HC Deb 28 February 1929 vol 225 cc2270-330

I beg to move, to leave out form the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words: this House considers that national security, and therefore international peace, can only be assured by international agreement for a substantial all-round reduction in military forces, and accordingly urges His Majesty's Government to put forward and support proposals at the preparatory commission for the Disarmament Conference at Geneva for the drastic reduction of personnel, and for the limitation both of military expenditure and of material. The Minister for War has told us that there is to be a slight reduction in the expenditure on the Army for the current year. I suppose we must be thankful for small mercies, but after all that reduction is altogether meagre and inadequate, and, if the present rate of progress be maintained, it will take something like 50 years to bring the Estimates down to what we consider is a reasonable figure. It is not my intention to discuss the Army Estimates in detail, because I have always contended that in the end the amount of money spent upon armaments is dependent on other factors. Those points have already been discussed by others, and I want to approach this question rather from the point of view of economy and peace.

May I associate myself with the expressions of opinion which have come from all parts of the House that the method of discussing these Votes is altogether unsatisfactory. I think it is very unfair that the three essential parts of our military and defensive services should be kept in watertight compartments. How is it possible for this House to discuss adequately and intelligently Army Estimates apart from their relationship to tile Navy Estimates and the Air Estimates? I hope in response to the general feeling, which has not been confined to any one party in this House, that in future it may be possible to have a general discussion upon the whole of our defensive services without being restricted in this way to one arm of the services.

The resolution which I have moved affirms two or three things. In the first place, it affirms in simple terms that national security, and therefore world peace, cannot be secured by any increase in armaments not even by maintaining armaments at their present level, but only by a drastic reduction in armaments.

In the second place, this Motion affirms that the best method of securing a drastic reduction is by a general agreement among the various countries and the various Governments. In the third place, my proposal suggests by implication that in the opinion of this House the Government have not been as diligent, zealous, earnest, and sincere in their efforts to secure disarmament as they might have been, and as some of us think that they ought to have been.

This disarmament problem is by no means a new one. The records of this House will prove that again and again the question of securing the seduction and limitation of armaments by agreement has cropped up. On the whole, those attempts have not been very fruitful, and yet there are one or two instances where beneficial and fruitful results have accrued. One might use as an illustration the striking example of disarmament by agreement or arrangement by which 3,000 miles of frontier between Canada and the United States of America were demilitarised in 1818 by agreement and mutual understanding. Another instance is that of the frontier between Norway and Sweden which was neutralised by agreement in 1905. One would have thought that the fruitful results which have accrued in those cases by mutual understanding and agreement would have resulted in further and more determined efforts being made in that direction. Although this problem was discussed in this House before the War, since the War it has assumed a new importance and a new significance.

I want for a moment or two to prove that, for reasons of honour and reasons of security itself, this country is under an obligation to secure drastic disarmament by agreement. First of all, I will deal with the obligation of honour. We are pledged to secure disarmament. We are pledged to do so by the terms of the Armistice which was based upon President Wilson's 14 points. The fourth of those points was: Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will he reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety. Then, under the Covenant of the League of Nations, Article VIII, we are pledged in the following terms: That the maintenance of peace requires the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations. We are also pledged in the Peace Treaties. Before signing the Peace Treaties, the German delegation declared that they were prepared to agree to the basic idea of the Army, Navy and Air Regulations…provided that this is a beginning of a general reduction in armaments. The reply of the Allies to that declaration was: To make it clear that their requirements in regard to German armaments were not made solely with the object of rendering it impossible to resume her policy of military aggression. They are also the first step towards the reduction and limitation of armaments which they seek to bring about as one of the most fruitful preventives of war, and which it will be one of the first duties of the League of Nations to promote. Now I come to the Disarmament Chapter of the Treaty of Versailles, which opens with the declaration that: In order to render possible the initiation of a general limitation of armaments of all nations (Germany) undertakes strictly to observe the military, naval and air clauses. Next I come to the Locarno Treaties, in which we promise to give sincere co-operation to the work relating to disarmament already undertaken by the League of Nations, and to seek the realisation thereof in a general agreement. Lastly, I come to the Pact of Paris in which war as an instrument of international policy is repudiated without any qualification, and in which we have promised without any reservation or equivocation to seek a peaceful solution for differences of whatever nature or origin. The other day in this House there was intense feeling and excitement which almost resulted in the overthrow of the Government on the question of the pledged word and of honour. I submit that the Government and this nation through the Government is pledged by its word of honour to seek in every possible way to secure drastic disarmament by agreement. Our complaint is that so far that pledge has not been honoured, and the Government have not taken the trouble or shown any zeal or earnestness to fulfil that solemn pledge.

The reason why we are putting forward this Amendment is because up to the present we have had conferences which have been largely futile, and we have had commissions which have failed to agree. We have had a number of Pacts and Treaties the value of which are largely hypothetical, but we have had no real advance towards disarmament and we are no nearer achieving our object today than we were seven, eight or nine years ago. Our indictment against the Government is that it has not pursued that policy with the earnestness and zeal that it ought to have done. In the second place, we say that there is an obligation resting upon the Government to pursue the policy of disarmament because of the appalling burden which it places on the backs of the people. The Financial Secretary has tried to show that we have made considerable reductions in the expenditure on the Army, and I think I am right in saying that he told us that there was a reduction in the Army Estimates this year of something like 11 per cent. as compared with the 1913–14 Estimates. I do not dispute that statement, although I think it could be proved without any exaggeration that at the present time, after making every allowance for the increased cost of living, the amount of money now spent on the Army is about the same as it was in 1913–14. I would ask the hon. Member, is he satisfied with that rate of progress?

Since 1914, we have fought a great war to end war; we have lost a million British soldiers; nearly 2,000,000 men have been maimed; we have spent a colossal sum—thousands of millions—upon a great war. Thousands of men went into that war and laid dawn their lives, loathing war or hating war, because they really believed that it was a war to end war, and I cannot understand the mentality, I cannot understand the moral position of anyone who gets up in this House, after all that this country has passed through, and takes pride in the fact that we are simply standing in 1929 where we stood in 1914, after the enormous sacrifices we have made to make a warless world and create a condition of affairs which ought to he a wonderful improvement upon the old days. I submit to the hon. Member opposite, I submit to the Secretary of State for War and to the Government, that the only way in which we can pay our debt to the dead is to pay it to the living, by creating a world of that character for which a large proportion of those million men who died gave up their lives. The greatest indictment that can be made against the present Government is that they can stand up in 1929 and take pride in the fact that they are only spending as much money as was being spent in 1914, after the tragedy and horror that we have gone through in order to try to crush militarism and create a saner international order than that which existed when war broke out.

Dealing with the question of money, I think I shall be in order in referring to one particular expense which everyone who reflects upon it seriously would like to see ended at once, namely the expense incurred by maintaining an Army of Occupation in the Rhineland to-day. I was in Germany not many weeks ago, and I had opportunities of discussing various matters with some of the most representative public men and statesmen in that country; and the point that they put to me again and again was that the only thing which gave a semblance of popularity to the militarists in Germany, who are in a hopeless minority, was the presence of foreign troops upon their soil and the failure of the Allied Powers to fulfil their obligations with regard to arriving at a satisfactory disarmament policy. I feel that the money spent in maintaining that army there is not, only wasteful and useless but is creating a vast amount of irritation which must be destructive of good will and must prevent the spread of peace in Europe.

We are under an obligation to urge forward drastic disarmament on the ground of security itself. Armaments can never give security. The more armaments you have, the less security you have. This failure to reduce armaments is not giving this country greater security, but is really weakening our security. The old policy of "If you want peace, prepare for war," is a played-out policy. If you want peace, you must prepare for peace. It, is far more important that we should prepare for peace than that we should prepare for war, because, as the right hon. Gentleman the leader of a party which has not a single representative here at the moment, but which claims to be a lover of peace, and will go about the country parading its love of peace—the right hon Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said, with regard to the last War, that no one really wanted it; they drifted into war. A nation can drift into war, but a nation can never drift into peace. You must prepare for peace. Peace must be based upon the solid foundation of good will, and competitive armaments are the negation of good will; in fact, they make good will impossible.

