HC Deb 06 March 1928 vol 161 cc315-78

I beg to move That this House, believing that the peoples of Europe wish to maintain peace and to pursue a policy which will secure it, agrees to invite in the first instance the Chambers of France and Belgium each to appoint a representative committee from all political sections, in order to exchange information and views with a similar committee appointed by this House regarding the occupation of the Ruhr in relation to the problems of security and reparations. It is quite unnecessary far me even to entertain the idea of an apology when I rise this afternoon to ask the House, for the third time this Session, to consider foreign affairs. I know I am asking hon. Members to consider a somewhat novel preposition. On the first occasion, the Labour party moved an Amendment to the Address, which raised the more fundamental issues of the present relations between France and Germany. We knew perfectly well that the proposals we then made had very little connection with the immediate problems we had to solve. As a matter of fact, one had so much sympathy with what the Prime Minister said, namely, that the situation for the moment could not profitably be interfered with, that we were much more concerned with fundamental issues than with proposals for the immediate settlement of the problem. On the second occasion, my hon. Friends on the Liberal Benches raised a proposal that the League of Nations should be brought into this dispute. We know again perfectly well that until there is a change in public opinion, until in this nation or in that there is a recognition of the real facts of the situation, no mere suggestion of arbitration or conciliation is going to be of very great immediate use. To-day I raise another aspect. of this problem. I do it because my colleagues and myself are absolutely convinced that until public opinion has been influenced, the public opinion of France, the public opinion of Germany, the public opinion of Belgium and public opinion here, Governmental interference, apart from a public backing, is going to be of very doubtful benefit.

What has happened since we debated this question before? Every day brings new issues. Are affairs improving or are they worsening? I do not believe there is an hon. Member of this House who would get up and say that affairs are improving. Take Germany, for instance. What has happened in Germany as the result of recent French action? First of all reaction, militarist reaction: a heart-felt and silent conviction that when the opportunity comes revenge is to be had, has sunk further and further into the hearts of the Germans. So far from bringing security here the action that has been taken has tended to bring insecurity, not only when Germany revives, but for years and years and years, and even for generations. There is no nation on the face of the earth that is in a better position to understand the psychology of revenge than the French nation itself, if it will only look into its own history and its own heart. The second thing is this: Germany is less able to-day to pay the reparation that France went into the Ruhr five or six weeks ago in order to find. Someone has talked about searching pockets with bayonets. When we begin to search pockets in that way the result is that we knock holes in the pockets, and the money that lies there is rather apt to slip out and disappear altogether. That is what France is finding now.

Supposing a settlement was come to, supposing that this afternoon it was stated in the newspapers that Germany had given in, that Germany had held up her hands and had said to France, "We can offer no more resistance, we are beaten, we bow again our heads to the dust. What do you want us to do? What conditions do you impose upon us?" Suppose that that happened this afternoon. Germany is in a less fit position to carry out any of those obligations than she was six weeks ago, when the adventure started. Take France. What is the position in France? I think I am right when I say that a country which starts upon an adventure, the end of which it has not clearly defined, the road to success in which it has not clearly mapped out, nor the circumstances under which it is to be justified to itself and the world—the nation that starts upon an adventure not sufficiently well defined to meet those three great tests is a nation which is in very grave danger of serious disaster.

What has happened in France? France started her march upon the Ruhr, for what? The Prime Minister on various occasions has referred to it. He has told us that France—I paraphrase his words, and I hope I am doing him no injustice—in search of reparation used reparation not exactly for the purpose that it actually had in its heart, and that there were other aims and other purposes. To-day France goes on. France occupies this district; it is ineffective. France occupies the next district; it is ineffective. France imposes the condition of a fiscal tariff; it is ineffective. It widens, widens, widens, until to-day France finds itself in the position of a country that has started upon a quest which it cannot define, has taken a journey which it cannot end, is pursuing something which is very elusive, and finds there is very little opportunity of ever being able definitely to seize it. I say that this fatal quest is one of the greatest calamities that any Government could allow to overshadow the country for which it is responsible. A very distinguished member of the French Chamber of Deputies, M. Leon Blum, writing three days ago in the French Press, used these words: After two months not a single car has been loading coal for France. Thus the French steel industry did not have one-third of its normal ration of coal last month. The blast furnaces are going cold and the franc is falling. England and America will soon begin pressing us for money, and every day our debt to them grows bigger by some hundreds of millions of francs. Bread, sugar, cotton and woollens are going up in price. We have contracted new loans, and are promised new taxes. While waiting for Poinear6 to make Germany pay France is paying. That is the opinion of a distinguished member of the French Chamber of Deputies. Therefore, as the days and weeks have gone, France, instead of coming nearer to her object, finds her object becoming more and more distant and finds the end of her journey more and more problematical. In the meantime she has to pay heavily for her venture. The second thing that has happened to France is of even greater importance. I hope that hon. Members are not blind to the change in policy that is taking place. That is the most serious thing of all. France begins with nothing approaching a quarrel; we begin with hesitation, but with a very strong and most sincere desire to keep the Entente going—a sort of temporary tiff between permanent friends. That is the beginning. The drift goes on; the breach widens; one or two little difficulties that the Prime Minister had to deal with in Paris on 3rd January become multiplied; every day multiplies them. At last one fine morning we find that the whole of the relations threaten fundamentally to fall down. We begin to be told that France is negotiating a new Europeanbloc, we not being in it. Moreover it goes further. We are told that when France makes peace with Germany she is going to do it separately; she is going to present us with afait accompli, and we arc going to accept it or we are going to reject it just as it suits ourselves, but the thing is to be settled before we know even the terms of the settlement. That is the drift.

That is not all. What is now happening, I am perfectly certain, was not a definitely conceived and determined design on the part of France. France in her own interests is reopening the questions closed at Paris when the Treaty of Versailles was written and signed, and is herself rewriting the Treaty of Versailles without any consultation with her late Allies, either ourselves or the Americans. The frame of mind that I detest most of all is the frame of mind of the pessimist. When we see, not by the evil designs of France—I do not believe that for a moment—but by the inevitable consequence of events one thing following another, one thing leading to another, the effect becoming cause, cause becoming effect, then surely it is time for us to make a survey, not of an academic kind, a survey which ends not merely in a gesture of goodwill or a gesture of pious aspiration that we should refer it to the League of Nations, but it behoves us to make a survey for the purpose of seeing whether we cannot apply our wills to the problem, and solve it by stages, and not in a miraculous way by one act, because that can never possibly be done.

Take our own position in all these matters. Curiously enough, the one country that seems to be forgotten by so many of our people to-day is our own country. We have all sorts of sentiment about this country and that country, but who is facing the position that this country is getting into in relation to any other? Who? I refer to the political relations, the military relations. It is all very well for hon. Members—I think they are mostly on the other side—to assume that we are out of the picture for a moment, that we are in the stalls or in the pit or in the gallery while the great European play—I hope it is not to be a tragedy, though it looks very much like it—is being played on the stage. That is an absurd position. We are on the stage, and we cannot get off the stage.

What have we found over and over again? We have never found some creation of the devil appear in human form and declare a war. That is not how things are done. We find, we have always found, and we will find again that there will be a nice gentle little trickle of events, and we shall launch ourselves on it; we will be quiescent and we will go down, and the trickle will get bigger and the current will get stronger, and we will go on and go on until at last we are in the rapids, and once we are in the rapids then our sentiments and our ideas and our intentions may be what we like, but over the waterfall we will go, whether we wish it or not.

The thing which is happening to-day is the beginning of a new series of chapters which may culminate in war unless we are very careful. Our position to-day is this. The military balance in Europe is changing; the political balance in Europe is changing, and at the moment, so far as my correspondence goes, and so far as I can read the situation, we are rather out of it. We have very little influence. Nobody is looking to us for a lead and, as a matter of fact, we are in a position which would enable us to give a moral lead to Europe if we only had the courage to lay down our position and stand by our position through a few months, probably of misunderstanding. Look at our position on the Reparation Commission. We are out-voted every time. The Reparation Commission is making itself responsible for things that, as we all know, we refuse to make ourselves responsible for, yet our representative sits there and never votes. Is that a position for a country like this to occupy? Take the Rhineland Commission. Exactly the same thing is happening there. Even worse is going on there, because the Rhineland Commission, unlike the Reparation Commission, may at any moment become a political instrument. Perhaps the language I have just used is not quite accurate, because when you are dealing with economics it is very easy to translate economic into political events, but I mean that the Rhineland Commission is different, because where you get a majority under the domination of country A or country B or country C, if there is a division of opinion on political matters, or on military matters, or on politico-military matters, and one important Power like ourselves instructs its representative on the Rhineland Commission to take no part in the business of the Commission, then that Commission can be used in the occupied district—as in the Ruhr now—for political purposes. That, as a matter of fact, is happening. The Commission is extending its sphere of work. It is going outside its authority under the Versailles Treaty, and is becoming a political instrument in carrying on the designs that are being advanced in the Ruhr area at the present time. Yet, whether it is doing its legitimate or its illegitimate work, our country takes no position on it at all, except that of instructing Lord Kilmarnock to sit quiet, hold his tongue, and never use his vote.

I venture to say that cannot go on much longer. It is quite impossible that such a situation could be maintained much longer. I would like to press for a statement in respect of what Germany is prepared to accept as her obligations. We should do our best to get her to speak. We were told, and I believe it is perfectly right, that the terms were in Paris on the 3rd January, and the agent was there and they were going to be produced, but owing to certain circumstances they were not produced, and the agent went home, and to this moment we do not know what Germany was prepared to accept as what she considered and what she would define as reasonable obligations in view of the burdens imposed for reparation purposes. Surely, if I may allow my mind to wander in that direction, the very first move in the game is to get Germany to speak, and no country was in a better position than ours to do that. but we allowed events to master us instead of mastering events. What is the use of a great body of men like this what is the use of a, House of Commons, of a Parliament elected to represent the people of this country, if we are to be controlled like puppets by events? Have we no policy? Have we no conception of our function in Europe? Have we no idea of pursuing a straight policy, day by day and week by week, in such a way as to disarm opposition that is merely factious? Have we no conception as to how that is to be done? I do net believe for a single moment that we are in that position. I believe, with a little courage, this country could place itself right at the head of those moral forces which must come into the forefront. in Europe, if European problems are to be solved. When one looks around about trying to find somebody who is doing that one's best patriotism feels outraged by our own silence and our own quiescence.

At the moment, remember, it is not the history of to-day or to-morrow which is being written, but the history of the next 50 years. You begin now, you choose a certain path now, you start a new European diplomacy now with certain great presumptions in its mind as to certain merits of certain plans of action. Ten years from now you cannot undo that. You still remain the mere puppets of events, and events are going to write the issues of your history. To-day you find a German Government saying "We cannot speak. We want to speak, but if we do so France will interpret our words as weakness." We find that Government saying, "Cannot somebody, cannot something make it easy for us to speak "—because apparently until some Moses comes and touches the rock with his rod the water cannot gush out. What impotence? As to France, we are told the French Government cannot change because the opinion of the French Chamber will not allow it, and the French Chamber is afraid to allow it because French public opinion is said not to allow them. Everybody who follows the French Press day by day knows that French public opinion at the present moment is the Frankenstein which has been raised by French Governments since 1918. People cannot play with devilry, and find that they are not raising devils in the path to make it impossible for them to get back to a proper course of action. As to our own Government, we have been told again and again that we cannot move lest our action might be misinterpreted by, and be inconvenient to, our own Allies, yet in Germany, in France, and here public opinion is apprehensive. Nobody likes the situation. I was talking the other clay to a very distinguished French publicist who supports M. Poincaré in everything he has done, and when one talks to these men one finds that away hack in their minds there is a great reserve. They are doubtful about the result, doubtful whether even an apparent success will ensure that a real success will follow. May I quote a line of Burns, assuming for a moment the prerogative of my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Kirkwood). I should say to the reasonable French people that success in the Ruhr is somewhat like pleasure— You seize the flower; its bloom is shed. You get your success, but the moment you have it, it withers in your hand. It is something that turns to nothing more than dust and ashes and futility. There i3 the situation—paralysis, evil, and drift with the Governments—the German, the French, tile Belgian and our own—standing by; public opinion behind us uncertain, unhappy, anxious to get conference, anxious to understand each other, but no order, no means of conference, of getting the public to lay their heads together in order to exchange opinion and find out exactly each what the other is thinking. That is the tragic situation in which we find ourselves at the present moment. In moving this Resolution I am bearing in mind that this House is the custodian of opinion. For the form of the Resolution I care nothing. I understand that some hon. Members object, to this phrase and that phrase in it. So far as I am concerned, I care for none of the phrases. The only thing I am considering is the substance. I have suggested the Chambers of Belgium and France to begin with because I think it is far more advisable that those of us who have been operating together should have the first conference together. As soon as that is held I hope we may have an opportunity of consulting the German Reichstag as well. I have not put that in the Resolution because I wanted to take the first step as a separate and distinct step and when that is done and if that is successful then we can go further.

