Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exxceeding £116,700, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1929, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs."—[Note.—£90,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I think it is very unfortunate, though no one is responsible for it, that it should be necessary to use the opportunity given to us to-day to discuss two subjects of first-rate importance. It will be necessary to refer to Egypt, and also to the United States Note on Peace, in the course of our discussion to-day. As I have said, I blame nobody at all for it, but I do comment upon its being unfortunately necessary that it should happen, because either subject is sufficient for a full day; but, in view of the limited opportunities that we have of raising questions on Supply, we felt that we had to take what opportunity we had and get both subjects discussed to-day. I will refer to Egypt first of all.
Whatever we may say or feel about the issue of what is generally known as the crisis, I think we must all feel a little unhappy and disquieted at the present situation. It began, if we may give it a beginning at all, with the failure of the negotiations with Sarwat Pasha. I want to say quite definitely that I cannot understand how anyone who knew the situation in Egypt, who knew the composition of the Egyptian Parliament, who knew the nature of the support on which Sarwat Pasha had to rely, could possibly have believed, or could possibly have hoped, that the document which was drawn up and which has been published 432 in the White Paper could have been accepted by the Egyptian Parliament and been made the basis of an agreement between Egypt and ourselves. It did not contain the elements that would have made our relations with Egypt what I might call comfortable, happy and cooperative, and I think that, if it had been found, in the course of the preliminary negotiations, that such a document was the only one that could be produced, it was a great pity that the conversations were pursued at the time. The situation between Egypt and ourselves is such that I think that, so far as we are concerned, we ought to trust to time and experience. If in the meantime events are carefully handled, I think that time and experience will remove some obstacles which are now absolutely insurmountable in negotiations between Egypt and ourselves if they are met straight face on.
The first result of those negotiations and this draft was that Sarwat Pasha had to resign. Immediately after he resigned, the crisis entered upon a peculiar stage, the stage marked by the Assemblies Bill. That was finished by the ultimatum and the despatch of warships. It may be said that, as a result of that, the matter is finished. I do not know. A misunderstanding, a crisis—give it what name you like—a dispute, a failure to agree, a challenge, I do not care what name is given to it, such as happened a week or two ago, cannot really be resolved by an ultimatum and by warships. It may be suspended, and we may congratulate ourselves that it has been suspended; but over-exertion in the display of power is not a sign of strength but of weakness and what we must always remember is not merely the satisfaction it gives us if we happen to pull it off but the psychological impression it makes on the person who has had to withdraw. I have taken the best pains I could, not from Egyptian but from responsible British sources in Egypt, to find out what the effect has been in Egypt and I am sorry to say the result is exactly what one would have expected. Instead of elevating us in the eyes of Egypt, the way this crisis has been ended has rather lowered us.
The second Egyptian White Paper might well give rise to very considerable apprehension. Four-fifths of the reasons given in the second Paper by our Foreign 433 Office for our apprehension regarding the Assembly Bill had far better been kept out of print altogether, because they do not relate to our business at all. They are reflections upon what we consider, may be rightly, to be the internal effect, not in relation to the reserved subjects at all but the internal effect upon Egypt of the passing of this Bill. I say four-fifths, I think that is too little. The reflections upon the reserved subjects, upon reservation C, are perfectly proper. The right hon. Gentleman, I think, must know very well that in a very ticklish subject like this the less he says about Egyptian internal self-government, that part of self-government which is quite clearly laid down in the constitution we granted, and which is not touched by the reserved subjects, the better. The apprehension that has been raised is very considerable. I regret very much the tone of the last Paper, where in a somewhat ungracious way the Foreign Secretary accepts the proposal of Hanna Pasha. There is a most unfortunate third paragraph in that Paper where he accepts the decision of the Foreign Minister and communicates with Lord Lloyd in that decision of the Government. That third paragraph implies a meaning which I am sure he never intended. He says, on page 24, in order to be very strong:His Majesty's Government can enter into no discussions respecting the Declaration of Feburary, 1922.As a matter of fact in that Declaration it says you must. I am saying, and I hope I am saying it helpfully, that the Foreign Secretary did not mean that at all. What he meant to say was that His Majesty's Government would not enter into any discussion—I hardly venture to put any words into his mouth—but I think his idea was, that His Majesty's Government could not enter into any discussion about the validity of its right to make this Declaration, about its right to make it a unilateral Declaration, and about its right to stand by and to interpret the four reserved subjects and the meaning of the Clause which refers to them. That Declaration goes on to say—that is the third Section of the Declaration of 1922—The following matters are absolutely reserved to the discretion of His Majesty's Government until such time as it may be possible by free discussion and friendly accommodation on both sides to conclude 434 an agreement in regard thereto between His Majesty's Government and the Government of Egypt.Why do not hon. Members cheer that? That is your Declaration. We are bound in honour by that. That is an extract from the Declaration of 1922, which I think practically every Foreign Secretary, certainly the two who are now facing each other, have taken advantage of in order to see whether it was possible to produce such a situation as would enable us to get into a better relationship with Egypt than the relationship which was left by the Declaration of 1922, and in order to do that we have both tried to apply the obligation to negotiate on the reserved subjects. After the four subjects are reserved, it goes on to say:Pending the conclusion of such agreement the status quo in all these matters shall remain intact.There is no doubt at all that His Majesty's Government is bound to enter into discussions respecting the Declaration of February, 1922, and nothing that has happened can justify us in refusing to negotiate with an Egyptian Government which wishes to negotiate with us how we are going to substitute for these four reserved subjects an agreement which will add to the liberty and to the power of self government which the Egyptian Government now have. There is no doubt about our responsibility, and I am perfectly certain a wise policy will compel us to carry out that responsibility. What this looks like—and this is what is disturbing a great many people—is that the inspiration of this is more an inspiration against the Egyptian constitution than an inspiration in favour of our standing by the reserved subjects. I do not believe the Foreign Secretary meant it to be so and if there is any useful thing that will come out of the Debate to-day, I hope it may be a very definite statement by him that that is so. I know perfectly well that he put it in one of his despatches but, not as a Foreign Secretary who approved of his own work and judges his own work but reading it as a Britisher in Egypt, or as an Egyptian who is anxious to promote co-operation with Britain in Egypt, he will find it is so mixed up with expressions of spirit and words of a different kind that an assurance to-day will certainly not be wasted.
435 We are in a very delicate position regarding these Egyptian affairs. I think it is advisable that Egypt should understand exactly where we stand. The root trouble—I am afraid there is more than one root trouble—one of the root troubles, one of the main troubles, the Foreign Secretary, in negotiating with Egypt, will always find, is that there is a very large section of Egyptian opinion who decline to accept the reservations and decline to regard themselves as parties to the Declaration of 1922. I think the sooner that position is realised the better. This country has realised, not only this country but the poor people living at this moment, after the War, after the psychology that has followed the War, what a tremendous impetus we gave to nationality—I need not go into it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who is going to follow me, perhaps may explain the origin of a good deal of that impetus—when everybody was told that if they would do certain things they would be absolutely free for the rest of their lives to determine their own affairs. Unfortunately, a good many of these simple-people took us at our word.
The result is that we, above all nations in the world, have inherited treaties, responsibilities, and all sorts of obligations, and what may be called rights, which characterise peculiarly a country that has had an Imperial history. It is not only in Egypt, but it is in China and elsewhere. We are now placed in a most extraordinary position with our inheritance of old treaties, as in China and in Egypt, and the question is whether the situation is going to be handled, we declaring in favour of nationality and sincerely meaning to carry out our declaration, and determined to pursue a policy which in the end will mean free peoples—whether the way that that is going to be done is, that we simply, without any negotiations and without any accommodation, cut ourselves adrift and withdraw from the scene and leave somebody else to come in if they like, or leave the peoples from whom we have cut ourselves adrift to do what they like and develop as they like.
