§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Arthur Henderson)
I beg to move:That this House approves the ratification of the Declaration under Article 36 of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice, signed at Geneva in respect of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the 19th day of September, 1929.4.0 p.m.
The Motion on the Order Paper invites the House to give authority to His Majesty's Government to ratify and to bring into binding effect its signature to the Optional Clause attached to the Statute of the Permant Court of International Justice at The Hague. In support of that Motion, I will endeavour, as briefly as I possibly can, to state the general standpoint from which the Government have considered this question of the Optional Clause. I will begin by saying a word as to the practical effects of our accepting the Clause, although I should say that, in view of the White Paper which has been available since 12th December, no elaborate explanation of the effect of accepting that Clause should be necessary. Ratification means that we pledge our word that in any dispute with any foreign Power which has also-signed the Clause, we will accept the jurisdiction and the verdict of the Permanent Court of International Justice, provided always that the dispute is one which can be settled by that Court on the basis of the rules of law. Moreover, it means that in respect of what are called justiciable disputes, we shall be no longer free to refuse to go to the Permanent Court if another party to the dispute which has also signed the Optional Clause desires to obtain a legal verdict.
This is an important development in various ways of the old treaties of arbitration which before the War this country used to put into use. These old treaties were agreements between Governments based upon the principle that disputes suitable for arbitration should be settled by that means, but experience showed that they had certain important limitations. It will be in the 654 recollection of the House, I have no doubt, that they all contain that old reservation relating to honour and vital interests. That reservation was subject to the interpretation by each Government to suit itself, and the result was that, in any given case, a Government could refuse recourse to arbitration. There were two other weaknesses in these old pre-War treaties of arbitration to which I must briefly refer. In the first place, even when a Government desired to propose an arbitration, the arbitration could not begin until some special agreement had been made as to the way in which that particular arbitration should be carried out. In the second place, even after this agreement had been reached the case could not be heard—and this is very important—until a special arbitration tribunal had been set up. These, I repeat, were serious defects in the pre-War arbitration system.
The Optional Clause removes all these defects. It confers jurisdiction upon the Permanent Court—jurisdiction in all international disputes which can be settled by means of law, and it thus applies to international disputes a principle which has been universally accepted by every civilised State for the settlement of legal disputes between its citizens. Under its terms, no State can refuse to allow a dispute to go before the Court. No special agreement for the submission of the dispute will be required. No State by dishonest quibbling can avoid the obligation it is under to go to the Court. We regard these changes as conferring great advantages upon the British Government. Why do I say so? I say so because the British Government so often have desired, and in the future, we believe, will always desire, to arbitrate in their international disputes. But before I deal with these advantages, I should like to say a few words about the general position of the Government in this matter. I particularly ask the House to note that we regard the acceptance by the country of the Optional Clause as the logical consequence of our commitments under the Paris Pact of Peace a year ago. The Paris Pact, as Members are doubtless aware, as far as its substantive terms are concerned, consists of but two short Articles—Article 1 and Article 2. The first of these two Articles contains the solemn declaration of the high contracting parties: 655The high contracting parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and denounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.It may safely be said, I think, that it is upon this first Article that the attention of the world has been chiefly concentrated, and I would not say one word which would imply that the renunciation of private war is less important than it has been almost universally—certainly generally—thought. I, myself, regard this first Article and its solemn undertaking as being of paramount importance, but what I now desire to emphasise is that the second Article of the Pact of Paris is also of the most far-reaching importance. May I remind the House that by the second Article:The high contracting parties agree that the settlement or submission of all disputes or conflicts, of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.This is an obligation of an importance certainly no less than that contained in Article 1. It is, indeed, the very essence, in my judgment, of the Pact of Paris, that the instrument of war shall never be used for settlement of international disputes. It will be in the recollection of the House that this Article of the Pact of Paris of which I am speaking does not contain any specific machinery by which its solemn undertakings are to be fulfilled. That is an item of very considerable importance, but, though neither of these articles nor the Pact as a whole contain any machinery, I think that the implications of the commitments of the Pact of Paris appear to lay upon all the Governments of the signatory Powers the clearest moral duty to develop by all means in their power the machinery and the methods necessary to a complete discharge of all the obligations contained in the commitments which have been accepted. If that is to be done, we must provide the means by which we can settle our disputes; we must provide the necessary machinery. Having ruled out war as a method of settlement, surely it is only common sense that we do everything in our power to put something in its place. We must have the necessary machinery.