I admit that when you come to the substance of the Resolution the structure is a very novel one and hon. Members perhaps smile at it. It is very novel to us, but not novel to the other two Chambers mentioned in the Resolution. One of my hon. Friends and myself have both been before such Committees of foreign Chambers. America has got its Committee on Public Relations—the Senate Committee. A good many years ago I had the great honour of being asked by that Committee to go and talk over certain matters relating to the English public opinion, and an hon. Friend who sits behind me has been asked by either the French Senate or the French Chamber of Deputies Committee on Foreign Relations to go and talk to them about Balkan opinion. France has got a Committee—exactly the Committee that I suggest 'we should elect by this Resolution. The Belgian Senate has got a similar Committee. If this Committee was elected to-day, or was to be elected at once, I do not suggest, so far as we are concerned, that it should be a permanent one. I am not at all sure, however, that if this House is going to do its duty in keeping in touch with Continental affairs as it ought to, that it would not be very well advised as a separate Power, to appoint a Foreign Affairs Committee upon which you could have represented on a proportional representation basis all the groups and sections in this House. But I am not asking that to-day. I simply say, remembering the case I have put up so far, remembering the circumstances we have to face, that it would he a good thing—I believe it would be a welcome thing, as I shall show in a minute—if we were to appoint a Committee so representative simply for the specific purpose of exchanging views with France and Belgium, to see how far public opinion in the various countries does disagree, and how far all this squabbling and disagreement between the Governments and the Administrations are justified by public opinion. Moreover, I find that practically every letter one gets from members of Chambers and Parliaments in Europe, deplores exactly what I have been trying to deplore in this House. I have, for instance, a letter in my hand, which I am able to quote, written by M. Vandervelde, who was a Belgian Minister during the War. M. Vandervelde says, on behalf of the party which he represents, the second party in the Belgian Chamber: We authorise you to state, in the course of the Debate which is to take place on 6th March in the House of Commons, that we fully and cordially approve the initiative taken by you, in the interests of peace and with a view to assuring the solution of the problem of reparations and security. The French, I am sorry to say, are a much weaker party. The Belgian Labour party is a very important party, but the French, owing mainly, I think, to those unfortunate squabbles that Moscow has been so anxious to spread in every Parliamentary country in Europe—[An HON. MEMBER: "United front; all together!"] My united front is not in words. The French party, I regret, is very much weaker. Still, there they are, and if hon. Members will allow me, I should like to quote a letter which their leader has written on the same subject. He says: It is an understood thing that we (the party) are ready to do all in our power to ensure its success. That is the success of the Motion which I am now moving. Without building too many hopes — I do not want to leave this House in any misunderstanding. This is a qualifying sentence, but still I think we ought to be realistic in our ideas at the same time as we are asking Governments to be realistic in theirs— Without building too many hopes on the positive results of a conference to which the delegates of the French Chamber will for the most part bring a prejudiced outlook difficult to overcome, we think that some of them will receive useful information and enlightenment from such an interview. And more especially we are of the opinion that the very announcement of a meeting such as you propose will have everywhere—and especially in Germany and France—a calming and pacifying moral effect, which it would be wrong for us to neglect. I do not think this is the place for me to go into the details of what we might discuss. The two general subjects, of course, are those placed at the head of my Motion. The two things that arc going to wreck Europe, if Europe is wrecked, are these—. France's fears that she is not secure secondly, an attempt to run after reparations that in actual economic fact must be mere will-o'-the-wisps. Those are the two problems that Europe has got to face, and upon those two problems public opinion is very much divided in the three Allied countries.

As far as I am concerned, I would refer France's security to an all-inclusive League of Nations, and I should be willing to give a pledge, so far as a pledge could be given—and certainly it would be given without any reserve on my own part—that when the League of Nations explored the problem of French security, out and in, back and forth, up and down, until the whole of the nature of the problem was understood, and then came to a decision as to how France could best be secured, I should be willing to say, I will accept in substance such a report and such a recommendation from the League of Nations. On the question of reparations, the great point is an immediate payment. France wants an immediate payment. I think the important thing there is an international loan at the same time as a definite settlement is made regarding the amount of Germany's responsibilities. I think that is a good enough opening, a good enough beginning, for such conversations. I want to emphasise, before I sit down, that I have no intention—my Resolution has no intention—of making these Committees negotiating Committees. Perhaps, in this so-called business age, we are inclined to place too little importance upon a general, indefinite goodwill between peoples. If we could only get the right attitude of mind, I would not be very anxious to press out for definite sort of arrangements. Of this I am perfectly certain, that your wisest. and your 'cutest diplomatists can devise the best ways of doing things, but if there is not goodwill behind them, your wisest and your best ways will not be carried out.

My last point—and I come back to it again and again—is this, is the great dominant factor of the events of to-day. What is happening now is not for this week, not for next week, not for this year or next year; what is happening now is a series of events that are going to fructify, and fructify, and fructify, until at last the whole course of our history, more particularly the history of our international relations, for the next 50 or 70 years is going to be determined by what happens within the next few weeks. It is not a question of France and Germany, but a question of Europe. In fact, it is not very difficult to see that America, too, has got to come in, so that it becomes really a question of the world. A month or two ago everybody was rather chary and unwilling to admit that we Mere going back again to worship in the Temple of Mars. We had said so often, "The War is going to end all wars, "we bad said so often, "The victory of the Allies is not going to be used merely for the protection of the Allies, but is going to be used as the foundation of peace," that we were rather shame-faced when we had to say, "Let us prepare for the next war." We are getting less shame-faced now—less shame-faced. Those dust-covered altars of the Temple of Mars are being put into better order and given a more respectable appearance, and we are just going away back to exactly the frame of mind we were in before 1900, when we started to explore the world for alliances in order to establish a balance of power and get security by armed force.

Moreover, the French are saying things of us, and we are saying things of them— the fault is on both sides—they are thinking things of us, and we are thinking things of them, that are bound to end in hostile organisation, either armies, submarines, air services, alliances,blocs, balances of power—I do not care how. They can show themselves in thousands of ways, but the fact is this, that it is a hostile organisation growing steadily in front of us, and I want to stop it. Surely it is our duty to see that the dragon teeth of words and thoughts that are now being sown, and that are bound to give us a harvest of armed men, shall be raked up, if we possibly can rake them up and prevent them yielding any harvest at all. Yet, there we are. The baffling and the maddening thought is this, that we are paralysed—Governments will not act—no action is being taken, except of this indefinite, vague kind, going out into the unknown and the unexplored—public opinion left to the mercies of those artful people who can play upon it, rouse its prejudices and its fears, put it into a position that will respond later on to a more hearty and definite call—it is being left, neglected, by us.

5.0 P.M.

Really, I do not think it is the duty of Parliament to allow it. I want to encroach in nothing upon the Executive, I want to ask nothing of the nature of a usurpation of the Executive power, but at the same time I want the Executive not to encroach upon the prerogative of Parliament. We have got our functions; they have theirs. Our function is not to negotiate, our function is not to begin the negotiations, but our function is to see to it that the public opinion with which we deal is an enlightened public opinion. Can hon. Members imagine anything more fatal to constitutional government than a Parliament that sits quietly by when so many events, pregnant with fate, are taking place, doing nothing to guide them and mould them in a moral and wise direction? We have come here, at any rate some of us have come here, to try and make this House of Commons an institution of power, of respect, and of authority. If that cannot be done, what happens? The country is deprived at once of the only means by which it can go from one stage to another of well considered organic experiment and organic change. Here is the test. Here is the chance. Not with more sincerity than the Government—I do not claim that—but with more freedom than the Government, we can exchange our views with France and Germany. We can stand as a Parliament consulting French opinion, Belgian opinion, ultimately German opinion, and deal with that important thing the foundation of all wise international action namely, international good feeling. That is our function. That is our field of action, and I move this Resolution, as I believe that the. time has come for Parliament, working in the field of public opinion, to do its duty to Europe, and only as far as it does its duty to Europe, will Europe have any guarantee that Peace is going to be secured for the next generation.


The House has listened to an extremely interesting speech making a very interesting proposal, and with a great deal of what the hon. Gentleman has said I imagine the great, majority of the House will be in agreement. His Motion consists of two parts. It says, in effect, that the peoples of the world want peace, as to which there is no question at all, and that the most important step that could be taken towards securing that peace would be, the settlement of these great questions of reparations and security. I shall come back to the substantial proposition in a moment. The hon. Gentleman made some observations with which I find myself entirely in agreement. They were of a general character, but I believe they were profoundly true. He said that things were going from had to worse. As far as an outsider can judge, I agree. He said the position is getting more serious. He said that we were now taking, or not taking, action which might decide the future for 50 years. I think it was a very conservative and moderate statement. I am not sure it might not be said about almost everything, but still it is, in a popular sense, particularly true of great events rather than of small ones. That leads up to this practical proposal. I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying that his practical proposal is rather insufficient for dealing with so grave a situation.


Hear, hear!


I am glad to secure that approval.


Extremes meet.


Let me ask the House to examine for a moment what is practically the suggestion. I am not dealing with the wording. I quite agree that this is much too serious a case to deal in mere verbal criticism. But take the substance. He proposes that we should appoint an official Parliamentary Committee to represent the House of Commons, and I suppose the whole Parliamentary forum. I am not sure whether or not he would have a representative from the other House. This Committee is to go over to meet other equally official committees—indeed, as I understood him, the existing Foreign Affairs Committees of the Belgian and French Parliaments. They are to meet and to discuss foreign affairs generally, and reparations and security in particular. Does the hon. Gentleman really think that that would be a convenient course to the other channels of communication which exist between the countries? He said he felt the difficulty, because one might accuse the hon. Gentleman of want of acuteness of mind when he said they mast not negotiate they must not interfere with the Foreign Office and other diplomatic channels. How is it possible for them not Lo do so? You have an official committees representing Parliament, meeting other official committees representing the other Parliaments. How are they to discuss without negotiating? Why, their very discussions are negotiations, and, not only so, but how is the Government to go on negotiating with the other Governments while this unofficial Government is to be negotiating at the same time? It is an organ of Government, because it is an organ of Parliament, which is the supreme authority. I cannot see how a proposal of that kind would practically work. The "hon. Gentleman was rather in favour of the permanent appointment of a Foreign Affairs Committee of this House. I quite agree this is not the time to discuss that, but it shows the kind of trend in his mind. I beg him to consider most carefully the working of other foreign affairs committees in other parts. I believe profoundly, from all I have been told by those most familiar with their working, that their working is disastrous, that they have produced exactly the evils I have tried to indicate to the House. They have produced a kind of secondary government, and the diplomatic and Foreign Office officials do not know from hour to hour to which of the two authorities they are really to bear allegiance. I am convinced that this proposal would not be successful. But there is a much more serious objection to it, in my view. How would this appear if it were passed? The hon. Gentleman has a very qualified approval, I imagine, from a member of the Socialist party in the French Chamber. He did not give the name, but I think he said he was the leader.


Yes—M. Blum.


As the hon. Member knows, at present that party commands a very small number of votes, indeed, in the French Chamber—I think about 40. Apart from that, how would it look to the majority of that Chamber if this Parliament, with the approval of the Government and the official side of this Parliament, appointed a committee to negotiate—because that is the way they would look at it; they would not accept the hon. Member's limitation—with other Governments, I will not say behind the backs, but independent of, and displacing, the Government for the day? I am convinced that the plan of appealing to popular opinion, to the people, to the Chamber over the heads of the Government which represent them, is a device which never succeeds. It is a very old device. Hon. Members will remember that it was the device employed by Rabshakeh when he was besieging Jerusalem, and he appealed to the people on the walls against the Ministers, and the only result was to consolidate the whole of the Jews behind their leaders. That plan has been tried over and over again, generally by revolutionary Governments, and never with success. The last occasion on which it was tried was when President Wilson, in the Paris Conference, appealed to the Italian people ever the heads of the Italian Government, and we know with what result. It produced a most dreadful explosion in Italy, broke up the Conference for the time being, consolidated the whole people of Italy behind the policy of the Government—the policy, of which personally I did not approve, of Fiume, and, in the end, the Powers had, in effect, to give in to the proposal which they had been fighting up to that time. If such an appeal over the heads of a Government could ever have been made, it could have been made by President Wilson, who had been, within three months, received with unbounded enthusiasm in Italy, and was regarded as almost. a semi-divine person at that time. I am convinced that this plan would not succeed. I do agree most heartily, as everybody does, as to the seriousness of the crisis, and I am quite sure that if they arc as anxious as I am, and everybody else is, to find some solution, if it can he found before it is too late, do let me ask them to consider whether a proposal of this kind, if it were adopted, would really make for a conclusion. Would it not, in effect, merely postpone action, make action more difficult, and probably embitter the relations between all the countries concerned?