I am perfectly certain that that policy is a wrong policy, and that the right 436 policy is to create a transition period between what was before the War and what is going to be fully as soon as negotiations have been completed and agreements made. Therefore, I think that in Egypt, instead of merely treating the reservations as hostile declarations, on our part we ought to have proposals for satisfying, and not attempts merely to set them aside. What we want now is to get proposals from Egypt which will enable us to satisfy the reserved points, so that an agreement may be come to, and then the next stage, the stage that naturally follows the Declaration of 1922, can be carried out. I make that observation because I think it is necessary that it should be made. I can conceive of nothing which is going to be more fatal to the people of the world, nothing which is going to do more damage in the way of creating chaos where there is now, at any rate, a semblance of order, than this sort of idea that there is going to be no evolution and no transition, but a simple sharp-cut change by people who are not responsible and whose irresponsibility would very soon be found out if they were left to carry out their will. That is a doctrine from which, in any event, I decline to move one inch.
Then we come to the particular point which has raised this difficulty, the question of the Assembly Bill. I agree there is something more to be said than has been said, especially in our newspapers up to now. I have taken a great deal of pains to get at the facts, and I must say they are not so easy to get at. They are not at all easy to get at. I have been trying to wade through—I confess in an imperfect way—the Official Reports of the Egyptian Parliament, and as far as I can follow them in their French the representations made by our newspapers of what took place in the Egyptian Parliament, and the purpose of the Bill, the intention of the Ministers, have been grossly misleading, even unfair. Our newspapers have not played the game in that respect. We begin with the present police law. Everybody will admit that it ought to be liberalised. The present police law is the inheritance partly of military law and partly of special administrative orders created as the result of troubled situations in Egypt. We have to remember this, that when we talk about riots in Alexandria 437 and about disturbances here and disturbances there those riots and those disturbances took place when the police law was strongest, not when there was no police law at all. The Egyptian history of recent times and the history of disturbances in Egypt will be one of the most magnificent examples of how freedom brings democratic faith and trust and, instead of leading to riots, leads to peace; whereas where you have repressive legislation and where you have special police powers your riots are the worst, and the disturbances of mind—[Interruption.] I should be very glad indeed if hon. Members opposite will just bring out the facts and tell us how the Alexandria riots took place under conditions of freedom and try to discover what sort of mare's nest they are living in if they are under that impression. I use the argument and give it for what it is worth.
Those who trust—I put it quite tentatively—the special police powers regarding public meetings, and so on, to keep the peace of Egypt and to protect foreign life and property have not a shred of recent historic experience to justify them in their policy. I said, first of all—and I hope to carry the whole House with me—that a liberalising process of the existing law relating to the police and also of the legislation relating to the police and public meetings would be a very good thing for Egypt and would be a real, substantial contribution to the grip the Egyptian executive has upon public opinion. In any event, Sarwat agreed to this. This Bill which has caused us so much trouble is not the emanation of the Wafd, it is the emanation of the Liberal Government, the Sarwat Government. Sarwat was Prime Minister in active office when this Bill went through the Egyptian Parliament.
There is the answer that the right hon. Gentleman gave to a question to-day about representations that had been made. Those representations were not made to any one leader; they were made to Sarwat. It is perfectly true that when the Bill was going through Parliament Sarwat left it to his Under-Secretary to answer for him. Sarwat was in his room in the Parliament building all the time. There was nothing done in 438 that Parliament; there was not a single decision come to in that Parliament without Sarwat being consulted and agreeing to it. Therefore do let us be fair in this matter. Then, when the time for rejection came, it was not the Wafd that rejected, but Sarwat's own Cabinet that rejected it. When Sarwat went back with his proposals in his pocket it was not the Wafd that he was afraid of, it was not the Wafd which compelled him to keep those proposals in his pocket before he communicated them to anyone; it was his own Cabinet of which he was afraid. That is the situation in Egypt, and it requires exceedingly delicate handling. I have received this statement from an Englishman who follows Egyptian politics in Egypt as closely as I follow our politics at home. He is not at all inclined to our way of thinking, but, in order that we might have some really experienced advice, I asked if I might have a definite and concentrated statement on the situation and this is what I got:The law, if passed, would have made very little difference in its applicability while the Parliamentary regime was in action.The Minister of the Interior would have to answer to Parliament for the action of his police officer. What Egyptians are thinking of is a return of the time when Parliamentary institutions shall be in obeyance. They have very lively memories of what happened at the time of Ziwar Pasha (1924–26), when there was no Parliament to check the actions of his Cabinet. There are Deputies now sitting in Parliament who have never once been allowed to address their constituents.There are actual Ministers, not only Deputies, who, when they had announced public political meetings in their own constituencies, when fighting their constituencies, were met, not by cheering crowds of supporters, but by police batons, and in some cases, bayonets, and were not allowed to address their constituents. It made no difference; they were elected. Nevertheless, those of us who do care for law and order prefer that there should be some different law from that put into operation. My correspondent goes on:There are Deputies now sitting in Parliament who have never once been allowed to address their constituents. Police barred their way wherever they went. Egyptians of all parties hold that the British view of the dangers inherent in the Bill is exaggerated. In the Upper House only 439 one vote was cast against the Bill. Now the Senate is composed, to the extent of two-fifths, of the nominated members of all parties. It includes Zehia Pasha, who carried out the behests of the Residency so faithfully and well in 1923, and Ziwar Pasha who carried out the will of the Palace in 1924–26 after the coup d'état which de prived Egypt of Parliamentary government. Both these very experienced and conservatively minded ex-Premiers voted for the Bill.Other things a little bit more detailed have been published since, but that is a very good indication, or, at any rate, a very fair view, of the situation, and a view which has never been represented in our newspapers. It does not appear in the papers that have been circulated to us. There is another point. This Bill went through Parliament first of all on 2nd February or 2nd January, I am not sure which. It is said now that foreigners are interested. There was not a single protest in any single foreign newspaper in Cairo on the passing of the Bill. There is published there a very lively paper that those of us who have been in Cairo know perfectly well, a weekly paper which makes a special point of commenting upon politics, and it is a paper which has sometimes annoyed the Egyptians on account of its pro-foreign attitude. In its issue on the 7th of that month of February, I am informed—I was not able to see it, but I am informed on very reliable authority—there is not a single reference to the Bill, although it had passed its Second Reading.
Surely that does not indicate a tremendous foreign interest in this Bill when it first went to the House? As a matter of fact I think we ourselves took no interest in the Bill when it first went through the Egyptian Parliament. Our interest did not arise until Sarwat was unable to carry out that agreement which was to cover all these reserve points, except possibly the Sudan. I suggest that it is necessary for this House to keep its head in these matters, and just to see how it is possible that, by being a little bit too frightened of these provisions. we may, as a matter of fact, do more harm and endanger the lives of foreigners by throwing back the steady development of good will towards ourselves, than by ensuring that the civil law is drafted as we should like it to be on the Statute Book of Egypt. I understand that we made no representa- 440 tions in detail about that; I understand that when that Bill was first of all going through the Egyptian Parliament we made no attempt to get it in such a form as would satisfy our views on the re served section C—that section relating to our right to protect foreigners in Egypt. I understand that that is so. I also understand that the objections are taken to the provisions regarding the police—I have seen this in the report of the debates in the Egyptian Parliament—the question of the powers of the police, the matter of punishments and responsibilities and rights and so on. But if you are judging by the speeches that were delivered by men bearing names that have always been associated by me with extreme views—if you read the speeches that these extremists, some of whom, I believe, have seen the inside of prisons or our initiative and therefore are not likely to be very pro-British now—if you read those speeches it is perfectly clear that, as a matter of fact, there was no real dispute about the rights of the policemen, but a great deal of dispute as to how they were to be expressed.
