interested in the cause of peace as they are. I contend such a suggestion will not stand the barest examination, for this reason if for no other. Most of us on this side of the House have had our fair share in the experience of war, and that alone must of necessity make us regard it as the greatest possible calamity, both general and personal, that can befall the human rase. To me it is incomprehensible how anyone who underwent active service in the recent War can be anything but a confirmed pacifist for the rest of his life. One thing is certain. The dangers and discomforts of the trenches during the War were not the monopoly of any one section of the community which had the misfortune to inhabit those trenches; nor to-day are good intentions or peaceful proclivities the sole monopoly of any one political party.
The few remarks which I wish to make fall under two heads: first, the Protocol; and, secondly, various aspects of the political situation in Europe. I realise that among certain sections of the community the Conservative party is thought to be less enthusiastic in regard to the League of Nations than the Liberals or the Socialist party. This idea, again, is a complete travesty of the truth. It is one which every sincere believer in the League should do his best to controvert. The very basis of the League is its nonparty and non-political character. It is, therefore, conceivable, nay, it is probable, 354 that the rejection by the Government of the Protocol may be regarded as evidence in support of this theory. Therefore, I welcomed the speech of the Foreign Secretary this afternoon, because I think that what he said ought to be an end to any misunderstanding on that point.
I have no intention of examining in detail any of the objections to the Clauses of the Protocol, but one wonders, in passing, how many hon. Members of this House would be able to define accurately the word "Protocol," and how many hon. Members opposite, even those who took an active part in the framing of the Protocol, really believe that the British Empire as a whole could accept it in its present form. It is easy to draw attention to the weak points in the Protocol. It is as easy to pick holes in it as to criticise the League itself. For instance, to draw invidious distinctions between what are domestic and internal affairs and what should be submitted to compulsory arbitration, raises a question of great difficulty. It needs no genius to point out that without America economic sanctions would be a farce. It is obvious that the burden of carrying out these sanctions must fall chiefly on our shoulders and, it is equally clear, that if we accept this burden our self-governing Dominions are neither willing nor prepared to share in the burden. If the world were governed by theoretical propositions founded upon academic formula:, then the Protocol might be a very weighty contribution towards the peace of the universe. The world being what it is, the only chance of the Protocol succeeding, even if it should be adopted, is that it should never be brought up against a crisis nor have its clauses put into execution.
There is one criticism which has already been made which I should like to emphasise. It is that if the Protocol is adopted, it would tend to stabilise existing conditions in Europe and make the actual conditions of the Covenant itself more rigid and less flexible in their interpretation. It has been said with considerable truth that the adoption of the Protocol would make it more difficult for the United States to join the League of Nations. Too much can be, and, perhaps, has been, said on this point. At the present moment the League, without the assistance of the United States, has con- 355 ferred very considerable benefits on the peoples of Europe and elsewhere, and, in my humble opinion, even if the United States never does join it, I do not think that fact will prevent the League from carrying on its work for the good of mankind. That work will be neither prevented nor impeded; it will be only slightly impaired. The close and intimate relationship between this country and the United States, bound together, as we are, not so much by hoops of steel as of gold, is a worthy and substantial, if not a completely adequate compensation for America's non-participation in The League itself. There is no one factor in world politics which is of such vital importance as the union of the Anglo-Saxon races. The Protocol, if put into execution, might tend to strain this relationship, and a break between this country and the United States would be of far greater consequence than any situation which is likely to accrue from the refusal of America to participate in the League at the present moment. On this account alone, I think the Protocol presents such grave difficulties that it is very doubtful whether its acceptance would produce any adequate compensation.
It is pertinent to ask: If the Government are going to drop, or have dropped, The Protocol, what have they put in its place? I suggest it is no use deciding on a particular policy if we do not feel ourselves able to carry it out. It will be of no benefit to this country, or to any other, that we should get the reputation given to a certain notorious French statesman, of whom it was said "He has made up his mind and he does not know what to do." Great Britain appears to me to be in a position totally different from that of any other Power as regards Europe. She has less direct interest, beyond a general desire for peace and prosperity, and she is less tied by local considerations. Nevertheless, and perhaps in consequence her indirect influence is in the reverse proportion. Without our active co-operation, I do not believe a settlement is possible. We hold the balance between the contending interests, and therefore it is vital that we should use our position with the utmost caution and the strictest impartiality, even though 356 such an attitude should incur for us that temporary unpopularity which strict justice usually receives.
Turning to the situation in Europe, here again it is easy to criticise the Treaty of Versailles and to say that it is to blame for all our troubles. I think it is arguable that from the point of view of practical politics, the Treaty of Versailles was the best possible compromise which the victorious Allied Powers were able to arrive at in the aftermath of the Great War. Nevertheless it has left some very anomalous and to say the least of it, some very inequitable situations in Europe to-day. We have already heard references to the question of Bessarabia and the Hungarian minorities: then there is the question of Bulgaria and her promised outlet to the AEgean and finally we have the biggest problem of all, the sore and vexatious question of Poland and its frontiers about which we have heard so much. These danger zones in Europe might, I think, be compared to cracks in the wall of a house which has experienced a severe earthquake. The house has been subject to that which some of us know to our cost is called "structural alterations": these cracks however have been merely plastered over without any steps being taken to ascertain whether they penetrate to the foundations or not. The action of the Treaty of Versailles in regard to these places is comparable with the action of a high-handed, incompetent, expensive and militant architect. There is only one cure—frank and open discussions, if possible under the aegis of the League of Nations, a more liberal interpretation of Article 19 and an immense amount of good will on all sides.
I have travelled in all these countries since the War, but only wish to say a word or two in regard to Poland, as I think on the solution of that problem very largely hangs the question of peace in Europe. I fear I am unable to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) into the consideration of all the AlsaceLorraines which he has conjured up in Poland, and I admit I am not competent to contend with him on those various points. After the unrivalled experience he has had in dealing with these subjects, he must obviously know what he, is talking about. I have only travelled there, and discussed these 357 questions with those who know more about them than anybody else both in this country and in Poland. I feel this should be said on behalf a Poland because she is the most sensitive nation in Europe. I would refer the right hon. Gentleman back to the partition treaties of the eighteenth century when Russia, Germany and Austria did not merely take an Alsace-Lorraine, but vast portions of the Polish Kingdom until they finally extinguish Poland from off the map of Europe. I also call attention to the Russian attitude in regard to Poland before the War. If the right hon. Gentleman were to visit those parts which were under Russian domination before the War, he would realise the appalling tyranny of that deliberate attempt to exterminate every trace of Polish nationality, and exactly the same state of things was to be found in the German parts of Poland. Look at the legislation initiated and carried through by Bismarck to Prussianise some of those portions of Poland to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.
He mentioned also the question of Vilna. I do not know whether he is aware that the majority of the population in Vilna is not Polish. The whole question of Lithuania and Poland, to say the least of it, is difficult; I only wish to say that there is another side to the story than the one which the right hon. Gentleman presented to the House this evening. Lithuania and Poland are in many respects like Wales and England, and, curiously enough, at the time when the right hon. Gentleman was Prime Minister of England, the President of Poland was a certain gentleman called Pilsudski, who was a Lithuanian, and their Ambassador and eventually Foreign Secretary was Prince Sapieha, also a Lithuanian. I merely mention these facts to assure the House that when I say there is another side of the question there are solid facts to prove that statement. When you speak of the Eastern boundary of Germany, the problem is difficult enough, but when you begin to tackle it by calling it the Western frontier of Poland, then you immediately raise a tornado of excitement. Of all the countries which emerged or rather were resurrected as a result of the Great War, Poland is by far the largest, the richest, and the most important, and the possibilities of her 358 industrial development are of the first magnitude.
There is a real bond of sympathy between this country and Poland, to which we should be especially alive at the present moment, when still fresh in our thoughts is the memory of that magnificent and generous tribute paid to our ex-service men by the first of all artists and the most renowned of all Poles, M. Paderewski. I deprecate the immediate conclusion formed by some people that, because one wishes well to Poland, therefore one is of necessity pro-Pole and consequently anti-something else. I am perfectly willing to be designated pro-Pole, but I am first and foremost pro-peace.
Now whatever may be your views as regards the Treaty of Versailles, no one can deny that Germany will never willingly acquiesce in a situation which she regards as unjust, and another consideration which I think the nations and peoples of Europe should clearly understand is that, treaty or no treaty, the people of this country will never eight about a small obscure portion of Europe, about which they know nothing, concerning which they care less, and in regard to the ownership of which it is possible to advocate different points of view. Poland is rich in population and in natural resources, and no one wishes to deny her full and free facilities for the export of her goods, but in exactly the same proportion as the preservation of a contented Poland is essential to the peace of Europe, so also the existence of an aggrieved Germany is a perpetual stumbling block to that end. If anything should happen to Poland—and if my right hon. Friend had his way, I do not think there would be any china left in the shop at all—Europe would be engulfed in a tragedy and in a cataclysm comparable only to the recent War, and in which Great Britain would inevitably be included.
I would, therefore, humbly and diffidently urge that Poland, on the crest of her popularity and on the eve of a great industrial development, should make terms with her Western neighbours which would assuage the grievances which Germany feels, rightly or wrongly, but which would in no way endanger her own national security. It is incalculable what harm would accrue if Poland is unwilling or unwise enough not to 359 pursue some policy along these lines: Germany refuses to enter the League, France, in honour bound to Poland, cannot enter a Four or Five-Power Pact, as the case may be, and England is unable to give to France and Belgium that guarantee of security with out which armies and armaments must inevitably increase. I believe that some arrangement is possible between Poland and Germany without entailing too great a sacrifice, on either side, of dignity or domains. I would humbly suggest—it was put forward in the "Observer" last Sunday—that, should any alteration or rectification of frontier be required, Germany should compensate Poland in cash. I would even go so far as to suggest, that in order to get a solution of Poland's Western boundaries, Germany should do her best to guarantee the Eastern frontier of Poland. Even if a sacrifice is entailed, the reward of a settled and peaceful Europe and amicable relationship with her neighbour and her best customer is a condition of affairs for which it is worth paying a very considerable price.
I cannot, personally, think that the acceptance of the Protocol will further the solution of these problems. Let us use the Covenant, especially Article 19, as we have it to-day, and let us get rid of these plague spots of discontent in Europe, for then only will the nations of Europe feel themselves to be in a position to fulfil that condition which is the primary and fundamental basis of peace, namely, disarmament. I apologise for taking the attention of the House for so long. My only excuse is the importance of the Debate and the earnestness and sincerity with which we, on these back benches, regard this subject, especially, if I may say so, we who represent that section of the community which fought in the last War, which might be called upon to fight again, but which is determined that no possible channel shall be left unexplored that will prevent a similar calamity from overtaking this generation or a generation yet to come.