It is to me a tragic thing that at the present moment the countries of Europe are spending as much in one year upon armaments as would maintain the annual budget of the League of Nations for 600 years. That is the acid test. In preparation for war, the nations of Europe are spending in one year 600 times as much as they are spending upon the promotion of peace. I am not here to-day to say that absolute and total disarmament is possible at the present moment. Whatever may be our ideals in regard to that, we are face to face with the facts. But I do believe that, given the will, the determination and the desire, a much more drastic reduction of armaments could be secured at the present time. Because we believe that, and because we believe that the Government have not done what they might have done, we move this Amendment. If the Government, as they have claimed through the voice of the Secretary of State, do believe in this policy and are prepared to carry it out, it would be an act of good will on their part to come into the Lobby and support this Amendment, which, after all, lays down a policy which they themselves profess to be following. We are disappointed; we are dissatisfied; and, to register our protest and dissatisfaction, I have pleasure in moving the Amendment which stands in my name.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I should like, in the first place, sincerely to congratulate the Secretary of State for War on the very frank and clear statement that he made this afternoon. It is not often that we have so graphic and truthful a description of the state of affairs, and I think that, if the House were taken more frequently into the confidence of Ministers in this way, we should he likely to make more progress than we do. I was very much astonished, and also gratified, at some of the confessions that were made by the Secretary of State. He referred to the fact that the War Department were not securing the number of officers that they desired, and he gave, as the first and most important reason for that the disarmament Debates that had taken place, I suppose in this House and also in the country. No statement that the right hon. Gentleman could have made could be more gratifying to the forces that are standing for anti-militarism and what we call pacifism. I am sure it will give tremendous encouragement to the forces for peace throughout the country, and will also stimulate those Members of this House who for many years have been keenly pursuing this propaganda.

The right hon. Gentleman made a further statement with reference to the same subject, and I do not think it can have been very gratifying to many hon. Members of this House. He stated that promotion by merit was preventing the usual number of candidates from coming forward in the ordinary way, and he gave a guarantee that anyone who joined in the usual way should at any rate be assured of promotion as far as the rank of major. It seems to me that that is a very serious reflection upon the state of affairs, and is not very encouraging to the democracy of this country. The most interesting part, however, of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, was, in my view, that part in which he dealt with the question of mechanisation. It was during that part of his speech—


The hon. Member must confine himself to the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. Dunnico). He must not go into the whole administration of the War Office.


I thought that I was within the bounds of the Amendment. I wanted to deal with the question of mechanisation, because I want to deal with the question of the strength of our Army in relation to its total cost and its actual fighting power, which seems to me to be a vital question in this connection. The question with which I want to deal is the important question whether or not we have disarmed. This Amendment maintains that we have not disarmed sufficiently. The Secretary of State maintained that we had disarmed, and I want to deal with that aspect of his speech, which, I submit, is germane to this matter. He gave some figures, and said that he hoped that those who would be speaking to this Amendment would take cognisance of those figures and deal with them, and it is with that part of his speech that I want particularly to deal at the moment.

If we examine carefully the statement of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the development of armaments in other countries, I think we shall recognise that his figures are not really very germane to the matter that we have in hand. As has already been pointed out, we cannot deal adequately with this question of militarism unless we are permitted to take into account all of the three arms; that is to say, if we are making comparisons with other countries, we can only do so adequately if we take account of all their arms. Apart from that, however, it can be very well maintaine, that, owing to the change in the nature and composition of armies, and the secrets of their strength, we must come to the view that the amount of money that we spend upon our armies does not matter so much as it did in the old days. It may be that we are cutting down our expenditure a little year by year, but that does not mean that we are disarming. During the last few years, the total amount spent upon the Army has been reduced from £45,000,000 in 1924 to £40,000,000 in 1929. Of course, in the meantime, there has been a gradual fall in prices, which would account for the greater part of the decrease, but we must recognise that the Secretary of State in his speech this afternoon laid stress upon the question of mechanisation, and waxed eloquent in dealing with that subject.

8.0 p.m.

I am inclined to think that I should not be very far from the fact if I were to say that, as a result of the increased mechanisation during the last five years, the fighting power of the Army has increased by 100 per cent. I think that is not an unfair statement to make. Thus for the right hon. Gentleman to tell us that, as the result of reducing expenditure upon the effective force by 11 per cent. during the last five years, we have disarmed while other countries have not is entirely misrepresenting the situation.

Everything goes to show that the fighting strength of the Army is very much greater than it was last year and infinitely greater than it was three or four years ago, and, whatever may be the amount of money the country is spending in relation to other countries upon war, he distinctly said, in regard to the effectiveness of our Army and the progress in mechanisation, we could give a distinct lead to the whole world. I also notice that practically all the reductions in the Estimates this year are in regard to provisions and allowances in lieu, and the increasing expenditure is in regard to such matters as warlike stores, tanks, armoured cars, and so forth, and education, which also is part of the process of increasing the efficiency of the Army.

In these circumstances, we are led to ask: When is the idea of peace and disarmament going to come within the purview of our War Office? When, for example, is the League of Nations to be given a chance? It is quite obvious that the Minister believes our Army to-day is at the very minimum that we can afford to allow it to go. That is also the view of the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary. Last year, the Prime Minister, speaking in that important Debate upon the possibility of combining the three Services, made this statement: The Services exist, however, not for peace, but for war. That is their raison d'etre. It is quite true that our armaments to-day are maintained at the very minimum necessary to meet the obligations of our Empire. There will be few who would object to that statement. They are little more in the world to-day than a police, force."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th March, 1928; col. 1023, Vol. 215.] He went on to say they were just the machinery under which we can organise ourselves if there should be another war. We noticed in our newspapers to-day that the Home Secretary yesterday said: Until you have altered human nature you can never be certain against the risks of war. We have disarmed to the very limit. That appears to be the view of the Cabinet at the moment, and there is no prospect whatever that we shall have any substantial reduction in our armaments as long as the present Government exists. When are we going to face realities? Not one of us dare face the prospect of another war. We all say the next war must not take place, and yet here we are, each country sitting on a powder barrel, and through this fact alone we are preventing the League of Nations functioning. It cannot function, because, as soon as the bigger Powers come across any difficulty in their relationships, they refuse to allow the League of Nations to interfere, and they fall back upon their armaments and simply will not allow any outside interference. Under these conditions, there can be no real growth in peace; there can be no guarantee for peace, and there can be no effective working of the League of Nations. It is an ostrich policy, and it is the militarists, and not the anti-militarists, who are burying their heads in the sand. At almost any time it will be possible for a war situation to develop in almost exactly the same way that it did in 1914.

What happens is that we come across a very difficult situation, and, if the bigger Powers are involved, before many days have passed in any controversy that is taking place, we find fear is being stimulated and nerves are becoming taut. Before very long we find that someone is rather overstating the case, there are false rumours, and then we have mobilisation and counter-mobilisation, next we have the newspapers with paragraphs about national honour and so forth, and then in the excitement of the situation one nation puts a light to the powder barrel. Then we have the reign of Hell and, after that, the judgment. As a matter of fact, there is really nothing in the policy of this Government which can really save the world from such a situation as that, for the simple reason that the greater Powers are still relying upon their armaments and not upon the full effectiveness of the League of Nations.

In the quotation which I have just given, the Home Secretary referred to human nature. That arises in nearly all these discussions. We are constantly being told that we cannot do this or that because of human nature. As a matter of fact, if the Home Secretary had been Home Secretary 100 years ago he would have found a very different sort of human nature from that of to-day. People were sent to the gallows for about 70 different offences, and it was said at the time that they could not abolish hanging, human nature being what it was. That was the argument then. It is the argument to-day, and it has been the argument on this question ever since the days of the Garden of Eden. In the Garden of Eden there was the idealist and the pessimist. There were people who said "Man has now sinned, and he will sin for ever." Idealism crept in very soon afterwards, and it was said and believed that the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent's head. There were idealists and pessimists even among the cannibals. There were cannibals and anti-cannibals. The anti-cannibals said: "We must give up eating our enemies, and then our enemies will give up eating us." The cannibals said: "No, that will never do seeing that human nature is what is it. We must eat our enemies so that our enemies cannot eat us." That is the state of affairs in every crisis, and wherever any sort of advancement is sought to be made, and it has been so from the beginning of the world. It might germane to read what Mr. Mr. Benjamin Kidd, in his very remarkable book "The Science of Power," has to say on the matter: So far from civilisation being practically unchangeable only through influences operating slowly over long periods of time, the world can be changed in a brief space of time. In the lapse of a single generation it can undergo changes so profound, so revolutionary and so permanent that it will almost appear that human nature itself has been completely altered in the interval. That is a view which I should like the House to consider, and we shall discover that human nature to-day is ready for a big advance in regard to this question. The Minister of War a few days ago gave some statistics in regard to recruiting, and he had to make the confession that, so far at any rate, as London is concerned, during last year 71 per cent. of the recruits came from the ranks of the unemployed. That shows that there is no disposition in the minds of the community generally to join the Force, that there is a strong disbelief in war, that there is a strong belief growing in peace, and a desire that the instruments of peace shall be very greatly implemented in order that they may be made effective. I wonder what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had in mind when he made a speech recently in opening some institution in connection with the British Legion? He made this statement, referring to the use of the new premises that were to be opened: While you fight your battles in the new club house over again and dwell on the deeds that have been done, celebrate the triumphs which have been gained awl the deeds of prowess which adorn your annals, I trust you will continually resolve chat nothing like what happened in 1914 must ever darken the world again. Of course, that is a sentiment that we can all express. Nevertheless, when he is advising these men to see that this state of affairs does not recur, what means are at their disposal to see that it does not recur? There are only two, as far as I can see. One is to refuse to take, part again in war and the other is to use propaganda in various forms to see that we get a public opinion that is opposed to it.