I am told again by someone, who has a better knowledge and command of idiomatic French than I have, that even now there is very grave doubt as to what is the meaning of Clause 7. I mean the Clause which imposes the duty on policemen, according to one translation, "not to interfere with a meeting until evil has been done," and, according to another translation of the same words, "not to interfere until they apprehend that evil is likely to be done." I sent the passages to a friend of mine in order to get expert advice as to what the words mean. The reply I have received is to the effect that there was no accurate English idiom that expresses the fine shade of meaning of the French, that a true translation would be something between the two. We sent an ultimatum and warships to Egypt in order to settle the question of a French idiom!That really is a little bit subversive of one's sense of the proportions of life. What I want to emphasise is this: I see there are some who seem to wish to undo and recall the Declaration granting sovereign rights to Egypt—I do not believe for a moment that the Foreign Secretary is one of them. We must stand by the Declaration and try to resolve its reserved points by negotiation. I do not think, however, that it 441 will be of any use to reopen negotiations with Egypt until the preliminaries are clear. I tried to clear the preliminaries. I failed. At the end of the failure the good feeling between, at any rate, two persons engaged in the negotiations, was quite as sincere—it was very sincere—as it had been before the preliminaries started.
But let us make it perfectly clear that we have no intention whatever of interfering with the natural and ordinary operation of the self-government which is given to Egypt as the preliminary part of our Declaration of 1922, and that so far as the British Government is concerned we should leave no doubt in the minds of Egyptians that we are only too anxious to come to an arrangement with the Egyptian Government to enable that part of the Declaration which I have quoted to become effective after guarantees have been given, that all we had in our minds when making these reservations has been properly protected. There are two courses open to us. We can cut the knot, or appear to cut the knot, and go back to 1922. I regret to say that the comments which have been published in some of our papers seem to indicate that people are under the impression that you can go back to Lord Cromer, and that in 1928 or 1929 we can re-establish Cromerism. I have heard myself in Egypt that we made a mistake in ever going away from Cromerism. If this House or any Government is under the impression that it is possible to go back, very severe and very tragic will be their disillusion. We should make it perfectly clear that we have not got that idea at the backs of our minds. But the other policy has to go on. It is the longer and more troublesome and even baffling way of working out in the most friendly co-operation with Egypt the full rights of Egypt as a self-governing State.
I am sorry to say that all the evidence in the Egyptian Press is that the growing good feeling between Egypt and our-selves, upon which so much of our commercial prosperity depends, has been rather worsened during the last six weeks, and that the prospect is not as good or as bright as it was. I hope that we shall have a declaration regarding these alternative policies—a declaration which will remove any doubts that may 442 be in honest Egyptian minds as to what we propose to do.
Let me now deal with the American Note. The point about that Note is this, that everyone who has tried his hand at peace-making finds that he is in a curiously baffling entanglement of fears, suspicions and prejudices and, although I hesitate to say it, let it be said, a differing value in the spoken and in the pledged word. Consequently, when you go to Geneva with the intention of doing something that is definite, precise and clear cut, you find as soon as you get there that you have to meet a very difficult series of conflicting interests, conflicting demands and conflicting states of mind. Then, Mr. Kellogg—the American Note is known as the Kellogg Note—comes in with a very simple proposition. The proposition is so simple that, first of all, we suspect it, more particularly everyone who has been working away at this problem of international peace. Mr. Kellogg makes a proposition which amounts practically to this: "Let us all agree and declare, or"—he makes a special appeal to the great Powers of Europe—"let as many as possible of the big nations of the world agree together, in a common instrument, that war shall henceforth be no part of their national policy." At once, we spring into a dubious frame of mind and we say, "How is it to be done?" and so on.
I am not at all sure that we ought not to thank Mr. Kellogg for compelling us to recognise the essential simplicity of our problem, which has become so complicated in our minds. When we see this problem so simply put and we see how we can meet our difficulties, we realise that the larger part of the net work is of our own creation. Therefore, after the first reaction of scepticism and criticism, I think it is only proper and good that we should say: "Thank goodness! There is somebody who is striving with might and main to bring us back to the essential simplicity of the problem!" When we look at Geneva—I do not care which Geneva or whose Geneva—we certainly have the very best cause for being thankful to anybody who can by the waving of some wand or other, or by the utterance of some phrase or other, resolve out of existence many of the psychological difficulties with which we have been faced. The American view is this: "If every nation said, There 443 shall be no war in our national policy,' then what is the use of talking about safeguards to maintain your present obligations which may involve military operations, because if you all say that there will be no military operations, there will be none?" That is exactly the sort of thing that you laugh at, but when you have slept over it you do not laugh; you discover that there is a great deal in it.
If we could only get Europe, the big nations of Europe, to say: "We eliminate war from our national policy," and if we could get them to say it with conviction and if we could get all other nations to believe that they have said it sincerely, 99 per cent. of our peace difficulties would be solved. [HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed!"] Certainly, but what I would say to those hon. Members who are apparently so very sceptical about it, is this; have they any record of which they need be proud regarding the beliefs in security which they have cherished in their hearts up to now? If all the nations of Europe accepted Mr. Kellogg's suggestion to-morrow and then went on tottering and stumbling through war for the next century, the century of war that would follow the acceptance of Mr. Kellogg's Note, would not be any worse than the centuries of war that have followed trust in the ideas of securities which characterise the minds of the party of hon. Members opposite.
Let us see how the position stands in regard to the Kellogg Note. Undoubtedly, whatever answer we give or whether we do not answer, were that possible which, of course, it is not; but supposing it were possible and that we never answered the Note, our attitude towards the Note is bound to have a very considerable influence on Anglo-American relations. Nobody who has been in America recently, nobody who follows the American press, would, I think, deny that those relations are not quite as good as they ought to be. Officially, they are perfectly good, never better, but there is an underlying anti-British feeling. You cannot take up a newspaper, especially if you go away from the Eastern States, without seeing that there is always a possibility of certain American parties, certain American sections making capital out of anti-British propaganda and anti-British feeling. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who 444 is to blame for it?"] You get the same thing here. Does anyone deny the fact that the comments that have been made in this country from time to time about the American attitude to the War Debt have not been resented very bitterly by very good American citizens? And that is the mildest and the best of our criticisms. It is no use hon. Members opposite smiling with that benign wisdom which always characterises them in this House. I am perfectly content to go upon one's own experience. One cannot go to New York, one cannot meet people who are important in American public opinion, one cannot have half an hour's conversation either with a Democrat or a Republican, but that within that half hour they will make comments upon our criticisms of them and upon their criticisms of us. If any hon. Member has had a different experience, I envy him because that was certainly mine.
Our attitude towards the Kellogg Peace Note is going to influence Anglo-American relations very likely for a very long time to come. Supposing it is all nonsense so far as the avoidance of war is concerned. Supposing one could write, as undoubtedly the Foreign Office could write, a most learned and effective reply to the Note, showing how impracticable it is. What then? There are two great dangers which the nations have to face now; war is one, and the other is that nations will begin to use the threat of war in their diplomatic action. Everyone who has been engaged in it knows that the danger is not merely that we are building up organisations which, when they reach the stage of maturity, will run themselves and will control the situation—that is happening again and again and it is very serious and a very grave and immediate danger—but there is another danger which has not received its proper place, and that is that in conducting ordinary negotiations the threat of war, the hint of war, diverts political wisdom, fair play and justice, and finally makes itself felt in the actual preparation for war. If such a declaration as is asked for in the Kellogg Note were made, if such an agreement were signed, some critics, in their wisdom, might say: "Still, you cannot avoid war." At any rate, it would do this: it would make it impossible during these critical times in international diplomacy, for important nations to threaten war, because they 445 will have declared solemnly and openly: "We refuse to include war as part of our national policy."