§ Mr. COVE
We have listened with very great pleasure to the maiden speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet), and I think I can, on behalf of the House, congratulate him both on the manner of 360 the presentation of his case and upon a great deal of the matter which it contained. I want to say, however, that he raised one or two points with which I desire to deal very briefly. The second point he raised was that the probability was that the Protocol would prevent America coming into the League of Nations. I do not think that would be the case at all. I believe that there is a sincere desire in America to further the cause of peace and to increase the effectiveness of the machinery for peace. I do not wish the House to rely merely upon my opinion. I have in my possession a speech which was delivered by no less a person than Viscount Grey, on 4th November, at Croydon, and printed by the League of Nations Union, in which he said, in regard to that point:I see many people who criticise the Protocol saying that it will make the United States look less favourably on the League of Nations than it does now. I believe that is absolutely the reverse of the truth. I do not say that the Protocol will make the United States more likely to join it, but I do say this—and I am sure of it—that if the League of Nations is allowed to lie dormant the United States will despite it. If we make it a real effective means of preventing armaments and securing peace in Europe, the United States must not decide to join it, but they will respect it.Therefore I do not think that we need fear that the Protocol will make the United States less inclined to associate itself with the League of Nations. The next point to which my hon. Friend referred, and it is a point which has been raised over and over again, both in Debate, I think, and outside this House in the newspapers, and particularly has it been often repeated and emphasised by the newspaper to which the hon. Gentleman referred—I speak of the "Observer." A week or two ago that paper said:The whole object of the chief authors of the Protocol was to establish security in Europe by mutual guarantees to maintain rigidly the entire status quo of that Continent, west and east upon the Versailles basis.I cannot contemplate that as being the effect of the Protocol. If there is any truth at all in that criticism, it might be more relevantly made against the Covenant itself. The Protocol does not, at least, do anything more than the Covenant to stereotype the status quo. The Protocol just recognises that Europe is not ripe yet to settle frontier questions 361 by judicial procedure and by compulsory arbitration. It does say this:You shall not go to war to alter frontiers.It leaves the rectification of the frontiers to the method of conciliation provided for in the Covenant. Article 19 of the Covenant says:The Assembly may from time to time advise the reconsideration by Members of the League of Treaties which have become inapplicable, and the consideration of international conditions whose continuance might endanger the peace of the world.Then the machinery of Article 15 of the Covenant is brought into effect to prevent wars due to any desire to rectify frontiers in the country of Europe. Therefore, the Protocol, although it does not, as a matter of fact, submit to judicial and compulsory arbitration frontier questions may agitate Europe and cause war. The Protocol does not take away the power that resides in the Covenant itself to consider this matter in order to prevent war; but it is curious to me to find how many people now are interested in this matter from the point of view of not stabilising the status quo, who a short time ago were pleading that the frontiers of Europe should be regarded as sacred.
We had an instance to-day in the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). A few months ago in this House he said that revision was one of the most dangerous words that could be used. Many have repeated that in regard to the frontiers of Europe. Now they come along and say, if we are going to get the status quo stabilised in the Protocol, then that is a damning reason why the Protocol should not be ratified. I want to refer before I sit down to the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Foreign Affairs at Geneva itself. He said:The aggressor is at liberty to select his own date for picking a quarrel. Until that date arrives he may distribute his Army as he pleases—provided only that he neither mobilises them nor adds to them. When the distribution is as favourable to his design as he can hope to make them, he starts the dispute. Immediately the military position becomes temporarily unalterable. His troops, which are more or less in the right position for attack, may (indeed must) be kept there till he wants to use them. The troops, on the other hand, of his prospective victim are (by supposition) in the wrong position for defence. But there they must be kept, or the victim may 362 find himself charged with a breach of the Protocol.When I read that, my first impression was what a hopeless outlook upon humanity is embodied in these words! What an acute appreciation of what I may call subtle diabolical scheming on the part of some of the nations of Europe. I ask myself the question whether these words embody the capitalist morality of Europe? I cannot find anything in the Protocol to justify the events given in this imaginative description of a situation by the Foreign Secretary. Even if there were, the victim has an immediate and automatic check which he can apply in the dispute. The victim, so-called, can appeal to the League for arbitration, and that fact immediately secures him automatically the protection of the League. I myself do not think we can get security, disarmament and arbitration by considering them apart. We must take them one with the other. Arbitration, security, and disarmament! So far as I can see in the Protocol the disarmament provided is a far better kind of disarmament than will be provided by merely considering economy. Here you have disarmament, organically and progressively related to the growing sense of security, and to the processes and practices of peace.
There is only one great automatic check provided for in the Protocol. No nation in future has to go to war. Hon. Members may say that that would affect the sovereignty of our nation. I would be prepared to give up a great deal of national sovereignty in order to avoid the horrors of war. It is useless for those who criticise the Protocol to say that we are giving up -our Navy, and are simply throwing ourselves into the arms of foreigners, while all the time we should be represented on the body governing this matter by the responsible Minister for Foreign Affairs, or the Prime Minister, or some other Minister directly responsible to the Government of his country All the time we shall be directly interested and consulted step by step in anything that might be done. I would like the House to say quite definitely that war and preparedness for war have not procured us peace, and that the time has come when we can relegate certain questions to judicial procedure in the permanent Court of International Justice, 363 and that those questions which we cannot send there shall be settled by the machinery already provided in the Covenant of the League of Nations, with the automatic, infallible test that the aggressor is the nation, not that refuses to submit to arbitration, not merely that refuses to accept a judicial decision, but that fires the first shot, that takes up arms; that that nation is the aggressor which is not prepared to submit to a curtailment of its power of war, to give up the right of private and individual war and hand over to the collective consciousness the future destinies of itself and the nations of the world.
§ Commander COCHRANE
This is the first time I have had the honour of addressing the House, and I hope the House will forgive me if I limit my remarks strictly to one part of this very wide subject, the question of disarmament. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. B. MacDonald) followed the sequence of Protocol, arbitration, disarmament. I certainly got the impression from his speech that disarmament would be a simple matter when we came to it. Nobody in this House, I think, is opposed to the ideal of disarmament, and on that point. I should like to associate myself with the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet), who spoke just now, that those who have seen something of war have no desire to sec it repeated. On the general question of the scale of armaments, I certainly accept the view that no country in modern times has ever obtained complete security. The degree of security must always depend on the financial resources of the country, amongst other factors. On the other hand, I believe there is a great desire in every nation for security, that it goes deeper than a mere idea of patriotism. I think it is almost an instinct in the people of every nation to uphold their national liberties and customs, and I believe that if disarmament is carried beyond the point to which a nation is ready to go you will create an atmosphere of suspicion in which the possibility of an outbreak of war will be even greater than it is under present conditions. Open rivalry in armaments is most unfortunate, but, after all, the rivalry is open, the danger can be weighed, and I 364 do not think you will improve the position if you have a state of suspicion and hatred. If proposals for mutual disarmament are pushed beyond the point to which the interests of nations will allow them readily to go, if by the extraneous power of a disarmament conference a nation is placed in the position of feeling that its safety depends on its rivals' strict adherence to an international agreement which can be readily broken, then I believe you will set up a most undesirable state of tension amongst the nations of the world.
The Washington Conference was a great success, and for two principal reasons, I think. In the first place, at that time the nations had an excess of armaments as a result of the recent War; and, secondly, and I think perhaps this is the most important point, immediately the Washington Conference met the delegates had before them definite, practocal, concrete, proposals for disarmament which were easily understood by everybody. Take the question of the limitation of the displacement of cruisers to 10,000 tons. No doubt it will be possible to build a cruiser of 11,000 tons and pass it off as coming within the agreement, but it will be quite impossible to build a cruiser of 20,000 tons and to assert that it complies with the Washington agreement. In that way, I think, a definite practical step in disarmament was taken, but obviously the scope of these definite proposals is limited, and I think there is a great danger in adopting impracticable proposals for disarmament.
Purely as an illustration I would suggest that there is a proposal for the abolition of submarines. I do not wish to argue this from the naval point of view, but from what I think is the broader point of the political consequences which, I believe, would ensue. Undoubtedly it would be perfectly simple to scrap all existing submarines by means similar to those adopted at the Washington Conference, but the first danger would arise, subsequent to the agreement, on the question of whether vessels which were then being constructed were or were not submarines. A submarine, I think hon. Members will agree with me, is a vessel which is capable of being navigated under water. Then obviously a vessel which has an open hatchway, or indeed even an open funnel, cannot be submerged, and so could not be classed as a submarine. I 365 do not wish to pursue this rather technical point, but I think perhaps I may sum it up in this way, and what. I say with regard to submarines applies with equal force to almost every form of armament. The definition of a, submarine which would be suitable to an Act of Parliament, where subsequently it would come under the acute review of the law courts, and where its exact meaning could be determined, would be inadmissible in an agreement for disarmament where the interpretation must rest, entirely on the good faith of the signatories. I would suggest that if an agreement has been reached for the abolition of submarines—I do not care whether it is reached by independent agreement or under the League of Nations—in the course of years it is probable, in fact it is almost certain, that complaints will be made through the League of Nations that this or that country is making secret preparations to build and produce submarines. If reports of that sort are received by the League of Nations, what can they do? To my mind there is only one course for them to take, and it is that they must endeavour to obtain information to prove or disprove those allegations.
That information cannot be obtained at Geneva, and, therefore, it would be necessary to set up an International Commission to visit the countries concerned to try and establish the truth of those statements about secret armaments which had been made. The point is whether such a Commission could in fact establish the truth on this matter. Let me again take the submarine merely as an illustration. There is no part of the construction of a submarine which is not peculiar to that vessel. The hull is built of steel plates similar to that of a merchant ship. It is true that those plates are bent to a different shape, but the suspicious curvature of a steel plate is a sufficient basis for an allegation of bad faith against a friendly government.
It seems to me that that is the position to which we should ha reduced once you go beyond the point to which nations are to proceed in the way of disarmament and you must have suspicion. You will have reports made to the League of Nations that this or that country is preparing secret armaments, but no Commission and no amount of reports will get rid of the horrible fog of suspicion. 366 After all, Governments may be able to control the growth of armaments, but they cannot control the growth of suspicion. Strongly as I feel in regard to disarmament, I feel equally strongly that this is a matter in which we ought to proceed with the greatest care. I believe the difficulties in the way of successful disarmament are enormous.
As another example, perhaps I may go hack to the Washington Agreement. That agreement, in its main clauses, I believe was and is still most successful, but there was one proposal in it with regard to capital ships under which it was laid down by the Treaty that those ships should not have their armaments increased. The Navy Board of the United States wished to increase the elevation of the guns of their capital ships in order to increase their firing range, and had there been no agreement they would have made that small alteration, and as far as this country is concerned all that would have happened would have be-en that we should have received information of the change. Of course, it would have been registered in the technical department of our Admiralty and that would have been the end of it.
A doubt arose as to whether this proposal of the Navy Department in America was a contravention of the Washington Agreement, and hon. Members will
recollect that during the past month this question of the elevation of the guns on the United States battleships has been canvassed backwards and forwards by the authorities in this country. The Committee of the Senate in America thought so-and-so, and we have even had the views of the President of the United States upon it. Fortunately, the relations between us and the United States are such that we need not treat this incident as a matter of much importance. In my view this small question of the elevation of the guns in American battleships has received a prominence out of all proportion to its importance on account of the doubt as to whether it was really in accordance with the Washington Agreement or not. For these reasons I do feel that there are great difficulties in regard to this question of disarmament, and I wish to register my strong protest against the idea that disarmament is easy, and 367 that the only obstacle is some lack of good faith on the part of the Government.