I will turn for a moment to the main proposition of the hon. Gentleman. We must settle these questions of reparations and security. We cannot settle one without the other; the two hang together. I noticed in the last Debate hon. Members attacked the French point of 'view that they did not want reparations setting Germany on its feet again unless they had security. It is not unreasonable from the French point of view. They do not want to see a powerful Germany next door, naturally, unless they are given some security against invasion, and I do not blame them myself. To solve this problem, you have to tackle security as well as reparations, and that is why I say, as strongly as ever I can, there is only one international body that can settle it, and that is the League of Nations. I agree with the hon. Gentle- man, if he will allow me to say so, that in this matter we want public opinion; we want the impalpable forces behind us even more than Governmental action. But what instrument is there, or could be brought into existence, comparable to the League for the purpose of exciting that public opinion? You get there the representatives, not of the countries concerned, but the countries of the whole world. It is a far superior instrument for concentrating and enforcing public opinion, as I have always advocated. I do not withdraw or retreat from one single word I said in the previous Debate. I am more convinced that the line I took was absolutely right. It is essential that the League should do it, and the League would do it. But for the House of Commons to try to take it out of the hands of the Government of the day is unconstitutional and altogether unworkable.

In connection with this question of security, there was one passage in the hon. Gentleman's speech for which I wish to express my warmest gratitude and greatest pleasure, when he said that, for his part, he would be prepared to accept any scheme of security worked out by the League of Nations which would satisfy French opinion. I do not wish to press it further than he pressed it. I do not wish to stretch the meaning an inch beyond what his words ought to bear. I should be very grateful to the Government if they could say something to the same effect; if they were prepared to sat, "We have looked into the proposals for security which are now being considered by the League, and, without pledging ourselves to every word of them, without, accepting every word of them, yet we do recognise that they are proceeding on sound lines. We do believe security for the world must be a security administered by, and created by, the League of Nations, and we are content that in that security, and as part of it, special consideration should be given to those countries that are in a position of particular danger." Personally, I think it would be of great value, if my right hon. Friend would allow me to say so, to the international situation if a statement of that kind, if not to-night, yet in the near future, could be made by the British Government. I am satisfied that the real difficulty, much more than reparation, is security, and until you have, somehow or another, an appeasement. of French feeling on that point you will never get them to look upon this question of reparation from the central point from which we start, namely, that we are satisfied that Germany must be restored as one of the elements of the commercial and economic community of Europe.

I am going to address one or two other observations, if I may, to my right hon. Friend. I agree with the Mover of the Resolution that there is great danger lest. we should drift upon the water. There is, I believe, always the greatest danger in international relations arising from misunderstanding for want of clearness of expression. I do not ask my right hon. Friend to make any statement in detail as to what the Government intend to do in this or that crisis. I do, however, ask them, very respectfully, if they cannot give this House some assurance that they do know exactly what they will do as these crises arise, that they have envisaged and considered the matter, that they know exactly where they are and that they will tell—have told—the Powers most intimately concerned what is their policy, what they intend to do and what they intend to do in giving effect to it.. I will illustrate what I mean. Yesterday there were rumours, about which a question was addressed to the Government, from the other side of the House, to the effect that the Germans had broken off relations with the French. That would be a very serious event if it should happen. It would raise a very serious question as to whether it was possible for us to ignore the provision to appeal to the League of Nations under Article 17. The question had arisen whether it was not essential that the matter should then and there be brought before the organ of the League. That is one event.

There may be at any moment a great enlargement of the territory occupied by the French troops. There may be—I hope earnestly there will not be—but there may be serious fighting and great disasters of that kind, and there is the contingency freely talked of in the Paris Press of separate negotiations between Germany and France and Belgium, and a separate peace, modifying the Treaty of Versailles and making fresh provisions as to the government of the Sarre, and a number of other things. Irresponsible foreign writers in the Press say that this country is not to be consulted at all, but I can scarcely believe that any responsible statesman in France contemplates any action of that kind, which would evidently be of the most unfriendly description. I have no doubt that this has been considered, and earnestly considered, by my right hon. Friend. I have no doubt that the Government have given it their closest attention. I do not know whether it is possible for him to say, but if they can say they had considered it, and know the action that they intend to take, and that they had. communicated their views to France and to Germany—for it is just as important for Germany to know where we stand as France—I confess I would feel, personally, considerably relieved, and so, I believe, would the whole of the House.

Let me just give one other instance. On 10th April the Council of the League is going to meet. Is it possible for the Council to meet when these events are going on and do nothing? That seems to me very difficult indeed. I myself should regard it almost—I will not say as fatal—but very difficult to defend if such an event happened. All these things have to be considered and decided upon, and above all I do venture to press this—and l am sure my right hon. Friend will understand me it is in no spirit of hostility—1 do feel the danger—I do ask him to make it clear to other Governments where the Government stands, and exactly what they mean to do in this kind of situation. I am satisfied that the danger of misunderstanding is the great danger against which all diplomatists ought to wage war. I know how difficult it is to believe in unpalatable truths, but if you want a foreign Government to understand that there is a point beyond which you really cannot go, and after which you really have to reconsider your position entirely, you must say so in the plainest possible language.

I myself never joined in many of the carping criticisms against the pre-War Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) in respect to his negotiations before the War. Looking back and judging of events, if I had to make that criticism now, I should say they said the right things to Germany, but they did not say them clearly and drive them into their minds so that the Germans would believe what was said against the whole of the tendency which they would naturally Lave. I am very anxious that no similar mistakes should be made, and. that we should make it clear where we stand. I think public opinion is moving in this country. I have great confidence in the public opinion of this country. I believe the people passionately desire to avoid anything like war, and yet earnestly desire the friendship of France. I believe they are most anxious to stand well with France. I believe that they are, however, right, a thousand times right, in thinking that it is of the greatest importance for the stability and peace of Europe that these great nations should work in full and complete agreement with each other. But they also feel, unless I am very much mistaken, that there are certain developments of modern French policy which are disquieting in the extreme. I believe that the French people, the people, desire peace. I am sure they do. But there are facts which are disappointing. There was the speech of the French War Minister the other day, in which he insisted that the peace strength of the French army must never be allowed to fall below 660,000 men. It is a regrettable fact that they have never ratified the Washington Treaty. There is a fact that they declined to allow any consideration of the number of submarines to be brought up the Washington Conference. I am quite ready to believe that those are not necessarily symptoms of a warlike tendency. I do believe that the French people are essentially peaceful. But these things are disquieting to public opinion, and they have disquieted more and more. Let this be made quite clear to the French Government. If I thought that the Motion of the hon. Gentleman would make for a clearer understanding between Parliaments and Governments, I would support it. Because I do not think so I cannot support it. Though I cannot support the Motion, I appeal to the Government to give some reassurance to the House and the country that they have made their position perfectly clear, that they know exactly what they are going to do, that there is no danger of our gradually drifting from danger to danger until the opportunity for retreat is past.


I do not desire in any way to call into question the tragic tones employed by the opener of this Debate to-day. That tone well befits the present state of Europe. While I agree with him in the tones he has spoken, I cannot agree at all with his specific proposal for dealing with the evils mentioned. The Noble Lord referred to one case in which a foreign statesman attempted to speak to the people of a great nation behind the back of the Government. That failed. Most of us in this House can remember a case nearer home at the time of the Council of Action when a distinguished member of the Socialist party visited France for a similar purpose of interfering with the internal policy of. France. Most of us will remember the hurried exit he made from France on that occasion. The House, therefore, in all quarters, I think, will refuse to be drawn in the slightest way towards any interference with the organised democratic representation of France and Belgium in these matters. I believe—I think it is hardly necessary to give the grounds of it—that any such move is bound to lead to far more trouble than it can possibly cure in the present evils.

I am disquieted by a phrase in the Motion in which the Mover desires in the first instance to call for the appointment of Committees of the French and Belgian Chambers, and by the fact that nothing is said of our House of Lords because, presumably, there is no Socialist there, and only one in the French Senate. Supposing this Motion wwere accepted, the Government would be committed to action, and would not stop at the first instance. It is bound to go on to Germany, and one has a right to ask what would be the effect upon the Germans of applying this method there. Let us look at the internal situation of Germany. Our whole hope of obtaining reparation from Germany and a stable peace for Germany, lies in the strength, competence, authority, and prestige of the German Government. All last summer, all last autumn the German Government, attempted to bring into its coalition thevolks-partei of the big industrialists. If that had been done all Germany would have been behind that Government. Who prevented it? The Socialist party, who refused to work with thevolks-partei, and the head of which left the Government; thus they created a new situation in Germany. At the present time thevolks-partei are not so large in Parliament or so representative, but there are outstanding personalities. The Socialist party stands outside.

If we or any nation approach Germany refusing to deal with the Government of Germany and claiming to deal through a Committee that step must undermine the present authority of the German Government, and tend to divide Germany when she wishes to be united and when it is in our interest to keep her united. I hope that Members will realise that whether it is peace with Germany or reparations from Germany it all depends upon the unity of Germany, and I trust that we shall refuse to take any step which might seem to tend to destroy the influence of the present highly unified Government in Germany which has the support of all parties and the support of the German people.

I am able to quote some evidence of this fact. Prince Max of Baden, who presided over the fateful events of October and November, 1918, under whose auspices the Kaiser resigned or abdicated, a few weeks ago came out of his political retirement in order to support and back up the present Government to the utmost. There is at the other end of the scale General Ludendorff and the extreme Nationalists who are rather active. The people of Germany are now united behind Dr. Curio, and General Ludendorff seems now ready to take to himself part of the credit for the present unity of the German nation. In the interests of Germany and of our own nation I hope the Government will refuse to give the least support to this Motion of the Socialist party. If I am asked what I propose to do I would say that our Government should accept amendments.

I ask, have we any fresh or additional information regarding the present powers of Germany, or powers she may have in the immediate future, to lay before the world in the interests of Germany, in the interests of peace, and in the interests of a sane policy by Frenchmen I think we have. I would ask the House to look at Germany on two sides; in the first place as a highly industrialised nation; and, secondly, as a highly organised agricultural nation. The development of agriculture in Germany was so good before the War that the German nation required to import very little food from abroad, and, therefore, they were able to buy with their exports all kinds of things from abroad. At the present time, agriculture in Germany is more depleted than it has ever been before for the last 50 years.

The yield per acre for the harvest of 1922 in quantity for Germany is down by one-third. The total in quantity of the corn crop in 1922 amounted to 7.3 million tons, whereas in 1913 the total was 14.6 million tons, or exactly half. It is quite true that German industries received an immense stimulus from the War, and Germany has never been better able to make wealth and feed her people. What is wrong there is agriculture, for whereas in the old days, when her agriculture almost sufficed to supply all her needs, she could export. and import freely; new her agriculture is such that she must import great quantities of food, and they have no money to pay for imported goods, and therefore she cannot buy our manufactures.

Those are the two points I wish to make, namely, that the political situation in Germany is such that to pass the Motion put forward by the Labour party would almost be an act of treachery towards the future of Germany. The economic situation in Germany on the agricultural side is such as to make solvency for Germany in international trade a distant and doubtful effort, the French Government and the French nation would give as much attention to the importance to Germany of agriculture as they do to its other industries the whole controversy about reparations would be ended.