There is another important thing in regard to the Kellogg Note, and that is that its acceptance would certainly bring America far nearer to our practical peace problems. It is perfectly true that it leaves out such questions as to how you are going to do it, whether by arbitration, conciliation or some other way, sanctions and so on; all these are untouched. Where you can safely do the right thing, you can leave the consequences to mature themselves. Can anyone imagine that if by reason of a nation in Europe having agreed to accept the Kellogg Note and having put that Note into operation, so far as it can be put into operation, that nation should find itself in difficulties and should find itself being punished, and action had to be taken to protect and defend that nation, the Americans would say: "It is not our affair." In these circumstances, America could not possibly stand aloof and take no action whatever in the consequences that come to a nation for having followed her advice. It is far better to leave the whole thing to consequences and to allow those consequences to mature themselves.
There can be no doubt at all that America having stood so much aloof from the League of Nations and from European peace efforts has had a hampering effect upon our efforts in that direction. Again and again in trying to come to arrangements to apply certain clauses of the League Covenant and forseeing certain possibilities coming out of the League Covenant, when you sit down and try to arrange what is going to happen or what might happen and what would happen in certain eventualities, the mere fact that the world is not properly covered by the League of Nations is having a deterrent and hampering effect in the evolution of the peace conferences. Now America comes forward and offers this covenant and gets it signed. I think that is just exactly the sort of sowing, just the scattering of seeds, which she who sows can rejoice at in her heart, and go away in faith and leave the germination and the results to Providence.
There are various other points of considerable importance that arise out of this document, but I will leave other hon. 446 Members to develop them. The general position that I take up is that which I have already indicated. Something more is required from us in regard to the. Kellogg Note. Undoubtedly, that was the first reaction which the Note produced on us. That reaction is more and more confirmed, we are becoming more and more sympathetic and we are brought to that frame of mind in which we conclude that acceptance—simple acceptance—is the best method. I hope we are not going to accept with reservations. That is not the way. I hope we are not going to raise League of Nation problems. It will be one of the greatest tragedies in history if the League of Nations commitments in Europe prevent us from doing our best to develop wider and more comprehensive proposals of peace when they come from a nation which hitherto has not seen its way to associate itself with the League of Nations. The man of formula and the man of institutions is very often the man who stands in the way of real progress, because he cares more for his formula and far his institutions than he cares for the spirit which inspires action. I say that as one who believes most profoundly in the League of Nations, who believes that the League of Nations is only just beginning its useful work in Europe, work for the new spirit of peace, but I say it more as one who pleads that we may recognise the spirit of the League of Nations when it is enshrined in the offer, even when the offer is other than one which has been planted at Geneva.
Therefore, I think we ought to accept without attaching reservations. An instrument signed is a far better guarantee than a speech made. We can make our speeches and we can say, "War with America is absolutely unthinkable." Unthinkable, yes, but not impossible perhaps, 100 years hence. We can say, of course, that war is no part of our national policy, and that in nothing which we are doing in our international relations have we any thought of war. We can say quite sincerely, but, surely, it is an advantage if we can put that in a document; a document not only for our own archives, but a document for American archives, for French archives and for German archives. Once that document is signed it is a mark which no nation will ever go back upon without seeing it. Nine-tenths of our short- 447 comings are due to the fact that we often make them without seeing them, and it is when the marks are set up that you see the right way, so that, in the future, when the crisis arises, we may come to the mark and turn our backs upon it and go along the right course. That is a great advantage of our accepting this Note.
I, therefore, hope that we may have a statement to-day—again I apologise most sincerely for having been compelled in the circumstances to raise two subjects—but I do hope the Foreign Secretary will find it possible to say something on both those subjects that will allay feelings in Egypt, that will give security, and that we may say, "We do not like this method. We think there is something wrong in it. We feel that there is a bit of an insult somewhere, but nevertheless we are prepared to see what we can do to get beyond it." That is on the one hand—security in regard to Egypt, pacification, co-operation and goodwill. Then, in regard to America, let us range ourselves alongside of her, taking a large, a general and undetailed but a very useful declaration, and showing her that we are side by side with her, giving the whole of our people hope that it is possible to co-operate with America in building up a great policy of effective co-operation.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Austen Chamberlain)
There is so much with which I am in agreement in what the right hon. Gentleman has said on both subjects on which he has addressed the Committee—in the most fundamental parts of his speech—that I hope that, if I make a reply to him and answer some criticisms which he has put forward, my reply will not exceed the extent to which the two sides of the Committee are in agreement on the main lines on which our policy is to be conducted, both in regard to the particular problems which concern us in Egypt and to the peace of the world in general. It will, perhaps, be convenient that I should deal first with Egypt, and follow the same order as that taken by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman was, if he will permit me to say so, at times a little illogical in certain separate phrases of his speech, but with the main underlying conditions which 448 he laid down for the policy which this country, under any Government, no matter of what party, must pursue, I am in agreement with him, and I say so here. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman is the Leader of the Opposition and I am the Minister responsible, and he is bound to find fault with my handling of the problem, even if he cannot find fault with my purpose and my object.
The right hon. Gentleman says that the recent crisis began with the rejection of the Treaty negotiated by Sarwat and myself. I should have said that it arose out of circumstances which have already too often led to quite real crises in our history before that Treaty was ever brought up, and which, unless more wisdom is brought to the direction of Egyptian policy in the future, will inevitably introduce such crises again. It was because I felt that, that in the circumstances in which Egypt then was I tried to negotiate a Treaty which should be the substitute for the unilateral declaration which at present regulates our relations with Egypt. The right hon. Gentleman suggested, rather than said, that I was wrong in entering on those negotiations. He said that there could be no negotiation until time and experience had done their work and had produced a state of things in which the negotiations could certainly be pursued fruitfully and successfully. I ask the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee to remember that I did not propose a Treaty. Sarwat Pasha proposed a Treaty to me.
Sarwat Pasha, in the first business interview that I had with him, offered an explanation in regard to the then recent crisis which had occurred in our relations. I accepted his explanations, but said I was less interested in explanation or comment on the past, than in the question of what our present and our future relationships would be, and whether they were always to continue in the way they had done, or whether the time would come, or was coming, when Egyptians could recognise facts which neither they nor we could alter and, by recognising those facts, enter into an arrangement or a treaty with us in substitution of our unilateral declaration, which would at once strengthen their liberties and secure those interests of the British Empire which successive British Governments had 449 declared that this country must always maintain. I asked Sarwat to think over this. I asked him to think over the danger of these crises, and to consider whether or not the time had come when we could turn over a new leaf, recognise a certain partnership, recognise common interests and, combining together, find a satisfactory solution and a basis of a firm friendship. I told him that I did not ask or suggest that we should negotiate here and now but if, on reflection, he thought that there was something in what I had said, I should be prepared to instruct Lord Lloyd to resume the conversations which had broken down.