§ Mr. DALTON
I congratulate the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Commander Cochrane) who has just sat down upon a maiden speech which I think we all appreciate as showing considerable technical knowledge, and emphasising a number of difficulties which must undoubtedly be present in any scheme for disarmament. Although most of us cannot claim the same competent inside knowledge on this subject as the hon. and gallant Member, yet those of us who most clearly realise those difficulties regard the fact that they exist as a specially strong reason for setting to work with care, but without delay, to endeavour to work out settlements and solutions of the various difficulties to which the hon. and gallant Member has drawn our attention.
The Debate has ranged over a very wide ground, and I propose to deal very briefly with one or two points which have perhaps not been touched upon so fully as certain others. I gather from the statement we have had from the Government that the foreign policy of this country is at the present moment in a very liquid condition, that the Protocol has been turned down, and that an attempt is being made to form some sort of Pact and to include in the consideration of this question three, five or possibly seven nations. Therefore, it is still possible that our remarks may have some influence on the future policy of the Government. It is with that hope that I will refer to one or two points connected with the Protocol. There has been considerable misunderstanding of the Protocol, which, in the form in which it was drawn up under the Labour Government, is now dead. Nevertheless, it is very likely that, whatever settlement is reached, the principles of the Protocol and a great number of its separate parts may be brought together in some new scheme of policy.
There is just one word that I should like to say with reference to the Dominions. We have been told that the Dominions are opposed to the Protocol. We have not yet had the opportunity of reading in detail the grounds of their opposition, but I notice, with reference to the Dominions, that the Secretary of 368 State for Foreign Affairs, when speaking at Geneva, referred to the objections to compulsory arbitration which he entertained having been increased through the weakening of the reservations in Article 15 of the Covenant, which were designed to prevent any interference by the League in matters of domestic jurisdiction. I put down a question yesterday, and I was asked to defer it till to-day, because the point which it raised would be dealt with in the Debate. It was not dealt with in the speech of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and I would like, at any rate, to get the question on record, in the hope that it will, at least, be pondered, if not answered. The question which I put down was to ask whether the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had taken the advice of the Law Officers before making this statement, and further, whether this statement of his was not in direct contradiction to the statement made by Sir Cecil Hurst, the Legal Adviser to the Foreign Office, during the debates in the Fifth Assembly.
Sir Cecil Hurst then stated that in his judgment the Protocol did not in any way weaken the power of the Dominions to control matters of domestic jurisdiction, and, in particular, immigration. Indeed, it appears to me that the "White Australia" policy, which, speaking for myself, I regard as an absolutely inevitable policy, which could only be broken down in the event of war in which Australia and other parts of the Empire were defeated—an event which I hope is not within the region of contemplation—it appears to me that that policy and the power of Australia and other Dominions to control their own immigration would be made very much stronger under the Protocol than it is at the present time under the Covenant, simply because, under the Protocol, as has been pointed out by a recent authoritative writer on the subject, either party to any dispute can demand from the Court of International Justice a decision on any question of international law; and, if there be one point more than another in international law which is perfectly clear, it is that every State has full power to decide what persons shall be admitted to its territory. In other words, every State has, under international law, complete 369 control over its own, immigration—whom it will admit and whom it will not admit.
Under the Protocol power is given, as I have said, to any party to such a dispute—Australia, for example, or any other part of the Empire—to seek a decision from the Court, which would be legally binding and decisive, and which any person who has made any study of international law, however slight, would know in advance would be in favour of Australia, or whichever other Dominion might be concerned. I hope, therefore, that this argument against the Protocol will not be. used again unless it be supported with some further evidence, and, in particular, with some competent legal opinion contrary to that expressed by Sir Cecil Hurst and other authorities on this subject.
I only wish to deal with one other matter, and that is the general question of disarmament. It appears to me that the relation of disarmament to the Protocol has not been at all clearly apprehended by many who have spoken and written about it since it was first published to the world and discussed at Geneva. The right hon. Gentleman who still, I believe, leads the Liberal party, asked this afternoon whether the question of disarmament could be submitted to arbitration. He also said that he had read the Protocol. If he had read the Protocol, and if, in particular, he had read the last Article of it, Article 21, he would have seen that disarmament is the hinge upon which the whole door swings. He would have seen that no obligations are binding upon any State which signs the Protocol in favour of a State which has not disarmed to the extent laid down, and, therefore, it is true to say—at any rate, using the word "arbitration" broadly—that disarmament questions can be referred to arbitration, because the Council of the League has to draw up a plan and all the nations concerned have to agree to carry out that plan.
I am amazed when I hear it said, as I have in this House this afternoon, and at other times, that our military, naval and air advisers, when asked to advise about the Protocol, have stated, and apparently have convinced the Ministers whom they advised, that our obligations would be so increased under the Protocol that we should be compelled to increase 370 our armaments. Them also, and the Ministers whom they advise, I, in turn, would advise to read the Protocol, and particularly to read Article 21, because it is perfectly clearly laid down in Article 21 that the Protocol does not come into effect at all, that none of the obligations, none of the sanctions, none of the machinery, none of the resort to arbitration comes into effect at all except as a result of disarmament. If disarmament fails, the whole Protocol falls to the ground.
I had the pleasure of discussing this matter with a leading Australian public man shortly after the meeting of the Assembly, and he said—and I quote him because it seems to me that his view is the common-sense view, which is very seldom heard in these discussions—he said he was well aware of certain difficulties in the Protocol, certain objections of detail; but he said:I shall support the Protocol because I want the Disarmament Conference. If I can get the Disarmament Conference, and if the Disarmament Conference succeeds, the gain of disarmament will greatly outweigh these other difficulties. If, on the other hand, either the Disarmament Conference is not held, or if it is held and does not succeed, then we do not, indeed, get the gain of disarmament, but neither do we get anything else in the Protocol, and, therefore, none of the objections to the other parts of the Protocol have any application at all.That is an aspect of the matter which does not seem to me to have been at all adequately or frequently considered. In so far as I am, as I think I may honestly claim to be, a supporter of the Protocol, though willing to believe that it is capable of amendment as to detail, I certainly take that attitude primarily on the ground that it holds out the hope of general all-round disarmament. If we are not to have that, if the loss of the Protocol is also to mean, not merely the postponement, but the loss of the Disarmament Conference which was arranged for at the last Assembly, then I hope that our Government in this country will make some effort to promote, or at any rate support other people in framing, some alternative scheme for all-round disarmament.
The hon. and gallant Member who spoke last referred to the Washington Agreement. If the Washington Agreement did no more, it at any rate proved 371 to sceptics that some kind of disarmament arrangement between great Powers was possible. It can no longer be said to be an absolutely fantastic notion that great Powers can willingly meet together and agree to limit their armaments. The United States, the Japanese, ourselves, the French and the Italians did agree to limit certain types of warships under that Convention. It is rather humiliating to be always having to follow the lead of the United States in well-doing, but, just as the Washington Conference was initiated from the American side, so it looks as though the next Conference is also to be initiated from the American side. If the British Government cannot get the credit of having been the first to initiate it, I hope they will vigorously back up any overtures that may come from President Coolidge and the American Government. It is very weary work waiting for other people to give a lead in this direction. I was much impressed by the concluding passages of the Foreign Secretary's speech, in which he referred to the suspicion and the fear that was still existing everywhere, to the persistence of the armed camps and to the danger of another Armageddon, although he, as he optimistically thought, might not live to see it. Those of us who share those feelings, even though we do not agree with the policy he is putting forward, hope he is going to act up to the latter part of his speech, and is not going to be content merely with this rather shadowy and ill-defined pact, or the policy that may grow out of it, but that he means to push forward with some vigour alternative solutions for those greater problems with which the Protocol sought to deal. In September, we are told, notice has been given that at the Assembly of the League the Protocol will be again in a prominent. position on the Agenda, and I very much hope he will be able to find some form of words which will justify him in going to that Assembly and saying that, although he still adheres to his first statement on the subject, that the Protocol in its original form was not a document which he could support on behalf of the Government, yet he comes forward with some alternative scheme which might very well take the form of large amendments of the Protocol even though there might be, in his own 372 words, very little of the Protocol left, at any rate, in the form in which it now is, but that he will endeavour to make some positive contribution to the prevention of those evils which he sketched so vividly and clearly in the concluding passages of his speech.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
It was very good news for us all to hear from the Secretary of State of the much more favourable situation which has been created by the German offer. I hope some question of disarmament will be associated with the negotiations with regard to that offer, apart from the future Washington Conference, because anyone who has studied the matter must come to the conclusion that it is not merely security that governs these French armaments. There is no question in my mind whatever that the Germans for all practical purposes are disarmed at this moment. There is not a naval officer who believes that the Germans have not completely disarmed in regard to the Navy there is not an air officer who foes not believe that the Germans are completely disarmed in regard to the air, and we have not to ask any ether question about the Army but this, as to whether the powder factories are destroyed, and everyone of the powder factories has been destroyed except one. That is sufficient. We are very anxious in regard to our own armaments that the French should change some part of their policy, such as the idea of the French reporter of the Naval Budget of making the Western Basin of the Mediterranean a French lake. We want to see the horrors of submarine warfare done away with. After all, France, in common with the other nations, signed the Root Resolutions at Washington. Nearly four years have elapsed and those Root Resolutions for doing away with the horrors of submarine warfare are still unpassed by the French Legislature. The time has really come for speaking frankly. I do not altogether agree with the fault that was found with the Leader of the Liberal party for the plain way he spoke. It is very necessary in these matters where alliances are being sought that we should speak frankly with each other.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) rather astonished me in regard to the Protocol by saying there was no new obligation 373 involved in it. It seems to me that there may in spirit be no new obligations but there are really in practice very large obligations. For instance we are involved in sanctions in regard to trade and war by a majority of two-thirds on the Council. Under the Covenant one nation could object. Had it been a question of an issue with the United States, the mere fact that Great Britain is on the Council could have prevented that issue from arising. When once in a war, under the Protocol we have all to be unanimous before ever a nation can go out of the war, and the result is obvious, that the issues of peace and war, of taxation of trade, and everything, are taken out of the hands of the Parliament of this country and handed over to the Council of the League. The hon. Member who last spoke seemed to think that the position of Australia was strengthened. That is not the view taken by Australians. In fact the whole hornet's nest of the Pacific has been stirred up by the changes which have been made in the Protocol with regard to the immigration question and arbitration. Mr. Hughes had declared absolutely against arbitration on this issue. He made a speech dead against any domestic question of immigration being referred to arbitration during the recent American elections. I have also extracts from speeches of the Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Australia, and they are dead against any question of arbitration on this question of the immigration of other races into Australia or New Zealand.