I should like to emphasise the point raised by my hon. friend the Member for Consett (Mr. Dunnico), who moved the Amendment when he referred to the boundaries, for instance, between Canada and the United States and between Norway and Sweden, where a process of demilitarisation has taken place. Why cannot that process of demilitarization take place between all countries? We need not say that there is more affinity between Canada and the United States than between any other countries. As a matter of fact, recent events have proved that there has been more likelihood of war, or at least of the events that lead to war, between this country and the United States than between this country and any Eastern State. That only shows the possibilities of the outbreak of war, and yet they have overcame those conditions between Canada and the United States, and, if they can do it—and they are competitors in world markets—there is no reason why it cannot he done between any number of countries in the world. If there is to be advancement along the lines of peace, someone must take the initiative, and we on these benches believe that not nearly sufficient initiative is being taken by our own Government to see that these steps are taken whereby the League of Nations is really made effective, and it can only really be made effective by very drastic disarmament. We cannot expect other people to undergo the process of disarmament unless we do ourselves. We are not saying that our country is better or worse than other countries, but altogether we are leading, through this process of increased mechanisation—and one could elaborate upon other armaments as well—to a position where, if war breaks out, it certainly means the break up of our civilisation, and the only way to avoid that catastrophe is to develop the peace mind. We must develop the peace mince and we must adopt a different psychology, and we have to take our faith in both hands.

The Minister has told us that the amount spent upon armaments in Germany is increasing. That is a tragic fact, but the situation is being brought about by the fact that the other countries which were parties to the Treaty of Versailles have not disarmed. The result is that we are driving Germany into the vortex of armaments, and the likelihood is that before many years are past, unless there is serious and very important disarmament in the other countries of the world, we shall have Germany back into the old position, with the greater likelihood of war by adding one other industrial nation to the list of those which are developing huge armaments. Although we sent our forces to China, I for one was opposed to that process, because I believed that, as long as we were willing to give up the unequal treaties with China and the old Boxer Indemnity, there would be no more trouble in China. As a matter of fact, other nationals in China, far away from the protection of our own forces, were quite safe in that country. If we base our policy upon universal justice and preparedness to accept an outside tribunal for the settlement of our affairs, I maintain that there is no reason whatever why any nation should have any armaments at all.

The way is quite open for a drastic curtailment of armaments both in regard to this country and other countries. That is all that we are asking; that it shall be done internationally. But I believe that it is probable that ultimately we shall find that the only way to get that done will be by a drastic curtailment of our own armaments. That was the view of the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the War Office, who I am glad to see is going to reply on this question tonight. I know that he is personally sympathetic, and always has been, as far as my knowledge of his past goes. He has been very seriously concerned about this question of armaments.. I distinctly remember hearing him speak on this question soon after I came into this House, when he said that he did not think that they could achieve anything by disarmament agreements. He was in favour of this country taking the risk of disarming and setting an example to other countries. He also said: I believe that, both from the point of view of this country and from the point of view of the world at large, it would be a sane and a wise policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th March, 1927; col. 2267, Vol. 203.] That is, of course, disarmament by example. I do not think that he can say as far as the Estimates which have been given to the House today are concerned that that wish has been carried out. Although there has been a slight reduction in cost, the effectiveness of the British Army to-day is infinitely greater than it was before. Just as in the industrial world we are having increased mechanisation or rationalisation, and increased mass production, so the destructive power of our armaments is growing and growing beyond all conception. The country and mankind at large do not realise the extent to which our military power is growing as a result of the processes of mechanisation that are taking place. In my view, the great need today is simply one for greater trust in justice and a greater trust in humanity. I believe that the world is ripe for that trust, and that the nation that has the courage to manifest it will be the leader of future civilisation and will be regarded in days to come as being the saviour of the race.


In rising to support this Amendment. I want especially to draw attention to the second part of it, namely, that we want to support proposals at the Preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference at Geneva for the drastic reduction of personnel and for the limitation both of military expenditure and of material. It is a very opportune time to introduce an Amendment of this character. The Financial Secretary to the War Office will remember that questions have been put to his chief on two or three occasions since the month of August last as to what effect the signing of the Kellogg Pact was going to have on His Majesty's Estimates for the Army for the current year. On the last occasion when we spoke on this matter and questioned him, he would not give us any answer, but said that he would make his answer on this very important matter in due course. That moment has arrived today. In the Kellogg Pact, which was signed by His Majesty's Government, the nations have undertaken to settle all disputes of whatever character or of whatever origin by pacific means. There is no reservation whatever about the matter. The practical answer of His Majesty's Government, so far as the War Office is concerned, is that they are not prepared to reduce their Estimates by one penny piece. I think the Financial Secretary will agree that if no Pact had been signed in August of last year we should have had exactly the same Estimates submitted to the House this afternoon. The little details of reduction do not concern anything in principle at all. They are upon such matters which do not affect this major proposition. His Majesty's Government have entered into an agreement to contract out of all war, and in practice they do not find it advisable to reduce their war Estimates by a penny piece. The Financial Secretary knows, in handling the Estimates which we are discussing this evening, and realising their historical aspect that there is no change whatever in the attitude of mind of His Majesty's Government towards the principle of peace.

The figures which have been quoted at that Box this afternoon imply that no League of Nations exists, that we have not contracted out of war to the extent which we ought to have done under the Covenant of the League of Nations, that we have not entered into the Pact of Locarno: and they show perfectly plainly with historical precision that in practice, when it comes to actual facts, His Majesty's Government are doing to-clay precisely what they did before the Great War broke out, and precisely what they did before the Boer War broke out. The figures in relation to the Army show that in this country in 1898 we were spending a little more than £23,000,000. In the intervening period of peace between the Boer War and the World War, we stabilised our expenditure on the Army round a figure of £32,000,000. In 1913–14 the figure was £32.9, nearly £33,000,000, The Minister said at that Box this afternoon that he proposes to spend £40,500,000 during the current year. Making all allowance, therefore, for the diminished value of money, we can see that in substance we are exactly where we were, that is, ruling out of account the vital new Air Service which has developed since the War. As far as this one arm goes, we are to-day as a nation doing exactly the same kind of things with relatively the same amount of expenditure we were doing before the Boer War, and before the World War. We are behaving just as if the League of Nations does not exist, just as if we had not entered into any commitments or obligations or covenants; just as it we had learned literally nothing from some of the most heartrending experiences that the world has ever been called upon to endure.

I want to be very precise in the few suggestions that I have to make to the Financial Secretary. I desire to discuss with him whether he cannot make better representations to the Preparatory Commission, next April, on this issue. He may reply, with real justice, that from the point of view of His Majesty's Government making serious recommendations for international reduction of armaments to the Preparatory Commission of the League of Nations, the War Office is easily the minor of the three Service Departments; that the War Department does not need to worry much about the Preparatory Commission at Geneva until the Naval Department has shown its hand, and until the new Air Department has made its declaration for, on balance, the War Department occupies the best of the three positions, and gives, relatively, the best of the three examples to the world.

I can imagine the Financial Secretary saying that it is not relatively of great importance that we as a nation should make any specific recommendations for all-round reduction of land forces, and that our great contribution as a nation is to make recommendations in regard to navies. I accept that position, but I would point out to the Financial Secretary that just because our contribution towards general disarmament will be relatively less in respect of land forces, then precisely we are more detached and we ought to give a more careful and more precise contribution. We are not so much involved in land arms. For us the question is, relatively, the least important. It ought, therefore, for that reason to be possible for us to make the most far-reaching contributions in the way of suggestions and proposals to the Preparatory Commission at Geneva. The Financial Secretary will recollect the one proposal that we made, as a Government, to the Preparatory Commission. Our proposal and the French proposal are still the only proposals in the field for serious discussion.

