HC Deb 07 March 1927 vol 203 cc936-75

I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words in the interests of both peace and economy and in order to inspire national confidence and security other than by large standing armies, His Majesty's Government should, in the preparatory commission for the forthcoming Disarmament Conference, initiate proposals to secure international agreement on reductions in land forces. Thus far this Debate has been conducted on the assumption that the question of the land forces of the Crown is primarily a national question. There has been also an assumption running through the Debate that there was some urgent and insistent need for preparations against war, and an undercurrent of feeling amongst many hon. Members opposite that the expenditure on the Army ought to he increased. The object of the Motion which I move is that in the interests of peace and economy, the Government should take the initiative in submitting definite and concrete proposals to the preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference for the reduction of land forces by international agreement, as part of a comprehensive policy of progressive disarmament. A fortnight from now the preparatory Commission of the Disarmament Conference will be meeting. The work that has already been done by that Commission proves beyond a shadow of doubt that technically and politically a drastic limitation of armaments, including land armaments, is practicable. It now depends solely upon the sincerity of the nations at that Conference whether the Disarmament. Conference proceeds far along the road to disarmament or not; whether, indeed, the nations of the world are prepared, in spite of all that has happened since the War in the direction of warlike preparations, to fulfil their own obligations under the Treaty of Peace. In this connection a very heavy responsibility rests upon His Majesty's Government. I want to take as, my starting point some words spoken by the Prime Minister a little over a year ago in circumstances more congenial than the House of Commons—he was speaking at the meeting of the Classical Association. A question which he asked in that speech was as follows: Who in Europe does not know that one more war in the West and the civilisation of the ages will fall with as great a shock as that of Rome? My second starting point is that the economic burdens of armies and all that armies imply are intolerable in the existing state of the world and of this country. As regards the Prime Minister's own question, if the nations of the world will not destroy, as far as is humanly possible, the probability of war, the land forces—and, of course, other forces which I cannot mention in this Debate—should be so restricted that they will not imperil the existence of civilisation; in other words, that war should not be conducted on the colossal scale of the past War—indeed, the next war will be conducted on a larger scale —but should at least be confined within limits which at the end will leave the fabric of civilisation intact. As regards the second point, that of economy, we claim that expenditure on the land forces should be reduced to the minimum essential for what might be called police service. Any expenditure above that level is unproductive expenditure and a burden on the community. Sir Josiah Stamp, I understand, has said that the abolition of armaments throughout the world would mean an increase of 10 per cent. in the standard of life of the peoples of the world. The reduction and the ultimate abolition of land armaments for war purposes, as distinct from police purposes, would make a very substantial contribution to that end. So far from wishing to transfer expenditure from unnamed Ministries mentioned by hon. Members opposite to the War Office, I would like to see a substantial limitation of expenditure by the War Office.

There is, in all armies, a quite unnecessary amount of display, because the military mind runs to display. I do not believe the dignity of this nation rests in any way upon bearskins or breastplates or red tabs or brass-hats. Indeed, I would say that the soberly uniformed and good humoured policeman is far more representative of the people of this country than the young subaltern tricked out in the uniform of a crack regiment. All the display which, in the past, seems to have been inevitably associated with armies is not necessary in any country, and least of all in this country. But that is, on the whole, a relatively small point. What we suggest is a definite reduction in the personnel of the Army. I am aware that since the War there has been a substantial reduction in personnel, but with the Great War behind us, with the de-militarisation of Germany, with the Locarno Treaty negotiated—it was to he the first step to disarmament—with no real military menace in the world, what is the reason for the enormous expenditure on land forces in this and other countries? It is partly because of tradition, and tradition with no justification for its continuance. It is partly due to undefined fears. It is very largely due to the abnormalities of the military mind. There is very little substantial foundation for an increase in armies either here or in other countries.

What is even more important than a reduction of personnel, is the change that has taken place in the direction of mechanisation. Man has become very largely superseded by man-directed machines. Warfare, like productive processes, has become industrialised, and it is becoming increasingly industrialised. The Secretary of State has emphasised the importance of carrying further the mechanisation of the Army. I suggest that unless a halt is called to developments in that direction the economic system in this and other countries will be crushed under the sheer weight of military metal due to mechanisation. It is, therefore, as important to limit armaments and equipment as to limit the personnel of the Army. Limitation of that kind is perfectly practicable. The Treaty of Versailles did actually prohibit the possession by Germany of tanks of all kinds, and of guns of larger calibre than 105 millimetres or four-inches, except for fortresses and fortified works. If a definite limitation of the scale of armaments for the land forces is practicable in the case of Germany, clearly the principle is of much wider application.

Let me refer for a moment to the question of tanks. As a practical form of equipment, tanks were the product of the Great War. From being a freak weapon the tank has become an extraordinarily important one, a weapon the importance of which is increasing day by day in the eyes of the General Staffs of the world. I understand that there are no technical difficulties in the way of an almost unlimited increase in the size of the tank, in its power, in the guns that it carries, and, of course, in the enormous expenditure that will be involved. It is perfectly clear what is happening to-day. Just as the old "wooden walls" gave way to the modern battleship, so the small tank of the Great War is to give way in course of time to a new land super-Dreadnought, and there will be the same old foolish competition bet seen the nations, a competition in tank development on exactly similar lines to the great developments in naval armaments that took place before the War. If it be right and just to prohibit Germany from using tanks, there is also a case, for, at least, limiting expenditure on this new form of War. Take the case of artillery. There has been and there is to-day international rivalry with a view to increasing the range and power of artillery. Nobody pretends that guns to-day have reached the limit of their development. I suppose there are people to-day who are dreaming of a gun with a range of 100 miles. Some day, no doubt, in the absence of a limitation of development in that direction, such a gun will be produced. The next stage will be that men of ability and knowledge will bend their minds to the production of a gun capable of firing 110 miles. If the 4-inch gun as a maximum be right and reasonable for Germany, what is the ease for 14-inch guns and even larger guns for any other Power which cares to buy them? The competition in long range artillery is going to involve this country, whether we want it or nut, in increasing expenditure and a halt should be called to the development of the scale on which artillery can be made.