I want to ask the House what they think would have been the first question to be asked us by the United States had this Protocol been sanctioned by Parliament? It would have been: what would be the attitude of this country in certain eventualities, and we should have found that there would be a great deal of suspicion in the United States. It is not so long ago when we were in alliance with Japan. Over and over again statements were made in this House by the Foreign Secretary that in no circumstances should our alliance with Japan involve us in assisting Japan against the United States. Yet the suspicion went on, and it was only allayed when the Washington Conference took place and the alliance came to an end, and from that moment the Americans started concentrating their fleet in the 374 Pacific, having no further suspicion of this country.
I could wish the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) had been taking part in this Debate, because as far as I can make out, the Opposition are not united on this question. The right hon. Gentleman has been writing in "The Clarion" and he says:Even the Protocol involves the risk of war and not the security of peace.The right hon. Gentleman out forward a plea for Anglo-American co-operation with which I cordially agree. I do not think anything we do at the League of Nations or anywhere else ought to interfere in the slightest degree with either the League of Nations in the British Commonwealth, or with the greater league of all the English speaking nations in which we take such pride. I believe the Protocol would create the very situation which Senator Lodge hoped would come about. He urged an alliance of America and Canada, Australia and New Zealand in one group on the immigration question. That brings me to the danger which I think the late Government were taking this country into—a European frame of mind. Over and over again I pleaded that we should take the Pacific outlook, that we should turn our gaze from Europe towards the Pacific. By concentrating their minds on the European attitude they were creating a danger which might have involved serious risks to the unity of the British Empire. But this Protocol has really been condemned, as the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has pointed out, by implication in what was said by the Leader of the Opposition when Prime Minister, in the White Paper on the Treaty of Mutual Assistance in July, 1924, when he said that the Governmentare persuaded, after careful examination of the draft scheme, that, if the obligations created by the Treaty be scrupulously carried out, they will involve an increase rather than a decrease in British armaments.Ho not only referred to the increased armaments which must result, but he referred to the Temporary Mixed Commission of the League of Nations for 1922, which stated thatin the case of armed assistance certain forces such as aircraft are the most readily available and therefore the most likely to 375 be asked for and to be effective in the initial stages of the war.That meant, of course, that in nearly every case, excepting a land-locked country like Switzerland, Britain would be called upon to be the policeman and schoolmaster of the world. There was another paragraph which condemned by implication what has taken place in the Protocol. The Leader of the Opposition said:The draft Treaty further appears to involve an undesirable extension of the functions of the Council of the League. Under Article 16 of the Covenant the Council can only recommend action, while even under Article 10 it can only advise. By Article 5 of the draft Treaty the Council are authorised to decide to adopt various measures. Thus the Council would become an executive body with very large powers instead of an advisory body.My own belief is that when he went against the Treaty of Mutual Assistance he was advised and said he was advised by the proper officers in London, but that when he went to Geneva he was ruled by sentiment. It is very dangerous in foreign affairs to be ruled by sentiment and renders one liable to tumble into the same predicament as Dr. Guilliotine. He passed a Measure for the benefit of mankind through the French Parliament and it was under that Bill most of the victims went to what was called after him the guillotine. He died of a broken heart. I do not want the Leader of the Opposition to do that. I admit that the French sent one of the best delegations to Geneva that they possibly could send, and it overmatched the British delegation. The one aim and object of the French is to bring about a group of the United States of Europe as against Germany and Russia. Now the one thing that this country has fought against in these questions has been given by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and also the Leader of the Opposition. When we fought Philip of Spain, Louis XIV and Napoleon: when our Navy was founded by Offa, King of Mercia, to withstand Charlemagne, who had designs on this country, the one aim and object of this country was to prevent the United States of Europe becoming an accomplished fact. If we are going to fall in with that view, it will be dead against the policy which we have always pursued in the past. But the 376 Leader of the Opposition, having unloaded himself of his sentiments at Geneva, left the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) in charge. We are all hearing about the pilgrimage of Child Arthur in Palestine. There was another pilgrimage by another child Arthur. The right hon. Member for Burnley is a great traveller. He went to Moscow and wanted to go to Stockholm to call a new world into existence, to redress the balance of the old. The history of that pilgrimage can be given in the three words "Moscow," "Doormat," "Geneva." In between there was the indiscretion of the election speech on the Treaty of Versailles when the right hon. Member stood for Burnley. The Leader of the Opposition rather brushed it aside by saying that he merely suggested the revision of the Treaty of Versailles. I have looked up the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley at the election in which he said:We must insist, as an absolute essential, upon the revision of the Treaty of Versailles with all expedition possible,And then added that., as regardedboth the territorial and economic aspect of the Treaty of Versailles, that revision was not only essential, but very much overdue.I sympathised with the right hon. Gentleman when he made that speech, because he was only carrying out what was in the manifesto of the Labour party at the election of 1923. What does the Protocol do? It stereotypes and makes law for ever that Treaty as well as the Treaty stipulations with regard to Poland and other countries, so that we could never revise those treaties. I wish all Treaties would come up for revision from time to time at the League of Nations. But what I think was the great fault of the late Prime Minister when he went into details was this. He made the same mistake as President Wilson. President Wilson ignored the Republican Party, which was the minority party. In this case, in going to Geneva, the ex-Prime Minister ignored the majority party. He could very well have consulted and asked the Leader of the Opposition as to who should go with him, and then we should not have been tarred by this fact that we have for the second time turned down proposals to bring about disarmament and peace. Another point was that he ignored the War Staff. He took no one 377 with him from the Navy. The delegation found there a liaison officer, but he was not an officer of the War Staff. Lord Balfour took with him the Admiral of the Fleet who was in charge of the War Staff, a Rear-Admiral, two Captains and two Commanders, all belonging to the War Staff. It was only at the later date when the Lords of the Admiralty got alarmed at the reports coming from Geneva that they dispatched the Director of Plans. He was not dispatched by the Labour Government, but was sent by the Admiralty to see what he could do to save the situation.
The other part I want to deal with is the way in which the Protocol interferes with the mobility of the Navy. As pointed out by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the Navy is prohibited moving when once a crisis has broken out. We should not be able to move any ship to the Pacific under the Protocol for the defence of Australia and New Zealand, and therefore we should be very much hampered in regard to defending Australia and New Zealand. The League then under the Protocol sanctions can regulate our trade, our taxes and our Navy, and the issues of peace or war are taken out of our hands. We of this Parliament can do nothing beyond interpreting existing obligations under the Protocol. I submit that the Government are quite right in rejecting this Protocol, and they will receive the support of the great majority of the House.
To summarise the points of the reasons why I am against the Protocol, I refer first to the tendency to break up the Empire, because the deviations of policy between this country, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. It would spoil the good feeling between this country and America, and it would tend to create united States of Europe with Germany and Russia hostile. It would also take out of the hands of Parliament the issues of peace and war, and the Navy would be called upon to do the work of the League at our own expense with the possibility of getting it from the nation that is named as the aggressor at a later stage. We should also be called upon to finance shipping and supplies, and so forth, for the work of the rest of the members of the League of Nations who are operating against the aggressor. For 378 all these reasons I echo the words of Demosthenes, in regard to this Protocol—Will ye not beware, lest in seeking peace ye find a Master.
The very interesting speech to which we have just listened, included, amongst other arguments, one that has been referred to by several speakers on the opposite side of the House, to which I take particular exception on account of its weakness. I refer in particular to the argument that the Protocol will stereotype the present position of things in Europe and will maintain the status quo. Those who take that point of view have failed to realise that the very fact that a number of nations have already agreed to the principles of the Protocol, is an indication that, at least, those nations have decided to deviate from the status quo. The bringing in of the principle of arbitration, and the more exact defining of the methods by which arbitration shall be pursued in all possible cases, is such an advance on the general conditions that exist in Europe to-clay, after past Treaties, and even under the Covenant of the League of Nations, that there is bound to be a gradual emergence from the position which we find in Europe at the present time. Once habituate the countries of Europe and other nations of the world to the principles of arbitration, and get them accustomed to the idea of submitting their disputes to an international court, and you bring into existence a new method, the end of which may take you very far from the general position in which Europe now finds itself. If hon. Members had given more attention to the implication of the Arbitration Clause than some of them appear to have done, less stress would have been placed upon the argument regard the status quo in Europe.
I very much regret that the Foreign Secretary to-day has taken again pretty much the same line that he took in the speech that he made to the Council at Geneva. While rejecting the general principles of the Protocol, he has insisted that, generally speaking, he is in support of the principles of arbitration. I think he went so far as to say at Geneva that this country had given considerable indication of the practice of arbitration in the past. He further insisted at Geneva that 379 we had arrived at what would seem to be an unprecedented state of disarmament, or, at least, that we had arrived at a condition of disarmament which was possible within the limits of national safety. It is curious that that view should be held by the Foreign Secretary when recently in this House we have been discussing Estimates for armaments which everybody admitted were in excess of the Estimates that we considered prior to the War. More than £120,000,000 upon the three Services, embarkation upon new projects, including the Singapore base and an increase in our Aerial Force, are signs of the fact that we do not seem to have progressed anywhere near to the point where disarmament has been reduced to such a point as we felt to be necessary, taking into account the condition of national safety, say, before the War, at a time when our great enemy was then in existence, and when we were supposed to be constantly threatened by the menace across the North Sea.
Unfortunately, the present position that we are involved in as a result of the attitude that the Foreign Secretary has taken is that there seems to be very little indication of progress towards disarmament in the immediate future. All the signs are in the opposite direction. Before I sit down I would like to ask one or two questions regarding the implications of the suggested Pact as it has come from Germany, especially upon this question of progress 'towards disarmament in the immediate future; but before I come to that point I should like to say a few words as to the great advantage, at any rate from my point of view, that the Protocol would have given us in the direction of establishing once and for all in Europe and in the world a method of arbitration for the settlement of our in ternal disputes. I dislike the Sanctions Clauses of the Protocol, just as I dislike the Sanctions in the Covenant of the League of Nations.
I would argue that there has been very little advance, very little change, beyond a certain amount of definition, as between the general Covenant of the League of Nations and the terms of the Protocol, when we come to consider the question of sanctions for the application of armed force. While I dislike that side of the Protocol, it is my view that if the Arbitra- 380 tion Clauses had been given a real chance, in very rare exceptions would it have been necessary to apply the Sanctions Clause at all. Why is it that in the past nations have supported their statesmen in the prosecution of wars? They have done so, and I believe the rule is universal, because they have believed in every case that the opposing nation was the aggressor. The only means that they had of discovering who was the aggressor nation was the propaganda that their own statesmen had been responsible for setting up. I would remind the House of the well-known poem which was written with respect to the souls of five men who had died in the War—an Austrian, a German, a Frenchman, an Italian and a Britisher. Each one of them said:I died for freedom, this I know, Because those who bade me fight have told me so.It has been the case in the past in Germany and in our own country. It was the case in the Boer War, the Boers believed that justice was on their side, and the people who supported the War here believed that the justice was on our side. If an international arbitral body could be set up and accepted beforehand by all the nations of the world to whom, as a general rule, all disputes might be submitted for arbitration, it would be extremely diffcult for statesmen in future, by biased propaganda, to carry their people into war in the way that they have carried them in the past, and I feel convinced that if the arbitration Clauses of the Protocol had been given a fair chance the world would have discovered in a comparatively short period the advantages of this method, and that war would have become practically impossible in our time. More than that, I have ventured to hope that if these Clauses had been adopted, even by such nations as were willing to ratify the Protocol up to a few weeks ago, the progress made would have been such that even a nation like America would probably have radically modified its views upon the League of Nations and upon the Protocol within a comparatively short time.