Let us consider the British proposal in respect of land force armaments. The only substantial proposal that was put forward by our representative, 18 months ago, was that we were prepared as a nation, in agreement with other nations, to limit the number of effectives—the number of our troops who were actually serving in the Army. There were two subsidiary proposals dealing with the proportion of officers to men in the Regular Army and also affecting what are described technically as warrant officers and sergeants. The major proposition was that we would enter into an international agreement, for the restriction and limitation of the number of troops actually serving in the Army. In the matter of Reserves, we gave a certain amount of qualified support, hut we have withdrawn from that position in the recent Anglo-French understanding. T do not know where we are now, hut it is a matter of the greatest importance from the point of view of Army disarmament that that position has developed since the original proposal was put forward by His Majesty's Government.

Does the Financial Secretary conceive that a proposal of that kind, coming from the most important member of the League of Nations, coming from His Majesty's Government, restricted to a, one-point programme of limitation in the number of troops, without any hard and fast bearing on the matter of conscription, without any hard and fast bearing on the reserves of troops outside the Regular Army, is really a serious and worthy contribution on the part of His Majesty's Government? The Financial Secretary has heard the speech of his chief to-day. The Secretary of State for War has not been very much concerned about the num- ber of troops in the British Army. He has been overwhelmingly concerned, and I understood him to be as happy as a sandboy, because of what he called the mechanisation of the British Army. He knows that the Germany Army of 1914 did not cut its way through Belgium like a grocer cutting through cheese, and did not get within a stone's-throw of the gates of Paris, because it had 1,000,000 or 2,000,000 troops, but because of its precise mechanisation; because of the marvellous technical equipment which each soldier had to his hand. It was precisely for that reason that, when we came to disarm Germany in 1919, whilst we paid considerable attention to the number of troops in the German army of the future, we paid at least as much attention to the question of the kind of technique which that reduced army would have at its disposal.

I suggest to the Financial Secretary that the late Sir Henry Wilson and Marshal Foch, who were set apart to take charge of that great and distinguished body which worked out the disarmament proposals for the Germany army in 1919, knew very well what they were about. If Sir Henry Wilson had brought a proposal to Paris, saying: "We shall be quite content if Germany has an army of 100,000 men. They can use the same kind of cannon that they used in 1914. They may have unlimited opportunity to develop and improve, and they can use all the new types of armoured cars that come along. They can develop tanks to their heart's desire." If he had put that proposal forward, they would have said: "If you are limiting us to a choice of evils, let the Germans have 1,000,000 men, but keep the proposals for control over mechanisation and technique." They did, in fact, say that. If the Financial Secretary wants to make a proposition that is really serious from the point of view of influencing international opinion in regard to land disarmament, he must pay attention to the neglected factor in the first proposal that His Majesty's Government put before the Preparatory Commission.

In respect of rifles, carbines, howitzers, machine guns, trench mortars and field guns, the German Army was very precisely regulated in respect of number. The German Army cannot use a gun more than four inches in size. To-day, the hon. Member for Southend (Countess of Iveagh) referred to the 16-inch guns which disturb the sleep and injure the health of His Majesty's subjects at Southend-on-Sea. The German limitation is to four-inch guns. The German Army is not permitted to have a single tank. The Secretary of State for War to-day gloried in the fact that we were leading the world by the Royal Tank Corps at the present time. The late Sir Henry Wilson and Marshal Foch, with that great and distinguished group of soldiers, after months of labour worked out the only scheme of land disarmament that the world possesses. They were not primarily concerned with inflicting humiliation upon a defeated enemy. Their primary concern was to prepare the way, as they said in their text, for the application of general disarmament. The overwhelming importance of what was done in 1919 does not lie in the fact that it was done to one particular power, at a particular time, to gratify certain subjective emotions. The overwhelming importance of this lies in the fact that this was the right product of the thinking of the best land experts in military matters the Allied Powers could produce and was devised as a preparatory instrument, a guide and a model, for other nations to adopt and apply in order that a general limitation and reduction of armaments might follow.

I feel specially happy in being able to talk with the Financial Secretary this afternoon. He is a member of the League of Nations Union. So am I. He has made pronouncements that even I, a Pacifist and a Socialist, would have hesitated to make in respect of this matter. I am pleading to-night that His Majesty's Government will implement the first and only proposal they have made before the Preparatory Commission in respect of land armaments, and I am suggesting that he should take into account the material side as well as the man power side of this problem. Of the two the material side is more vital and more significant than the man power side. Suppose the time comes when Germany says that she will not be bound any longer by the Disarmament Treaty; other Powers have violated it, it is never applied; and that she does not feel morally bound to keep it any longer. They will not be worried about getting a million men into the army. They will use exactly the same reasons which the right hon. Gentleman has used this afternoon. Germany will say that all she wants are highly trained men and a proportion of one officer to 15 men, or perhaps a little less. Germany will not be keen about man power, but she will be tremendously keen about a Royal Tank Corps, about armoured cars, about machines which run on six wheels, about the right to use 16-inch guns. These are the things about which she will be keen. The Army problem can be viewed by us as a nation with relatively philosophic calm. It is not an urgent and vital thing with us, it is a side line, and I beg the Financial Secretary to see if he cannot get away with a real League of Nations point of view and get something across which will put a practical drive into the question of land disarmament when we meet once more at Geneva.

I should like to say a word on the Question of Budget limitations. I was interested to hear the Secretary of State draw attention to the fact that the German Government had in known ways—of the unknown ways we cannot speak—increased her Army Estimates from £20,000,000 to £25,000,000 within the last four or five years. I suggest to the Financial Secretary that it ill becomes him or His Majesty's Government to raise any point of complaint. This £25,000,000 is £15,000,000 less than His Majesty's Government is proposing to spend this year, and Germany is a land power, not a water power as we are. In the second place, we are not giving them any encouragement to economise in the constricted army we have compelled them to keep. Their representatives at Geneva have been saying for the last three years that disarmament obligations are not being carried out. What is the greatest obstacle to the development of the League of Nations in Germany? What is the greatest hindrance to the peace workers there? What is the greatest problem that the Socialist party are up against in Germany? It is this; that their militarists, their die-hards, the true descendants of the late Kaiser, are flinging into the teeth of the best progressive men and women in Germany the taunt that other Powers are not in earnest, that this paper document on disarmament is merely paper, and will never be anything else; that the salvation of Germany in the future does not depend on the League of Nations, but on the power of her own right arm.

They are being advised all the time to keep a big Army and Navy and Air Service in such ways as are open to them, and it ill-becomes His Majesty's Conservative Government to start throwing stones at the increase in their military expenditure. If the Financial Secretary is really interested in checking the growth of German expenditure on armaments he can repair an omission of the 1919 situation, because it was one of the regrettable features of the endeavour to cope with the German situation that we did not introduce into the 1919 standard of German disarmament the principle of Budget limitation. If he is really in earnest in wanting to help Germany over this bad pass he might incorporate in the second draft proposals of His Majesty's Government this principle of Budgetary limitation.

In the last place the Financial Secretary might consider the relation of his Department to the development of education in the country. One of the Clauses in the 1919 standard of disarmament was that there should he no military training in the universities and educational institutions of Germany. I am not so blind to all manner of quasi illegal activities in Germany in this particular as to suggest that the universities in Germany have suddenly become the embodiment of pure education. I am not prepared to support the position that Germany through her educational institutions is bringing up a new generation of men and women in whom the war mind and war psychology is conspicuously absent. Not at all; but I suggest that the relation of his Department to the educational institutions of this country is a matter of considerable importance. The Secretary of State for War boasted this afternoon of the loyalty and devotion of the scientists of this country to his Department. He was boasting of the very great assistance that he was getting from the institutions of learning. I suggest that he might re-read the 1919 Treaty from the educational point of view, and see whether he cannot bring in a proposal in respect of education which might be of real service if it were generally applied and mutually agreed to.

This is the last time that we shall have an opportunity of addressing the Financial Secretary in his present capacity. This is the last chance that the Government will have of trying its hand in this matter. I have the impression that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs feels very humiliated because all the great moral and international value of Locarno has been dissipated. Even a man like Lord D'Abernon, who did more than any man living to get this thing done, has been crying out from the German journals that "Back to Locarno" is the only way to probity and international sense and goodwill. Since then we have had this Anglo-French business. We have had the breakdown of naval conversations with America. We have got the worst psychological relationship with the other Anglo-Saxon-speaking nation that we have ever had. I am not going to appeal and to plead, but I suggest that we are standing at a very critical juncture. We want, if we can, in the last three months of this Government's term of office, to prepare the way for the next Government. Therefore I ask the Financial Secretary, who will remain a member of the League of Nations Union when he ceases to be Financial Secretary, to take the long view and to decide whether between now and April he will not gather a little group of people together, and see if it is possible to make a fresh proposal for land disarmament—not the miserable thing that went out 18 months ago, but a solid and detailed contribution which will show that this nation really has learned something after being a member of the League for 10 years, arid after having signed Locarno three years ago and having willed war out of existence as recently as 19th August last.