There are, therefore, two separate problems. One is the limitation of land forces, to be carried out by limiting man power, equipment and expenditure—and I think to be effective you would have to limit all three—and the second is a limitation on the developments which have taken place in different forms of armaments. It is perfectly reasonable to ask whether the world is prepared to accept, if not a similar degree of disarmament, a comparable degree of disarmament to that imposed by the Powers on Germany under the Treaty of Peace. The restrictions placed on Germany by the Peace Treaty were the work of the ablest military minds on the Allied side during the War. They roamed over the whole field and put in every possible precaution against the terms of the Treaty being defeated by Germany and that limitation is, therefore, perfectly practicable and could be carried out universally if the nations cared to do so. But there is an even more powerful reason for a substantial limitation in expenditure on the armies of this and other countries. That is the case for the reduction and even the virtual abolition of armies, due to the revolution which is taking place to-day in methods of war. Mechanisation is now the new policy of the War Office, but mechanisation is already out of date. Mechanisation is being beaten and will be beaten by chemicalisation. It looks as though warfare in the future will develop into a struggle between engineers and scientists; between aircraft, gas bombs and disease germs, and the defensive services organised by chemists, biologists and medical men. Chemical warfare is in its infancy. People are a little doubtful as to the possible developments of chemical warfare, but 30 years ago people were just as doubtful about the development of aircraft. The enormous development of various forms of chemical warfare during the late War and the substantial progress made since the War—to which not a word of reference has ing been made in this House—are transforming warfare far more than did the invention of gunpowder. The Powers have undertaken by Treaties made at Washington and Geneva not to use gas in time of war. Everybody knows that every nation will use gas in time of war. The general staffs of all nations are working on the assumption that they are going to use gas in time of war. There is no nation to-day that is not carrying out experiments in chemical warfare, notwithstanding Treaty obligation, and it is obvious that the first big crash which comes will mean that in spite of all Treaty obligations there will be such a development of chemical warfare as many people now hardly believe possible. Let me give the House this cold, sober account of "Lewisite," a gas which, I believe, was invented in the United States and was ready for use about the time when the late War ended: Lewisite is invisible, it is a sinking gas which would reach down to cellars and dug-outs: if inhaled, it is fatal at once; if it settles on the skin, it produces almost certain death; masks alone are of no use against it; it is persistent; it has 55 times the 'spread' of any poison gas actually used in the War. Indeed, it was estimated by an expert that one dozen Lewisite air bombs of the largest size known in 1918—far larger sizes could now be used—might in favourable circumstances have wiped out the population of Berlin. And Lewisite is not the last word in gases. It is known that later research has given yet 'better' results in fatal effect, in penetrative power, in persistence and in spread. That is the prospect in any future war, and not all the brass hats and red tabs, not all the equipment of the British Army would be able to counter the effects of that kind of warfare. Let me give another quotation, this time from the Chief Research Officer of the Chemical Warfare Service of the American Army when he was explaining this question at a Congressional Hearing: One plane, carrying two tons of the liquid (a certain gas-generating compound), could cover an area of 100 feet wide and seven miles long, and could deposit enough material to kill every man in that area by action on his skin. If Germany had had 4,000 tons of this material "— and I understand Germany could easily have produced 1,000 tons per day— and 300 or 400 planes equipped for its distribution, the entire first American Army would have been annihilated in 10 or 12 hours. That makes modern armies perfectly futile. If you add to that, the even worse possibilities of the release from bombs of disease germs—and once ordinary restrictions are relaxed, such a thing is possible in the next great war—it seems ridiculous to carry an these little discussions about the Territorial Army and about what is to be done with the cavalry when we are face to face with a revolution in warfare such as the world has never known. No one knows whether, even this very year, there may not be produced some gas which will be absolutely irresistible. We shall be told, of course, that means of defence will be developed against this new form of war. Had means of defence always kept pace with means of offence, there would be no losses in time of war, but means of defence never have kept pace with means of offence and the fact that a certain type of shell can be met by a certain type of metal, does not prove that you can effective means of counteracting and preventing the effects of such poisonous gases as Lewisite and all the stream of poisonous gases that may well follow in its train. Therefore, all this talk about the mechanisation of the Army, about the cavalry, about tank development and artillery development is beside the point, because in 10 years, perhaps in five years, should war break out it may well prove to be the case that artillery and tanks will be as out of date as cross-bows, and as useless as pea shooters. Merely "pooh-poohing" these developments is not an argument. Clearly there is overwhelming reason for a substantial reduction in armies which are not going to be of any great use in the future; and, indeed, there is an overwhelming case for attempts to prevent war altogether. It is fairly simple to put a limitation on the size of guns, the size of tanks and the size of armies and upon expenditure on them. Discussions have taken place as to the possibility of limiting the development of chemical warfare. That, in my judgment, is impossible because it is derived from the most adaptable industry in every industrial country, namely, the chemical industry. Even in the absence of any preparations before a war, the transference of the chemical industry from a peace basis to a war basis is only a matter of days and it may be of hours. Therefore, even if we agree to some form of limitation, we are faced with this fact, that should war break out, this is the kind of warfare we may expect. These are the Prime Minister's words: Who, in Europe, does not know that one more war in the West and the civilisation of the ages will fall with as great a shock as that of Rome? 8.0 p.m.

In view of these facts, the civilisation of the ages would fall more rapidly and sink more deeply. I believe that there is everywhere, in spite of the misleading speeches made in this House to-day about increasing our military expenditure, a widespread feeling in this and other countries in favour of some serious attempt being made to reduce the expenditure on armaments and on armies, and to keep war should they occur within strictly defined limits. Under the Locarno Treaty the Powers undertook to give their "sincere co-operation to the work relating to disarmament already undertaken by the League of Nations and to seek the realisation thereof in a general agreement." But the purpose of this Amendment is to ask the Government to take a bold line, to take a courageous line; not to wait for proposals to be made, but, on their own responsibility, as a part of their general proposals, to make definite concrete suggestions for limitation of land forces. The further the Government have the courage to depart from the military psychology and to proceed along the road of disarmament, the greater the distance they will carry with them other nations. I realise that this is an international problem, but the further the Government do that, the greater will be the approbation of the British people. From our own point of view, the Government cannot go too far. The further the Govern- ment will go in association with the other Powers in limiting land forces and land armaments and other forces, the better we shall be pleased. Even with their long and disastrous record, the Government, at this stage, may do something to retrieve their position in the eyes of the people of this country and in the eyes of the world. I hope that we shall have tonight from the Government a definite undertaking that they will do their part in submitting proposals for the reduction of armaments and that they will be glad to consider favourably any reductions proposed by the other Powers. That, in a word, the Government will carry out the pledges which this country gave in the Treaty of Peace and in the Treaty of Locarno, and that the Government will be sufficiently generous in spirit and sufficiently confident of the response that will be made by other nations, if this nation takes the lead, to be bold in taking a big step that might now be made to make war for ever impossible.


I beg to second the Amendment.

We shall have, in the course of a discussion of the money to be provided for the three Fighting Services of this country, more than One occasion on which to raise the general questions of disarmament as it is being discussed through the League of Nations this year. I want to draw attention to two or three aspects of the problem of the reduction both of men and material in relation to the Estimates. I was exceedingly glad to hear this afternoon from the Secretary of State for War that we have made in one category a definite move in the direction of reduction. We have become so familiar with the talk about reduction particularly since 1919. Never a year has gone by when the Government of the country has not made very loud and very beautiful professions in language about reductions, but we have not had any substantial move in the direction of facing up to the responsibility to which we committed ourselves at the conclusion of the first world war. Therefore, I am sure it came as a great relief for hon. Members on all sides of the House to know that at last we have passed, in the direction of peace, from the stage of words to the stage of action, and that, in respect of the horses which are to be used in His Majesty's Army in future, we can record the very favourable and very gratifying fact that there is a substantial prospect of a permanent reduction in the number of those dear dumb creatures which have played so large and so pathetic a part in British warfare in years past. It is one of the consolations to the British public that the growth of mechanisation in forms of warfare does lead to the happy release of these creatures. None of us who recall the experiences of the first world war will have any other than deep feelings of thankfulness that the progress of modern science is not only releasing the horse from the road and from the large variety of undesirable peace occupations, but that we have now got to the stage when we see that it is the deliberate policy of the British War Office progressively to reduce the number of these creatures that are required. That is a very cheering development, and I wish that we could have a special day in the House for the celebration of this great development in the reduction of the land forces of the British Army of the future. It will be quite a happy thing for all three parties to celebrate this great decision which we have reached. The disquieting feature of this development is, however, that the process of mechanisation is meaning in practice the very real and grave responsibility of advancing and increasing in a variety of ways the British Army of the future.

I would like to ask the representative of the War Office, in this year 1927, particularly in view of the Disarmament Conference which is pending at Geneva, and of our considered commitments to that Conference, whether they have any definite principle by which the nation is to be guided in this matter of disarmament? So far as I know, the present British Government have not laid down any other principle that that, in the first place, they want an Army large enough for the defence of these islands, and, in the second place, that they want an Army large enough for what they describe as the policing of the British Empire. I would like to ask whether the present Army, with the expenditure which is indicated in the present Estimates, is the minimum conception of an Army according to that principle? Do the Government really feel that the Estimates put forward this year do represent the minimum police force required for Great Britain and the British Empire? If that be the case, then we are going to be confronted in the League of Nations this year with a practical problem of a most serious kind. We never had any serious practical attempt in the direction of the disarmament of land forces until 1919. Hon. Members on all sides of the House will remember that one of the big practical difficulties of those who took the view from 1899 to 1914 that the way to prevent the first world war was not to build up big insurances in the shape of fighting forces, but to secure a mutual agreement for disarmament, was that no nation has any kind of concrete standard or measure or principle by which disarmament could be carried out.