I have listened to the very interesting speech of the hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. J. Murray) and I quite agree with him as to the position of Germany with regard to her feeding of her own population. I do not, however, quite agree with him as to the German Government. I cannot, help thinking that one of the weaknesses we have to contend with at the present time is the unstable position of the German Government. You have had various changes of the Chancellor there and I think the German Government has shown weakness ever since the reparations, and ever since the Schreidman Government refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles. Weakness has been shown by all the German Governments since that date. I agree, however, with the first three words of the Resolution, but as I read it through it reminds me of a Debate we had about a year ago on the Cabinet Secretariat, and I cannot help thinking if it, was carried it would he rather introducing the Cabinet Secretariat which was one of the great fallacies of this country after the War. My experience of it in Paris at the time of the Conference in 1919 was that they were conducting at the time of the Peace Treaty more or less the domination of the foreign policy of Britain. The leader of the Labour party has referred to the position of Germany. Undoubtedly it is getting worse and worse. It is essential from our point of view that we should combine security with reparations. Reparations is the burning question in Germany and even during the last fortnight since we had a Debate on reparations, the position in Germany has got worse. Her currency has increased to the now enormous amount of 3,123 milliards of marks, and that is gigantic. At the same time with that inflation, as I stated about a fortnight ago, we have a certain amount of danger. We have danger that Germany has a certain amount: of gold—I think it is £50,000,000. This should be pledged to the Reparation Commission. It means that with marks at 100,000 to the£sterling instead of 20 that for£31,000,000 odd, Germany could wipe out all her paper currency which she has at the present time. I coal-tend that we should take a lion on her gold and pledge it to reparations. When you mention reparations you should go back to the time of the Armistice. Up to this time the countries of Europe worked their finances in a wonderful way. Naturally we worked ours in a better way than other countries, because we taxed our people during the War, but what was the position at the time of the Armistice? The victorious countries were asked to send in their claims as to the amount of reparations they would expect. to get from Germany. The amount which was sent in was £26,000,000,000, and as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen may remember at the time of the Treaty of Versailles, the amount was reduced to£11,000,000,000, and that was altered in May, 1921, to £6,600,000,000, and that is the figure which is before the countries of Europe at the present time. As long as you have this figure you cannot have reparations and you cannot have security. The only possible way Germany can pay a large amount like that is by the whole of the industries of the world being idle except Germany. It is an impossible thing. We have taken from Germany by the reparations 74 per cent. of her iron ore and 34 per cent. of her hard coal, her colonies, a large part of her agricultural land and one-tenth of her population. It is no good considering reparations, unless we are ready to consider a reasonable and just amount. I contend that the amount which the Prime Minister and the President of the Board of Trade put before the Paris Government early in January was nearer the right figure. We can alter it., but I do not think that that figure cannot possibly be increased. What is the position of France? I contend that France has been playing her part badly since the Treaty. I am a believer in France and I want to support her, but she has made some very foolish mistakes, especially with regard to her dealing with land in Lorraine. After the War I heard of three German brothers who had land in Lorraine. After the Versailles Treaty was signed the French Government sent a letter to these brothers to say that they must become nationalised Frenchmen, but they refused. The French Government, then stated that they would take their land in Lorraine which was iron ore land, but they said, "We will allow two of you to remain Germans as long as one of you becomes a Frenchman? These three brothers tossed up and the one I happen to know of the three was the unlucky one and he had to become a Frenchman in order to hold this land in Lorraine. Do you ever think that that man will really be a Frenchman? It is fine little points like this which prick the Germans and no doubt there are many points that prick Frenchmen.

I cannot help thinking that France, if she is going to have peace and security, must spend far less on her militarism. She has spent gigantic sums upon it so far. In 1919 she spent 18 milliards of francs; in 1920, 7 milliards: in 1921, 6 milliards; and last year 5 milliards of francs. It. is far too much. The country cannot afford it, and if we are to get peace and security we must see that this militarism is stopped. The Leader of the Labour party wondered as to the position of France with regard to The Ruhr. On the right bank of the Rhine there are 125 blast furnaces. Seventy-five of them were working on the 1st January; 25 only were working on the 20th February. That shows the difficulty there will be for France to get extra reparations. Reparations can only be paid practically in goods. They can only be paid if the workmen are willing to work. If you want the men to be willing to work you must give them some hope in the future, and unless you do that I feel there will be no chance of France or anyone else getting large reparations. Europe is in a most serious state. Every country is spending more than it should. Every country except Finland and Czechoslovakia in 1922 imported more than they exported. Until we can get Europe right as a whole, it will be impossible to do what this Resolution suggests and discuss the position with France and Belgium. I deplore. that the United States is not included in this Resolution. I feel that nothing definite can be secured either by way of reparations or security or peace without the United States. President Harding has made one or two important speeches in the last month or two. I feel that if America would only come in we might then look forward to security and reparations. I sincerely hope that in the near future our Government may be in a position to tentatively approach the Americans from a humane point of view, asking them if they will not come forward to help to bring about what we all want, permanent peace and security.


I feet that in rising to take part in this discussion I owe the House an apology, because there is a tradition in regard to questions on foreign affairs that into such questions laymen should not rush while we have in the House 60 many professionally qualified to deal with the subject. There is also a. tendency to suggest that foreign affairs should be dealt with only in well chosen language, almost in whispered words lest one should by some indiscreet remark create international difficulties. Nevertheless; as a plain blunt man representing plain blunt men who have none of this special knowledge to which I have re- ferred, I feel that we are entitled to state bluntly and plainly our views on the present situation, which may endanger not merely our economic interests and, indeed, our livelihood, but ultimately our lives as well. I want to say that the people who have conducted our foreign affairs up till now, according to all the evidence before us, have been failures. They have failed to give us European peace. They have failed to give us European harmony, and the discussion in which we are taking part to-day is clue to their complete failures in the past.

What I want to know, as a plain man, at the outset, is, Where do we as a nation stand in this matter? What is our actual position? Where are we going in the policy we are considering and where do we want to go? What price are we prepared to pay for the goal which we wish to attain? Have we altogether abandoned our claim for reparations or have we reduced it, and what is the amount of our reduced claim? If we have given up our claim or, rather, our hope to get either indemnities or reparations out of Europe, then I want to know what right we have to interfere in the affairs of Europe. We have no right to approach the European nations from a pinnacle of superior morality. I want to remind hon. Members that we, who are lecturing France to-day as to what she should do in the Ruhr, are the people who confiscated German ships and made no apology, who confiscated the German colonies and still hold them. After all, we are morally just as bad as France, and, therefore, we ought to come down from that pinnacle of moral superiority, on which we dearly love to sit, and we ought to face this question as honest men of the world. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) told us that what we wanted to do was to place this matter in the hands of the League of Nations so as to place Germany on her feet. Looking at the records of the Noble Lord, I find that during the War he occupied a position of considerable influence in the Government. From 1915 to 1918, when I and others were foresecing the calamity of an ending of the War, such as we have experienced, the Noble Lord did nothing at all to put Germany on her feet. I submit that had he been wise in 1915 or 1918, when there was an opportunity of securing all that Britain had at stake in the War by negotiations —when Germany was practically beaten— if he had been as wise as he is to-day, he might have ranked as one of the benefactors of Europe.

I want this country to admit frankly that we have economic interests in the Ruhr which are in rivalry with French interests. Until you admit that, or, at any rate, until you recognise that you have international conflicting interests in the Ruhr, you will not secure your end. They are the root of the trouble and you will have that paralysis of statesmanship which is characteristic of every one of the countries that is attempting to find a solution of this dangerous problem. The root cause of all your troubles is the failure of international competition. It is the failure of the War to bring peace. It is the failure of the War to bring happiness or indeed to bring about that state of society which I assume Members on both sides of the House are anxious to see established. When you approach the matter from that point of view you will view it in an entirely different light, but you must first accept this big principle that the economic resources of Europe should be operated in the interests of all the peoples of Europe. You are not going to attain that by the policy of Tory Imperialism which hopes to secure the end by British domination in Europe; neither are you going to attain it by the principles so beloved of the Liberal party, the principles of Free Trade, the principle of every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost. Neither am I sure that the view of the majority of the Members of my own party is going to be any more successful. When you have to face a problem that is essentially economic, you cannot solve that problem by laying moral emphasis on certain national rights.

I approve of the Conference demanded in the Resolution. Anxious as I am to see that Resolution adopted, I am equally anxious to know what principles and what programme are going to be submitted to the Conference. I believe that many of the difficulties we have to face in this matter are, in the main, superficial. Nevertheless, they are difficulties that create great passions among the people, just as email difficulties in this House create great passions in the minds of its Members. There is the French desire for national safety. That must be satisfied, but I do not think that that is anything like the main cause of the difficulty. The main trouble is to be found in the fact that a combination of the Ruhr coal and the Lorraine iron ore is desirable economically, but politically it would be disastrous. That is the root of the evil. There are peculiar qualities in the Ruhr coal which make it eminently suitable for use in the treatment of the are found in the Lorraine district. Previous to the outbreak of war Germany had control of both the iron ore in Lorraine and the coal in the Ruhr Valley, and, having that joint control, she was a menace not merely to. the national safety of France but also to British industrial prosperity.

6.0 P.M.

I am thoroughly convinced that, when the troth of the cause of the War comes to be written—I think Lord Rosebery stated during the War that we might expect to ascertain the truth about half a century after the War terminated—the cause of the War will to a large extent be found in the fear of France of that military superiority which the combination of these materials gave to Germany, and the fear of Britain of the industrial superiority in the steel markets of the world which that combination gave to its rival. If that made. Germany a great menace prior to the War, it makes France a great menace after the War, because the combination in ownership of these two valuable deposits is still in a single hand, and the only change the War has made in the economic relationships or rivalries of Europe is that it has substituted France for Germany in relation to Great Britain. It is not through any accident that, immediately France set. out to combine the Ruhr coal with the Lorraine iron. the friendship of Britain showed a distinct disposition to cool. That was due to a realisation by our statesmen that France was now becoming, not merely their great military rival, but their great industrial rival in every part of the world.

1 do not need to explain the tremendous power that France will wield if she succeeds in attaining her present goal. You know that trade follows the flag in the sense that we gain certain concessions by our military superiority in the various parts of the world. You know, also, that, in modern warfare victory will invariably go to the engineer. You know that the ownership of all these mineral deposits will make France unquestionably the military superior in Europe, and that, having gained the military superiority, she will use that to get those concessions for her surplus capital which you desire to get for the capital you are exporting to-day. It is your business vision, it is your realisation of how much is involved in this, that makes you critical of the attitude which France has adopted in getting control of the Ruhr coalfield. But if you recognise that, I think you should be perfectly frank. I do not think you have anything to lose by stating that to France. I think you are perfectly justified in saying to France, "We recognise that if you get this power it is going to be bad for us, and, before we allow you to become the military boss of Europe. or the industrial boss in the steel markets of the world, we are going to interfere and nip your imperialistic career in the bud."

I think the French people are not at all misled as to your position and attitude. When you set about, in the Rhine area, to embarrass the French, they do not regard it as a friendly act. I do not think they regard your retention of 7,000 or 8,000 troops on the Rhine as being in the interests of France. I believe they recognise your retention of that army in Europe as being in the interest of Germany. I do not think you have anything at all to lose by putting your cards on the table and saying. "Now, look here; we are going to lay down this big principle that, as the various nations have a vital interest in the possession of the Ruhr coal, we want a policy that will give us co-operation in that, and control Giver that which is essential to our national livelihood." I do not think you will have any difficulty at all in pleading than no individual nation in the community of nations has any right to an individual ownership of that which all require, any more than an individual in the community has a right to assert his claim against all the other members of the community. If you approached it in that way you would get what seems to me, after giving the matter some thought without any expert knowledge of foreign affairs or any great claim to statesman- ship, a reasonable and probably the only way out of the difficulty, namely, an agreement to the holding of a Conference to which you would send your delegates to plead for the internationalisation of the Ruhr coalfield.

It may be asked, if you are going to plead for that, why could you not agree to the internationalisation, say, of the coalfield of Lancashire or of Lanarkshire? The reason is this, that you have to deal with the facts of a situation: as you find them, and you have no right to say, "We are going to do nothing because we can- not do everything." The fact of the situation is that Germany has lost in the War. She has been beaten to her knees, and, according to the rules of War and the rules of competition, and by the admission of Germany herself. she is in debt to a certain extent to the people who beat her in the War. We may desire, as I have no doubt many hon. Members on this side of the House, do, to see a state of society in which there will be no war, and in which no nation will be beaten to its knees but it would be foolish for us to allow our views as to what might be to bedim our vision of the facts of the present situation. The present situation is that Germany is a debtor to the Allied countries of Europe, and what I am suggesting is that you should send your delegates to the Conference, realising that which is admitted, not only by the Allies, but by Germany and all the other States and that you should propose there to co-operate with France and Germany and the other interested countries in temporarily, on the principle of internationalisation, working the deposits in the Ruhr valley for the benefit of all the people in Europe who require the products.

See how that would deal with the situation. Right at the outset you would remove the French fear for their international safety, because you would take out of the hands of Germany the economic advantages that would give her, if she held them as she held them before the War, the only weapon with which she could keep France in subjection. To Germany you would be able to say: "This will enable you to have immediately the political integrity and independence of the Ruhr and the Rhine area." Your international board of directors would work the Ruhr coalfield subject to the political Government of Germany, in exactly the same way that a privately-owned profit-making company would operate it under the German Government. You would also remove what is at the back of the minds of the leaders of British industry, namely, the fear of their being ousted in the steel markets of the world by a. France with unquestioned control of that area. Then the coal in the Ruhr area would be for sale to the highest bidder, and you would get your national industrial safety by paying a higher price for the Ruhr coal than would be paid for it by France or by Germany. If that price were slightly higher than the market rate, that would be your insurance for national industry safety.