656 For our own part—and I want to make this clear—we consider that loyal adherence to the spirit and purpose of this Optional Clause is an important element—indeed a most important element—of the necessary machinery, so far as all the members of the League of Nations are concerned. I will carry this argument even further. Not only is acceptance of the Optional Clause a logical consequence of the Pact of Paris, so far as this country is concerned, inasmuch as this country is a member of the League, but in our view it is only by such measures as this, by the general acceptance of such obligations to accept impartial arbitration, that the members of the League can give real life and value to this Pact, to which the previous Government set their signature. If the Pact of Paris is to be of real value, if it is not to become a scrap of paper, its words must be followed and confirmed by actual deeds. Its results must show themselves in the day to day policy of the Governments which accepted the absolute undertaking not to use war to settle their disputes. If Governments go on exactly as before, if there is no serious extension of the policy of arbitration and no international agreement with regard to the important question of disarmament, if general policy is directed with a view to preparing for war and the strategy of war, it must inevitably follow that the Pact of Paris cannot possibly achieve the results which its promoters hoped and expected.
There is another point to which I should like to ask the attention of the House. It may become, unless we are on our guard, a scrap of paper; both peoples and governments may come to think that those who signed the Pact of Paris did not expect that its pledges would in fact be honoured. They will lose faith in its moral power to restrain a government that might contemplate the aggression of war, and as they lose faith, the world will lose the guarantee which the Pact should give it against the catastrophe of another great war. It is in part, therefore, because we believe that we shall be strengthening the power of the Pact of Paris, that we have desired, as one of the first acts in our foreign policy, to accept and ratify the Optional Clause.
657 That leads me to the next point to which I would ask the House to give its attention. The Government are of opinion that a general acceptance of the Optional Clause, by all the members of the League of Nations at any rate, would be a most powerful factor, directly as well as indirectly, in the increase in international security against war. Let me explain what I mean. When the Government use the word "security," as the Prime Minister has often explained, they do not mean that competitive security of pre-war days; nor do they mean that form of militarist security which, as the result of an increase of fighting strength, induced one nation to imagine that it was safe because, by a few battalions, it was stronger than its neighbours. We mean that real security by which all nations are safe because they are delivered from the fear of another outbreak of war. We are convinced that the creation of this true national security is inseparably associated with the establishment of a strong and comprehensive system of arbitration. This opinion is shared not only by the Government, but by high authorities in this country and throughout the world. Need I remind the House that, at the Assembly of the League of Nations in 1927, a resolution was adopted, for which the right hon. Gentleman the ex-Foreign Minister was in a measure responsible. That resolution speaks of the guarantees of arbitration and security necessary to enable nations to fix the level of their armaments at the lowest possible figure in an international disarmament agreement. The resolution goes on to say:The Assembly considers that those guarantees should be sought in action by the League of Nations with a view to promoting, generalising and co-ordinating special or collective agreements of arbitration.Nor is that all, for the following year, Lord Cushendun, then representing Great Britain at Geneva in the Arbitration and Security Committee of the League, accepted a resolution urging the Governments to accept the Optional Clause, and, in doing so, used words which I should like to give to the House. Lord Cushendun said:What we are doing by this resolution is to reiterate in strong terms the opinion that has been expressed before, that as many States as possible should sign the Optional Clause if they find it in their power to do so, for they will to that extent be contributing towards the security of the world.658 I am glad to be able to quote the strong words of these two representatives of our predecessors at the League of Nations in support of the idea which I am now advancing. The existence of armaments in the world on such a scale as they are at present is surely the strongest evidence that a feeling of insecurity continues. My experience at the 1924 and 1929 Assemblies, and at international congresses and conferences, enables me to say that from the signing of the Armistice no problem has exercised the minds of statesmen, not only in Europe, but in all civilised countries in the world, more than this problem of their security.
Therefore, the chief problem that we have to face in our foreign policy is how best to remove this disturbed feeling, this feeling of unrest and of insecurity. We can only do so by the systematic organisation of world peace. One of the first steps in this organisation is to substitute a new kind of security for the old kind that rested on the armed power of individual nations or groups of nations. That new kind of security will result from the diminution of the risk of war by the creation of new methods of dealing with differences which continue to arise between nations. It is in this spirit that the Government of the day approached this question of the Optional Clause. We are convinced that the acceptance of the Clause will prove a powerful means of reducing the risk of war, and it is for this reason that we regard the question of its ratification as urgent and important.