What was the result? In three days' time Sarwat Pasha came back to the Foreign Office with the draft of a Treaty which he had to offer. Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that I should have said, "Go away; I must wait for further time and experience. I cannot negotiate a peace with you. I have no answer to make to you at present." That was a serious offer by the Prime Minister of Egypt, which required an equally serious and friendly consideration on our part. I set to work—and I venture to submit that no one in my place could have done otherwise—to consider with my colleagues how much of Sarwat Pasha's Treaty could be accepted, what alternative, what variation we must make, and what we could suggest for the fulfilment of the purpose which we and he had in common. They left my relations with His Excellency, and his with me, not merely unchanged in friendliness, as the right hon. Gentleman said his and Zaghloul Pasha's were after their conversations, but very much improved. They were conducted in the most cordial way throughout. Sarwat Pasha went back to Egypt with the conviction and the knowledge that he had rendered a great service to his country, if only his countrymen were wise enough to seize the opportunity which he had created for them. I profoundly regret that that wisdom was not there. Sarwat Pasha, when, after long delays and further explanations and even further concessions, I pressed for the signature of the Treaty, or at least the answer of the Cabinet, replied that the Cabinet could not answer until the Wafd had taken their decision. The decision of the Wafd was unfavourable, the decision of Sarwat Pasha's colleagues 450 followed the decision of the Wafd, and the Treaty was killed by them.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that in these circumstances fresh negotiations would be useless until time and experience have done their work. In the meantime, I hope that it may be possible—at any rate, on the side of His Majesty's Government, all that can be done will be done to make it possible—to conduct our relations without these recurring crises and without the necessity of resort to grave warnings or even to the moving of ships. The right hon. Gentleman wished to criticise the handling of the crisis when it arose. He seemed to think that no fair notice was given in time to the Egyptian authorities of the objections which His Majesty's Government entertained to this Bill. He is mistaken. As long ago as 2nd January, Lord Lloyd was instructed to take Sarwat Pasha into his confidence and to tell him, for his personal information—these were my instructions by telegram to Lord Lloyd:His Majesty's Government regard the Wafd's reckless legislative programme with grave concern, and I should already have instructed you to protest vigorously but for the confidence with which Sarwat Pasha's declaration in London and his negotiation of the Treaty have inspired me. I may yet be obliged to make this protest, but before His Majesty's Government take a final decision, they have instructed you to invite a full explanation of Sarwat's views.Sarwat Pasha, therefore, knew at the very beginning of January the grave view that we took of the provisions of this law. He did not keep that knowledge to himself. There was fair warning to those concerned that we objected. We were then still, I do not say in expectation, but at any rate we had not abandoned hope that the Treaty might he signed, that with the signature of the. Treaty a new spirit would enter into our relations, and that a formal warning amounting to an ultimatum would no longer be needed. At the same time, I may say that if that Treaty had been accepted, our own responsibilities towards others would have been less than they are in the absence of any such Treaty.
Fair notice was given. When it became practically certain that the Treaty was going to be rejected, I instructed Lord Lloyd to give a formal warning to 451 Sarwat Pasha as soon as he handed in his reply in regard to it, and that was done, and the new Government came into office having received a copy of that reply. The warning was in itself only a formal repetition of what informally I had said to Sarwat Pasha at the very beginning of the year. The right hon. Gentleman complains of the White Paper. He says that I have published too much, that it would have been well if I had left out four-fifths of the third column of the second Paper, that column which contrasts the new law with the old.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
No. The columns are in the first Paper. The second Paper is where the right hon. Gentleman gives his reasons.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I thought that was what he was referring to. At any rate, I have this to say in my favour, that I was asked to present to the House the two laws, to point out the differences between them, and that four-fifths of that third column—I am still dealing with that—
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
Let me give this information. Four-fifths of the third column, commenting on the differences between the two laws, is based upon the views of Egyptian police authorities, whether British or Egyptian; that is to say, of those who have worked the present law, and who would have to work under the new law, to guard Egypt against the dangers which we fear. The right hon. Gentleman objects, not, as I thought, to that information, but to the publication of my despatch to Lord Lloyd.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
No. I am sorry I have not made it clear either to the right hon. Gentleman or to the Committee. I objected to the sending of such a despatch to Lord Lloyd, because four-fifths of the despatch comments upon affairs internal to Egyptian self-government and not to affairs which relate to any of the reserved subjects, and that that, being read in Egypt, would be taken as an interference with what is their legitimate right of self-government.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I confess I find it difficult, if that is the objection of the right hon. Gentleman, even to follow the grounds on which that objection is based. He agrees with me that the Declaration must govern our relations with Egypt until such time as by common agreement some other instrument is substituted for it. I see nothing in the Paper which he criticises which is not compatible with that position and which it is not well to state in view of that fact. But I really need not labour the point, because the right hon. Gentleman is unduly sensitive. Some friend of his, who passes anonymously through our discussions, has informed him of the unfortunate effect of my handling of this question, has drawn to him a picture of the unhappy reaction which my lack of skill and tact has produced upon the Egyptian mind. I should regret it if it were true, but is it true'? In answer, I will read a message which I received from Lord Lloyd about a week ago. He said:The Prime Minister asked me for an interview yesterday. He asked me to convey to you his gratitude for the conciliatory and friendly spirit which he felt, whatever the differences of opinion between England and Egypt, had inspired the happy solution of the recent crisis. Both Governments, he said, have maintained their respective points of view, but he wished to renew to me the expression of his keen desire to work in harmony with His Majesty's Government and to avoid future sources of friction.If the right hon. Gentleman had himself conducted the negotiations, they could not have been concluded with a more satisfactory acknowledgment of his friendliness than that which has been accorded to me by the Prime Minister of Egypt. That is all that I need say about the past. The right hon. Gentleman, however, criticised some language that I had used, or some comment that had been made outside the House, as indicating to Egyptian minds that, in the action which we had taken, we had intended or foreshadowed an attack upon the Egyptian Constitution. Against that suspicion we protected ourselves in advance, and when I showed my surprise at the right hon. Gentleman's apprehension, he admitted that he had read the despatch and had in mind the despatch, which plainly guards against it.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
What the right hon. Gentleman wants is a repetition of a statement which is already made. I will give it:It should be made clear to the Egyptians that the intervention which His Majesty's Government in Great Britain cannot new avoid is strictly limited to those points which, in the absence of agreement between the two Governments, were reserved by the Declaration of 1922 to the absolute discretion of His Majesty's Government. It is directed neither against the liberties accorded by that Declaration to Egypt nor against the Constitution, which last His Majesty's Government has declared to be a matter for King Fuad and the Egyptian people.5.0 p.m.
Those words were not written in haste or without consideration of their meaning. I stand by them, and if it is any satisfaction to the right hon. Gentleman, or can serve any useful purpose in our relations with Egypt, I am pleased to repeat them here at this Table to-day. One final criticism on this aspect of the question was made by the right hon. Gentleman to which I must refer. It was almost a verbal comment on the third paragraph of the Note which I directed Lord Lloyd to present to Nahas Pasha. That paragraph begins:His Majesty's Government can enter into no discussion respecting the Declaration of February, 1922.If there is any difference between the right hon. Gentleman and myself about the Declaration of 1922, I think it is only a difference as to how we can best express ourselves, but not as to the thoughts themselves. We have got to maintain that Declaration until and unless they substitute for it some treaty which takes its place, and will thenceforth regulate our relations with Egypt. Those conditions are not subject to discussion. They are the necessity of the geographical position of Egypt, and her inevitable relations with the United Kingdom and the rest of the world; but there is nothing here to preclude, when the proper time comes, conversations or discussions or even negotiations as to the character of the instrument which shall eventually supersede the present Declaration. There is nothing to close the door against future negotiations when, in the right hon. Gentleman's own words, time and experience have done their work, and a treaty is offered to us which safeguards the vital interests 454 which are at present safeguarded only by the unilateral Declaration. That is all I have to say. I hope that it will be long before the relations of Egypt again require the House of Commons to give half-a-day to their consideration. I hope that we shall proceed smoothly, that the position defined in our Declaration, for which we ask no theoretical acceptance, but of which we must ask and shall require the practical observance, will be observed, and that these unfortunate incidents will be avoided in future.