We had in this country a considerable number of very earnest-minded and public-spirited citizens who were advocating land disarmament from 1889 to 1914, but we made very little headway with regard to a concrete measure, a definite standard, whereby that disarmament could be carried out. But we did achieve, in 1919, a definite standard, and I should like to ask whether the War Office can reconcile the continuance of their present standard, that of policing the British Empire and these islands on numbers which work out in the terms of the present Estimate, with the principle that was applied through the Peace Treaty, which has become known to the world as the 1919 standard? That standard was not intended to make Germany, Austria, Hungary or Bulgaria insecure. The Allied experts who worked out that 1919 standard were not dreamers who were associated with the extreme pacifist cause throughout the world. They were men who were wanting to guarantee for all time the peace of Germany. I understand that the standard of disarmament as applied to land forces allowed in the year 1919 was that the armaments of Germany should be so reduced that she should never again be capable of making aggressive war. Germany was to have all that was required for her internal order for the maintenance of peace, order and security within her borders, and for the maintenance of perpetual peace within her realm, but she was not to be allowed to have any larger forces because if she had more she would be in a position where she could wage aggressive war. I submit that the 1919 standard was not an idealist standard. It was not a standard out of the reach of practical politics. It was a standard that was deliberately laid down with the object primarily of promoting peace within Germany; of preventing Germany's ever again becoming an aggressive partner in the world's military forces. Other nations knew then that Germany was at peace and that Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria were incapable of aggressive warfare. From 1906 to 1914 those nations had been compelled for purposes of self-defence to pile up their armaments in order that they in turn might be able to pursue a policy of peace and in turn reach the standard provided for those four Powers.

This is not simply a British question, but a world question. The year 1927 is for Britain and for the world a year of decision in the matter of armaments, because if we do not make a decision this year, it is plain that we are committed to the old policy of increasing armaments. If we do not secure by mutual agreement this year a decision with regard to the fighting forces in a way that will make mutual disarmament possible on a guaranteed basis, it is clear that we shall begin another period of rival armaments in terms of tanks and armoured cars much more than in terms of men. Therefore, I want to have a careful and explicit statement from the War Office as to what is really the guiding policy of the Government in regard to land forces. Are they going to say, frankly and definitely, to the world tonight that their only principle is the one embodied in these Estimates, that what was done in 1919 for Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Bulgaria, that the pledge that we gave when that unilateral disarmament of land forces was carried out, literally counts for nothing with us, that we stand by these Estimates, and that they represent our last word on the subject?

I should like to emphasise, not so much the question of the reduction of men—although it is clear that, if Germany is secure on 100,000 men for all purposes within Germany, the amount of land forces used by Great Britain and her self-governing Dominions and India shows ample room for reduction in terms of men—as the question of materiel. We have heard a great deal about the fact that in Germany, notwithstanding that her army has been reduced to a maximum of 100,000 men, there is an enormous amount of secret preparation going on, that every university, which is full of good Tories, is busy preparing, through sporting clubs and hunting clubs and all kinds of little side-shows, for the maintenance of professional armies for the future, and there is a good deal, therefore, to be said for the allegation that the actual army of Germany is much greater than the Treaty figure of 100,000. I suppose there is a great deal of truth in that general statement of the position, but the other side of the matter, the question of materiel, armoured cars and tanks, is much more important from the point of view of effective disarmament, and it is well understood that the largest possible army that we can imagine in terms of men, an army of from 3,000,000 to 6,000,000 men, without mechanical technique and the armament which characterises modern armies, is no good for international warfare.

The secret armies of Germany may be of consequence from the point of view of the internal life of Germany, but there is no military expert among the Allies who would contend that, however great those secret reserves may be in Germany, they are of any significance from the point of view of international war. The fact that Germany has had a policy of total disarmament in respect of tanks, armoured cars, and big guns means in effect that Germany is utterly incapable of waging international war with land forces. I understand from the Estimates, that we have at least 208 tanks attached to the British Army. I do not know the number of armoured cars, and I should like the Under-Secretary to tell us, but if it is enough for the peace of Germany to be entirely without tanks and armoured cars, I should like to know whether the Under-Secretary can justify the policy of working out the obligations of this country in terms of the Estimates that have been submitted to the House to-day. I want to press very strongly that the Under-Secretary, when he replies, will tell us what kind of advice he proposes to give to Geneva, what kind of document or précis he is going to give to Lord Cecil when he has to speak on behalf of the nation in terms of armaments.

The last point I would like to raise is the question of disarmament, not simply as it bears upon the existing men in the Army or their equipment, but whether the War Office cannot see its way to make a much more generous contribution towards the disarmament programme with reference to the preparation of the mind of this country. There has been a growing tendency in the last two or three years for the War Office to extend its propaganda work from the point of view of the preparation of the armies of the future, and I would like to ask whether it will not be possible for the War Office to make some definite commitment in principle with regard to the part that it is going to play in the future in the educational institutions of this country. We had an example given from the Carlisle Education Committee only last week, which elucidated in a very sombre way the propaganda work which the British War Office is carrying out in our schools. I have not yet been able to see the propaganda pamphlet, "The Army of To-day," which has been circulated in the schools of Carlisle, nor was I able, when I questioned the Noble Lord, the Minister of Education, last week, to ascertain how many schools were circulating this particular pamphlet, but that does give one kind of illustration of how the War Office is insinuating itself into the educational institutions of this country.

The growth of junior cadet corps, the steady, persistent pressure which the War Office bringing to bear upon the headmasters of all the public schools, and in some cases the secondary schools, of this country, the definite advice to them that they are not doing enough to promote military institutions inside the schools and colleges, are unmistakable propaganda on the part of the War Office to strengthen its hold upon the educational institutions of the: country. I submit that, in the light of this sort of evidence and of the wider considerations put by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Greenwood) as to the futility of building up armies in view of the modern technique in chemistry, bacteriology, and so on, it is a sounder proposition for the War Office, if it means to maintain itself as a strong and powerful institution in this country, at least to leave the children alone, to give them freedom for the education that makes for life, and to leave them alone at least until they have reached years of discretion.

I quite agree with the principle that there must be apprenticeship for every vocation. I quite agree that for the complicated task of being a soldier or an officer, a major or general, there must be a period of apprenticeship, but I do submit that 16, 17 or 18 years of age is early enough to make a decision with regard to this particular group of vocations, and I plead very strongly on this third count that the War Office will show itself in this year 1927 not only capable of taking a great initiative in the reduction of man-power, but a reduction of the mechanical technique necessary for that man power. I plead in a much larger way, because at the present time the problem of our educational institutions is greater than the immediate practical problem. Everyone knows that Europe is far more in danger than Great Britain because of its armed forces. The amount of propaganda in the way of history and geography—

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER ((fir. James Hope)

This is rather outside the scope of the Amendment, which is that the Government should initiate proposals for international disarmament. The hon. Member appears to be going into military education.


I do not want to wander at, all from the strict scope of the Amendment, but in view of the fact that the War Office have actually spent money on propaganda of this kind, from that point of view, I thought I should be well within the scope of the Amendment. I would, therefore, press this third point of view without elaborating it any further, and would ask the Under-Secretary if he cannot see his way to give some kind of pledge with regard to the activities of the War Office in relation to our educational institutions, not only as being of value to us, but as an example to the militarist educational institutions of the Continent, and, from that point of view, to lay the foundation not merely of the movement of practical disarmament, but, what is more important, the preparation of minds which will give us some permanent guarantee.