As far as I can understand, although American opinion, probably, still remains opposed to participation in the League, a very considerable swing of American opinion has taken place towards the world court, and Americans 381 to-day are prepared to accept the world court and the reference of disputes between different countries to the world court, and I feel convinced that before many months, certainly before many years, a further modification would have taken place in American opinion. But for the present, at any rate, it would seem that the Protocol is jettisoned, although I believe that its principles cannot be jettisoned. The fact that we have got more than 40 nations, through their representatives, to agree to these principles, is a point which will never be got rid of. It is a new turning point in our international affairs. I believe that even under the Pact that has been suggested by Germany, towards which the Foreign Minister has expressed a considerable amount of sympathy in his speech to-day, you still be confronted with the necessity of finding a means to apply those same principles of arbitration within the Pact, if it is to be made of any value in the settlement of our international difficulties.
There are one or two questions which I may put to the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on this issue. Suppose that the Government will be successful in making with Germany and with France a tripartate or a five-nation pact, in what way are you going to carry out the provisions of that pact? The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has objected to the Protocol because, as he says, it organises war instead of organising peace. Is there to be no attempt under the proposed pact to organise war? What will be the position of the Government, say, regarding the western frontier of France under the terms of this pact if it be finally agreed to? Suppose it should happen—and I do not think that it is a wild supposition—that in the next 10 years that body of opinion in France that has constantly sought to make the Rhine the French frontier should become successful enough to drive the French into making an effort to make the Rhine the frontier, what would then be our position under the suggested five-nation pact? Would we, under the terms of that pact, be compelled to take up arms in order to befriend Germany against an attempt of France to make the Rhine the permanent French frontier? I put that for the sake of the argument in order to try to get from the representative of the Foreign Office an answer. Is it the case that 382 under the new pact you rule out entirely the probability of organising for war in future? If you still contemplate organising for war then I suggest that you should be more moderate in the attack that is made upon the Protocol, at any rate, upon this particular occasion.
Another point. In what way will that pact help us towards disarmament? If the pact is signed as between Germany, Belgium, France, ourselves, and one other country the conditions then would not be materially different from what they are to-day. What is to prevent Britain to-day disarming at any rate so far as Germany is concerned? I agree entirely with the previous speaker in what he said about Germany being for all practical purposes entirely disarmed, at any rate, with regard to Navy and Air Force, and, with the exception of the one powder factory, with regard to the Army as well. There is nothing in Germany to-day to prevent this nation from disarming. There is nothing in France to-day to prevent France from disarming, but the fact is that although nearly six years have gone since the cessation of hostilities, Europe is more an armed camp to-day than it was in 1914. In what way is the pact going to hasten your progress towards disarmament? I submit that until the problem of disarmament is considered from the point of view of the world as a whole, and not merely from the point of view of sectional arrangements that may be made as between ourselves and two or three other countries in Europe, and until the world as a whole is taking as the unit no real expectation can exist in this House or elsewhere that progress can be made towards considerable disarmament, and it is because I believe that the Protocol has given new confidence in countries like France, in methods of arbitration as a new approach towards disarmament, and because countries like Czechslovakia were willing. in the coming June, had the Protocol been ratified, to come together in a new world conference for the consideration of disarmament that I thought that very great progress was going to be made.
I hope that between now and September a very considerable modification will yet be made by the Government in their attitude regarding the Protocol. I am convinced that when the Secretary of 383 State for Foreign Affairs goes to the Assembly, as I hope he will go, on the occasion of its next meeting, he will be confronted by such arguments from the representatives of the League that he will not be able to continue the attitude which hitherto he has taken. He will be asked the question, as, indeed, I ask the question now, Why does he object so much to the idea of the Protocol with its sanctions, with its possible use of the British Navy, and, at the same time, accept the Covenant of the League of Nations? I submit that a very careful reading of the Covenant will bring home to him—if it has not been brought home to him, it certainly will be brought home to him at the next General Assembly, I believe—that under the Covenant this country is committed to use its armed forces as a result of international decisions that finally would be come to by the League. I agree the way those should be used is not exactly defined; but, at any rate, with regard to the use of the economic blockade, certainly the Covenant is very exact indeed; and this nation is committed to use the economic blockade by the terms of the Covenant alone.
I feel that the Government to-day is at the parting of the ways, not merely regarding the acceptance or non-acceptance of the Protocol, but regarding the acceptance of the League or the nonacceptance of the League. You cannot pretend to believe in a League of Nations, to sink your own national desires, in order that, ultimately, you may get a great world opinion expressed to a world parliament, and continue all the time to insist upon retaining your national forces or national strength. The day must come when you will have to decide for a League, for an international body which will become all-powerful in the world, and I am quite sure, if we are to make the progress we desire to make towards disarmament and the development of a real international spirit, we shall have to think far less about our unfettered right to use the British Navy as we think fit, just as the Germans have had to think far less of their unfettered right to use the Prussian Army, as formerly they thought fit. All that point of view has to give place to something wider and something better, and I appeal to the Government, before they finally reject the 384 Protocol, to reconsider once more the great benefits that we might obtain by the application of the principles of arbitration, and, through that means, I believe the progress that so many Members of the House desire could be obtained.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. DUFF COOPER
We have had this evening a very pleasant and a very amicable Debate. We have heard a very great deal said in favour of the Geneva Protocol, but, in the interesting and eloquent speech which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) read to us, there were no arguments put forward that I could discover in favour of the Protocol. He argued, as other hon. Members who have supported the Protocol have argued as the Noble Lord the Member for West Derbyshire (Marquess of Hartington) argued, in favour of arbitration, of disarmament, and of security. In so far as that was their argument, I submit that they were pressing at an open door. We are all in favour of security. We are all in favour of arbitration as opposed to war as a method of settling disputes, as everybody, except, possibly, the manufacturers of armaments, is in favour of disarmament. Upon those grounds alone, you cannot defend the Protocol. The criticism of the Protocol is that, although it set out to secure these ends, which we all desire, it would, in practice, fail to do so. I had hoped, I must confess, to have heard from the Liberal Benches a more impassioned defence of the Protocol than even from the Labour party. Liberal organisations and clubs throughout the country have been passing resolutions during the last month in favour of the Protocol, and some of us have been almost snowed under by avalanches.
It, therefore, came as a surprise to me, as it must have come to many Members of the House, when the Leader of the Liberal party delivered the speech which he did this evening. Personally, I enjoyed the speech enormously. A bull in a china shop is always a good entertainment, and there was a breeziness and lack of discretion about the right hon. Gentleman which very naturally drove the Foreign Secretary from his seat, but which rather refreshed ether equally irresponsible Members. I think the House enjoyed the speech. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for 385 Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) enjoyed it himself; but he did not enjoy the best part of it, because he could not see it. The best part of the speech from our benches was the expression on the faces of the right hon. Gentleman's followers—the expression of consternation and of surprise—and I am afraid that those are the only benches that did not enjoy the right hon. Member's speech. I had hoped we should hear this evening, and I hope we shall still hear, a speech from the right hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher), but I am afraid if we do it will disclose yet another spirit in that fissiparous unit the Liberal party. The defence of the Protocol has been so limited, that I really feel it is hardly right for Members upon this side to go on attacking what nobody has yet had the courage to defend. One is reminded of the old Latin proverb De mortuis nil nisi bonum, for we must recognise, so far as the Protocol is concerned, we are in the presence of a corpse. Personally, as I read the despatch which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs addressed to the League of Nations on the subject of the Protocol, I felt that, good as it was, and entirely as I agreed with every argument and every sentence of it, if I had been him, and desired to save myself the trouble of drawing up that despatch, I should have forwarded to the League of Nations a copy of what I consider an even more admirable document, drawn up by the Leader of the Opposition last year on the subject of the Treaty of Mutual Assistance.
I have been at some pains to analyse that despatch, and have even tabulated all the arguments then brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman against the Treaty of Mutual Assistance, and I can assure the House there is not one which does not apply to the Geneva Protocol. I have been waiting and hoping that the Leader of the Opposition would, upon some occasion, give us an explanation of the differences which really exist between the Treaty of Mutual Assistance and the Geneva Protocol, and would have explained why he turned down the one so ruthlessly and so remorselessly and supports the other so whole-heartedly. He has refrained from doing so. The right hon. Member for Burnley gave only one argu- 386 ment against the Treaty of Mutual Assistance, so far as I understood—it allowed private pacts between countries. Apparently, he had not read the Geneva Protocol he signed himself, which also allows private pacts between countries. All the other arguments against the Treaty of Mutual Assistance equally applying to the Protocol have been touched on by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and by the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs), so that I really think it is waste of time to go over that ground. I only remind the House that the Leader of the Opposition based his criticism on two main questions which he brought to bear on the Treaty of Mutual Assistance. He said: Are the guarantees sufficient to justify a nation in disarming, and are the obligations such that it can conscientiously undertake to carry out disarmament
Apply those same two criticisms to the Protocol and you must come to precisely the same conclusion as the right hon. Gentleman came to when he applied them to the Treaty of Mutual Assistance. What are the guarantees under the Protocol? In what way is the Empire safer if we ratify the Geneva Protocol, and if we do not? In no way. What are the obligations that he undertakes? They are vague and they are unlimited. Therefore, one is forced to the conclusion, as the right hon. Gentleman himself was forced to the conclusion a year ago, that so far from this document enabling us to decrease our armaments it would compel us to increase them. There is one other point, and that is the question of the definition of the term "Aggression." That is, from the point of view of the arbitration Clauses of the Protocol, a fundamental plank of the whole document.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said elsewhere some 10 days ago that all this talk about the difficulty of defining the term "Aggression" was a good deal of "my eye and Betty Martin." But where did the talk begin? It all started from the right hon. Gentleman himself, who embodied that argument in the document which he addressed to the League of Nations on the question of the Treaty of Mutual Assistance. He then reminded the Secretary of the League that a 387 special Committee had been set up, a temporary mixed Commission, assisted by technical members of the Permanent Advisory Committee, to go into that very question and define exactly what was meant by "aggression," and that they had reported that it was impossible to define the term at all. The right hon. Gentleman, who was then Prime Minister, said that this proved the lack of that element of certainty and reliability which was essential if the nations of the world could really recommend, if the advisers of the League could recommend the members to accept that document as a basis of a policy of disarmament. He said it was essential.
We are accustomed to the inconsistencies of the great, but really that the late Prime Minister should have described a year ago in a document, a State paper of the highest importance, addressed by him as the representative of this country to the League of Nations, as essential a matter which eight months later he described, when Leader of the Opposition, as "my eye and Betty Martin," is an example of the inconsistency of the great which I think really surpasses any with which we have been favoured in recent years. I prefer the view which he took of this matter as Prime Minister. It is important that we should realise that the definition of this term "Aggression" really strikes a blow at the whole substance of the Protocol. As the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Hudson) has said, every nation that has ever gone to war has thought that it was fighting a defensive war. But he did not go further, as I am prepared to do, and say that it is impossible, looking back on the wars of the past, to decide what countries were aggressive and what were not.