I come to the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman, one of far more immediate consequence and interest, and of far larger eventual possibility—the proposal for a pact or treaty for the renunciation of war, to be signed by, in the first instance, the six great Powers, with, it is hoped, the adhesion of others to follow. I need scarcely repeat, what I have already said, that His Majesty's Government warmly welcome this initiative of the Government of the United States. I will go further to-day, and I will say that, not only have we warmly welcomed it, but that we are hopeful that it will be successfully concluded, and that it will make a real contribution to the peace of the world. How could the attitude of any British Government, and this Government in particular, be different towards such a proposal? For three and a-half years now, we have been responsible for the conduct of the foreign policy of this country, and our prime object, and our unceasing care, has been to establish peace firmly, to proceed to the reconciliation of differences, and to prevent a recurrence of war. But more than that, this country never has treated war as an instrument of policy. There have been countries in the past which deliberately worked for war at a moment convenient to themselves, in order to solve in their favour a problem a favourable solution of which they saw no other means of attaining. There have been Governments which have provoked what has been called a preventive war. No British Government could contemplate a preventive war; no British Government could take action of that kind; and war has never been an instrument of policy.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
What about the South African War? 455 [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] The right hon. Gentleman was a Cabinet Minister at the time.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. and gallant Member's interruption is due to a forgetfulness which I shall correct, perhaps ought to correct. This country did not declare war. I repeat that war has never been an instrument of the policy of this country within any time which we contemplate when we are discussing the Europe of to-day. I will not go back to the Crusades, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman thinks that they are an exception.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I say, therefore, that, both because it is in consonance with the general policy of all British Governments, and because it is a move forward in the direction to which this Government has devoted all its efforts ever since it came into power in international relations, we welcome the American proposal, and we are hopeful that it will be brought to a successful conclusion. You may ask—though the right hon. Gentleman himself did not make this criticism, others may make it—you may ask why, in that case, has there been any delay; why could not you say so at once; why is not your answer already sent? We received the American proposal on 13th April. It so happened that the evening before I had left for my short holiday. I think that I was away 12 days, including my journey, and one of the first matters to which I turned my attention on the night of my return was the papers, which had been received in my absence, in relation to this matter. But we had to consult—and I am sure the Government of the United States recognised this, and will take no umbrage at it—the Governments of His Majesty's Dominions in other parts of the world. In a matter of this kind the policy of the whole Empire should be one. We want them all to sign the engagement; we do not want any part of His Majesty's Dominions to be left out.
That is not all. We, like other nations, and like Germany, which has already replied, have undertaken certain engagements already. Now, I beg the House and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, to 456 use no language to cast doubt on the honour of our signature. We know what we felt when the contrary doctrine was preached by statesmen of another country. The right hon. Gentleman referred to his experiences in Geneva. He spoke of the difference between the spoken and the pledged word. I, too, have had my Geneva experience. In that atmosphere it is so easy to make large and generous declarations, to propose fair-sounding and specious resolutions, and even to vote for them; and when you sit down privately to talk with those who have supported them, you find, sometimes, that they are advocated or signed or voted only with mental reservations, which are quite other than the verbal form which has been publicly accepted. Would peace be preserved by signing a declaration which, because it was signed with different interpretations and meanings, would only lead to misunderstandings and accusations of breach of faith? Is it not worth while, and was it not better, to take a little time to consider these questions, and the relation of the new obligations which we are asked to undertake, to the old obligations, which we have undertaken in the service of peace? Was it not right that we should take a little time to consider the bearings of the matter?
What is our object? What is the object, I venture to say, in this matter, of the United States Government, as well as of ourselves? It is to get a document which all sign in the same spirit, which all sign meaning the same thing, which all sign with the same good will, the same heartiness, and the same determination to maintain it. I do not think that the time has been lost. We have been greatly helped in our consideration of these problems by the remarkable and very interesting speech delivered by Mr Kellogg before, if I remember rightly, the Foreign Policy Association in New York. That speech shows quite clearly that it was not the desire of the United States Government to impair the engagements of those who had already laid the foundations of peace and reconciliation in Europe, whether by the Covenant with its larger obligations, or whether by the Treaties of Locarno. It is quite possible to reconcile our obligations under these instruments with the new declaration which Mr. Kellogg invites us to take. The present position of the matter is that 457 His Majesty's Government in this country have concluded their examination of the proposals. Their comments and their suggestions for the reply to be made to the Government of the United States are, I suppose, on their way to the Dominions at this moment.
Here I will refer to a question put to me yesterday by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, which I did not answer at the time, but promised to deal with to-day. I thought that, having regard to the number of Powers already addressed by the United States, to the difficulties, by correspondence, of bringing six Powers readily and easily into agreement, and the dangers, which are often in correspondence, of magnifying differences instead of diminishing them, that some other procedure would perhaps have led us more quickly and surely to the end we desire. My mind reverted back, naturally for me, to the procedure which we employed so successfully before and at the Conference of Locarno, and I tentatively suggested that, as in that case, the way might be smoothed for us and the differences, if there were any, reduced to a minimum, if a meeting of the jurists took place in which they could exchange opinions and arguments. But as soon as I learned that that proposal did not commend itself to one of the Governments concerned, I withdrew it, and we shall proceed therefore now by the other ordinary diplomatic channels. As soon, therefore, as the reply of the Dominions has been received by us, we shall hope to deliver our answer to the Government of the United States, and I need scarcely say after my opening words on this topic that our answer will be to the effect of our desire to cooperate in the conclusion of such a, pact as is proposed, and to engage with the interested Governments in the negotiations required for that purpose.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Before the right hon. Gentleman concludes, may I ask him if what he has just told us means that, providing our Dominions agree, we are perfectly free to negotiate directly and are not bound to consult France, for example, in any way?
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
No, Sir, of course we are not bound to consult with any other Government unless we think it desirable to do so. But the purpose of 458 the American Government was, in the first instance, to get the signatures of six Governments, and if we can contribute anything to securing unity among the six Governments we shall be very glad to do so.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
May I ask if the right hon. Gentleman has any idea as to when he will be able to deliver the Note to America, after having consulted the Dominions? Will it be a matter of weeks or of days?
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I should hope, assuming that the Dominions concur in a reply, and that further time is not needed for consideration by them, that I should at once hand a reply to the American Ambassador in this country, and as soon as it is in the hands of his Government I think it would be their desire, as certainly it would be mine, that it should be published.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I begin by saying that, the statement to which we have just listened, as far as it goes—and I am conscious of the right hon. Gentleman's responsibilities—is altogether satisfactory. I.say that because I will have to make some further suggestions which will sound rather like criticisms. I take it that as soon as the Dominions have agreed an official Note is to be sent in reply to the Kellogg invitation, and we gather that the Note will be one of acceptance. I regret, however, that on behalf of His. Majesty's Government a more immediate and quicker declaration has not been made. In the case of the Locarno Treaty, am I right in saying that the right hon. Gentleman only consulted the Dominions after he had signed the instrument? Is it not the case that he was able to pledge this country in that case to make war if required and that the meaning of Locarno was that we were obliged to make war with all our resources on the side of France or Germany if either party violated the Agreement? The right hon. Gentleman was able to sign away the honour of this country to intervene in the defence of the Locarno Agreement without consulting the Dominions. The right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
No, I will not undertake to correct the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I do not propose to inter- 459 rupt him, and he must not cite me as a witness in support of any statement he makes. The hon. and gallant Member has already been inaccurate.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Am I still inaccurate when I say that the agreement of the Dominions to the Locarno instrument has not been received? However, I think I am speaking within the knowledge of the Committee when I say that it was not necessary to consult the Dominions before pledging this country to make war under the Locarno Agreement, but the assent of all the Dominions is required in the case of pledging the country to abandon war and to preserve peace. There we have an extraordinary anomaly, and I hope the Under-Secretary, when he replies, will give the Committee some reassurance on that point. The Foreign Secretary does not often upset my balance. His unfailing courtesy and the consideration which he shows to the humblest Back Bencher are apt to disarm, but this afternoon, to use a common phrase, he completely bowled me over. The funny part of it is that the right hon. Gentleman believed what he was saying. He said that this country had never used war as an instrument of national policy. Of course he excepted the Crusades, and I apologise for so far forgetting myself as to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman by reminding him of the last war but one on a large scale which we had. There have been a score of minor wars with which I am not so familiar, but I was referring to a war waged by a Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a distinguished Member. The South African War has usually been considered by the people of this country to have been a war of aggression, as was shown at the polls in 1906.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member may say that that is his opinion, but he cannot go into the subject, otherwise this discussion on the Foreign Office Vote will turn into a historical disquisition.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I was not going into the details, and, to tell the truth, I have not armed myself with the facts. But my point is that there is no good in taking up this atti- 460 tude of saintly hypocrisy, if I dare say so. All modern nations have committed sins against this new plan of peace. All have broken the pledge which it is now proposed to sign, and we might as well realise that there is no use in coming to repentance pretending that we have never sinned. Such an attitude on the part of Ministers only reinforces the popular conception, all too widely held in Europe and America that the Englishman is good at deceiving himself and hopes to deceive others in the same way. Nothing is to be gained by romantic extravagances such as we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman.