I want it to be realised that international conflict is going to pay no one. I want this country to set out on a principle of co-operation, and I have no doubt that:, with co-operation in the control of that economic interest in which we are rivals, we should be laying the foundation of European peace for a long time to come. As regards the condition of the Germans, one of the unfortunate things in politics is that everyone wants to make out a case in support of Iris own preconceived views, and when we come to deal with the situation in Europe we get all sorts of views about the condition of the people there. I am not going to paint the German people as being in a very happy condition. I believe they are in a deplorable condition. I am merely submitting in all sincerity to this House that they are not the only people who are in a. deplorable condition. I represent a division in the east end of Glasgow, and I undertake to produce, man for man or woman for woman, as much poverty from the east end of Glasgow as can be produced from Central Europe to-day.


And Manchester too.


As, perhaps, some hon. outliers know, I spent a few days in that area recently, and had the utmost facilities for obtaining, at any rate, a superficial view of the situation. Whatever may be said about the conclusions at which we have arrived, I have yet to meet anyone who questions the facts that we have stated. For instance, no one will question the fact that the German people in this unfortunate area are better housed than the people in my area —that the houses which are being erected for them to-day in these most distressful circumstances are immeasurably superior, in their conception of what human beings are entitled to in the way of domestic accommodation to anything that obtains in this country. As far as we could see, the people were better clothed, and I think it is unquestioned that the working classes there are much better educated than our people have had the opportunity of being in the industrial centres of Great Britain. I believe it is the fact they are much worse fed. I had not any opportunity of judging that, but from what I do know, I believe they arc much worse fed.

What I am anxious to prove is that the difference in their lot is not sufficient to justify my supporting a policy that might lead to my poor people ultimately having to fight with other poor people in Europe. I am not going to be led into that policy either by militarists or pacifists. In my view, the policy of Britain should be one of strict neutrality. We ought not to embarrass France or to help Germany. I believe France is wrong. I detest the policy of France; I detest the activities of France; but I do not think that that policy or those activities would justify me in advising the people whom I represent in this House to be prepared to go into warfare to try to improve conditions in Central Europe. when there is so much poverty and so much scope for removing it in every industrial centre of Great Britain. Therefore, I lay it down as our primary duty that we should not embarrass Franco or lecture France, however much we may detest the French policy. That way leads to war. That is the way in which is created such an atmosphere that one unfortunate incident might lead us into another great. European War. The primary duty of the British people in this crisis is to mind their own business.


It was not my intention to enter into the Debate on this important matter, but I feel during the few short weeks of this Session that a considerable amount is being said in a certain direction, and, in the words of the Leader of the Opposition, we in this House are the custodians of public opinion. I do not feel that a certain public opinion, and a view which I hold, has been sufficiently pronounced in the House in proportion to the views held in the country. May I ask the kind indulgence of the House -which is usually accorded to those who make their first speech. Although I was a Member of the last Parliament. I had not the privilege of taking my, seat. because on the day after my election the dissolution took place. The Motion under review refers specifically to a Committee of all political sections in France awl Belgium to exchange information and views. I should like to ask whether there are any new points which have arisen since this mass of documents which I have here was issued a fortnight ago representing the views of the Conference that took place in Paris. Can any further good come out of further conferences? Are not the Labour party emulating the ex-Premier in embarking on a fresh and further futile lot of Conferences which can end only in one result.? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Newcastle (Mr. Arthur Henderson) the other day, in referring to the League of Nations in connection with this reparations problem, gave a qualified approval of the League of Nations and said it was too much in the nature of an allied instrument instead of an impartial international body and consequently it was not qualified efficiently to deal with the matter of reparations. The three nations concerned in this Motion, France. Belgium and ourselves, are the principal components of the League of Nations. If the League of Nations as a whole, which combines those three, is not fit or is too much of an allied instrument to deal with the matter, how eon three component parts of it possibly deal with it successfully I Suppose for a moment that this Motion was accepted and a Committee appointed and that Committee in conjunction with these other two nations had sat in solemn conclave, and had talked, and as the outcome of their views arrived at a certain decision. That decision may or may not be that Germany had to do something or to pay something. We will assume they decided on a certain sum or a certain course of action. Suppose Germany, in accordance with the impression she has given us during the past four and a half years, refused to pay and took practically no steps in complying, would the Labour party then use force to enforce it? If they would they merely put themselves in the position of France to-day. If they would not, why bring forward this further futile Motion?

The last speaker said he entirely disagreed with the French policy. May we assume that that is the view expressed by the Labour party? If it is, why are we calling this Committee to exchange views if, in advance, and before they have exchanged views, the Labour party absolutely and unconditionally condemn the policy of France? They have condemned it in advance, or else it renders unnecessary the calling of this Committee. The Leader of the Opposition seemed to be rather indignant that the attitude of France was to redraft the Treaty. That indignation was not apparent some years ago when he made the suggestion that Germany would do that for herself. It brings us then merely to the conclusion which we are forced to, because the matters under discussion in this Motion are really a rehash and practically the third resurrection we have had in three weeks of the same subject, and it can only paint to one thing, that it is a subject matter of window dressing for the Labour party to give them opportunity of airing their views in public. Perhaps at some future date they may come out of the clouds and give us something of a more practical nature which we can work on. The position crystallises itself into three views, the. attitude now adopted by France and Belgium; the attitude adopted by this country, which I have heard named shortly as benevolent neutrality, and the attitude practically of antagonism to France an attitude which is pro-German and I regret to say which appears to find sympathy with hon. Gentlemen of the Opposition. At all risks—and I have risked things before to-day—I am prepared to say that I think right from the beginning we should have stood beside France, and in doing so we should probably have avoided the military turmoil that we have in Europe to-day. The continued talk which can only be regarded as sympathy with Germany is heartening them and giving them strength to carry on in opposition. That view which I have expressed is merely personal, but it is strong in the length and breadth of the country, and it is particularly strong in the constituency which I represent, and is primarily the reason for my getting up to say there is another view in the country and that is that we can support France, and it is hoped that at no distant date the Government may see their way through the light of reason to take their proper place on the stage of European politics. Although this is not the view of the Government, I am prepared to support the Government because, of two more or less feeble attitudes which we have before us at this time, the Government one is the lesser.


I hope I shall not be doing any injustice to the Mover of the Motion if I surmise that he attaches more importance to the opportunity of ventilating his general views upon the crisis in the Ruhr than to the precise practical remedy which the Motion contains. I am not at all surprised that, he is impatient and that he desires to see something done promptly to relieve a situation which is fraught with embarrassments and indeed with dangers which the passage of time can only aggravate. I do not, therefore, agree with the hon. Member who has just. delivered so clear and interesting a maiden speech that this is a mere question of window dressing and that the Labour party are not in earnest in their desire to find a practical solution of a very difficult problem. With one portion of the Motion I find myself in complete agreement. It alludes to the very general desire of the peoples of Europe for peace. I believe that is quite true. The peoples of Europe are sick of war. They desire to see permanent and. stable peace established. But I do not derive that amount of support and consolation from this fact which appears to animate hon. Members on the Labour Benches, because the source of our present difficulty is not any divergence of view between Germany and France as to the desirability of peace, but a complete and absolute contrariety as to the mode in which peace can best be maintained. On the one hand you have. I admit, an extreme view held by a large number of persons in France—I do not say by Members of the Government—that the only secure way of establishing a stable peace in Europe is through a permanent domination of the Ruhr district by the French, and on the other hand you have the view that no policy which the wit of man can conceive constitutes so effectual and so imperious a challenge to a new war. The tragedy of it is that the peoples of the world, desirous as they are of obtaining peace, are not, as the Motion seems to imply, always desirous of supporting the policy which is most calculated to lead to peace. wish I could think the peoples of Germany and of France were not eyeing one another with passions of hate and suspicion iii their breasts, and that we were not witnessing the growth of a psychological condition fraught with great danger to the peace of Europe.

The Motion proposes the establishment of a Committee. It seems to me to be founded upon the sanguine fallacy that Parliaments and Governments are two things entirely separate and disjointed from one another. The Motion seems to assume that if the Governments fail to arrive at an agreement the Parliaments will easily reach a compromise. That I believe to be a fallacy. If I have one criticism to offer upon modern government in a democratic State it is that they have better ears that eyes, that they are very good liseners but not always equally adept in looking into the mists of the future. I do not believe that if this Committee were set up it would produce any valuable practical result and, reading between the lines of my lion. Friend's most eloquent and interesting speech, I think he himself has very little faith in the expedient which he commends to the House. In the speech which was delivered by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) we learned that it was essential to treat the problem of reparation and the problem of security together that they were integral and interrelated parts of a single problem. I agree with that view. I do not believe that we shall have a satisfactory solution of reparations unless we also get a satisfactory solution or the problem of French security. Here I confess that I am greatly discouraged by the attitude recently taken up by the French Prime Minister. It is true that in most explicit and comforting terms M. Poincaé disclaimed any intention to annex German territory. This is what he said. I am quoting from the Blue Book of Inter-Allied Conferences on Reparations and Inter-Allied Debts: He must take this opportunity to protest energetically to the Allied Government against Mr. Lloyd George's hypothesis that the French nation had any idea of annexing any part of Germany. He must state without the smallest room for doubt that there was not in France a single man—he would not say a responsible Minister or politician. but even a man in the street— who would contemplate the idea of annexing any territory containing a foreign population. The idea of this could not enter a French brain. That is a very assuring statement from the French Prime Minister, but I regret to say that it is the only reassuring statement on the subject of security which is contained in this Blue Book. M. Poincaré is not content with the disarmament of Germany, complete as that disarmament now is, and is believed to be. He is not content with the guarantees contained in Clause 10 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. He would not even be content with a tri-partite pact such as was signed, but not ratified, by England, America, and France. On that point he says, on page 71 of the Blue Book Even an Anglo-American pact guarantee duly ratified by the Federal Senate, and assuring to France within a determined period an arranged military defensive, would not suffice entirely to relieve France of anxiety. That is a very disquieting statement, when to this we add the fact that the Germans last December made an overture, through their Minister in Washington, to the following effect: The German, British, French and Italian Governments solemnly engage themselves towards one another and promise the United States not to make war amongst themselves for a generation (say, for thirty years) unless the matter is decided by popular vote, which should make war virtually impossible. When we hear that that proposal was stigmatised by M. Poincaré as a clumsy manœnvre, we are tempted to ask what will content the French Government. If all these offers are futile, if even the tri-partite pact would not give France an adequate sense of security, what will give France an adequate sense of security? I know that there is a very widespread feeling in France—I do not say that it is the official opinion of the French Government, but it is an opinion held by many of my closest friends there —that there are in reality two Germanys. There is a Germany which can be detached, with its own good will, ultimately, from its relations to the general body, and there is the Germany which now centres, and will continue to centre, round the hard core of Prussia. I have heard it said frequently, in conversation in France, that it is to the interest, not only of France, but European stability and peace, that this sub-division of Germany should be effected, with such regard for the feelings of the population as may be, but that, at any rate, it should be effected. The men who hold that view are very largely influenced by historical recollections of what happened in the days of Richelieu and Mazarin, and they think that the policy which France pursued then could be successfully repeated now.

If that be the real view governing the policy of France, then it is fraught with deadly catastrophe. The advocates of that view have not in the least appreciated what modern Germany is. They have not in the least appreciated the strength of the motives which keep Germany together. It is true that there are two Germanys; there is the republican and democratic Germany, and there is the feudal and militarist Germany. The way to secure France from the repetition of disaster is not to attempt the territorial division of Germany, which is bound to end in ruin, and bound to lead to future war, but to make friends with republican and democratic Germany, which is hated by the feudal classes, and by degrees so to contrive that German citizens will feel that Germany can he a prosperous State and a secure State under a democratic republic. At the present time, so I am told by those who have recently returned from Germany, the course which is now being pursued by the French Government is creating a doubt in many German minds as to whether it was wise to exchange the monarchical and military system for the republican and democratic system which now prevails. It is not only to the interests of France, but to the interests of the whole of Europe, that a hand should be held out to the republican Government of Germany as soon as it becomes clear, as I hope it will become clear, that that. Government is willing to fulfil its obligations.

The situation is indeed dark and perilous, and it may be asked what have I to suggest. I have only to repeat the suggestion that I made in the Debate on the Address, that sooner or later, better sooner than later, this question of reparations and security must be settled by international authority, and that every effort must be made to bring America in. When I speak of international authority, let me explain that I have a very strong preference for the use of the machinery which already exists in the League of Nations for the settlement of this question. The League of Nations has a skilled Secretariat, it has a regular method of work, it contains 51 States, it mobilises the opinion of a great part of the world, and consequently it should be used. The Noble Lord has anticipated a suggestion which I proposed to make to the Government when he said that it would be very difficult to hold the next Council meeting of the League in April, without making some reference to a situation which is so disturbing. It would, indeed, be unfortunate, not only for the League but for the world, if, an occasion having arisen gravely menacing the peace of Europe, it should be an established diplomatic convention that no Power is entitled to raise that question in the Council of the League, if it has an impression that by so doing it will affront any member of the League.