My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War is absent for the moment, but I would like to congratulate him heartily on these Estimates, and on the reduction that he has been able to make. I followed the figures as carefully as possible—

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Dennis Herbert)

The hon. and gallant Member does not quite realise what is before the House. We are discussing an Amend- ment to the original Motion, and he must confine himself to the Amendment and to disarmament.


In the part of the Debate on disarmament that I followed it, struck me that many of the speeches of hon. Members opposite were out of touch with reality and failed to recognise that we have made very great reductions in armaments, while other nations have not made reductions at all pari passu with ourselves, but have very largely increased their expenditure. The last speaker used the argument that we on this side of the House have no right whatever to object to an increase in expenditure by Germany, because the amount that we spend on our Army is still £14,000,000 or £15.000,000 higher than that spent by Germany. It is remarkable how short-lived hon. Members' memories seem to be, how they fail to realise that it was the great German Army that was the menace in 1914, and that if we now take the precaution to keep an effective Army, that is the least we owe to those whom we have to defend. The point was also made that although our expenditure on armaments has been reduced, at the same time our Army is very much more efficient. It seems to me that the only excuse for having reduced expenditure is that you have made your small Army as efficient as possible. A point in our favour is that in reducing the number of our men and effectives, we have replaced them as far as possible by the greatest perfection of mechanical means. Clearly, if we should unfortunately be drawn into military operations again, we may be able to sacrifice tanks and mechanically-driven guns and thereby economise in human life.

It seems to me that a small and perfect mechanically-operated Army is the line on which we ought to proceed. I was glad to have an opportunity last summer, at the invitation of the Secretary of State, of going down to Tidworth, on Salisbury Plain, and seeing this mechanical army in operation. One of the hon. Members opposite objected to this mechanical army on the ground of its being so extremely ugly; I think "grim" was the word he used. I dare say that the Secretary of State may stretch a point the next time he has a demonstration and make arrangements to have mechanical engines covered with spots, which would entertain the hon. Member and give an idea that war is a charming and beautiful spectacle. But from our point of view war is a grim and horrible and devastating affair, and that fact should be generally recognised.


The hon. and gallant Gentleman is making an implied allegation that we on this side of the House know nothing about war. Some of us know a great deal more than the hon. and gallant Member.


I did not say that hen. Members knew nothing about war, but I am now dealing with their speeches, and one hon. Member opposite certainly did object to these engines of war on the ground that they are grim. We see no objection to these engines of war being as horrible as possible, because our intention is that our small Army should be effective and should act as a deterrent to anyone attacking us. On the educational side, those of us why saw the mechanical Army in operation could not fail to be impressed by the fact that a man to be a member of so highly efficient a mechanical army must be much more intensively educated and highly trained than has been customary hitherto in the armies of the world; in order to get the mechanical and engineering and technical knowledge that are required in a mechanical army, the modern soldier must be a much more highly educated being than was formerly the case, cannot help thinking that this highly technical army is providing men with a very valuable training, which will be of great use later when applied to scientific and commercial uses. Men will be able to play a more efficient part in the cogs of the industrial wheel later in life. It struck me as a curious thing, earlier in the Debate, that a plea for economy should have come from the hon. Member opposite—


I am afraid I must again remind the hon. and gallant. Member that he is going a considerable way outside the terms of the Amendment.


I am sorry, Sir. I wanted to ask the Secretary of State to arrange, if possible before the Dissolution for a visit of Members of the House to Chisledon. The hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Major Glyn) in his very interesting speech, has thrown out that suggestion and I hope that Members will have the opportunity of seeing the work which is being done there.


While in sympathy with the Amendment, I wish to point out that, in considering the question of armaments, we must remember that the size of our armaments depends upon the obligations which we are under, and upon our liabilities in regard to other nations with whom we have entered into agreements, and that, if we are going to reduce our armaments to any appreciable extent, we must change our policy. We have, for instance, entered into very serious military and naval obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations, especially Clauses 10 and 16. Those obligations must be met and supporters of the League of Nations must realise that they can only be met, if we are in such a position as regards our Army, our Navy and our Air Force, as will enable us if necessary to put an effective force on the Continent. We have also very serious obligations under the Treaty of Locarno and, for my part, I pointed out these circumstances when the Treaty was before the House. I do not think the country quite realises our position under the Treaty of Locarno. We are not only hound to fight with France against Germany, but we are also bound in certain eventualities to fight with Germany againt France. France is armed to the teeth, whereas Germany is practically disarmed, and, if a contingency arises, in which we have to defend Germany, we shall be fighting against a fully-armed France by the side of a disarmed Germany.


While I am all in favour of urging disarmament at Geneva and of reducing the expenditure on armaments in this country, I say frankly that I do not see how, in face of the obligations which I have just mentioned, we can do anything but trust to the naval, military and air policies of those responsible for those forces in this country. They know our obligations and we must ultimately rely on them just as we relied upon the naval authorities prior to 1914. It may be true that some economies can be effected here and there, but policy must in the end decide both the nature and extent of our armaments. I suggest to those who are in favour of the limitation of armaments that the first thing we have to do is to reconsider the whole of our foreign policy. For one hundred years our foreign policy was to have no obligations on the Continent. For one hundred years after the Franco-British wars in the early part of the last century, the policy of one party after another was to enter into no obligations or alliances on the Continent. If we want to get disarmament, if we want to get on better terms with America, our first duty is to reconsider the obligations into which we have entered under the Covenant and under the Treaty of Locarno.


We have heard two statements of Liberal doctrine on the question of war and disarmament tonight. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke earlier from the Liberal benches seemed to be pleading for a larger army and an effective striking force. The hon. Member who has just sat down seems to think that questions of policy should be left to the admirals and the generals.


I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to misrepresent me. I said that the question of principle should be decided by this House, but that we must leave, to the naval and military authorities, questions as to the character and size of armaments—not the principle.


I am glad to have that amendment of the hon. Member's statement. That is what we are asking the House to approve. We are asking the House to lay down a policy by which we shall work towards gradual disarmament in co-operation with other nations. One or two things have emerged during the Debate which show that we are travelling along a road which many hon. Members have long desired. Four years ago, on the Admiralty Estimates, I raised the question of considering the Estimates of all the armed forces under one heading —of having something in the nature of a Ministry of Defence. That view has been echoed from all sides of the House this afternoon. We are beginning to see that, if we are to get a fair view of our military and naval commitments, we must consider these matters as a whole and not in detached portions as we have been doing hitherto. One hopes before long we shall have reached that desired end.

Some disquieting things have come out in these Estimates, and they have a, direct bearing on the Amendment. It has been borne out that the general policy of the Government is resulting in revelations of weakness in regard to some aspects of recruiting. This affords yet another reason why we must give more intimate consideration to the question of disarmament. We are all concerned at the statement which we have heard about the standard of recruits and the fact that a sufficient number of recruits is not coming forward. That this circumstance is not wholly due to unemployment is borne out by the fact that economic stress has not driven people from the ranks of the unemployed into the Army. Probably they have not yet got over their experiences in the Great. War. Therefore it is fair to assume that the low physical standard of recruits must he represented of the general standard of the community. That is a very alarming revelation. It shows that in this respect we have deteriorated considerably in the last year or two. That must enter into our calculations in considering these matters. The Minister for War has put before us a statement that there is some reduction in the cost of the Army, and it is just as well to examine that a little more closely, to see how true that is. It only amounts to 1 per cent., and such reductions as there are are due to automatic reasons. We find that, so far as the cost for the striking arms is concerned, there is actually no decrease whatever.


The hon. Member must confine himself to the Amendment which is before the House at the moment.


I was submitting that there is no actual reduction in the armed forces, and that is part and parcel of the Amendment. In the statement put before us by the Minister, there is no reduction in the actual military forces in this country.


The Amendment calls for international agreement on disarmament.