Take the late War. At the time when it broke out we in this country were convinced that we were fighting a war of defence and that the Germans were the aggressors. The Germans were equally convinced that they were not the aggressors. The neutral Powers of Europe had very considerable doubts, and even all the people of this country were not convinced that we were fighting a defensive war. The Leader of the Opposition was not convinced of it. How, then, can we assume any certainty 388 in a matter of this kind? Take the great wars of the past. Take the Franco-Prussian War, a war which was made by the diplomacy of Bismarck to appear to be a war of aggression on the part of the French. We now know the whole history of the case. We know the story of the telegram which Bismarck manipulated, and that when he did it, be said it was most important that at the beginning of a war one should appear to be on the defensive. But the people at the time did not know that. The French Government played their cards badly and appeared to be in the wrong. The Germans played their cards cleverly and appeared to be in the right.
Take another great war, the Crimean war. We have all the documents now; we know all the facts, and to this day there is no general consensus of opinion as to who was really responsible for the war. Some say it was the Tsar; some say it was the Turk; many say it was the Emperor Louis Napoleon; ethers say it was the vacillation of Lord Aberdeen; and only a few weeks ago there was published an extremely able book which seeks to prove that Lord Palmerston was really the villain of the piece. You can never decide justly who is the aggressor in any war. The whole of that system of deciding disputes, and the whole of that theory, which forms such an important part of the Protocol, should be scrapped before any other document of the sort is brought into existence. But even if all the arguments which I have mentioned against the Protocol were met, even if the guarantees were of a kind that did justify us in disarmament, even if the obligations were so clear and definite that we could conscientiously undertake to carry them out, if a definition of the term "aggression" were found that satisfy all countries as precise and clear, even then I would be strongly opposed to the ratification of the Protocol at the present time.
We have heard a great deal this evening and recently about the danger of the bad old system of groups of Powers, but it has not yet occurred to anyone, in this House, at any rate, to say that the League of Nations, unfortunately, as it exists to-day, is nothing but a group of Powers. Members are so impressed by figures that there is often a danger of their not seeing the 389 League for the States. We are told that 47 have signed the Covenant and that 27 have ratified it. We all know that only a very few of those States really count at all. One of the big Powers could take on 20 or 30 of the others with its left hand tied behind its back. Your real idealist, if his ideals are to be anything but smoke, must also be a realist. He must understand what Powers count in the world and what Powers do not. In Europe there are five Powers that count three of them are members of the League and two are not. That is not a large proportion. In the rest of the world there are two great Powers of first rate importance. One of them is a member of the League and the other is not, and the Power that is not a member of the League is the larger, the wealthier, The more populous and the more powerful of the two.
The right hon. Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) said in a speech in this House last summer that the League of Nations was founded upon the rock, that all nations were equal in the councils of the world. The Secretary of State said something of the same tort this evening. With all due respect, I submit that if the League if founded upon the rock, that the United Stabs is the equal of Uruguay and that Albania and the British Empire count for the same thing in the councils of the world, then the League of Nations is founded upon nonsense. Realising that and the differences between the Powers, surely it is the bounden duty of those who really care for the League, who really believe in it, to leave no stone unturned, no avenue unexplored, which may make the League complete, which may make it really the League of Nations instead of a League of Nations. The ratification of the Geneva Protocol would undoubtedly have rendered it less probable rather than more probable that the United States would ever join the League at all. Personally, I believe that the ratification of the Protocol would have been the last, nail in the last coffin of the last hope of the United States ever joining the League
Without the United States the League can never fulfil the function for which it was designed. We who criticise the Protocol are met with the answer, "What have you to put in its place? There it is. 390 It is, at any rate, a serious, an honest and a respectable effort to attain those ends which we all desire, the prevention of war and the settlement of disputes by arbitration." In the same speech, the Leader of the Opposition said, in reference to the Secretary of State for Foreign affairs, that he was the sort of man who would have said 100 years ago, "Duelling can never be stopped; honour must always be satisfied." I think that analogy of duelling suits particularly well the case of those who are opposed to the Protocol, rather than the case of those who support it. Duelling existed in this country 100 years ago to the extent that a Prime Minister of Great Britain thought it incumbent upon him to fight a duel in Hyde Park. To-day the thing seems almost incredible and quite absurd to us. How was that change brought about? Not, as the Leader of the Opposition seems to suppose, by legislation or by international agreement. It has only been brought about by a great and extraordinarily rapid change in the minds of men. That change has come about through no help of the legal power whatever, and this is the answer which I think the hypothetical Foreign Secretary of 100 years ago would have made to anybody who had told him that duelling ought to be stopped: "We cannot stop it by law; we can only trust to an improvement in the minds and consciences of people." He might have been laughed to scorn at the time, but history would have triumphantly vindicated that view. We believe, we hope and we trust that a similar change of mind may come over the world with regard to the greater problem of war. There seems at present little chance of that; there seemed little chance of such a change 100 years ago in the matter of duelling.
We believe that great human institutions must be allowed to develop and grow just like human characters and human beings. They must be submitted to the beneficent influence of time. Six hundred years ago this House of Commons existed but, had it then been proposed that this House should carry out the duties which it carries out to-day—that this House should rule the country or fulfil one-thousandth part of the great obligations which it now undertakes—the proposal would have been absurd and had any attempt been made to bring it about, 391 the House of Commons itself would have collapsed under a burden which it was not then fit to bear. I do not suggest that the League of Nations will need 600 years to develop. Things move more rapidly nowadays but it is useless to imagine that so tremendous an experiment in human affairs, so vast, so complicated and so delicate a machine could be brought to completion and perfection within the short space of six years. Rome was, proverbially, not built in a day, and we who really believe in the League of Nations are trying to build something broader, something more lasting, more durable and more grand than Rome. We are endeavouring to build a city not made with hands, in which all the nations of the world can be free citizens, and we believe that only time can allow so magnificent a building to be completed, and consequently it is the duty of those who live to-day to make sure that the foundations are well and truly laid. We will not lay them upon the so-called rock of the equality of nations, because we know it is not a real rock, but a piece of painted cardboard, of stage scenery, which will collapse should any real work be placed upon it. We will lay them rather up in the agreements and understandings which already exist between nations. We wish to strengthen and extend those agreements and understandings in order to make them so many links in what will eventually be a great chain the circumference of which will include all the States of the world. We will base our structure upon that principle, and also upon the development and the growth, which must necessarily be slow, of the mind and the intellect of humanity.
§ Mr. HERBERT FISHER
In the early part of his excellent and eloquent speech the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Duff-Cooper) addressed an invitation to me to intrude upon the attention of the House, and although I have some doubt of my ability to make myself audible owing to slight throat discomfort I, nevertheless, am not without hope that in the course of a very few minutes I shall be able to make my position upon this grave matter of discussion clear to the House. I confess that when a proposal comes to this country adopted by the universal voice of the League of Nations, I am disposed to treat it with very great 392 respect. Having regard to the composition of the League, to the hopes which are invested in it, to its great possibilities for good, I think that we should think twice before we disparage or reject a proposal which has been unanimously adopted in that Assembly, and I confess that I could have wished that the reply of the Government had been couched in a somewhat less critical and destructive vein than my right hon. Friend chose to adopt at Geneva.
I could have wished that he had found it possible to have adopted the attitude which was taken by the Canadian Government, which, in a very much shorter dispatch, evinced what I regard as being a larger measure of sympathy and showed itself willing to consider further certain aspects of the Protocol with a desire to give them due weight, and, if possible, to see whether any advance could be made in the direction indicated. The Government of Canada expressed itself willing to consider further Clause 3 of the Protocol, under which the member States are invited to accept the jurisdiction of the Permanent Court of Justice in the case of justiciable disputes. I confess that, in view of the fact that under Article 26 of the permanent Statute of the Permanent Court of Justice it is possible for States to accept that jurisdiction, making ample reserves, as also that some 20 States have already accepted that jurisdiction with reserves, I should have thought it possible that the British Government might go some way in that direction.
Again, the Government of Canada professed itself willing to consider further whether it was not possible to expand or to amend the provisions of the Pact dealing with non-justiciable disputes, and there, again, is a sphere of inquiry which might possibly be fruitful of results. Consequently, when the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) extended an invitation to the Government, and suggested that it might be desirable, in order to secure a certain measure of continuity in the policy pursued by the British Government at the Assemblies of the League of Nations, for the various parties in this House to get together and for the Government to take counsel with the members of the Labour party and with the members of the Liberal party as to the attitude to be adopted by the British delegation at the next Assembly of the League 393 of Nations, I confess that, when this suggestion was made, it had my sympathy. Indeed, I think we have exposed ourselves to the legitimate criticism of Europe by the abrupt changes of policy which of recent years have been pursued by our delegates at Geneva. There was the Treaty of Mutual Assistance with which the name of Lord Cecil was associated. That proposal engaged the very earnest attention of the Assembly of the League of Nations, and it was debated in every capital of Europe. It was understood—no doubt erroneously—to be the considered opinion of the British Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. R. MacDonald) rejected it summarily and completely. The present Government similarly rejected the Treaty put forward by the Labour Government. I venture, however, to think that it would be of great advantage if before the next delegation goes to Geneva it could go with a national policy which will be understood in the Chancelleries of Europe as representing, not the point of view of one party, but the view of the British nation as a whole.
Having said this, let me briefly indicate the difficulties I feel with regard to accepting the Protocol in its present shape, or at the present moment. When I went to the first three League Assemblies of the League of Nations at Geneva I took the view, which I have never varied since, that it was immensely to the interests of Europe that the members of the League should continue under the terms in the Covenant. These might be varied in small details, or elucidated where necessary, but there is great objection to tightening up the Articles of Association until all the Great Powers standing outside the orbit of the League have been brought within its membership. I find myself in entire agreement with the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) when he argued that the procedure of the Protocol by arbitration was not so well calculated to advance the real objects of the League of Nations as the procedure laid down in the Covenant itself, which is a procedure, not by arbitration but by conciliation. The diplomatic procedure of the Covenant, in all the great causes which were likely to lead to war, is far more likely to be efficacious 394 than the judicial procedure of arbitration. Quite apart from that, it is, think, inadvisable at the present moment to assent to the Protocol, in view of the difficulties which it will create for America, in view also of the difficulties with regard to it which are felt in our Dominions, and in view of the fact that Germany and Russia still stand outside the League.
I am well aware of the course of events which led the late Government to adopt the Protocol. They adopted the Protocol because they felt it offered a chance of obtaining disarmament. It fell to me to preside over the first committee which dealt with the subject of disarmament at the League of Nations, and I soon became aware, as did my colleagues, that we could not advance a step in the direction of disarmament without raising the question of security. Our French friends said to us, quite frankly, "We are unable to disarm, we feel insecure, the Treaty of Versailles does not give us enough, the guarantee pacts have fallen to the ground, we must have something very much more efficacious even than Clause 10 of the Covenant of the League of Nations if we are to consent to any considerable measure of disarmament." And it was because of French fears and French needs that Lord Cecil of Chelwood found it necessary to propose the arrangement which ultimately fructified in the treaty of mutual assistance.