If we once take up that line, we might as well destroy the Covenant of the League. In the grave days which preceded the outbreak of war in 1914, Sir Edward Grey made a proposal to the German Chancellor that the question at issue should be referred to arbitration. The German Chancellor said that Germany would not submit to foreign intervention. If the League of Nations had been in existence in July, 1914, and if Germany had been a member of that League, would our Foreign Minister have felt himself precluded from referring that question to the Council of the League simply because he was under the impression that by so doing he would incur the displeasure of Germany? If that view be taken, if precedents of that kind are to be established, then we have in the League of Nations no effectual instrument for dealing with a grave international crisis. I hope that the Government will keep steadily in view the desirability of submitting this question at the earliest opportunity to the Council of the League of Nations, and that they will keep steadily in view the importance of invoking the aid of America in the settlement of a complex problem, involving, as it appears to do, the re-writing of a very important part. of the Treaty of Versailles. I agree with the Noble Lord when he pressed on the Government the desirability of making up their minds as to what they really consider to be an effectual and reasonable security to offer to France. I think that we ought to be clear upon that. I think that it is the key to the situation, and if I am asked what remedy I suggest I can only suggest this, that the Government make it clear to France, Germany and the whole world that they regard this present issue between France and Germany, nut as an issue affecting two nations, but as an issue affecting the peace and prosperity of the whole world. We should keep before ourselves steadily the idea of an international solution. We should work for it with all our power, and we should make it clear to France that an attempt to effect a separate solution of this question could not be considered otherwise than as an unfriendly act.

Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE

In the eloquent and pathetic speech to which we have just, listened as to the European situation, the right hon. Gentleman stated that France would not be satisfied with a tripartite pact with England and the United States in order to secure peace in the future. French feeling in the matter is easily understood in view of the fact that America has removed all her troops on the Rhine and is now cutting down her Army to a very small force, and that the United States would take at least a year to get ready for war, as was proved in the Great War, while in our own country we have cut down our Army—I am not going to discuss now whether that is a right or wrong policy—to a force of 150,000 men, and therefore it would he only with the greatest difficulty, and in worse conditions than in 1914, because then we had a very large reserve and a huge territorial force, that we could give any assistance to France if she were attacked. Several months would elapse. The right hon. Gentleman said that M. Poinearé said that France would not he satisfied with such a pact.


M. Poincaé spoke of an Anglo-American pact, assuring to France, within a determined period an arranged military defence.

Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE

I do not think that that alters the position, because it would not be possible for either America or this country to provide a military force under several months, and the French, expecting, as they would expect, a surprise attack, are not satis- fled with that safeguard. Of course, it would mean probably that Germany would think several times before attacking France, if she knew that America and England would come in. Another point which he made was the same old argument which the Liberal party used to put before the House before the War, that is, that there were two Germanys—one the great, democratic peaceful, law-abiding, splendid German people, and, on the other hand, the Prussian brute, the monarchical autocrat, and that if you wanted the true German you must regard the democratic man as the principal German and the monarchical man as in the minority, and therefore as not controlling the policy of Germany. The exact opposite was the case, and it is the case now as before. The leopard does not change its spots, and the German is exactly the same German as he was before the War. He made a Treaty at Versailles. Has he carried out a single word of it? Hardly anything of that Treaty has been carried out by the German nation. They have repeatedly broken their promise. That is what has driven France into the Ruhr.

One would imagine from discussions in this House and various statements by a great many hon. Members opposite, who do not hold the views which we hold, that we had never said that we were going to the Ruhr ourselves or that we would back France in going to the Ruhr. Yet less than two years ago in this House the then Prime Minister made a statement, on the 5th May, 1921. He said that he had given an ultimatum to Germany that unless she paid up a proportion of reparation within a week the Allies were going into the Ruhr. Further he said, in the last clause of that statement, to the Germans, that such occupation would continue so long as Germany fails to comply with the conditions mentioned in paragraph C. That paragraph calls on the German Government to declare within a period of six days its resolve to carry out without reserve its obligations under the Treaty. Then when the French go into the Ruhr we have Debates In which hon. Members lecture the great French nation, and talk about the most disastrous policy on the part of the French as something which is going to end in ruin.

This House is no place to discuss French politics except in so far as they actually touch upon our own conditions. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) proposes to deal with the situation by setting up a sort of select committee of representatives of Parliaments who are to meet together and to discuss matters and inform each other as to what the opinion in other countries is. This proposal is utterly impracticable. I agree with other hon. Members who say that they do not suppose that the hon. Member really thought that there was much practical use in the proposal except as merely furnishing a means by which the question of the Ruhr could be discussed. The principal reason why it is utterly impracticable is the fact that neither France nor Belgium would send any such committee of their Parliaments to discuss the matter even if we made the suggestion. The hon. Member read letters from one or two isolated socialists in those countries, saying that, they were in favour of this proposal. One was from the leader of the Belgian socialists it is true, but as they are in a minority he cannot speak for the Belgians, and I am quite sure that the Belgian Government would repudiate any proposal to have such a conference of microcosms of each Parliament.

In the course of his fairly temperate speech the hon. Member made one remark which I thought very mischievous. He suggested that the French are going to form an anti-British bloc in Europe, and in a great deal of what he said he suggested the French were really going to be our enemies in future instead of our friends and Allies, as they have been up to now. I think that that was an utterly baseless suggestion. I am convinced that the French have no intention of being our enemies, and that the views of the majority of people in this- country, especially of the ex-fighting men, are not those expressed by hon. Members opposite, hut are in favour of the French going into the Ruhr arid staying there, in the words of the Allies' ultimatum of the 5th May, 1921, until the Germans have paid their part of the reparation. The Germans had no intention of carrying out their part of the reparation clauses. They put us off in 1921 by promises and they have done nothing since, and then when the French do put in force these sanctions, to which we ourselves agreed with the French, we go away and leave them in the lurch, though I do not know what the reasons for it were.

I must say, in the presence- of the Prime Minister, that I am sure that he knows that there are millions of people in this country, who support the party which supports him, who are entirely at the back of the French in this matter, who believe that the French have done the right thing, and do not believe that the French are there for the purpose of remaining in the Ruhr for ever, but only until they have succeeded in getting fair and reasonable terms of reparation. The Noble Lord spoke also of what he considered ought to have been done by our Government. He said that we ought to come out now and say definitely what we are going to do in the event of certain circumstances arising, and, in illustration of the necessity for that, he said that he believed if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley had in 1914, before the outbreak of war, told the German Government and the German people what our attitude was going to be in the event of their going to war with France, very likely the War might have been avoided.


I did not put it quite so strongly.

7.0 P.M.

Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE

I would like to know how it would have been possible for the right hon. Gentleman to make a statement like that to the German people, when all the time he was being told by his own supporters in those days that there was no danger of war, that the Germans were our friends? Any attempt to warn the Germans that if they attacked France we would go to war as well, would have caused his Government to fall at once, and one of the critics of the right hon. Gentleman would have been the hon. Member for Aberavon, who was always going about the country telling the people that the Germans were our friends, and that there was no necessity for strong navies. The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley), who recently has been out in Germany, proposed another solution in the course of his interesting speech. His solution was that the Ruhr district should be internationalised. I do not know how that would commend itself to Germany as an alternative to having the French there. I can imagine that if the proposal were made in this country that the South Wales coalfields should be internationalised, and that other nations should get the advantage of these coalfields, even Members of the Labour party would protest very strongly. Of course that proposal also is impossible. I do not think enough friendship has been displayed in this Debate apropos of France. The hon. Member for Aberavon always makes speeches in which he says he is a friend of France and wants to see France friendly with us, and so on. I do not know, but it seems to me that they might reply: Perhaps it was right to dissemble your love But—why did you kick me down stairs? In every speech the hon. Gentleman makes he accuses the French people and the French nation of the most malevolent intentions. I hope, on the contrary, that our Government will not only for the present maintain their attitude, but that, if possible, they will be able in the future still further to help France to make this occupation of the Ruhr a success. By doing so they will bring that occupation to an end sooner than by merely doing nothing and adopting a policy of benevolent neutrality.


No one can complain of the impartiality of the last speaker. He said something about the Motion and the object of the Labour party in moving it, but it will be observed that he apparently got up to express the view of a very small minority in this House. He first indicated that he had a grievance against the pre-War Government. He bad a bigger grievance against the Labour party; but he certainly indicated that he was not a whole-hearted supporter even of the present Government. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) adopted an attitude as curious and as difficult as that which he adopted a fortnight ago. He said, in substance, that he agreed with a discussion of this question, and he believed it was getting more serious than ever; but he pointed out that the proposal we are making is entirely impracticable and that, in his judgment, the matter ought to be referred to the League of Nations It is very difficult to under- stand the Noble Lord adopting that attitude to-day compared with the one he took up a fortnight ago. Just a fortnight ago we were discussing a Motion on precisely the same subject, but with a different reference. The proposal then made was that this matter should be referred to the League of Nations. The Noble Lord gave two grounds for opposing that Motion. His first reason was, that in his opinion, if it were carried it would mean a, change of Government, and that he was not prepared to risk. Secondly, he said he believed it was inopportune and dangerous. If, to-day, it is right to refer this matter to the League of Nations, one can hardly appreciate the consistency of the Noble Lord after his speech of a fortnight ago.


I think the right hon. Gentleman will find, if he will be good enough to read my speech of a fortnight ago, that I said precisely the same then as I did this afternoon. I said I though there ought to be a reference to the League: that there is would be a reference to the League; and that the time and method of that reference must be left to the Executive Government, of the day; otherwise it would be an attempt by this House to assume the functions of the Executive Government, for which it was not fitted.


It was while the noble Lord was speaking just now that I asked one of my hon. Friends to bring me the copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT, because it struck me, immediately the Noble Lord spoke, that he was inconsistent with his previous speech. I immediately marked the passage to see how it squared with the position this afternoon, I marked it for a reason which the Noble, Lord will appreciate. When, a fortnight ago, we urged and supported a reference to the League of Nations, we had it in our mind anew that Mr. Branting would raise the question at the next meeting.


That was at, the last meeting.


It was because we knew that Mr. Branting was going to raise it.


Oh no!


It was because we knew that he had agreed to raise the question that we took the view that, whatever might be said about the imperfections of the League of Nations, this question was so serious that it did not matter where it was raised if something could be done with it. Mr. Branting did raise the question, but he was practically ruled out. He was told it was impossible. Therefore, the point I am making with regard to the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin, is this. It is perfectly true that there could be and has been criticism of the proposal we are now making. Our first proposal, in an Amendment to the Address, was for an international conference. The Noble Lord did not support that. Then came our support of the next proposal, which was for reference to the League of Nations. To-day, we are putting forward a further proposal, but as my hon. Friend the leader of the party said, we are not riveted to it. What we are concerned with is that every day that passes renders the position more difficult and more dangerous, and that probably we shall reach a situation where it will be impossible to do anything.

I submit that this Debate ought not to close without the Prime Minister making perfectly clear to the House what the Government policy is and, what is more important, if the Government is aware of the French policy? If it is Reparation which the French people are after this fact stands out, that although they h ye been in occupation of the Ruhr for six weeks it cannot be disputed that prior to that occupation they got more coal in two days than dining the whole subsequent period of six weeks. What is significant is that if we quote speeches from Frenchmen or Germans we are always accused of having a sort of anti-French feeling in this matter. I want to put to the House what I believe to be one of the most remarkable statements on the situation prior to the occupation, and to compare it with the situation to-day. The former Chairman of the Inter-Allied Reparation Authority in Essen, Mr. W. R. Heatly—this is one of our own appointments—has set out what was the situation prior to the occupation. He says: As the late chairman of the Essen Inter-Allied Reparation Authority, I have had during that period, exceptional opportunities of studying the changing phases of the question. In the spring of 1920, I took the chair at a meeting held near Essen, when representatives of the Allied Powers met about forty representative miners for the purpose of explaining to them the necessity and justice of the demands made upon the German coal mines to deliver coal in recompense for the coal mines destroyed in France and Belgium. It was an agreeable and somewhat unexpected pleasure to us to find a ready understanding on the part of the German miners and a generous admission of the fairness of the claim. Not only were our statements met with acquiescence, but the minors who spoke were applauded when they gave their opinion that the claim on the German coal mines was just and reasonable…In order to give effect to it they decided upon extra production of about 1,000,000 tons of coal per month, equivalent roughly to the French demand. I ask the House to take notice of that statement by the Chairman of the Commission. I draw particular attention to it, for the reason that it proves conclusively that France was looking for an excuse to do what she is doing to-day.