Lieut.-Colonel WINDSOR-CLIVE

The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Greenwood) gave a variety of reasons why there is the need for a reduction in the Land Forces, but, with the exception of one reason, all the reasons he gave would have been of equal weight three years ago. Yet three years ago the Government of which he was a member introduced Estimates which provided for an establishment of the Land Forces larger than is provided to-day. It is perfectly true that the cost is very heavy, but we must remember that it takes a much larger sum to-day to provide a given number of men than it did in the year 1914, and, moreover, in the Estimates to-day there is a very much larger non-effective Vote than was formerly the case, and that non-effective Vote cannot, of course, be reduced. The hon. Member in his Amendment urges the Government to initiate proposals to secure international agreement on reductions in land forces. I think before there is any chance of getting international agreement on this question, two conditions must be satisfied. In the first place, you must get all nations of the world to come into that agreement, and not merely those nations which are now members of the League of Nations, because if you get one powerful nation declining to come in, it seems to me quite impossible for any agreement ever to be arrived at. The second condition is that the will-to-peace all over the world must be stronger than it is in some parts of the world to-day. I believe that unless you can get those two conditions satisfied, it is not very likely that an international agreement will be reached. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne said that we have not made sufficient reductions since the War; that is to say, comparing the strength of our land forces to-day with what they were in 1914, we might have made greater reductions than we have done in view of the results of the War.

I do not think that is altogether a fair comparison. Our Army of 1914 was unequalled in quality, but it was not sufficient in numbers for the task required of it. Therefore, I do not think it can be taken as a standard of what our requirements are to-day. It may be true that our liabilities in Europe are less than they used to be, though one must remember that we have certain obligations under the Treaty of Locarno and under the Covenant of the League of Nations, and we must be in a position to fulfil those obligations if necessary. But Europe is not the only place of which we have to think. We have to maintain our overseas garrisons, more especially our garrison in India. In India we have very extensive land frontiers, and we are liable to attack. It seems to me that whatever may be the case in Europe, the situation in Asia is more difficult and more menacing than it was before the War. I think the hon. Member suggested that things were not so menacing. I would like to refer him to a speech of the Commander-in-Chief in India, reported in to-day's papers. Therefore: I do not think that at this present moment a further reduction in our land forces is possible. The hon. Member says there is need for reduction. There is a need for many things. There is a need for reduction in the Income Tax. Whether there is or is not a need for reduction in the land forces, I do not think at the present time it would be possible for us to undertake it. I would like to reinforce what has been said by other Members that we in this House ought to have the opportunity of considering land defenee in its relation to naval defence and air defence. We ought to have in this House an opportunity of considering the Estimates as a whole, not only from the point of view of operations, but also from the point of view of administration, because I believe it is in the sphere of administration that, if we had the opportunity of considering the Estimates as a whole, we might he able, possibly, to make suggestions whereby economies might be effected, and I hope very much that before long we may he able to have that opportunity.

Brigadier-General CLIFTON BROWN

The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment asked very pertinently for some information as to whether the British Army was intended to do more than police the Empire. I think he will get the answer that it is only for that purpose, and that it is hardly big enough to do it, and therefore I cannot see that we could have given a better lead to other countries towards the reduction of armaments than we have done in bringing in Estimates which have been getting lower year by year. I would like to refer to the proposed reduction in the cavalry. Speaking as an old cavalry officer, I fear one will have to sing the swan song of the British cavalry in a few years' time. But conditions alter, and just as the other day the West Indian Regiment gave up its colours to His Majesty, so I feel that in place of the hotch-potch reductions proposed here entire regiments ought to be asked to end their glorious careers—to come to an end as regiments instead of being reduced piecemeal as is proposed in this re-organisation scheme. Speaking from some experience of commanding a regiment, it seems quite impossible to put into a regiment one squadron of one regiment and one squadron of another, and then expect that regiment to be ready to do its duty whenever it may be called upon. The present strength of a regiment is being reduced by 113 horses and 95 riders. That means that if the regiment is to be used at all it will have to be combined with another regiment. That is not economy, it is most extravagant. If there be a weak regiment of two squadrons—


I think these observations of the hon. and gallant member would be more appropriate on Vote A. The question now before the House is whether the Government should make proposals for disarmament to other Powers. The hon. and gallant Member's observations would be quite in order when that question has been disposed of, or on Vote A, but they are baldly in order now.

Brigadier-General BROWN

I will sit down after one more observation. The hon. and gallant Member who spoke last pointed out that in to-day's newspapers the Commander-in-Chief in India is reported as saying there are only 59,000 British troops in India, whereas 75,000 has always been regarded as the lowest possible number necessary to police India and keep it safe. That fact shows what I said before, that the British Army is only a police force Much as we would desire to disarm if other nations would only disarm with us, it would be madness and folly for us to do it before we are quite sure that other nations would follow our lead. Nothing shows that more clearly than the situation in China at the present moment.


So far as I have heard the Debate to-night it has struck me as being rather an amazing one. Army representative after Army representative has spoken upon the needs of the land forces and upon armaments generally upon the assumption that the Amendment calls for the immediate diasarmament of this country irrespective of what other countries may do, or at least the partial disarmament of this country so far as its land forces are concerned. The Amendment is nothing of the kind. It is simply a proposal that at the forthcoming conference to consider definite standards of disarmaments for all the nations Great Britain should take the initiative. The line I take upon this question of national defence and war is that so long as we have armaments they must be adequate and efficient. If they are neither, we might just as well be without them. Because I take that line I think it would be very desirable for those Members of the House who are Army men, and who know the technical side of the question, to give the House the benefit of their experience of what constitutes efficiency and adequacy. That raises the question as to what idea the nation may have regarding the use of our forces. Hon. Members have spoken about the policing of this nation and the policing of the Empire. If it is a question of just policing this country and policing the Empire, then it is not a question of throwing huge forces upon the Continent. An hon. and gallant Member on the other side mentioned that at the beginning of the Great War our standing Army was very small and not adequate to the needs of the occasion, and, as we know, the original Army sent over to France was wiped out within a few months. If our objective is to be what was done in the Great War, I cannot help thinking hard of what the future holds for humanity and for civilisation.

I believe whole-heartedly in the defence of this country. So long as we are responsible for an Empire, we have to look to the defence of the Empire, or to the policing of it. And I do not believe in giving up India, as some people say—scuttling out without giving India the chance of developing the possibilities of democratic self-government. But when it comes to a question of expeditionary forces for another world war, we must think what such a war will mean for the country, for the world and for humanity generally. Surely everybody realises that within a short time of the outbreak of any great world war on a scale approaching that of the last war both sides would be wiped out by the use of chemical forces, if by no other means. It would be possible to wipe out London in a few hours by means of some hundreds or thousands of planes containing bombs and poison gas; and what other countries could do to London we could do to other countries. There may be other means of defence, but at the same time nothing is going to prevent an adequate air force performing its work, and the only thing we have in answer to a threat of that kind if it is carried out in regard to London is to make those who have carried out that threat suffer in the same way a few hours afterwards.

What is the use of talking about land forces being used for expeditionary purposes? If you are going to maintain a standing army on the lines of your expeditionary force, it will be impossible to carry out the land war on the same lines as during the last Great War. It seems to me that there is a fallacy somewhere, and I would like that question gone into. For these reasons it is impossible to visualise a great world war on the lines of the last War, because if such a thing did come about it would mean the devastation of civilisation. Surely we are entitled to know something of the problem from a technical point of view, and therefore we are justified in moving an Amendment of this character. Ours of all nations is a great military and naval nation which can take the lead in a move for international peace as no other nation in the world can do, and surely this party is not asking too much in urging that we should take that lead, and initiate proposals for disarmament upon the experience of the actual policing needs of the nation rather than upon the presumption of the possibility of another great world war that would mean a gigantic standing army and air force in the future. Let us get to the practical facts, It is all very well to talk about disarmament as an abstract question, but if we are going to talk about disarmament let us know how much we can disarm ourselves. This is an opportunity by the House passing this Amendment to get technical advice and knowledge from our experts incorporated in definite proposals so that we can take the lead in the movement for national peace.