When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon went to Geneva, nothing was further from his mind than the Protocol. That is quite obvious from his speech of 23rd June in this House, and it is quite obvious also from his opening speech at Geneva. The right hon. Gentleman took the view which I take, and which most people in England take, that nothing was to be gained by the apparatus of military sanctions. He was against all pacts. He thought that for a time, possibly, it might be necessary to offer a pact in return for a very substantial measure of all round disarmament. That was the view taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon, and I agree with him. But the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends soon found themselves exposed to the same steady, ineluctable, scientific pressure as had been brought to bear upon the British delegations in previous years, 395 and he had to consent to a document originating with the French, embodying the view of France and of the military party in France, a document the inner meaning of which to every Frenchman was that the British Empire should underwrite the whole peace settlement of Versailles. Do not let us disparage that ideal.
Let me tell the House what the French view really is: there is a good deal of reason in it. The French say, in effect, "We have had a great and disastrous War in which you, the English nation, have been quite as fully engaged as we. You helped, with us, to bring about the victory, you are equally responsible for the peace settlement. We have got new republics in Poland, Czechslovakia, a new Kingdom of Yugo-slovakia, and Europe is insecure. It may be that many of these frontiers are badly drawn, it may be that the peace contains many injustices, but, after all, a bad frontier is not so bad as a war, and the minor injustices of Europe are far more tolerable than the renewal of a, great war, and is it not to your interest and to the interest of the people of Great Britain to say to Europe, We will guarantee this settlement, we will guarantee every part of Poland, Bessarabia, Yugoslovakia and Czechslovakia; and, if you join us in guaranteeing the new Europe, depend upon it, it will not be disturbed and Europe will have a generation of peace.'"
That is the French argument, and I submit that it is one which deserves to be treated with respect. I cannot however think that the British people will ever take the view expressed in this argument. I do not believe that you would ever find the British people willing to underwrite the settlement in the East of Europe. They will say, "We are not responsible for Eastern policy, and we cannot underwrite a settlement which may through faults and errors of policy disturb peace, and in any case our interests are too remotely affected." For these reasons I suggest to the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench who are in favour of the Protocol, the whole Protocol and nothing else but the Protocol, that they are really taking an attitude which is profoundly impregnated with French ideals and French policy, and is calculated 396 to commit this country to engagements which the British public will never really face.
For this reason I greatly welcome the German offer. I believe that it does provide a real way out of a, difficulty which seemed almost insoluble. I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon when he argues that the security which France would obtain under such a guarantee which appears now to be sincerely offered by Germany is something which is not worth having. I think it is something very much worth having. I believe that the free and spontaneous offer by Germany recognising the existing frontiers of France and the loss of Alsace-Lorraine would be an immeasurable relief to France and I believe it would very largely contribute to the appeasement of Europe at a whole. For this reason I welcome the statement of the Foreign Secretary that he is anxious to promote the success of this German offer in every way possible. I think it is an offer which should imply the entry of Germany into the League of Nations and the acceptance by Germany of a place on the Council of the League of Nations, and that if a pact be formed it should be within the framework of the League.
At the present moment the keys of peace do not lie in London, though London may make a great contribution; nor do they lie at Geneva. They lie in Paris, in Berlin, and in Warsaw—more particularly in Warsaw; and one of the reasons why I particularly welcome the German offer is that it provides for a separate settlement of the Eastern and Western question at this moment. I do not for a moment deny that some larger and more comprehensive settlement should be ultimately aimed at. I do not for a moment despair of the larger ideal which actuated the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) and those who helped to frame the Protocol. I think that something on the lines of the Protocol may be eventually possible; but I hold very strongly that the first thing to do is to tranquillise France in respect of her own internal position, and the second thing to do is to induce Poland to take the only step which would really give to the new Republic an adequate measure of security, namely, to come into friendly relations with Germany, and to seek, in 397 friendly negotiations with her great western neighbour, a solution of the most difficult problem which at present confronts her.
§ Mr. LEES SMITH
In concluding the Debate as regards this side of the House, although it is late and I desire to allow some minutes for the Prime Minister to reply, I should like, before he does so, to put to him two or three questions, which I hope he may deal with very shortly. The first is this: I think that one of the most important suggestions which has been made in this Debate was the suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition that some sort of national discussion might take place before the next Assembly meeting at Geneva. We should like the Prime Minister, either to-night or at an early moment, to give us his views on that proposal, and, in making up his mind, I hope he will recognise that the question we are discussing is not whether we shall accept the Protocol as it stands, but whether we shall accept the Protocol amended or whether we shall destroy it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) made a speech, practically the whole of which amounted to an objection to this Protocol because there was a number of causes of war, due to the Peace of Versailles—for which he was more responsible than any living man—a number of the evils which he had left behind him, which this Protocol did not cure. I should have thought the deduction from that would be that the Protocol should be extended, enlarged and amended, and not that it should be abandoned and destroyed.
The reason why, in spite of the criticisms which have been directed against it, we regard this Protocol as a good and even in some ways a wonderful instrument is that it has grasped what is to us the essential fact; that the only road by which we can eventually secure peace in this world is the road of compulsory arbitration. Strike out everything else, and still there remains the central feature of this instrument by which it has built up, with, I believe, a care and elaboration never before attempted, a graduated scheme for discussion, consideration, conciliation, and, finally, compulsory arbitration. Up to this moment that seems to be the main line of cleavage between the Government and those who sit on these benches. The 398 Foreign Secretary appears to have committed himself definitely, almost irrevocably, against this principle of compulsory arbitration. If he has done that it is most unfortunate. It is an attack not only upon the Protocol but upon the very heart of the League. It is an attack upon the Covenant, the very central feature of which is compulsory arbitration. Has the Foreign Secretary appreciated the fact that the main Clause of the Covenant is one by which in any dispute between nations any party can bring a dispute before the Council of the League, and that if the other members of the Council, who are not parties to the dispute, arrive at a unanimous conclusion, on the principle of the British jury, that verdict has to be accepted by all parties on pain of outlawry by the League? That is in the Covenant. When in the case of the incident between Italy and Greece, when Italy claimed that questions of national honour and vital interest were outside the Covenant, a body of jurists were appointed. They declared against Italy, and Italy accepted their verdict. This country ratified the verdict and the whole matter was made plain. That is why an attack upon compulsory arbitration is an attack upon the heart of the League. We on these benches take, quite specifically, the view that the only final method for the dethronement of war is for nations who are parties to a, dispute to be willing to submit it to some authority outside themselves which shall represent the general opinion of the civilised world. That, I believe, is the main cleavage between ourselves and the Government, and I hope it is not a cleavage so wide as the Foreign Secretary's note has made it appear.
There is another question I should like to ask on which the statement of the Foreign Secretary was not, I think, clear. There is a very disturbing sentence in this note with regard to our attitude to this Court of International Justice. Are we to understand that the Foreign Secretary's objection to compulsory arbitration goes to the length that he is going to reject the arbitration not only of the Protocol but of the Court of International Justice as well? The Prime Minister knows the position. That Court deals with a comparatively limited set of questions capable of legal interpretation. All the questions it has had submitted to it 399 it has dealt with with great success. I believe now 32 out of the 55 nations in the League have agreed that any dispute, of the character with which the Court deals, in which they are involved can be submitted to the Court and they will accept its compulsory jurisdiction. France has accepted it. If this country were to accept, then I believe it is generally acknowledged that practically every other country would follow in our train and this great instrument would be complete. We want to know the attitude of the Government, and it certainly seems to me that if Great Britain says "No" to the acceptance of the verdict of this Court, Great Britain and Great Britain alone will undoubtedly have blocked the greatest step that has ever been taken towards the establishment of a régime of legal justice on this earth.
In considering the suggestions which the Leader of the Opposition has made, might I ask the Prime Minister to bear this in mind: We have been listening the whole of to-day to attacks and criticisms directed against the difficulties and the risks which this Protocol involves, but I would ask, are there not greater difficulties and greater risks in any conceivable alternative to this Protocol? What are the alternative suggestions? The alternatives have been either a special Treaty or Pact of alliance with France or this five-Power Pact including Germany. On that point might I ask the Prime Minister a question which I believe is of very great importance. The Foreign Secretary told us what Germany pro- posed; that she would accept for ever her western frontiers, and he stated that she was willing to submit all questions regarding her eastern frontiers to treaties of arbitration. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, that is what I want to be clear about. It is necessary to be clear on that. Is it that Germany is going to accept arbitration on all questions regarding her eastern frontiers or does she, in fact, make certain exceptions in regard to matters of vital interest to her? We must know exactly what the position is. But this is what I wish to put to the Prime Minister: Whatever alternative we adopt it involves, I believe, difficulties and risks greater than those which the Protocol contains. Any special treaties of alliance are bound to lead you to sanctions in case they are broken, and to 400 military obligations more precise than those of the Protocol, but without disarmament, without arbitration, and without the hopes that the Protocol contains for a happier international order. Take some of the remarks of the Foreign Secretary and apply them to this five-Power Pact. The Foreign Secretary told us that he objected to the Protocol because the Dominions had refused to give it their adherence. Is he so sure that the Dominions will give their adherence to either the three-Power or the five-Power Pact? We have had some experience on that question. At the end of the Peace Conference, a Pact, a Treaty of Alliance, a Guarantee Treaty, was made between this country and France. The House will recollect that that Treaty was killed because the United States would not enter into it on their side. The House will also recollect that even before the Treaty was killed two of our Dominions, Canada and, I believe, South Africa, had already stated that they were not willing to become parties to the Pact, or to accept any of the obligations that it involved.
The Foreign Secretary, both in his Note and in his speech, objected to the Protocol on the ground that it said so much about war and force. May I ask him a question? Are the obligations that will be involved in any pact or alliance going to be less onerous than those under the Protocol? What are the obligations of the Protocol? They are that we shall loyally and effectively cooperate in any sanction that may be imposed. Are we to be told that in any pact or alliance France will be satisfied with words so general as those? It is quite clear that any pact or alliance must mean conferences between the general staff. It must mean a military convention, and it must mean, as the Foreign Secretary indicated in his speech by his reference to the Channel ports, that for practical purposes the Rhine becomes the military frontier of this country. All the criticisms directed against the Protocol can be directed against the proposed pact.
The Foreign Secretary said that the result of the Protocol was that we enlarged our commitments and that this pact would narrow our commitments. Is he quite sure that we can get any pact which is going to narrow our commit- 401 ments to the western front? The Polish Foreign Secretary was very active at Geneva. Our Foreign Secretary has seen him and knows his opinions. We know the speech that the Polish Foreign Secretary delivered three weeks ago, in which he stated definitely that any pact in which Poland was not contained would be a cause of war rather than of peace, and that France was precluded by her agreement with Poland from entering into any Guarantee, Treaty or Pact to which Poland was not a party as well.