But we have to carry out our part in that agreement. There will, however, be an opportunity later on to discuss the point to which I was referring. I hope I shall not be misunder- stood when I say that all of us, whether we be militarists or anti-militarists, are to a large extent barking up the wrong tree when we pay so much attention to the numbers of men enrolled in armies and navies. Nowadays our military strength will not be estimated so much by dockyards, arsenals, and aggregations of men as in the laboratories, workshops, and factories which, under modern conditions, are all of them potential sources for armament manufacture; and we have to take a very much wider view of the matter in that respect. Nevertheless, the outward and visible signs are the particular armed forces with which we are most familiar, and the ordinary man in the street is likely to be concerned with the actual cost. Therefore, I want to emphasise the point, made by one of my hon. Friends, that one of the most effective gestures we could make in this direction would be a budgetary reduction in respect of armaments.

I agree that we have no right to criticise the naval and military advisers of the Government with regard to this nation's commitments in the matter of armaments. They are only doing their duty when they advise Ministers in this matter, but the Ministers are concerned with policy, and have to face the music, and they must be held responsible. The position that this Amendment asks us to consider is that we ought to give a lead to the rest of the world to show the sincerity of our protestations of a desire for disarmament. Again and again we have been placed in the position—and particularly recently, with regard to the naval conversations—of laying ourselves open to the charge of insincerity. We have left the very worst possible impression in the world, notably in the United States, that we have only done what we have done because we had been driven to it, and I think that has placed us in an unfair position. I do not think there has been the desire on our part to act in that manner, but we have acted in such a way as to leave that impression on the world, and I hope the Government will consider that aspect of the matter.

Among the suggestions in the Amendment is one to the effect that we should support proposals at the Preparatory Commission for a reduction of armaments. There has been a number of Conferences. There was the Pact of Paris, which is probably better known as the Kellogg Pact, and our approach to that was such as to raise grave suspicions. Instead of raising hopes and generous sentiments on both sides of the Atlantic, we seem rather to have exacerbated feeling than otherwise. The Russian Government tabled proposals as to complete disarmament, and whether that was bluff or not, I am certain that we handled it in the worst possible manner. If it was bluff, it was our duty to have called the bluff; if it was not, we ought to have shown we were as willing to take such lines as any other nation in the world. Our moral position in the world would then have been as strong as possible, and we should have had the moral leadership of the world. I understand that the Russians are again proposing to place before the Preparatory Commission a revised proposal, modifying very considerably the suggestions which they formerly made—I think, to the extent of about 50 per cent. Surely, without standing too precisely on any question of punctilio, we should be placing ourselves in a very strong position if we decided to back any such suggestion as that.

We are under a moral obligation under the Peace Treaty. The disarmament of Germany, it was laid ther down, was to be a prelude to the other nations taking similar steps at the earliest possible moment, but instead of that, the Treaty seems to have been used as a means of keeping that country in subjection and of embittering feeling there, at a time when they have more kindly sentiments towards us than towards any other nation in the world. Instead of giving a lead to the rest of the world, we seem to have been dragged at the heels of other nations, which seem to have been intent on humiliating that great country. Surely we would do well to withdraw our troops from the Rhine. I know the answer will be made that probably other nations would he left in occupation, but we owe a duty to ourselves in this matter, and it seems to me that, if we did that, we should have the moral support of the world and that no other nation could continue there long if we gave this direct lead by withdrawing our troops, as a gesture that we were in earnest in seeking peace.

I ask the Government if they will consider this Amendment as being meant in earnest, and not sweep it aside as a mere idealistic motion with no practical application to present-day politics in the world. Sooner or later we shall be driven to it. In regard to what the hon. and gallant Member for Norwich (Captain Fairfax) said just now, that sort of thing leads one to despair that, after all that we have gone through, we should still stick to the old doctrines that the way to prepare for peace is to prepare for war. That sort of thing is surely played out, and so far from talking about us being out of touch with actual affairs, it seems to me that the hon. and gallant Member is rather out of touch with the change that is going on in world aspirations. We cannot afford another war. It would simply bring our Western civilisation crashing down in ruins. The rest of the world are looking upon us with cynical eyes, because of the position we are taking. Three or four years ago, before the trouble broke out in China, I was the guest of the Kuomintang at dinner in London, and I was much disturbed, not to say alarmed, when the chairman of the party, a distinguished Chinaman, made this curious remark in conversation. He said: "China must become a Christian nation because Christians believe in force, and that is the only thing that counts in this world." It is an alarming thing if that is the way in which these people look upon our profession of Christianity and all that it means. Nothing could be more disastrous to the peace of the world than that a great nation like China should turn to those methods and weapons which Western nations have used to maintain their position. It is bound to be clone if we pursue the line of policy which we have adopted hitherto.

There is nothing revolutionary in the Amendment, and nothing to which hon. Members cannot agree. We are asking them to take steps as far as they can to get other nations to agree at the next Preparatory Commission to discuss the question of disarmament and to see whether we cannot agree to drastic reductions by mutual agreement. If the Government can go to Geneva armed with the authority of Parliament, they will do something more to revolutionise the aspect of the world with regard to war, and do more to outlaw it than all the resolutions and the peace pacts and the treaties that have been drawn up during the last 10 or 20 years.


The Debate has only occasionally really touched the Army Estimates. Hon. Members opposite have gone into the general question of disarmament, and dealt at some length with questions which are really questions of foreign affairs. I should not be in order if I were to answer all the points that they have raised, or deal with all the arguments which they have put forward, nor am I, as Financial Secretary to the War Office, in a position where I can possibly assume responsibility or give any opinion on general policy in connection with the agreement at Geneva or with disarmament. With much that I have heard from hon. Members opposite, such as the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. Dunnico) and the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. Wellock), I entirely agree. I have often said much the tame thing myself, and on the general question of disarmament I believe that there is very little difference of opinion in the House. Where we differ from hon. Members opposite is whether this Government have done as much as lay in their power to pursue a policy of general disarmament. It is our opinion and it is certainly my opinion, that we have done everything that was possible and that we have spared no effort. Our efforts have not always been crowned with success, but they have always been sincere and unrelaxing in the pursuit of the policy of peace.

I cannot this evening go into all the efforts which we have made in that direction. I cannot revive the history of the peace conferences during the last two or three years; I cannot deal with the suggestions that we have put forward at Geneva, or with the—unfortunate as it turned out—agreement to which we came with France; but that also was a genuine and well-intentioned effort in pursuit of the cause of peace. Hon. Members ought to have tried to show where the present size of our Army is a menace to peace, and where we could seriously assist the cause of peace by reducing the Estimates very considerably. That is the point which we are debating this evening, and it is with such arguments as have been put forward upon that point that I am in a position to deal. The Secretary of State, in his opening speech, gave what is our main justification for not reducing more than we have clone this year our expenditure upon the Army, and showed that every other nation has recently increased their expenditure upon their Armies. In the subsequent Debate, reference has only been made by hon. Members opposite to the fact that Germany has increased her Army, and that we have no right to complain of such an increase. We do not complain. We are only pointing to the fact that we have the United States and every nation in Europe to-day increasing their forces. We are reducing, and therefore we maintain that we are not open to criticism with regard to that particular department.

The hon. Member for Consett, much of whose speech was of a general character, good as it was, and bore little relation to the actual Debate, laid great stress upon the fact that our Army was practically as large, or that we were spending practically as much upon it as before the Great War. He said that that in itself was an admission of how little we had done and how entirely fruitless our efforts had been to cut down armaments. I do not admit that he is right, but, even if we were spending as much, the Army that we had in 1914 was not an Army that threatened the peace of the world; it was not an Army with which we had prepared for a great war; it was merely prepared for an emergency. It was not an Army with which we ever contemplated fighting the Powers of Europe.


Has the hon. Gentleman read the publications of the Foreign Office on that point?


I have read those publications. We were aware that the Army might be used in a subsidiary position to help any of the great Powers, but we did not intend the Army to be a menace to the peace of the world. When the German Kaiser described it as a "contemptible little Army"—


He never did.


What he said was mistranslated.


He never used the expression at all.


I understand that he used a word meaning that it was an Army with which the German Army need not be concerned. That would have been a sensible expression to use of the British Army in comparison with the German, French, Austrian, or Russian Armies. It was an Army which did not deserve consideration and which was not going to win the War. We know that that Army of 250,000 rapidly became an Army ultimately of 4,000,000, but the Army of 1914 was not a menace to the peace of the world. The Government of which the hon. Member was a supporter, were not a bellicose Government; some people thought that they were not bellicose enough. They certainly were not preparing an Army to fight a European War, for they did not want one. They kept an Army sufficient to enable the Empire to fulfil the responsibilities which lay upon any Government of the Empire. These responsibilities have not diminished as a result of the defeat of the Germans; on the contrary, our responsibilities have increased.