I rise to support the Amendment, the case for which has been so ably presented by previous speakers. One might almost say that the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Greenwood) might be regarded as a sort of acid test of the sincerity of the various Government spokesmen in the past with regard to their adhesion to the principle of international arbitration and disarmament. The previous speaker was quite right in emphasising the fact that the Amendment does not invite the House to agree to any immediate proposal for disarmament on the part of this country regardless of what may happen elsewhere. The. Amendment is a strictly limited proposal, and it asks the Government as such to express their readiness to table a Motion of proposals on behalf of this country at the forthcoming Preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference, and it also limits it further by referring for the present simply to the land forces of the Crown. I submit, at the outset, that the Amendment ought to be passed unanimously, because the Government, I have no doubt, will have to discuss this question of disarmament in one form or another at the Disarmament Conference. The spokesmen for the Government have repeatedly said in public speeches that no Government could advance along this line unless it felt that there was a strong and well-organised public opinion behind it, and I submit that if the Government is to speak with anything like authority at the Disarmament Conference it is appropriate that its hands should be strengthened by the Amendment we are pressing forward to-night.

This Amendment contains no new principle. On three very important occasions its principle has already been endorsed. It was endorsed in the Covenant of the League of Nations; it was also endorsed in the Protocol of Geneva in 1924 and in the Locarno Pact of 1925. Consequently we are in the happy position that a leader of each of the three parties in this House has taken a personal share at one time or another in getting this principle of international agreement concerning disarmament not only ventilated but embodied in some official document. The leader of the Liberal party supported this principle in the Covenant of the League of Nations, and so did the Leader of the Opposition in the Geneva Protocol in 1924; and recently a distinguished member of the present Government, the Foreign Secretary, had a share in the Locarno Pact. Therefore it may fairly be claimed that through those commitments on the part of all the political leaders and various parties in this House the whole nation has thereby been committed. What is the present position? Germany has been compulsorily disarmed. Germany is now a member of the League of Nations, and on the occasion when Germany had to subscribe to the Articles of the Treaty whereby she herself should in future disarm, when she attached her signature, a definite undertaking was given on behalf of the other Powers by M. Clemenceau to the effect that the disarmament imposed upon Germany was not to be regarded as limited to Germany, but was a preliminary to disarmament on the part of the Allies themselves. Therefore you cannot in fairness disarm Germany and preserve complete freedom for yourselves to have as large an army as you like. If you are entitled for your own security to disarm Germany then Germany is entitled for her own security to say to the League that the Allies should give her security in the same way. We cannot have one foot in the Peace Council of Geneva and another foot in a bomb factory. We must make up our minds as to what our attitude in this matter is. Therefore, the pledges which we have given publicly to Germany on this matter, and which have been broadcast throughout the whole world, must be redeemed.

There is another aspect of this matter of the disarmament of Germany which is worthy of attention. Hon. Members may argue in this House that it is a good thing for Germany to have been disarmed. That is quite true, and I cordially agree with it; but may it not also be argued that the very fact that Germany has been so disarmed, and thereby relieved of the heavy burden of armaments, will enable the resuscitation of Germany at a speedy rate, and enable her, perhaps, to secure leadership in international commercial rivalries much more easily than otherwise would have been the case? I fortify myself on that point by referring to an article written, not by a pacifist, but by the late Lord Northcliffe on the 4th November, 1918, just a week before the War ended. He wrote: It will soon be found that to insist on an unduly large Army or Navy is to saddle one's own country with a huge expense. To insist on the disarmament of another country may be to present that country with a huge annual income that can be used in commercial rivalry. I submit that the present situation, whereby Germany has been disarmed, may, in fact, prove a sort of boomerang by which we may be hit in a commercial way rather than in the way of armaments. I think we may reasonably argue that it might be a good thing for us to follow suit and reduce our heavy commitments in armaments, so that our own commerce and business may revive and keep their place in the great rivalries of to-day and to-morrow.

9.0 p.m.

To pass to another aspect of the subject, we have had in recent years the old philosophy propounded that, if you want to guarantee peace, you must be prepared for war. I very much doubt whether anyone would care to defend that proposition in this House to-night, bearing in mind the history of Europe in the course of the last 20 years. Here, up to 1914, was a whole continent armed to the teeth, with a plenitude of armaments on every hand, and yet those armaments, unlimited in their extent and scope and power, utterly and absolutely failed to preserve the peace of Europe. Indeed, these colossal armaments, so far from safeguarding peace, actually created suspicions, fostered hatreds generated rivalries, and made the late War inevitable. It is, therefore, fair to ask, in connection with this Resolution, does anyone now believe that preparation for war is cheaper than the alternative suggestion in this Amendment—namely, discussion of methods of disarmament? I have been interested during the week-end in some estimates, which, of course, are quite general in their terms, and, perhaps, are not defensible in every particular, but are still interesting as an attempt on the part of economists to estimate the total cost, both direct and indirect, of the late War to the nations concerned in it. Professor Bogart, an American professor, has estimated that the cost, both direct and indirect, to all the nations involved in the late War, amounted to the colossal total of £70,000,000,000. If we examine the cost of armaments from an-other angle, we find that, to-king fourteen countries involved in the late War, their total National Debt in 1900 stood at something like £4,000,000,000, while in 1920 the National Debt of those fourteen nations stood at something like £53,000,000,000. To put it in another way, it has been estimated—it can only be a rough calculation, it is true—that if we could put into figures, could capitalise, as it were, the wasted human effort involved during the late War, and if that effort were diverted to useful channels, it would represent the work of 1,000,000 workers working a 44-hour week for 3,000 years.

Vice-Admiral Sir REGINALD HALL

That is not a very useful figure.


It may not be a useful figure, but at any rate it will enable my hon. and gallant Friend to understand that there does come a time in the affairs of men when it is proper to inquire whether there is not some other method—


May I ask the hon. Gentleman if he will give the alternative of going to war?


We are submitting it in this Amendment to-night. A poet once put the problem that is before us to-night in these words: Were half the power that fills the world with terror, And half the wealth bestowed on camps and courts, Given to redeem the human mind from error, There were no need for arsenals and forts. Let us take the problem as it confronts this Cabinet, or would confront any other Cabinet, at this present moment. There are some six Ministers directly or indirectly involved in this problem. There are three concerned with the problem of defence—the Secretary of State for War, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Secretary of State for Air. On the other hand, there are three Ministers concerned with the essential social services—the Minister of Health, the Minister of Labour and the President of the Board of Education. Between them we have the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has to find the money for them all, and the unfortunate. Foreign Secretary who has to go and speak in accents of peace at Geneva every year, and, indeed, twice or three times a year, and who is doing it possibly at this very moment, while at the same time we are expending this enormous wealth upon instruments of destruction. Is it not within the recollection of everyone in the House that during this very evening hon. Members have darkly hinted at certain other Ministries that might very well have their efforts curtailed? I do not suppose that any of those speakers would have desired to curtail the Navy or the Air Force. Therefore, they could only have referred to the social services for health or education or in connection with the Ministry of Labour; and who will deny that each of the Ministers of those three Departments is having his efforts absolutely crippled by reason of the colossal expenditure upon these wasteful armaments? Since we have spent so prodigally upon the instruments of aggression or defence, call it which you like, in the last 10 years. Surely it is reasonable for us to ask that the social services, the reconstructive forces of society, should now have their share. If we could stop at that statement of the case we should feel perhaps disquieted, but we have in each of the Estimates—certainly I have seen it in two of them, these and the Estimates for next Thursday as well—sums set aside whereby for the future we are going to develop an entirely new arm of aggression, namely, chemical warfare. We are assured rather confidently by the Memorandum issued to-night that we are not going to be behind in this race: Anti-gas defence has been pursued with vigour, and problems connected with collective protection as well as individual protection are being carefully studied. There is a vista of what we are to expect in any war in the future. But we are not to be unduly alarmed by this, for the right hon. Gentleman gives us this crumb of comfort: A new and greatly improved pattern of respirator has been issued to a large proportion of our troops. But in the next war it is not merely the troops who are going to be involved. We are all going to be combatants in one form or another. Men, women and children will be involved, and what Minister could stand at that Box to-night or at any time and assure the House and the country that in the presence of this new chemical warfare respirators are going to be adequate to protect the general public? We have had a quotation from the Mover of the Motion giving us an indication of the sort of thing that may happen in any country invaded and made subject to attack with these chemicals. I need only add this quotation from an American writer: No other invention since that of gunpowder has made so profound a change in warfare as gas is making or will make in the future. Gas smoke and incendiary materials are used to a greater or less extent by every army. Wherever gas is used it compels practically measures which are found in no other branch of the service. Considering its power it has no equal. Physical vigour is one of the greatest assets in any army, but gas used properly and in quantities easily obtainable in future wars will make the wearing of masks a continuous affair for all troops within from two to five miles of the front line. Gas is inescapable. No trench is too deep for it. No dug-out, unless hermetically sealed, is safe from it. It is the only weapon that is effective in a fog or the inky blackness of a moonless night as it is with the most brilliant sunshine. There we have an anticipation of the sort of thing that will happen in any possible future war unless it is arrested. The more efficient we are the more barbarous we seem to become. The question raised in our Motion is: Cannot some halt be called to this mad race in mutual destruction? The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite asked me what we would propose.