I do not wish, however, to appear too critical, and, therefore, may I be allowed to compliment the right hon. Gentleman on still being in a position to defend his own Estimates? I thought that part of his functions, perhaps during that short holiday to which he referred, had been usurped by the Secretary of State for India. The Secretary of State for India was reported to have made a curious suggestion during his golfing expedition on the Continent. The Foreign Minister of Germany has chivalrously come forward and denied that these statements are of any importance, but, apparently, the sort of policy discussed, as a result of the noble Lord's visit to Berlin, was on the lines that there should be a new alignment of the three principal Western European Powers, England, Germany and France, and that they should form a kind of alliance against Russia. I took it on myself to question the Prime Minister as soon as these reports appeared. They were widely circulated in French and German papers, and created a great deal of disturbance in France. One of my excuses for mentioning the matter is that we know of the Foreign Secretary's proper desire to remain on the closest possible terms of political intimacy with France. The Prime Minister said that the Secretary of State for India had only paid a private visit to Berlin and was not there in his capacity as Minister. But I noticed when I put the question that hon. Gentlemen opposite who are not without importance in their own party, endorsed the proposals alleged to have been made in Berlin by the Secretary of State for India.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I think I ought to say that my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for India made no such proposal. It is denied by the other statesmen, and I have my Noble Friend's authority to deny it.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am very much obliged. I presume then that is no part of the policy of His Majesty's Government?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I accept the fact that the Secretary of State for India was misrepresented or misquoted. The reporters, as usual, are to blame. I am glad to learn that such is not the policy of His Majesty's Government. Any such policy would be quite foreign to the subject matter of the second part of this Debate. I thought there was unconscious humour in the fact that we should be discussing recent events in Egypt and the Kellogg Note on the same afternoon; but it would be a travesty on the whole policy which we are attempting to follow with America, if the attempts to encircle Russia or form alliances against Russia were continuing. I understand that Italy has sent a favourable reply to the American proposal. The right hon. Gentleman has made as friendly a reply as he could in the present situation, Germany has replied in a friendly way and Japan, I understand, is favourably inclined. That means that five out of six great Powers, including America, are agreed on this great new departure for the outlawry of war. It will follow that other Powers must be invited, and that the policy that was certainly pursued for some time by His Majesty's Government of trying to align the rest of Europe against Russia will have to be abandoned.
Something else follows. Is it understood that it will not be passible, if we sign such an instrument with Japan, to continue the Singapore base? Other things will follow as well. It will be possible to repair the damage that was done at Geneva last autumn. It is recognised I think that in the present Covenant of the League of Nations there is a gap especially in reference to Article 16. The State members of the League under Article 16 may impose economic sanctions by a blockade upon 462 a recalcitrant member or a member who does not keep international obligations. The Americans have been declaring for some time, especially since the Geneva Naval Conference, that they will not recognise any blockade in future by any group of Powers to which they are not a party, and that they are prepared to uphold their nationals in carrying on what they consider to be legitimate commerce with all the world. For that reason they say they intend to have a Navy of a size which can safeguard their commerce. There was, therefore, a loophole left in one of the most important sanctions of the Covenant of the League. In a speech to the Foreign Affairs Council in New York on 15th March, Mr. Kellogg declared very plainly that his proposed multilaterial pact would not violate the terms of the League Covenant, or conflict with the obligations of the members of the League, and Senator Borah has said much the same thing.
Incidentally, these declarations meet the objections of certain persons who have been arguing that the proposed Pact would conflict with the Covenant of the League. I think, having studied the reports of the speeches of Mr. Kellogg, and the article of Senator Borah in the "New York Times" of 5th February, there is nothing hostile in these proposals, either to the Locarno Agreement or the League Covenant. It follows, if the Pact is signed, that America can hardly support her nationals in treating with a State member of the League who has 'offended against the other members of the League, and on whom the Council of the League has decided to bring economic pressure. That closes a very wide loophole. That being the case, it is absolutely necessary that as soon as may be, we should enter into a two-party conference with the American Government to consider the necessary revisions of international law at sea. If America on her part—and I believe it is an inescapable corollary of the policy now being embarked upon—is prepared not to break a League of Nations blockade, we on our part must express our willingness to abandon the right of private blockade. These two things go together. The only difference between the two great English-speaking peoples, that could make war thinkable, is a difference in interpretation of maritime rights at sea in time of war.
§ Sir PHILIP PILDITCH
Why does the hon. and gallant Member think that the declaration of Mr. Kellogg implies that America would not think of interfering with a League blockade?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I think it follows as a corollary. Both Mr. Kellogg and the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, have declared that the American proposal in no way conflicts with the Covenant of the League. That being so, surely the declarations which were made recently in America especially after the Geneva Naval Conference that America would trade with a nation which was being blockaded and boycotted cannot stand. Therefore I do not think I go too far in saying that it follows, as a further corollary, that America will have to recognise that a League blockade would not necessarily be broken by her, and 1 submit that we should express our willingness to discuss with the United States the whole question of maritime rights at sea in time of war. I repeat that this is the only question which would make war thinkable between the two peoples, and all who have studied the present and recent relations between the British and American peoples must be driven to that same conclusion.
§ Rear-Admiral BEAMISH
Do I understand you to say that you, in common with the United States, are now prepared, in consequence of these proposals, to give up belligerent rights and neutral rights during war?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Not during a war for enforcing the observance of agreements by covenanting Powers against a recalcitrant Power, but certainly during what I referred to a moment ago as a private war. If we still cling to our sovereign right of making war on some other nation and cutting off her commerce, we cannot expect other nations to recognise that right in the future if we agree to signing the Kellogg Treaty. As Viscount Grey said in a speech which a great many Members of this House heard with pleasure, the greater covers the less. The Kellogg Treaty covers the Covenant of the League of Nations and Locarno and the other legitimate instruments for keeping the peace of the world.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Perhaps I have not explained very clearly the policy I am trying to outline, but it seems to me that our line must now be as follows: The Foreign Secretary has committed the Government, in so many words, and provided the Dominions agree, to accepting the American proposals, and we hope that as many other nations as possible will accept them. That means that five nations adhere in principle to the great proposal for the renunciation of war as a national policy. The next step which it seems to me, should in the first instance be taken between this country and America, must be a full examination of all the problems that remain unsolved in connection with international law at sea. I am as certain as I can be that if we on our part are prepared to renounce the private right of blockade, that is, the right of putting on a blockade as an instrument of national policy in a private war, that America on her part will be prepared not to give comfort and aid to her nationals who may try to break a League blockade or a blockade that has been enforced, as President Wilson laid down in the second of his original 14 points, for the enforcement of international covenants and agreements. The second of the 14 points was left out of the Armistice terms on the insistence of His Majesty's Government, supported at that time by the French Government. I think it will have to be resurrected.