Hon. Members opposite made a great deal out of the fact that we signed last autumn in Paris a pact whereby we renounced war, and they asked why that does not induce us to diminish the Army now that we do not intend to go to war. There is no reason why there should be any change in the size of the Army. We had no intention of going to war before we signed the pact. The pact has not changed our policy; it has merely emphasised it, and made plain what our policy has always been. When the present Chancellor of the Duchy e Lancaster signed the pact, he did not telegraph: "Pact signed, policy changed, cut down Army and Navy." The policy of this Government, our foreign policy, remains the same pacific policy that it has always been. I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. Dunnico) put forward the very heavy burden of taxation on the people as one of the reasons why we should reduce the Army. I thought that his party considered taxation was no burden. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer has recently been trying to persuade us that, taxation is rather a benefit, and, at any rate, he has pledged himself to increase it as soon as he has the power.

Several hon. Members opposite have referred to the possibilities of withdrawing our troops from the Rhine. That, again, is a question really of foreign affairs, on which I am not competent to offer any view here. One hon. Member opposite said that many of his friends in Germany had told him what a difference it would make if only we would do that, but I feel pretty confident in saying that his friends in Germany did not tell him that they would be pleased if we withdrew, leaving the French, who would probably occupy the territory which we now occupy. It is not for me to enter into foreign affairs, but everybody knows, from the declarations which have been made in the House, that the Government are fully alive to the desirability of withdrawing our troops, and that we agreed at Geneva last: September to enter into the question with the French, German and other people concerned, and to see whether any agreement could be come to whereby the troops could be withdrawn as soon as possible.


Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that subject, may I ask him a question which has been agitating the minds of some of us for a long time? Did the War Office make any representations to the Foreign Office as to the desirability of our troops participating in the manoeuvres with the French troops over German territory?


That question has been answered in the House before. We had only one regiment of cavalry on the Rhine and the only opportunity that there was for training was with the French.


In order to be quite clear on this, may I ask, was the Foreign Office or the War Office responsible for the decision?


As far as I am aware, it was the War Office, but that has nothing to do with the present discussion. The hon. Member for Penistone, with much of whose speech I agree, asked me to try to influence in some way proposals which the Government put forward next time Geneva was discussing disarmament. I am not in a position to promise to undertake to exercise any influence of the kind on the Government. Such suggestions deserve serious con- sideration, but His Majesty's Government must be guided when they put forward such proposals, not entirely by what would be convenient to them or what they themselves would be prepared to do, but by whether such proposals would be likely to command any general measure of assent from the principal Powers participating in the conference. Only so could any such suggestion have any real value.

As far as this Debate and our present Army are concerned, what proposals could the Government make at Geneva that would carry any weight at all? Does the hon. Member think that if we went to Geneva and said we were going to cut down our Army by half, anybody would be pleased? It would have not the slightest effect on the feelings of European nations, because no European nation to-day goes in fear of our Army or thinks we are suddenly going to launch an offensive against it. Our Army is not a menace to the world, and nobody is afraid. If we offered to cut it down by one-half, our allies and best friends in Europe would be slightly alarmed, and nobody else would take any notice. The argument has been made by hon. Members that we have increased the fighting power of the Army. That is so. They say that we are justified in saying the Army may be no larger than is wanted, but that with all these mechanical inventions, and tanks and various new appliances, it has twice the fighting power which it had before. That is true, but it applies equally to every other army.


Except four.


It stands in the same percentage as it did before with regard to other armies. It is no reproach to us that we should be proud of having attained a higher pitch of efficiency in these particular inventions than other nations. The hon. Member waxed almost angry when he taunted my right hon. Friend with having said with pride that we led the world in this particular department of tanks. I noticed when my right hon. Friend made the remark there was ironical laughter from the Opposition benches. Would hon. Gentlemen rather that my right hon. Friend should come down and say, that while we are still obliged to keep an Army—and every hon. Member who has spoken has agreed with that—nevertheless the House would be pleased to hear it was very bad and inefficient and that we were far behind everybody else, and that our tanks were the worst in the world? Would that please hon. Members?


I do not think the hon. Gentleman is addressing himself seriously to the argument which I put. It was that the late Sir Henry Wilson and Marshal Foch worked out a careful scheme for the disarmament of the German Army and three other armies. What I ask is whether it is not worth while, in order to implement the work of general disarmament, that some attention should be paid to these facts and in particular with regard to tanks and mechanisation?


The other argument which the hon. Gentleman put forward is a very much better one, but he did taunt the Secretary of State with having said that we led the world in tanks as though it was something of which to be ashamed, instead of something of which he might be very justly proud.

With regard to the more serious argument that this increased efficiency of the Army would justify a reduction of numbers, there is something in that argument, but there is a difficulty from the point of view of this country, namely, that our obligations and responsibilities are not confined to one place or one country. We have not got to have our Army the best Army we can possibly make it in order to enter into a war in Europe in a few years' time. We have got to have sufficient forces always at our command to deal with any situation which may arise in any part of the widely scattered Empire for which we are responsible. We are responsible in every continent. At the present time we are responsible and have to keep troops to defend the lives of our people in China. Similarly, we, might be called upon to send troops to India or to Africa, North or South, or to almost any part of the inhabited world. It does not matter that your fighting force is more efficient or capable of destroying a concentrated enemy if at the same time it is less capable of being split up and divided. One tank may he worth 100 men, but you cannot send it to more than one place at the same time. You cannot split up a tank and that is why, even if your Army could be made slightly smaller owing to increased efficiency, I do not see how it could be made much smaller in view of the wide general responsibilities that rest upon us in so many different countries in the world. I think hon. Members as a rule are conscious of those responsibilities. I was struck the other day by this paragraph in the "Morning Post" The duty cast upon the existing defence forces, in addition to providing for the safety of the homeland, is that of policing the diverse and widely scattered areas and communities among the British Commonwealths. The effective strength of the Empire garrisons must be preserved intact and forces maintained, both in respect of personnel and material, so as to be capable of ready expansion and development should occasion arise. As hon. Members opposite will know, those words were written by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh), who was Secretary of State for War in the Labour Government, and I think the position has never been better stated. The reason why it is necessary for this country to maintain an army of a size which does not vary, and is unlikely to vary in the immediate future, is because our responsibilities are not in one place, but in many places, and we never know in how many places we may be required to protect the lives of our own people at the same time.

I would remind hon. Members, as they were reminded by the hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. E. Davies) earlier in the evening, that it is not only our own country, our own Empire, and our own people whom we have solemnly undertaken to defend and protect. "Make the League of Nations effective," says an hon. Member. How can you make it effective if the Powers which believe in it most sincerely, which have done the most for it from the start, to give it strength and to give it prestige and contribute most to its exchequer, allow their defensive forces to fall into such decay that they are unable to carry out the obligations which they have undertaken under the Covenant of the League? We have new and increased responsibilities since the War. We have responsibilities under the Covenant of the League, under Articles 10 and 16, and we have responsibilities under the Treaty of Locarno. I am glad we have not the enormously increased responsibility we should have had, if following the advice of hon. Members opposite, we had accepted the Geneva Protocol. While I am sure that everybody on this side of the House believes in the cause of disarmament, we do not feel that any case has been made out this evening for reducing the present size of the British Army. We feel that it is not too large to carry out the obligations which may be forced upon us. We feel confident that nobody in the world to-day believes that it is a menace to peace, that it seeks to invade any foreign country. When I say "nobody in the world" I should perhaps have excepted the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala). He is the only person in the world to-day who is afraid that in the future the British Army will be a disturber of the peace of the world. On the contrary, everybody knows that it is an upholder of peace rather than a promoter of war; and I think there never has been so great an Empire with so small an Army.


I should not have intervened in this Debate had it not been for the disappointment we feel with the speech of the Financial Secretary. I was glad when I knew that he was going to respond to this Amendment, because, combined with his great efficiency in his office, he has a profound knowledge of foreign affairs, and has expressed himself on the question of disarmament on more than one occasion with great breadth of view and knowledge of the subject. Therefore, we hoped that when he addressed himself to the proposal before the House he would give a sympathetic answer. Instead of that, he really did not seem to realise that we are discussing the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. Dunnico) and not the general question of the Army Estimates. Examining that Amendment carefully, I cannot conceive what there is in it, except perhaps one word, with which His Majesty's Government can disagree. The Amendment is in these terms: To call attention to the question of disarmament; and move, That this House considers that national security, and therefore international peace, can only be assured by international agreement for a substantial all-round reduction in military forces"— Nobody disagrees with that. and accordingly urges His Majesty's Government to put forward"— That is the only thing with which His Majesty's Government may disagree— and support proposals at the Preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference at Geneva for the drastic reduction of personnel and for the limitation both of military expenditure and material. All that can be objected to there are the words which suggest that His Majesty's Government should put forward proposals for the reduction of military forces. It is on those words that the Government turn down this proposal—reject, spurn and scorn it. We thought that in view of the moderation of the words we had chosen we should be likely to gain the assent of His Majesty's Government, and that for once a unanimous resolution might go out to the world from this House. We only ask that a proposal should be brought forward at the Preparatory Commission for Disarmament. Hitherto the function of His Majesty's Government on the Preparatory Commission for Disarmament, and at other conferences, has been merely to damp down the proposals of other Powers, and never themselves to make any suggestions. Considering the position of Great Britain in the world, it is about time that we came forward with some proposals of our own. We are only asking that we should get a general agreement. It is the minimum that can be asked on the subject of disarmament in view of the obligations we have to fulfil under the promises made in the Treaty of Versailles. But the Government are not prepared to do it.