No, I asked what was the alternative to going to war. I referred specifically to 1914.


I am afraid it is no use going back over old history like that. That has gone. What we have to do is to learn from yesterday and prepare for to-morrow. I gathered the hon. and gallant Gentleman wanted me to say what was our alternative as proposed in the Amendment. There is in fact con- siderable discussion going on on the Continent under the auspices of the League of Nations upon this matter and two sub-Committees have been busily occupied with detailed preparations for the great disarmament conference which must presently be held. Someone may say that is all very well, but what is the use of relying upon those expedients? I am happy to tell anyone who may address that question to me that we have the authority of a distinguished member of the Government for asserting that the proposal we make to-night is one that is not entirely in the air but in practice is being discovered to be full of hope. Let me read a passage from a speech delivered by Lord Cecil. He says: The point is that all the experts meeting together have never contested the practicability of disarmament. They have always said it can be done in this way or it could be done in that way. No one has said it cannot be done at all. That is a result of great importance to have achieved in the discussions which have taken place. I am perhaps by temperament sanguine, but I have very little doubt that this thing can he done and success achieved on three conditions. It is obvious that the spokesman of the Government, speaking in another place, made it abundantly clear that there is every reason to believe that such a proposal will be treated not merely as a visionary proposal but as one that is practicable, and so it has been found apparently—found, not by people drawn from civil life merely for one of these Commissions is made up almost exclusively of representatives of the armies, navies and air forces of various countries. If these military people have come to the conclusion that the proposal is a practicable one, what stands in the way of the Government declaring quite positively tonight that it for its part is prepared to table resolutions to this end at the forthcoming conference? I should have been glad if this Amendment could get a supporting speech from the Leader of the Tory party, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal party, because it is very important nowadays that if England goes into these disarmament conferences—she must go there; whether she goes empty handed or not is another point, but we hope not—her representative should speak the mind, not merely of the Government of the day but that that Government is supported whole- heartedly by the whole opinion of the country as well.


Does the hon. Member refer to England alone, or to Britain; the whole country?


I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. I believe he is a fellow Celt. I should not have used the word "England," for that might imply leaving out Wales. I will use the word "Britain." I was saying that I hoped that the representative of the Government who attends the Disarmament Conference may be able to feel that he speaks the whole mind of the country when he supports the disarmament proposals.

There is one word which I should like to address to hon. Members opposite, and I do it with very great reserve, knowing that there are very big differences of opinion between some of them and hon. Members on this side on other questions. They sometimes address to us appeals in favour of what they call domestic peace, and God knows we require it. When we remind them that a distinguished economist like Sir Josiah Stamp estimates that our burden of armaments involves cutting down the standard of living for our people to a point 10 per cent. below what it ought to be, are we not entitled to turn to them and say, "Yes, we are prepared to grant the need for peace in industry; we are prepared to grant the necessity for peace within our own shores, but with how much greater authority would that appeal come, if you assist as to-night to carry a Resolution which, if it were embodied in an international agreement, would rase the standard of living of our people by removing the colossal burden of armaments from their shoulders? That would be one way of lightening the tremendous burden which depresses commerce, business and industry in this country.

Although it might be a difficult thing for our country to take the lead in this matter, as in other things, still, it is the big nations that can best afford to make a gesture like this. I would therefore plead with the Secretary of State for War to give the House a pledge that the Government can accept heartily a Resolution which will lead to the presentation of proposals at the forthcoming Dis- armament Conference, so that our own country may thereby make a real contribution to international peace.

Captain KING

I have little cause to complain of the actual terms of the Amendment before the House, and have not much reason to complain of the speeches which have been made. They have expressed one point of view, and the point of view which has been put with exceptional moderation in this Debate. It is true that the hon. Member who moved the Amendment and others who have supported it have exercised a very vivid imagination, not only of their own, but they have drawn on the imagination of other people to enforce the horrors of war in the future. I do not know that any of us who took part in any way in the late War need much conversion to that gospel. We all realise the horrors of war, but at the same time they should not deter us from making such preparations as are necessary until we can be assured that war is impossible.

The actual terms of this Amendment demand that His Majesty's Government should in the Preparatory Commission for the forthcoming Disarmament Conference take certain steps. In the first place, I want to point out that this Preparatory Commission is for the purpose of carrying through certain preliminary arrangements. The definite proposals would, of course, come before the Disarmament Conference. The last speaker quoted the words used in another place by the Noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy. I think the quotation which he has made should be sufficient to convince him that the Noble Lord will most certainly carry through to his utmost ability the views which he expressed in that quotation. I also cat assure the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, and hon. Members opposite, that the Chancellor of the Duchy in going to Geneva as the representative of the British Government will do all in his power to secure international agreement on the reduction in land forces.

The last few words of the Amendment really govern the whole subject. It can only be done by international agreement. Hon. Members opposite have been quite fair on that point throughout the Debate. That means that it affects not only those nations that will he represented at the League of Nations conference, but other very powerful nations who do not belong to the League, and who will not be represented at the conference. We have heard a great deal of reference from hon. Members opposite to the position of Germany. We have been told that Germany has had disarmament forced upon her. Although we have had many references to Germany, we have not heard a single word with regard to Russia. Russia, unfortunately, will not be represented, as far as I understand, at this League of Nations Conference. Russia is one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, military nation in the world as regards numbers. The standing army of Russia at the present time amounts to very nearly 650,000 men, while their organised subsidiary forces amount to very nearly 9,000,000. Therefore, when hon. Members opposite are asking us to limit our armaments in this country, so as to give a good example to foreign nations, surely with the influence which they seem to possess at times with Russia, they might try to force the views which they have expressed here on Russia. I am not saying it in any offensive way in the slightest; but we do know that hon. Members opposite, perhaps not the Mover of the Amendment, are in very close touch with members of the Russian Government.


I am not, I assure you.

Captain KING

I am not making any special personal reference. It is, however, to the Russian Government, which will not be represented at the conference, that some of the suggestions about limitation should be made. Witt regard to the actual size of our Army, several hon. Members opposite have spoken as if we were in competition both with regard to numbers and materials with foreign countries. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) expound the theory, with which I entirely agree, that if we are to have a force it must be adequate and efficient. That is the kind of force that this country has always aimed at possessing.


What does that mean?

Captain KING

I should like to tell you what it means. It means that it must be adequate and sufficient to carry out the land defence of our Empire. I shall not try to make an Imperial speech, but our Empire has its lines of communications, which, in the first place, are in charge of the Navy. Their terminal points, our large bases and our fuelling stations are left to the Army for protection, and the Army provides the actual land protection of the bases which we hold. One has only to turn one's mind to some of our great trade routes in order to see where our military garrisons abroad are placed. One finds them along the trade routes: Gibraltar, Malta, Egypt, the Sudan, Aden—and going on down—Singapore and Hong Kong, while, on the other side of the Atlantic one finds the West Indies. It is in those places that our military garrisons arc placed, and I can assure hon. Members opposite that those garrisons have been reduced so much in recent years that they are barely sufficient to be able to carry out such duties as are thrust upon them. In many cases in regard to artillery in our forts in those places which I have mentioned, one will find that the actual regular personnel has been reduced to such an extent that the full defence of the battery has to be made up by locally organised defence forces. With those limitations and with our Army cut down to that extent, it is not possible for us to give a much better example than we have done to the League of Nations.