I want to follow it up by examining into the consequences. We arc told that Belgian opinion is united behind France. I not only challenge that statement, but I say that less than a week ago I met the representatives of the Belgian Trade Union movement, which is a strong movement. They were emphatic in their condemnation of the French policy. Why? Not only because they felt it was wrong, but because the situation at this moment is that in Belgium three steel factories have already been closed for the want of coal. There are 24 furnaces in Lorraine already closed, and all the furnaces in Luxemburg are closed. I want to put to the House the first effect of the French action. It is admitted—it is undisputed—that it is causing unemployment in Belgium. It is increasing the cost of living in France, and unquestionably it is driving the franc up and up, until there is no one in France To-day who does not frankly admit, when you talk to him privately, that disaster is inevitable.

There is a much more serious side with regard to what is really taking place. M. Poincaré said last Saturday, in a Debate, that he was not a man to negotiate; he was one of those who believed in acting. I want the House to observe the kind of act that is going on to-day. Here is a telegram I have received to-day from Berlin: French troops continue occupation German territory. Baden towns Saturday occupied by white and black troops. Situation railwaymen very serious. Offices of the German National Union of Railwaymen ransacked in Mainz. Forty million marks of the railwaymen's contributions stolen by military forces. The N.U.R. officials expelled and imprisoned without giving reason. German railwaymen in French service have to sign statement in which they agree to the abolition of the 8-hours day and accept the 10-hours day, and pledge themselves to work for French Rhine Republic. I have the documents before me in office whilst I wire.—FIMMEN. Fimmen is the International Secretary, one of the ablest and most trusted international secretaries in the world. He is not a German; he is a Dutchman; and he took a deputation specially so that we should have first hand information, a deputation which included all nationalities. This telegram has come from him to-day. It is only fair to say, so that Fimmen's position shall not be prejudiced, that Fimmen was the man who publicly in Germany called upon the Social Democrats to deal with the magnets in Germany, who, he said, were getting their money away. He is the man who made the statement that in his judgment 90 per cent. of the taxation of Germany was paid by the workers and that the other people were escaping. He is the man who proved that the German employers were making a profit out of the income tax which they levied upon the workers. He was able to show that whilst they were deducting from the workers' wages every week so many marks, they were not paying it to the Government for six months, and the depreciation of the mark enabled them to make a profit out of the deal. That at least shows that he is some one whose views are at least impartial. He is satisfied as to the danger of the situation and he sends this telegram.

In the last Debate on this subject someone asked, what would Germany have done if she had won? My hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) answered by saying that. he did not know. I want to assume for the purpose of argument that the Germans would have done precisely what is described in this telegram. I then ask the House, what would the British railwaymen and the British miners have done? The only way to appreciate the situation fully is not to ask what would Germany have done, but to examine the facts. If the German militarists had come to this country and bad done to the British railwaymen or to the Welsh miners what is now being done by the French to the Germans, what would have been the state of affairs in this country? As a matter of fact, it is no secret that there have been three parties in Germany for a long time. There have been the Communists on the left, there have been the militarists on the right, and there has been the middle party, called the Social Democrats. I frankly tell the House that I believe the German employers got away with the money and got it away to foreign countries. I believe that is absolutely true, because I have gone into it. But it is a very small sum compared with that we are now considering. But what have the French done in these cases? They have made all these people martyrs, and the whole position in Germany has been consolidated. That is exactly what has happened.

What about the Ruhr railway system? How many of the British public know the facts as to the railway situation at this moment. There was an accident there last week and 22 people were killed. A cordon was at once formed round the place, and no one has been told the real cause of the accident. The accident was caused by the incompetence of the few people with whom the French were trying to work the system. Imagine it for a moment, anyone who knows the Ruhr district, anyone who knows not only the network of railways, but the interlocking and block system, and then read in the French papers that the French propose to send 100,000 railwaymen to the Ruhr to work the railways. It is a joke, and everyone who knows anything about the situation knows that it is impossible. Let us see what has been the French action in the matter. There was a strike in France two years ago. The French railwaymen struck. The Government decided that every striker was not. only to be penalised, but he was never to be employed in railway work again, the reason given being that as he has struck he not only forfeited his right to be a railwayman, but he was unworthy ever to serve France in that capacity again. Two hundred French deputies signed a petition to the French Government in favour of the reinstatement of the men. The Government positively refused, and said the strikers were not fit to be called decent Frenchmen. Four interviews were held with the Prime Minister, all with the same result. But on 2nd February last the French Prime Minister gave a different answer, and said that so far as the Government was concerned it was now prepared to consider the engagement of the dismissed railwaymen for service in occupied German territory. That is the new situation. Here are people, said to be incompetent in France, traitors to their country, but fit to be used to crush the German workers.

I want to submit to the House that, whatever criticism there may be with regard to our Motion, there ought to be general agreement that we cannot allow the present position to continue. There is no one in any quarter of the House who will not agree with that statement, except perhaps the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Clarry), a constituency with which I am familiar. He will know, if he lives longer in Newport, that Newport contributed a large number of people to the War and that if there is any town that is sick of war it is the Borough of Newport. The great mass of Members of this House are satisfied that the position is steadily getting worse in the Ruhr. Apart from this House, the people in the country, people of all parties, are beginning to he genuinely anxious. They can see that we cannot as a nation, either with dignity or with credit continue in the way that we are going. We are entitled to say to the Government tonight, "If you have a better proposal, let us hear what it is. If you can suggest a way whereby a bridge between these two nations can be built, let us know what it is." Lots of criticism is made of the proposal that independent people should negotiate. Yon often find in great industrial disputes both sides anxious for peace, but afraid to speak for fear of being misunderstood. Often they will welcome someone who intervenes in the hope of finding a bridge. If that happens in industrial disputes, how much more important is it to find a bridge in a matter that is of far more terrible consequence?

I hope that the Debate will not close now. It is impossible within the four hours allotted to-day to have ventilated every aspect of the question. I hope, therefore, that the Motion will remain on the Paper, and that a further opportunity will be given to explore this question, because the Government must be as anxious as we are regarding the present situation. I not only support the Motion, but I ask the House, whether it agrees with the terms of the Motion or not, to keep clearly in mind that it is moved because we believe that the position is so delicate and dangerous that Parliament itself is doing the right and the only thing in debating the matter from time to time.

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Bonar Law)

The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken did not impress me greatly with the telegram from Mr. Fimmen, because in it, as it was read, there was a statement that the Germans were being asked to work for the Rhine Republic. That certainly is not the policy of the French Government, and I do not see how it could have got into a telegram of that kind. The right hon. Gentleman in his closing words gave, I think, the best proof of the correctness of the statement of the right hon. Member for the combined. English Universities (Mr. Fisher) that hon. Members opposite did not look upon this Motion seriously, but rather as a means of debating the question. I think the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that there should not be a Division, but that the Motion be left on the Paper, was the best possible proof on that point.

I listened to the speech of the hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition with a great deal of interest, and with many of his general observations I was in entire agreement. He told us that there had been three previous Debates on this subject. As a matter of fact, I think this is the fourth Debate. He indicated that the previous Motions, notwithstanding that he had voted on them, were not of much value. This particular Motion, as I hope to show later on, seems to me to have less to recommend it than either of the two previous Motions on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman, in his general remarks, gave a description of the situation in the Ruhr, which I am afraid is pretty nearly accurate, and which everyone must dislike. Everyone would like to see an end put to it. There is no doubt, whatever, I think, that so far, the French have not, gained by their operation in the Ruhr. There has been to them very heavy loss. That is continuing, and what the end of it will be I do not venture to prophesy. But I would venture to point out to the House that the loss is not all on one side, and what has happened is, as I described once before, that the jugular vein of German industry has been cut. That must be ruinous to Germany, and therefore, it is perfectly true, as the hon. Member said, that whatever the ultimate result may be, what has happened and is happening means that there is immense economic loss, that there is less ability to pay reparation as a result of this operation than there would have been, and certainly there is no one in this House who would not gladly see an end put to that matter. The hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition also said something which I think was very true, and it is the basis of the policy which has so far been followed by His Majesty's Government; it was to the effect that there is no use in the Government attempting to do anything unless there is a public opinion behind it. Every one of these Amendments has aimed at something which at this moment France would look upon, if this House were to pass it, as a hostile act—an act of intervention.

A great deal has been said about the absence of policy on the part of His Majesty's Government. It is true that at this moment we have nothing we can propose to the House. It may be that to have no policy is bad, but to have a policy which cannot succeed and which in itself is bad, would be even worse. If there is any fault to be found with the Government on this question, the fault ought to go back to a period earlier than to-day. It ought to go back to what was done in Paris when the break came. There was the test case. Nothing that has happened since—I can say this with truth—differs very greatly from what I feared would happen if the French course were adopted. I not only thought so, but said so in the Conference. If, therefore, the policy that we are carrying out is wrong, that was the time when we ought to have taken another policy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] What is the policy which the hon. Members would have had us take? I would like those who disagree with the Government policy to picture to themselves what the alternative was. Do not let anyone suppose that it is a question of M. Poincaré or his Government. It is nothing of the kind. All the evidence which came before us—I knew it was so in London, but it was proved to demonstration in Paris—was that any French Government with the present French Chambers, would have been bound to adopt a similar policy. It is a- great mistake to suppose that the break really came in Paris. It did not: it began in August of the previous year when the Governments met and could not come to an agreement. It was postponed, but the break was hound to come. I remember that my right hon. Friend the late Prime Minister mentioned in his speech the other day that somebody had told him that there had been seventeen bye-elections in France since the Ruhr, and that the Government had lost them all. His informant was very badly informed. There have been no bye-elections at all for the French Chamber of Deputies for -a great many months. Since the Ruhr occupation took place, there has hen one for the Senate, and that was won by a supporter of M. Poincaé.


The information was wrong.


The informant was badly informed. Therefore, whatever one may think as to the wisdom or unwisdom of the course which the French Government are pursuing, there cannot be any doubt in my mind that they are pursuing a course which was not only supported by both Chambers in France, but which is overwhelmingly supported even to-day by the French people. That being so, we had two alternatives before us. I have said before to the House that I thought in Paris, and I think to-day, that the French policy was a great mistake; that it was likely to lead them into harm and lead Europe into harm. If it had been possible for Hs to have stopped them, then I think it would have been our duty to try to do so; but we were satisfied, as I am satisfied to-day, that we could not have stopped them. They were bound to try it. Then we had two alternatives. One was to allow the break to take place with the greatest a-mount of friendly feeling which was possible to France, and the other was to make the break, as could easily have been done, with obvious disapproval, making the two countries practically hostile to each other.

I would like to point out one remark in which I entirely agree, of the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley). Hon. Gentlemen on those benches who have spoken have spoken as if all that was necessary was to say to the French that they were wrong. My hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition told us that the altar of war was being prepared again. That is certainly not true of this country. We are weary of war, and I can assure the House that if the line advocated in many of these speeches were adopted, instead of retaining the Entente, we would have to go further than making speeches. We would have to prepare ourselves for the possibility of enforcing our will upon France by war. That seems to be the inevitable result. What can be done? At this moment I am convinced of this. The French Government, for the reasons which I have given—though they are suffering, they know that Germany is suffering more—would deeply resent any attempt at mediation. We could not do it without making an. enemy of France, and this Amendment is a proposal, in another form, as the others were, that there should be mediation. I do not minimise, and I pointed out to M. Poincaé what I believed to be true, that the difference of opinion was not between the two Governments—it would not have been so serious then—but between the peoples of the to o countries. I would not have been in the least opposed to the adoption of the same course which the French have taken if it had been to secure demands which I thought it possible Germany could meet. They could not meet them, and therefore, believing that, I was hound, on behalf of the British Government, to dissociate myself from the French action. Though some hon. Members may forget, the majority of the House, and, I believe, the great majority in this country, do not forget that we fought with the French as allies in the War.


And with the Russians.


We did. It would be a great blow, to say the least of it, if what I had hoped would be the basis of our policy, that we should work together with France for the reconstruction of Europe, is to be dropped altogether. That I am sure would be a great blow and I really believe that many of those who have spoken to-day have the same feeling in their hearts. They do not want to quarrel with France if it can possibly be avoided. Something was said by the leader of the Opposition about proposals for a Europeanbloc in which we would be left out. I do not believe for a moment any French statesman is seriously contemplating any such proposal. I was asked by my Noble Friend the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) whether or not we still looked upon reparations as something in which we were interested. My Noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said quite plainly the other day, and I repeat it now, that this settlement is a question not for France and Belgium alone, it is a question for Europe, in which we are interested, and in which we shall have to have a say when the time comes.

What more can I say? It is quite true, as the Leader of the Opposition said, that we have had this discussion three times. The policy of the Government cannot change to suit a different Debate every day in the week. It was the same policy in the first Amendment and it is the same policy now. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is the policy? "] The policy is that at this moment we do not believe intervention would be of the least use. We believe it would be regarded as hostile by France and we are not prepared to do it. But do not let the House think that the anxiety which this expedition is causing to the House is not shared by the Government. It is shared to the full, because we do realise that—apart from what is obvious to everyone, namely, the great economic waste that is taking place—having once entered upon what I suppose may be called an adventure, it is very difficult for the nation which has undertaken it to find a way out, and I am certain of this, that French statesmen to-day do believe in spite of all that has happened—and I think it is true they have got nothing out of it—that their pressure will have its effect on Germany. That is their view and while they hold that view it is, in my view, useless for us to offer our services.