The hon. Gentleman was very eloquent on the subject of tanks, and if anybody ought to be proud of our tanks, I think it is me, because my constituents make them. I believe they have been making them in very large numbers, and I believe the new tank is really a most formidable weapon of war. It can do almost anything, and has inpenetrable armour. That is a great advance. But in the last few months my constituents have also been making a shell which penetrates that armour. That is a further advance; and it will bring further profit to the armament firms. We were not told to-day the number of these tanks which we have got, or the number exported to other countries. We do not know how far our workers in this country are being employed in forging engines for their own destruction as a result of the arms traffic which goes on throughout the world. His Majesty's Government have not ratified the Arms Traffic Convention. They have made no advance in any direction whatever, and even the meagre advance which we suggest to-night is turned down in a peremptory way.

My hon. Friend who proposed this Amendment suggested that some advance towards peace in Europe might be made by the withdrawal of troops from the Rhine. That was turned down by the hon. Gentleman. He said the Germans did not want it. I wonder if he can give his authority for that statement? This is a subject which was bound to come up in this Debate and on which we expect the Front Bench to give us authoritative answers. Do they or do they not know that the Germans would object to the withdrawal of British troops from the Rhine, even if the French did not come out? We shall not get an answer to that, because the hon. Gentleman has come down to-night equipped only for one business, and that is to discuss the technicalities of the Army. He really did not read through this Amendment; it does go into policy, and we expected somebody to reply to it on the points of policy. The hon. Gentleman said the British Army had never been used as a weapon of aggression. I do not suppose there is any nation in the world who will confess that their army has ever been used for aggression. We have never been the aggressors in any war; it has been the French, the Russians, the Germans, the Austrians, the Bulgarians, the Zulus, the Boers, the Ashantis, the Afghans and the Arabs who have been the aggressors.

Therefore, we have to be prepared against this myth of the aggressor which is kept up to justify this nation spending £120,000,000 or £130,000,000 a year on preparations for the next war. We are first told that it is one country, and then that it is another, that is preparing for war, and so the armament firms go on making huge profits and the taxpayer has to pay through the nose. The consequence is that the people of this country suffer through this heavy burden, and the world suffers from a continuation of the uncertainty that the cloud of war may yet arise on the horizon. When we come forward with a very moderate suggestion that the Government should make a proposal to reduce armaments, it is turned down in this way. The country is getting impatient on this question of disarmament. Ten years after the War we find that no advance has been made on this question. The Government tell us just before a General Election that they can do nothing, and they even refuse to accept a very moderate proposal of this kind.


The hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. Ponsonby) has given us one of those typical speeches in which he tells us that we are wrong on every occasion. The hon. Gentleman has told us that the Army of defence, although it benefits his constituents, is something which is wholly to be deplored. I am tempted to point out to the hon. Member a fact which he has completely ignored, namely, that we alone of all the nations in the world, great and small, have continuously reduced our expenditure on armaments throughout the whole term of the existence of this Government. The hon. Member conveniently ignored that fact. I agree that words are useful, but deeds are stronger still, and our deeds show that we have achieved a reduction of armaments. The hon. Member for Brightside says that the Amendment that we are considering is quite a harmless one, and he asks how can any Government resist it? This proposal is suspect, and that is why we resist it. We are told that this is a mild proposal, but I remember there was a proposal last year to reduce the Army by 50,000 men which would have rendered the Army entirely impotent. I remember that the proposal put forward by the Opposition the year before would have had the effect, if not of abolishing the Army, of hamstringing it. In view of the Election, these suggestions have been repeated in what is called a moderate resolution, but they only take the place of what is really a desire to abolish the Army altogether.


Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that I do not care as much for my country and its defence as he does?


No, I do not suggest that. I think we are equally desirous in different ways of defending our country.

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

The House divided: Ayes, 127; Noes, 68.

Division No. 246.] AYES. [9.52 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Gates, Percy Perkins, Colonel E. K.
Albery, Irving James Glyn, Major R. G. C. Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James Gower, Sir Robert Pilcher, G.
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Grant, Sir J. A. Raine, Sir Walter
Apsley, Lord Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Remer, J. R.
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Grotrian, H. Brent Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Gunston, Captain D. W. Ruggies-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Hacking, Douglas H. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington) Rye, F. G.
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Salmon, Major I.
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Henderson, Capt. R.R.(Oxf'd,Henley) Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Blundell, F. N. Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Hilton, Cecil Sandeman, N. Stewart
Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) Sanders, Sir Robert A.
Brass, Captain W. Hume, Sir G. H. Sanderson, Sir Frank
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Hurd, Percy A. Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl.(Renfrew,W.)
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Iveagh, Countess of Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y) Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth. Cen'l) Skelton, A. N.
Carver, Major W. H. James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Smithers, Waldron
Cecil, Rt. Hon, Sir Evelyn (Aston) Kindersley, Major G. M. Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Christle, J. A. King, Commodore Henry Douglas Streatfelld, Captain S. R.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Kinioch-Cooke, Sir Clement Tasker, R. Inigo.
Conway, Sir W. Martin Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Cooper, A. Duff Long, Major Eric Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-
Cope, Major Sir William Looker, Herbert William Tinne. J. A.
Couper, J. B. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Courtauld, Major J. S. Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough
Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.) Lumley, L. R. Wallace, Captain D. E.
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. McLean, Major A. Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)
Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend) MacRobert, Alexander M. Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Crookshank,Cpt.H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro) Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Warrender, Sir Victor
Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford) Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden) Watts, Sir Thomas
Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset,Yeovil) Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Wells, S. R.
Davies, Dr. Vernon Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Winterton. Rt. Hon. Earl
Edmondson, Major A. J. Moreing, Captain A. H. Womersley, W. J.
Elliot, Major Walter E. Morrison. H. (Wilts, Salisbury) Washington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir I.
Fairfax, Captain J. G. Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Fermoy, Lord Nelson, Sir Frank
Fielden, E. B. Newman. Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Forrest, W. Nuttall, Ellis Captain Margesson and Captain
Foster, Sir Harry S. Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William Bowyer.
Fraser, Captain Ian Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Hardle, George D. Shield, G. W.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Hayday, Arthur Shinwell, E.
Ammon, Charles George Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield) Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Bellamy, A. Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R. Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Benn, Wedgwood Jones, W. N. (Carmarthen) Smith, Rennle (Penistone)
Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Kelly, W. T. Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Bondfield, Margaret Kennedy, T. Stamford. T. W.
Briant, Frank Lawson, John James Stephen, Campbell
Broad, F. A. Lindley, F. W. Sullivan, Joseph
Bromfield, William Longbottom, A. W. Thurtle, Ernest
Buchanan, G. Lowth, T. Tinker, John Joseph
Cluse, W. S. Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley) Tomilnson, R. P.
Connolly, M. Murnin, H. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles
Crawfurd, H. E. Naylor, T. E. Wellock, Wilfred
Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh) Oliver, George Harold Westwood, J.
Dennison, R. Owen, Major G. Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)
Duncan, C. Palin, John Henry Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercilffe)
Dunnico, H. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. Ponsonby, Arthur Windsor, Walter
Graham. Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edln., Cent.) Potts, John S. Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coine) Purcell, A. A.
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Saklatvala, Shapurji Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll) Shepherd, Arthur Lewie Whiteley.

Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Supply accordingly considered in Committee.

[Mr. JAMES HOPE in the Chair.]

  1. NUMBER OF LAND FORCES. 44 words
  2. c2313
  3. PAY, ETC. 54 words
  4. cc2313-7
  5. WORKS, BUILDINGS AND LANDS. 1,403 words
  6. c2317
  8. cc2317-22
  10. cc2323-5
  12. cc2325-9
  13. ARMY SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATE, 1928. 1,551 words, 1 division
  14. c2330
  15. ADJOURNMENT. 17 words