The second of the 14 points laid down that the seas or parts of the seas could not be closed in peace or war except for the enforcement of international covenants by international action. That plainly envisaged the abandonment of the right of private war and of private blockade, and we practically agree to that if we agree to the Kellogg proposals to-day. Whether all the Members of the party opposite have quite thought out the implications of the Kellogg proposals I do not know, but I am quite certain that the Foreign Secretary has spoken for the great majority of the people of 465 this country in declaring that we are prepared to accept the Kellogg proposals as soon as we get Dominion adherence, which surely will be forthcoming. That being the case, we must follow up the implications of the Kellogg proposals, and now, perhaps, that war is disestablished as an institution and as a national policy, we can make another and a more fruitful attempt to erect a structure of peace by a limitation of armaments by agreement. Above all, I hope, we will have brought about or will bring about a psychological change amongst the heavily-armed nations which will enable us to cut down the terrific expenditure on armaments both here and on the Continent of Europe and in America, and that will really round up the work that was begun in the Covenant of the League of Nations, with its admitted imperfections, when it was originally signed.
§ Sir RENNELL RODD
I would claim the indulgence of the Committee, not only because I am addressing it for the first time, but also because of a rather husky voice after a recent attack of laryngitis. In the circumstances, I would not have ventured to interpose in the Debate but for the fact that I lived eight consecutive years of my life in Egypt, and in relatively recent times have once more had the opportunity of studying rather closely subsequent developments in that country. When I heard the recent action of the British Government criticised, I felt I was entitled to express the views of one who has had considerable experience in Egyptian administration and who has followed the vicissitudes of that country with close attention in the service to which he has belonged almost ever since the beginning of the British occupation in 1882. I realise that now, at last, after some 40 years, we really have a definite policy with regard to Egypt, a policy which seems to me to represent the maximum that we can properly concede and the minimum that we can accept from a country with which we are, for various reasons, indissolubly connected, and which, after all, owes to us not only its regeneration from anarchy and its present prosperity but also its actual independence. That independence connotes also certain conditions, conditions which, it seems to me, have been accepted in principle from the first by reasonable and 466 educated opinion in Egypt, and on which we have no option but to insist.
It would not be possible within the few moments during which I shall venture to detain the Committee to go into all the antecedents, the events, which led up to the Declaration of 1922, but I really think that in order to have a clear conception of what has recently taken place, and of the reasons why the Government could not act otherwise than they have done, it is a little necessary to look back at the sequence of events there and of our experience. After the rejection in 1887 of our attempt to negotiate an understanding with Turkey by which we should have evacuated Egypt in three years, there was a long period of drift in that country in which our energies were almost exclusively devoted to material development, a development which, unfortunately, and especially after the retirement of the late Lord Cromer, entailed a very large increase in the number of British and foreign officials in that country. Under the educational system then in force in Egypt, there was not a sufficient number of young Egyptians trained to higher studies who were competent to take on very responsible work. On the other hand, with a population more than 90 per cent. of which remained illiterate, there was growing up in the country an ever increasing group of what I might describe as second-class clerks, for whom there was little or no prospect of getting employment. That group grew up owing to the ambition of the small farmer, when he became prosperous and when his security from oppression was guaranteed, to pass his sons into a new condition of life in which they would wear Western clothes instead of the traditional Galabeeah of the country. I think we cannot altogether escape from a certain responsibility, owing to the educational policy which was then in force, which was starved in the higher grades and which really never took any proper pains to consider the moral and social training of the young Egyptian, for having contributed to creating a class for which there was no other occupation available than that of political agitator and propagandist. We have, however, to recognise the fact that such a class exists in Egypt and that in recent years, owing to the use which has been made of them, there have been a long series of regrettable aggressions 467 and acts of violence. I feel convinced, from my knowledge of Egypt, that it would be very premature, very dangerous, to weaken in any way the powers which now exist for controlling and repressing such acts of violence.
If we pursue a little further the sequence of events in that country, we shall see how these things have followed on political events with a certain regularity. When it was found impossible, here to give due consideration to the representations that were put forward by the Egyptian Ministers immediately after the close of the Great War, during which Egypt suffered many privations and disabilities with commendable patience, a situation arose in Egypt which led in a comparatively short time to the deplorable events of 1919. Had it been possible for the Commission which went out to investigate them to start immediately after order had been re-established, I think a settlement would have been comparatively easy to find, but six or more months had elapsed, and a reaction had set in. The special mission on which I accompanied Lord. Milner was eventually successful in restoring a condition of confidence to the Egyptian people. Again, I think if it had been possible to accept their proposals forthwith, a settlement of the whole question would have been easily arrived at. We realised there that it was quite impossible to return to former conditions, as has been suggested from the other side to-day. A great change had come over the spirit of the world at the end of the War, and it was perfectly obvious that with a country with which we were so intimately associated as Egypt, new links would have to be formed in the chain in order to stand a strain which had hitherto never been encountered.
At that time, however, our proposals appeared too drastic, though we have come round to them since. But they had the effect that the Moderate Party in Egypt regained the ascendancy. This, however, had also this very unfortunate counterpart in the fact that the extremists, seeing the re-establishment of moderate opinion in Egypt, engaged in acts of violence in Alexandria, and in the following months we witnessed a series of deplorable aggressions against British officers and British officials in Egypt. 468 Under the condition of things brought about, any Government in Egypt practically became impossible. Government in Egypt is only possible with the cooperation of the Egyptians. When that co-operation failed the nigh Commissioner was obliged to admit that he could no longer control the situation and that paralysis had taken place in the administration of Egypt itself. He was able, fortunately, more fortunately than we were, to convince the Government that the Egyptian and British standards might be adjusted.
The result was the Declaration of 1922, with the points therein reserved for future consideration. I welcomed that Declaration because it seemed to me that thence-forward, for the first time, we really had a definite policy in Egypt. I feel that we have been looking at things a little bit from the point of view that institutions in Egypt are very much the same as they are in this country. A Legislative Assembly which has barely come into existence, which is filled with elements entirely unaccustomed to political life, is apt to play curious pranks, sometimes, and even Egyptian Ministers, as we have known in the old days, though acting with the very best intentions in the world, were sometimes very ready to embark on legislation which would have led them into the most desperate shoals had there not been some guiding hand to steer the barque through the central channel. In those circumstances, I do not believe it would have been possible for us to take any other step than that which has been taken until some definite adjustment is made. This has always been open to the Egyptian Government—it has been open to them during the last four or five years. Until that adjustment is made it is impossible for us to budge from the position we have adopted. On the other hand, it is equally impossible for us to renounce any measures calculated to prevent that adjustment being attempted with prejudice to our interests.
Knowing Egypt and the Egyptian people well, and having shown them—and many Egyptians have thanked me for it—that I was able to sympathise with their aspirations as a young people when, after many centuries of oppression and repression, they at length achieved national consciousness, I can only say once more than we must he watchful of what is done in their Legis- 469 lative Assembly, and that we cannot permit the introduction of any legislation which would be obviously dangerous, not only to our own people and their property in Egypt, but to the lives and property of foreigners whom we had actually undertaken to safeguard during the Protectorate. We are under definite obligations to safeguard their property, and we must consider that as one of the most sacred obligations in Egypt. We cannot permit any legislation to be introduced there which would render the protection of foreigners little better—I do not wish to use a sarcastic word, and I will say, little better than something written on paper which could never be put into force.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I count it a privilege to be the first to have an opportunity of congratulating my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir Rennell Rodd) upon his maiden speech in this House. He has won distinction already in many spheres, and after listening to his speech I am sure we all feel that he will be able to make a really serious contribution to the discussions in this House upon matters of very great importance. I congratulate the Foreign Secretary upon his speech, and I am also going to congratulate him upon having so very little to answer. I listened very carefully to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition order to find out the basis of his criticism, and the impression left on my mind was that, as far as the Debate was concerned if the Leader of the Opposition had been in the position of the Foreign Secretary he would have done exactly the same thing, and he could have done nothing else. I do not know that I can say very much more—
§ Whereupon the Gentleman, Usher of the Black Rod being come with a Message, the Chairman left the Chair.
§ Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.