One word only about the Amendment itself. I said that of all the Amendments, this seemed to be the least practicable. I do not quite understand it. This House is asked to pass a Motion in favour of creating a Committee to discuss these things with Committees from the Chambers in Belgium and France. What would be the result of that? It would be a little like the Council of Action rather enlarged in operation and I am rather surprised that the Mover should have contemplated that. But it is more than that. The hon. Member has a feeling which, when I sat on that Bench, I shared, that the minority is more likely to be right than the majority. But that is not the principle of democratic Government. The principle of democratic Government is that it is the majority that is right; at least, the majority thinks so. Suppose such a Committee were appointed—it requires a good deal of imagination to suppose it—but suppose it were, it would consist of the majority of this House; that is to say, I suppose it would not be very unlike the Government. And if you carry it a little further, what sort of a reception does the hon. Member think this Motion would get in the French Assembly? Is it going to be tried? [An HON. MEMBER: "That depends on you!"] Oh, no, it does not depend on us. It is not we who are in the Ruhr, and I should have thought the right place to try the Motion first was in the French House of Representatives. I think we can imagine the reception it would get there. Then we come to Belgium. The hon. Member read a letter from M. Vandervelde, whom I remember well in the War, and who is the leader of the Socialist party there. It is not giving anything away if I say that after the Conference in Paris the gossip was that M. Theunis, the Belgian Prime Minister, was going back to fall. Well, he did not fall, and I expect the reason why he did not fall was that the Belgian Chamber rather liked the operation in the Ruhr, and approved of it for the time being. In these circumstances, I think that the right hon. Member is right in suggesting that it is not worth dividing on this Motion. I do not think that it is, and if there is a Division, I hope the majority against the Motion will be a large one.


I was surprised to hear so many speakers on the opposite side of the House, and the right hon. Member who sits for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher), speaking so pessimistically of the situation with regard to the relations existing between Britain and France. I had thought, having regard to the little homily that was administered, I presume, to myself by the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day concerning the dominance of love and justice and truth, and of these virtues that appeal to the people who govern the affairs of this country—and surely to those who govern the affairs of a country so long allied with this country—that it would be inconceivable that such a state of affairs could arise as a war between Britain and France, and yet it has been quite apparent here to-night that there is an imminent peril of war between the French Government and the British Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish!"] It may appear to he rubbish, but in that event it is difficult to understand the significance of some of the very pessimistic speeches made by people who should have authority. When we come to face that situation, we realise what a chaotic situation Europe is entering upon at the present time. It is quite evident that Europe has reached that state when it is impossible for it to stabilise upon the existing capitalist basis. We have now had the most brilliant statesmen of western civilisation—some of them on this side of the House, below the Gangway, some of them on that side of the House, some in France. Germany, and other countries—wrestling with this problem, assisted by all the best of the executives and administrators who have been instructed in their profession for many long years, with all the experience of the past at their disposal, and they are as far from a solution of the problem as they were in 1918.

I was surprised to hear from the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) a statement about the new policy of France I do not myself think that he believes that the policy of France is in any sense new, any more than the policy of Britain to-day is in any sense different fundamentally from the principle which British statecraft has pursued for at least three centuries. France has been definitely pursuing, whenever she has been militarily and diplomatically strong enough, the policy of obtaining supremacy in Europe, and she is merely carrying a stage further that process which she initiated once again after the check at Fashoda. She has used—and from the standpoint of French capitalism she has rightly used—the disagreement of Germany and Britain for the purpose of putting them out of business. The British Government, from the standpoint of British capitalism, is acting perfectly right in allowing France to go to perdition, as she is at the present time. From the standpoint of justice, well, we would have to inquire what justice is, whether it is justice as understood by the owning class or justice as understood by the under-dog. If it be a question of truth and so forth, we should again have to examine into the nature of these fundamentals. But from the standpoint ofbourgeois society, France's policy has nothing to complain of that you on this side can possibly complain of in Britain.

Britain's policy is worked out in her interest, France's policy in hers, and Germany's policy in hers. They are carrying out the policy ofbourgeois society. They will continue to go on with this policy. They may, and I believe that they will, before very long have in Europe, in the world, another war. I hope that, when that time comes, all the people who to-day ace criticising France will be the first to join up, end that they will not merely content themselves with appearing on the recruiting platform sending letters to the mayors of cities whilst not themselves appearing on recruiting platforms, 1Deeause, whatever may be the attitude of the Front Bench of the Labour party, there are others in this country who, when that times conies, are not going to hesitate for a single minute to tell the workers of this country, whether under arms or about to be put under arms, that it is their duty in no circumstances whatsoever to fight in the interests of capitalism against the workers of other countries. That is going to he the attitude of the Communist party, and it will be the attitude of very large sections of the Labour movement as well. The sooner we realise that that situation is developing in Europe the better, because it is necessary to-day mot merely to be consulting, not merely to be having conferences, hut to he having action.

I should like to see the Labour party—if it be in order in the House of Commons to allude to the existence of parties; I thought, as a matter of fact, there were no such things as parties here, but that we represented our constituents—doing something in this matter of the Ruhr. When I see the Resolution, however, standing in the name of three, Members of the Labour party, it strikes me as somewhat of a curious Resolution, to stand in the name of Members of the Labour party, because it concerns itself with two main problems, both of which are of primary importance to the existing capitalist system. The two questions are security and reparations. Security for whom? For the working class against the capitalist class? No. Security for France against Germany, and we have had the interesting admission from one of the leaders of the London International that he is prepared for giving guarantees to France against Germany. It is a very interesting admission.

It is like the suggestion in the whole of this extraordinary Resolution, put forward on behalf of the Internationals of London, Vienna, and Amsterdam, to call into congress France, Belgium, and Britain—the elect of the earth, and nobody else. There is no mention of Italy. There is no mention of Holland. [HON. MEMBERS: "Russia."] There is no mention of Poland. There is no mention of Czechoslovakia. They arc all countries which, both from the standpoint of production and from the standpoint of markets for the materials produced on the Ruhr, are intimately affected by this problem. It may be said that Holland did not actively participate in the War, but there is no country which is more affected by the economy of the Ruhr than is Holland. If anyone visits the Rhineland and goes down to the great harbour at Ruhrort, he will probably see more ships flying the Dutch flag than he will see flying the flag of Belgium or of France, and many more than he will see flying the flag of Britain. Holland has a perfect right to be taken into this consultation —ought to be taken into this consultation—even from the standpoints of the quasi-internationalists on the Front Bench. Surely, if there is a country which is affected and which should be considered, it is a country like Holland.

There are others. I know that it is always anticipated that there should be one man in the House who is interested in the country which has the greatest area of any country in Europe. It is strange that there should be only one person who seems to be concerned with Russia. Russia is concerned, and Russia will make herself effectively concerned. There is no doubt of this, that Russia has no intention of being left out of consideration in the matter of the Ruhr any more than in the question of the Straits. [An HON. MEMBER: "Are you a Russian?"]

8.0 P.M.

The sooner hon. Members opposite, some of whom cannot trace their English pedigree more than a century back without landing in the Frankfort Ghetto, realise that Russia to-day, while she is relatively weak, is returning rapidly to that position of naval and military efficiency which she occupied during the 19th century and the early part of the 20th, the better. She is determined that she will have her share and that she will have her part. She has, however, offered to disarm. She is building no battleships that are of any effective capacity. In that respect she is wiser than some people nearer home, but Russia will be driven just as much by any attempt to overlook her in the matter of the Ruhr to intervene in Europe, as she was on the question of the Straits at Lausanne, and the sooner that is realised the better, for behind Germany there is well known to be a Power which is friendly to all Powers whose people are subjected to the bond-holding and banking influence. There is to-day in the world a real friend of small nationalities. There is a country which stands for the dispossessed, and in Germany to-day the workers are looking to the Russian people. I am glad to say that, as a result of this Motion, tabulated in the names of members of the Labour party, more attention will in future be given by the workers of the Ruhr, or the workers of Germany as a whole, to the Communist International, than will be given to the other three internationals put together. By means like this, the Labour party is driving the workers of Europe into the hands of the Communist International, just in the same way that this Government and the last Government have been driving the workers of Europe steadily along the road they do not wish to travel—the road of revolution—but which they will have to travel, because there is no other road out. You will have to realise these facts sooner or later. It does not very much matter to the Communist International whether you face them to-day or to-morrow. In some ways we would rather you faced them later, because then you will have given us longer time to prepare.

To come closer to the question raised in this Motion, I notice that the Labour party have decided in this matter to have a united front— not the united working-class front. They are pleading, as usual, with their class enemy to obtain and to build up committees in which all parties shall collaborate, but not all over the world. They will not include the Indian workers. They will not include the Egyptian workers. They will not include the workers of the subject lands. They will just include the elect, the workers of Britain, of France, and of Belgium, together with the capitalists of those respective countries. These are the people with whom the three quasi-working-class internationals desire to co-operate. We are very pleased indeed, from the standpoint of working-class internationalism, to see that while the Labour party have no intention of attending the international conference called by the shop stewards of the Ruhr, to take place on the 18th March; while they would not respond to the invitation of the Communist International to come together in Berlin at the end of January; while they would not take any effective action in those directions; while they would not consider a matter of an international strike, partly because one section of them resort entirely to Parliamentary action, and the other section resort to it merely because they realise that their leadership of the unions has taken those unions to a position today in which theirmoral is impossible, and they cannot fight—the Labour party, nevertheless, to-day are presenting a Resolution of this character. It is a demonstration upon a great public platform. It will not do anything to bring the French out of the Ruhr. It is not intended to do anything directly to bring the French out of the Ruhr. It is intended merely to save the faces of the leaders of these three internationals in the face of the workers of Europe.

Again, when we come to notice the kind of thing which the Leader of the Labour party proposes in this conference of the various Parliaments, we find that among the first things they should consider is, not the safeguarding of the eight-hours day, or the workers' wages, or the workers' position, or the rights of the workers to organise, free from the interference of the German military police—because that is what they are—free from the interference in France of the Fascisti movement. It is not to do any of those things. An international which has its home in London, like the international which has its home in Amsterdam, naturally thinks in terms of loans, and the hon. Member for Aberavon and the right hon. Member for Derby think in terms that appeal to the international banking fraternity. They realise that I am doing what I can for them to-day, to clear them from the insinuation that they are revolutionary. I recommend them to the capitalist class of this country as quite safe. They are quite safe, but the movement behind them, unfortunately, is not. We desire to see them in office as quickly as possible, and anything that I can do, anything that my party can do, as it has done it at Mitcham and at Edgehill, where we sent our speakers to tell the workers to vote for the Labour party—anything that we can do to get the Labour party on those benches, and the capitalist representatives off those benches, we shall do. We wish to see the Labour party in office, because we want to see them there demonstrating whether parliamentary institutions are of any utility. Then when we come to the second stage to discover whether—


The hon. Member is getting a long way from the Motion.


I thought that if I wandered far from the subject T should be sure of the assistance of the Chair in bringing me back. I will, however, say in conclusion that the Motion is excellent propaganda from the standpoint of the Communists. The more the Labour party tries to fit into the framework of capitalistic society, the more it gets the nodding acquiescence of the leaders of the Government, the more it gets "Hear, hears!" and plaudits from the Treasury Bench, the more do the enlightened workers realise what the contradictions between the leaders of the Labour party and the rank and file of the Labour party really are.


In the short time at my disposal I shall he quite able to say exactly what I want to say. The Prime Minister spoke very sincerely about having cut the commercial jugular vein of Germany, but one thing he did not tell this House was what effect that was having upon his own City of Glasgow and other parts of Great Britain. He did not stop for a moment even to consider what was the effect of cutting that great jugular vein. In his own city to-day there is the question of metallurgical coke. It means not only the shutting down of blast furnaces, but from one of his own Ministers to-day, in reply to a question, we were told that there are 2,500 ovens in this country not in use. If there had been logic in the Prime Minister's statement, he would have been able to show that, while he as Prime Minister of this country helped to cut the great commercial jugular vein of Germany, we as well as France would have been reaping some benefit. But even France in the cutting of that jugular vein has shut down, not only her own blast furnaces, but also her coking ovens. The cutting of that jugular vein, unless you take steps to get the best doctors you can to stop the bleeding, is going to bleed this country in the same way as it has bled Germany to-day, and the whole consequences will fall upon this country in the next six months.

It being a quarter-past Eight of the Clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.