The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment made rather sarcastic play about our talk of reduction in the Army and spoke about our having reduced nothing but horses. He seems to forget that, although there has been a slight increase in the numbers this year, for reasons which were explained by my right hon. Friend, there has been an actual reduction in the Regular Forces of 5,000 men this year. Since 1922 there has been a reduction of over 50,000 men. Surely those reductions should be a very good example and should assure the other countries of Europe that we are not facing them in any aggressive spirit and that the forces which we have are needed solely and only in the defence of our Empire. Various other items have been raised, but I do not think I need go into details as to the organisation of the Army. One hon. Member asked me to give details about the number of tanks, armoured cars, and so on, which we should consider as the minimum, the lowest limit to which we could go in dealing with the League of Nations Conference. All these questions of men and material must depend upon the attitude taken up by the other foreign countries. It is not a matter for us alone; it can only be settled if we know what other countries are willing to do. The hon. Member for Pennistone (Mr. Rennie Smith)—I do not know if he was in Order, for Mr. Deputy-Speaker pulled him up before he had gone very far—dealt with another point of the Estimates, namely the education programme of the War Office. He seems to think it a pity that boys at school—


The hon. and gallant Member is also going too far.

Captain KING

I apologise for going beyond your ruling. I thought the hon. Member, when you pulled him up, was going a step farther than I intended to go. I shall only repeat that the strength of our Army is not based upon any competitive basis, but is merely based upon the necessity for the defence of our Empire. Though we shall be willing to meet foreign countries in any possible way, it can only be by international agreement representing all the great nations of the earth.


An Amendment of this kind leaves itself open to a good deal of sentimentalism. I have listened to a great many of the speeches which have been delivered so far, and I quite admit that the hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are responsible for the War Office, must have wondered, as one hon. Member has already asked, what is the alternative to going to war? I do not think there is any hon. Member who would delight in going to war, and I am sure that every one of us would take delight in doing something to remove the causes of war. Here is an Amendment asking that something should be done on the Government side at the forthcoming conference. I have always looked upon armaments, not as the cause of war, but as the reflection of the economic and political constitution in the country that has those armaments. They are not the causes of war, but the outward sign of the inward constitution of the State that has them. To listen to the Debate to-night one would think that armaments were the cause of war. The Financial Secretary to the War Office seems to think that the League of Nations could do something, and that Lord Cecil, who is there now, will be able to go a long way towards abolishing the necessity for armaments. In 1925 I was in Geneva one afternoon when M. Loucheur came into the League of Nations Council and solemnly assured us that he was going to table a resolution, which would bring the whole of the League down to bed-rock facts, and that we would then come to grips with this octopus of armaments that was crawling all over Europe. His resolution was that the League should appoint a Committee to inquire into the economic causes of war.

When I heard the resolution I thought that at last the League of Nations was getting away from the clouds and coming down to reality. I shall never forget, however, the disappointment I felt, in common with the others who were there, when he, in advancing his resolution, said that certain things should not be brought within the four corners of the discussion. The question of Protection should not come in; the question of inter-Allied debts should not come in; the question of the governance of armies and navies in their respective countries should not come in. After eliminating all those factors, his resolution was reduced to nothing at all.

In common with most pacifists and indeed with the warriors on the other side of the House, I would like to see an end of armaments and an end of war. I do not think you will ever attain anything or come near a reduction of armaments or of the causes that give rise to war until the whole of the Government, which is responsible not only for the policy of the War Office but also for the policies that give rise to the policy of the War Office, are sitting on those benches opposite listening to a full-dress Debate on the causes that give rise to war in this and other countries. When I look at the representative of the War Office and think that we are asking him to pledge the Government to a policy at Geneva and when I know the difficulties of the Colonial Secretary, of the Prime Minister, and of the Foreign Secretary, and the obligations which give rise to the necessity for high efficiency in his Department, I know that he would be a brave man to give any assurance as to what should be done in his Department until he knows fully what the rest of the Government are going to do. I am anxious that peace should be obtained by all means, but after my experience in Geneva, and all that has happened before, I am not at all sanguine that anything can be accomplished because in this and other countries armies and military equipment are dictated by the territory, the Empire, and the interests that have to be defended. Those are the real causes which give rise to armaments, and, unless you discuss armaments in relation to these questions, I do not see how any pious resolutions are going to help you very much. It is the old question of trying to deal with an enormous subject in a water-tight compartment. I may be running Outside your ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I mention some of the things which I consider are the real causes of war, some of the policies pursued by Governments which necessitate war, but no amount of pleading to-night is going to avail us anything. I warn the right hon. Gentleman not to give any assurance to support the Amendment to-night because there are other matters that must be taken into consideration. Other hon. Members have said that they are in favour of disarmament within strict limits, but I should like them on other occasions, when they are demanding higher protective duties—


The hon. Member is now mentioning things which he said he must not mention.


I hope you will see my difficulty. There are so many things connected with this problem that I feel it is utterly hopeless to attempt to deal with it on the present occasion. The real causes of militarism run much deeper than anything we have discussed to-night, and no harrowing description of the battlefield will make a man into a pacifist if he has some interest to defend. He will defend them even if the horrors of future wars are to be worse than the last. What we have to try and go is a common understanding as to how it is possible to maintain our rights as an Empire consistently with the rights of other countries. Until we have a wide discussion on the whole economic field and the interrelations of men, which are ruled out from the Debate this evening, we cannot deal with the problem which we are attempting to discuss this evening.


The hon. Member who has just sat down started by saying that in his opinion armaments were not the cause of war, and he went on to say that the causes of war were economic and that armaments would not be reduced until our whole policy was on a peaceful basis. He said that you cannot regard disarmament as a single isolated problem, that armaments depended on policy, and that until you changed your policy you could not reduce your armaments. We all agree with a great deal that he said, but may I put this one practical point to him, that there are other factors which may cause war, and that the existence of large and excessive armaments may be a cause. He may think that other factors are more important, but he must remember the state into which we had allowed the world to get in 1914, and must surely recognise that excessive armaments make war more probable. If we start from that point surely we do come to the conclusion that an attempt to reduce armaments ought to be made, and that the Government are quite right in making the attempt. As far as land armaments are concerned, I think we have brought down the Army to its lowest possible size, and I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that we cannot reduce it very much lower. I hope the hon. Member will allow me to say one word in defence of the League of Nations. He treated the League of Nations as a body which talked a lot and did little. May I respectfully ask him to consider the fact that the League of Nations is making a real attempt to bring peace, and that as a first step it is trying to secure a reduction of armaments. That campaign for reduction has gone a very long way. We all know the process that has been gone through so far. We have got the nations of the world into the frame of mind to reduce and limit armaments. He wants a reduction, he wants peace, just as much as I do, but I do not think it helps the cause of peace to attack the League of Nations, which is the only body who can fill the bill and do the work.


May I say that I do not lot a moment wish it to be felt that I was attacking the League of Nations. I wish it was a much stronger body, but I have noticed, since its inception, that when it is dealing with the economic causes for armaments it is very timid and compromising.


It cannot dictate to the nations what policy they are to pursue. It can only say to the nations: "You are all carrying much too big armaments, and provided you agree together, there is no reason why you should not reduce them." The first practical step is to get a reduction in excessive armaments, get them cut down first, and then if the hon. Member can pursuade the League of Nations to take up his second point, he will have done much good work. We must prevent the world getting back to the state it was in 1914. It was not only economic and national questions which brought on the War, it was the existence of bloated armaments; they were one of the causes of the War. Unless we reduce them, there is real danger of something of the same sort occurring again. I welcomed the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office. He pointed out that we had reduced our armaments very largely in the last six years. I think we should all agree that our Army is now on a basis of Imperial police only. I do not think we can give anything further away in the Army. But I am glad to know that disarmament is to be discussed at Geneva, and I have great hopes that something great will come out of the Disarmament Conference. The Conference is a very great attempt to remove a real evil and it deserves support.