Our position, broadly, is this. We were touched, and even a little surprised, at the new idealistic note at the end of the Foreign Secretary's speech, in which he said, in words which I cannot imitate, that the last chapter of war had ended, and that he hoped that this country would initiate a new chapter in this world. As he knows, on these benches we respond to an appeal of that sort. We want to rid the world of war, but what we feel is this, that special alliances have never rid the world of war in the past, and that if you are going to trust to them alone, whatever our will may be, we shall find ourselves back on the path that led us to 1914. I am bound to say, in spite of that kind of speech this afternoon, that when listened to the Debate yesterday and the Debates that have been going on for some time past, we seem to be not very far from that path already. The speeches were very much the same as the speeches that used to be made in this House 15 years ago. There were the same enormous Estimates, the same race in armaments, the same competitive building, against Germany- then and against other countries to-day, the same argument that every body is building for defence and no one is building for war, and, finally, inevitably the same eventual result.
The foreign policy of the Labour party is the League of Nations policy, and I am sorry that whenever we bring that up the Foreign Secretary always gives the same reply, which I think a very unsound one. He always says that the League of Nations is only an infant, and we are trying to impose on it tasks too heavy for an infant to bear. That is his argument. I believe that it is a mistaken argument. Now is the time, when the memories of the War are still vivid in men's minds, and when, 402 as the speech of the Foreign Secretary showed, the hopes that it was going to lead to the reign of peace have not been entirely killed, when the League of Nations has the best chance of establishing its supremacy over the minds of mankind. I do not believe that, if we let this chance go by, a better chance is going to come for some years ahead. We are convinced that, if you turn in the wrong direction now, you will do what he says—you will find yourselves in a path which will lead to final catastrophe and to the disappearance of our civilised life.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)
I think that this very interesting Debate shows signs of drawing towards a not unnatural close, and before the end I think that perhaps I should say a few words—and they will indeed be few—in answer to one or two questions which were raised by the Leader of the Opposition, who, I regret very much, has had to go home, and by one or two other Members, including the last speaker, in the course of this Debate. I do not intend to say more than a word, although I should feel it discourteous on my part not to say a single word, about the speech of the leader in this House of the Liberal party, who was for so long Prime Minister of this country. But I may observe that while he was speaking I was reminded of the, lines of Matthew Arnold which he applied to Gœthe—He took the suffering human race,He read each wound, each weakness clear;And struck his finger on the place,And said 'thou ailest here, and here' "—an unerring diagnosis, but an imperfect bedside manner. He was unable to suggest any method by which he might say to the patient, "Take up thy bed and walk." The Leader of the Opposition asked two or three questions. He asked, what is our part in it—meaning the pact—are we going to get a quid pro quo? It is a very small thing to guarantee the Western frontier. It leaves everything outside untouched, and he said that it will eventuate in a "fresh balance of power." These are early days in which to say in detail what our part will be. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, in his—if I may say so in his presence—most admirable and exhaustive speech, gave the House all the informa- 403 tion which was in his possession almost up to this morning, and it is perfectly obvious, if the House have regard to what he said, that they will see that we are now waiting to see what possibility there may be of the interested parties coming together.
But, after all, what is our part in it? Our part is this: that, if success attend my right hon. Friend's efforts, our part will be to bring about a peace in Western Europe which has not existed from the day when the signatures were appended to the Treaty of Versailles. And what are we going to get out of it? We are going to get out of it whatever benefits may come from peace. It leaves all outside untouched, and the Leader of the Opposition says it will eventuate in a "fresh balance of power." I can say, in answer thereto, that were we advocating a tripartite pact directed against Germany, or any other Power, then, indeed, you would be heading straight towards some fresh balance of power. That was one of the reasons which made us feel it was impossible that we could support any form of pact other than a pact, which, in itself, should be a guarantee of peace and mutual security. The House must remember, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition knows perfectly well, and as those who sat with him in his Cabinet know, that the one disturbing factor in the West of Europe during these last years has been that feeling of apprehension, of nervousness, of want of security on the part of France, which has prevented any possibility of the laying aside of that warlike aspect of mind, which as long as it exist, will prevent any real return to peace, any peaceful mentality, and will effectually prevent what we, no less than hon. Members on the other side of the House, are most anxious to see, and that is disarmament.
Hon. Members on the other side—and I give them full credit for their sincerity—believe that the signing of the Protocol must of necessity have led to disarmament and ratification. My right hon. Friend, (Mr. Chamberlain) in his speech this afternoon, gave it as his view, with which I am in complete sympathy, that the Protocol would not have been regarded in the West of Europe as giving sufficient security by itself, 404 and that the only security which would, in practice, have led to, or paved the way for, disarmament, would have been the Protocol plus some kind of pact. As my right hon. Friend says, no progress can be made in Europe until the mentality of Western Europe is changed, and that mentality can only be changed when the feeling of insecurity gives place to the feeling of security. If the present position of things were to be unduly protracted in Western Europe, what I fear, and what those who sit with me on this side of the House fear, is that, before long, the feeling of insecurity which has existed and which is growing, would get such a grip of men's minds in Western Europe that it would be impossible to shake it off.
There is no doubt that a long maintenance of the state of things that has existed up to now—the occupation of the old enemy territory prolonged unduly—would lead to a very grave state of things in Europe and to a condition of affairs which it might pass the wit of man to remedy or to surmount. Therefore, it is that we have seen with some hope these proposals which my right hon. Friend put before the House, which have come rather unexpectedly and from a quarter which in some way gives us more reason to hope for the possibility of a permanent settlement than anything that has happened in Europe lately.
If I may just at this point repeat what my right hon. Friend said, to clear up a doubt which, I think, was in the mind of the hon. Member who has just spoken, the position is this, and I would not go any further, because these are only the lines on which we are to try to find agreement: It is too early yet to say, when the parties can get together, what may come out of it. But we do understand here that Germany renounces the prospect, or any intention, of changing the frontiers in Western Europe. In Eastern Europe she has taken a great step forward towards peace, because she is prepared to declare that she renounces any prospect of changing the frontier by military force. That, of course, leaves it perfectly clear that in years to come she may try by diplomacy, by offering to arbitrate, in any one of half a dozen peaceful ways to effect changes in the Eastern frontier. She renounces—this is the important thing—any attempt to change the frontier by military force.
405 My noble Friend the hon. Member for West Derbyshire (Marquess of Hartington), whose speech I very much regret I was unable to hear, asked one or two questions. He asked if the new pact is inclusive or exclusive? There, again, it is too early to say what may result from it, but the view of the Government, I think, is this, and I think I shall not be misrepresenting them. We do not mind how inclusive is the pact. We cannot say yet who would come into it. The only thing I am clear about is that, however inclusive is the pact, we should not undertake any direct and mutual guarantee other than the one to which my right hon. Friend made allusion. We do not wish to extend our sphere in that way, although whatever countries it might be found possible to admit in an inclusive fashion, we should welcome them if it proved practicable.
Another point he raised was, "are we consulting the Dominions"? Yes, we are, and we shall throughout keep in the closest possible touch with them. I am hoping myself—I do not know whether my hopes will be justified—that when we get into closer touch, the issues may be comparatively so simple that it may be possible to conduct negotiations by cable. There are great difficulties in having a Conference in the immediate future, and I doubt very much whether it will be possible for the Dominions to send over at this moment men of sufficient weight to take part in the deliberations and to pledge their own Dominions. But we have asked the Dominions that they will allow their representatives who are going to attend the Assembly at Geneva in the Autumn to come over to this country at a sufficient length of time before the Geneva Conference to enable us to communicate together, and try to arrange that we shall go together united to Geneva when the time come. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs wishes me to say he is not quite certain whether that message has actually gone; but if it has not gone, it is in preparation, and it has been decided by the Government that it should be sent.
My right hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher) complained of the method which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary had employed in announcing our rejection of the Protocol, and said, I think, that it 406 "bordered on the brutal." I would like to put this to the House. I have always held that for this country, in dealing with foreign nations, it is of the utmost importance to make our meaning clear beyond any manner of doubt. I have not, myself, a long experience of high office, but I have been struck over and over again with the difficulties that come if, in the course of any negotiations, our Government have not been absolutely explicit in saying what they mean, and in saying directly, in answer to a question, "Yes" or "No." It is very difficult, in giving these direct answers, always to be as suave as one would like to be, but I am quite sure that, having regard to the old-established character of this country throughout the world, and the belief that we are a nation somewhat lacking in the higher graces cultivated by others, but a people whose word may be absolutely depended upon—I want to get back to that old reputation; and if I should suffer a little bit in my manners, I hope it will be made up to me in the trust placed in my word.
There is one other thing to which I wish to refer. A great deal has been said in the Debate about arbitration. The Leader of the Opposition said something about it, and I think from the Liberal benches we have heard something about it. Those of us who were in the House—and I regret it was not a larger House—heard a very brilliant speech from my old Friend the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil). I have been very interested in the faith that has been displayed from the benches opposite, and particularly by the last speaker, in the power of compulsory arbitration. He seemed to believe that, if you only got a document signed embodying compulsory arbitration, the nations of the world, whatever their past history, however different in nationality and religion, if you could only get them to agree to compulsory arbitration, there would be no more quarrels and no more war. I think that represents their ease very fairly, and I have every respect for that sentiment of hon. Members opposite. If they really believe in it, the test is a very simple one. How many members of the trade unions would sign a protocol to-morrow for compulsory arbitration in industry? If they do not believe that that would be a good thing for this country, I should like to 407 know how they believe that it would be a good thing for people of different nationalities, speaking different languages, having different religions, and having different histories. I regard as the first great step that has been taken in the last three years to bring back a real peace to Europe, the establishment of the Dawes Report, which I had the honour of starting when I was Prime Minister, and which was carried to a successful issue by the labours of the present Leader of the Opposition. The next step, I believe, will be the one which has been outlined to-day by my right hon. Friend, if we have the great good fortune to bring to a successful issue the overtures that have been made, on the one hand, by Germany, and, on the other, the soothing of the anxieties and nervousness of our old Ally.
It has been asked in this Debate why we should play a part in this. I think my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made that quite clear. I think he made it quite clear, in the course of his speech, that there would be no prospect of our Allies even listening to overtures of this nature unless we were one of the contracting parties. It is an enormous responsibility which is thrown on this country, and I believe that the country will rise to the 'height of that responsibility. I was very pleased to hear the Leader of the Liberal party in this House, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), express his approval without, of course, committing himself to the details, of our pursuing this path to the utmost of our being.
The Leader of the Labour party, while obviously and quite naturally, regretting our attitude on the Protocol, said that if this were the only way out, he would give it his blessing. I regard the whole position of Europe as that of a great quaking bog, ready to let into its depths all the people on its margin. And I believe, if we can really get security and pacification in the West, we fill up at once half of that great quagmire, so that 408 we can advance along that portion, and gradually fill up and up and up, till that happy day has come when we may not only complete the pacification of the whole of Europe, but may get the whole of Europe, including portions of it of which to-day many of us have but little hope, into a united League of Nations.