In view of the great importance of the Amendment and the fact that we have not had an opportunity for a very long time of discussing what is going on in the Preparatory Commission at Geneva, the House ought not to grudge a few extra moments in considering what is happening there. The hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) must not suppose that in

our criticism of the Preparatory Commission we intend to cast any aspersion either on Lord Cecil or on the League of Nations. It is very important for the House to realise the way in which the Preparatory Commission is getting to work. The members of the Commission have begun their inquiries by setting out a questionnaire to be answered by subcommittees. It begins in this way:

  1. "1. What are armaments?
  2. 2. What is meant, by a reduction of armaments?
  3. 3. To what extent d) economic factors enter into the question of armaments?"
They charge the sub-committees to enter upon this intricate and prolonged system of inquiry. So far as I can see, that is not going to lead us anywhere. It is a kind of psycho-analysis of the problems of Europe. It is going to excite rather than allay apprehension. Unless we approach the subject with far greater definiteness, we shall never reach any satisfactory achievement in disarmament. For that reason I am entirely unable to understand why the Government are not willing to accept the Amendment. There is no suggestion that we alone should reduce our Army; the proposal is for a reduction of land forces by initiating proposals for general disarmament at the Disarmament Conference. The Financial Secretary to the War Office did not tell us a word about the proceedings of that preparatory Commission. So far from placating any apprehension I have had, they have made me very anxious as to what is going on in the Commission. The Government ought to approach the question with far greater definiteness and determination. They ought to insist that the problems of disarmament are to be brought down to the numbers of land forces, and that there should be far more definite questions answered than questions about economic factors, and something more than abstruse and intricate inquiries which lead nowhere.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided; Ayes, 223; Noes, 108.

Division No. 34.] AYES. [9.50 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Apsley, Lord Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.
Albery, Irving James Atholl, Duchess of Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Balfour, George (Hempstead) Bennett, A. J.
Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Centr'l) Barnett, Major Sir Richard Berry, Sir George
Applin, Colonel B. V. K. Barnston, Major Sir Harry Blundell, F. N.
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Gunston, Captain D. W. Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Braithwalte, Major A. N. Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir H. (Eastbourne) Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Briscoe, Richard George Hanbury, C. Pownall, Sir Assheton
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Raine, W.
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Harland, A. Ramsden, E.
Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Harrison, G. J. C. Remer, J. R.
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham) Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington) Rice, Sir Frederick
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks,Newb'y) Hawke, John Anthony Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y,Ch'ts'y)
Buckingham, Sir H. Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)
Bullock, Captain M. Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxl'd,Henley) Robinson, Sir T, (Lanes., Stretford)
Burman, J. b. Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle) Ropner, Major L.
Burton, Colonel H. W. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.
Butt, Sir Alfred Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J. Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Calne, Gordon Hall Herbert,S.(York, N. R.,Scar. & Wh'by) Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Campbell, E. T, Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Sandeman, A. Stewart
Cayzer,Maj.Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.) Hogg, Rt. Hon.Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Sanders, Sir Robert A.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Sanderson, Sir Frank
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood) Holt, Captain H. P. Sandon, Lord
Chapman, Sir S. Homan, C. W. J. Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D.Mcl.(Renfrew,W.)
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) Sheffield, Sir Berkeley
Churchman, Sir Arthur C. Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar) Shepperson, E. W.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hopkins, J. W. W. Skelton, A. N.
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Slaney, Major P. Kenyon
Conway, Sir W. Martin Hore-Bellsha, Leslie Smith, R.W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine.C.)
Cope, Major William Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K. Smithers, Waldron
Couper, J. B. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney,N.) Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Courtauld, Major J. S. Hume, Sir G. H. Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer Storry-Deans, R.
Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.) Hurd, Percy A. Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.
Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim) Hurst, Gerald B. Streatfeild, Captain S. R.
Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe) Hutchison,G.A.Ciark(Mldl'n & P'bl's) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Crooke, J. Smedley (Derltend) Iliffe, Sir Edward M. Styles, Captain H. Walter
Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick) Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Crookshank,Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro) Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Sugden, Sir Wilfrid
Davidson, Major-General Sir John H. Jacob, A. E. Tasker, R. Inigo.
Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset,Yeovil) James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)
Davies, Dr. Vernon Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington) Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell
Dawson, Sir Philip Kennedy, A. R. (Preston) Tinne, J. A.
Eden, Captain Anthony Kidd, J. (Linlithgow) Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Edmondson, Major A. J. King, Captain Henry Douglas Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Ellis, R. G. Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Waddington, R.
England, Colonel A, Lamb, J. Q. Wallace, Captain D. E.
Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith Leigh, Sir John (Clapham) Ward, Lt.-Col.A.L. (Kingston-on-Hull)
Everard, W. Lindsay Little, Dr. E. Graham Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Fairfax, Captain J. G. Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green) Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otleyl
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Watts, Dr. T.
Fanshawe, Commander G. D. Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Wells, S. R.
Fielden, E. B. Macdonald, H. (Glasgow, Cathcart) White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple
Forestier-Walker, Sir L. McLean, Major A. Willlams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Foster, Sir Harry S. Macmillan, Captain H. Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Fraser, Captain Ian McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Frece, Sir Walter de MacRobert, Alexander M. Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Maltland, Sir Arthur D. Steel Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)
Galbraith, J. F. W. Makins, Brigadier-General E. Winby, Colonel L. P.
Gates, Percy Malone, Major P. B. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham Margesson, Captain D. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Marriott, Sir J. A. R. Wise, Sir Fredric
Glyn, Major R. G. C. Meller, R. J. Withers, John James
Goff, Sir Park Merriman, F. B. Womersley, W. J.
Gower, Sir Robert Meyer, Sir Frank Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)
Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark) Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)
Grant, Sir J. A. Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Moore, Sir Newton J. Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Greene, W. P. Crawford Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury) Wragg, Herbert
Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H.(W'th's'w,E) Nelson, Sir Frank
Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Grotrian, H. B. Nuttall, Ellis Captain Bowyer and Mr. Penny.
Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon.F.E. (Bristol, N.) Oakley, T.
Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Bromfield, William Connolly, M.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Bromley, J. Cove, W. G.
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Buchanan, G. Dalton, Hugh
Barnes, A. Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Day, Colonel Harry
Barr, J. Charleton, H, C. Dennison, R.
Batey, Joseph Clowes, S. Duncan, C.
Brlant, Frank Cluse, W. S. Dunnico, H.
Broad, F. A. Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Fenby, T. O.
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. Lindley, F. W. Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Gibbins, Joseph Livingstone, A. M. Smith, Rennie (Penlstone)
Gilliett, George M. Lowth, T. Snell, Harry
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Lunn, William Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Greenall, T. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon) Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coine) Mackinder, W. Stamford, T. W.
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) MacLaren, Andrew Stephen, Campbell
Griffiths, T. {Monmouth, Pontypool) March, S. Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Grundy, T. W. Maxton, James Sutton, J. E.
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll) Montague, Frederick Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Hardie, George D. Morris, R. H. Thurtle, Ernest
Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Naylor, T. E. Tinker, John Joseph
Hayday, Arthur Oliver, George Harold Townend, A. E.
Hayes, John Henry Paling, W. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Viant, S. P.
Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Wallhead, Richard C.
Hirst, G. H. Ponsonby, Arthur Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen
Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Potts, John S. Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield) Purcell, A. A. Wellock, Wilfred
Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Welsh, J. C.
John, William (Rhondda, West) Riley, Ben Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Ritson, J. Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Kelly, W. T. Robinson, W. C. (Yorks,W.R.,Elland) Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Kennedy, T. Salter, Dr. Alfred Wright, W.
Lansbury, George Shiels, Dr. Drummond Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Lawrence, Susan Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Lawson, John James Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Lee, F. Slesser, Sir Henry H. Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Whiteley.

Question put, and agreed to.

SUPPLY considered in Committee.

[Captain FITZROY.in the Chair.]