I now come to the question of the reservations which we made when we signed the Clause. This is possibly one of the most important points to which I have to draw the attention of the House. An examination of the formula which the Government signed showed that we followed the usual practice in making our acceptance subject to a time limit, and by applying the principle of reciprocity; but Members who have done me the honour of reading the White Paper will see that the time limit does not definitely end; it continues unless we give notice to the contrary. That is an important improvement, so far as the time limit is concerned. Moreover, the declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the Court covers only those disputes which may arise in the future. Past 659 disputes and disputes relating to past events continue to be submitted to the Court under special agreements concluded in each case—even if they have to go to the Court at all. I want to say clearly and definitely that three classes of disputes are excluded from the declaration of acceptance: First, disputes with other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations; second, disputes about matters which fall within what is called the domestic jurisdiction of a State.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I hope that the hon. and gallant Member will allow me to deal with these matters in my own way; I will deal with the whole thing if the hon. and gallant Member will have patience. The third class are disputes for the submission of which to some other method of peaceful settlement provision is made by existing or future agreements. Let me explain, as briefly as I can, why we have taken up this position with regard to these three classes of disputes. With regard to the last of the three, need I remind the House that commercial treaties and conventions dealing with special subjects, such as reparations, or with technical matters, such as copyright, very often contain a provision setting up special tribunals to deal with disputes which may arise as to the meaning or the application of their terms? There is, therefore, no reason why they should go to the Permanent Court. Then, with regard to disputes with other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, these are excluded, and I think very rightly so, because the members of that Commonwealth, though international units individually in the fullest sense of the term, are united to one another and to this country by their common allegiance to the Crown. Disputes between them should, therefore, in our view, be dealt with by some other means of settlement, and for this provision has been made by the exclusion to which I have referred already.
As to the second class, disputes which fall within the domestic jurisdiction of a State, on certain matters international law recognises that the authority of the 660 State is supreme. Once this is determined, there is no scope for the exercise in such cases of the jurisdiction of an international court. Then the formula contains another proviso to which the Government attach very great importance-indeed, and that is the proviso which enables disputes to be referred to the Council of the League of Nations before-they are dealt with by the Permanent Court of International Justice. This is to cover disputes which are really political in their character though juridical in appearance. Disputes of this kind can be dealt with more satisfactorily by the Council, because it is free to exercise its conciliatory powers with a view to-arriving at any friendly settlement of the dispute to which the parties themselves-may agree. It would cease to operate-from the moment when the Council decided it was better that the question: should be submitted to the Court, and therefore declined to keep the dispute under its consideration. Within these limits the proviso would apply to any justiciable dispute, whatever its origin. It would extend, for instance, as I shall point out in a moment, to disputes arising out of cases where it had been necessary for the United Kingdom to take action at the instance of the Council of the League of Nations itself in pursuance of our obligations as a member of the League of Nations.
Before I come to that, let me assure the House that although this proviso is wide we do not by its terms—and this is very important—withdraw any legal dispute from the ultimate jurisdiction of the Court. We only suspend that jurisdiction for a limited period of time, for the advantageous reason which I have just-stated, namely, that a better settlement may be obtained by its being handled under the conciliatory spirit of the Council of the League itself. Should the discussion in the Council fail, the dispute would then go back to the Permanent Court and would be dealt with by the Court. This gives a measure of elasticity in the operation of the Optional Clause without in any way diminishing the value of its effect. But none of these reservations to which I have referred diminishes in any way the value of the effect of the Optional Clause. In all our legal disputes with other nations, 661 without exception, the impartial justice of the Permanent Court will remain the final arbiter.
But may I return to a topic on which I briefly touched a moment ago and say something on the Amendment to my Motion of which notice has been given and which, I understand, is to be moved by the right hon. Gentleman the ex-Foreign Secretary? That Amendment speaks of the additional reservation relating to laws of war at sea laid down by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at Geneva on September 22, 1924, as being absolutely necessary to safeguard the freedom of action of the British Navy. In view of the importance which is apparently attached to the remarks which I made at Geneva in 1924, I will ask the House to allow me to quote the relevant passages of my speech on that occasion. I must apologise for the quotation being a rather long one, but I am afraid that right hon. Gentlemen opposite may have been misled by perhaps taking something from a press report rather than from the verbatim report of my speech. I have here the verbatim report, or at any rate this quotation is taken from the verbatim report:I now come to the question of the reservations which the British Government will feel themselves obliged to make in accepting the obligatory jurisdiction of the Permanent Court and this new procedure of compulsory arbitration. These reservations relate to disputes arising out of warlike operations in which the British Empire may in the future be involved. Let there be no misunderstanding. In the view of the British Government, it is not conceivable that the British Empire should be at war against the Covenant or against the stipulations of this new Protocol.That is, the Protocol of 1924, which was destroyed by our successors.We therefore only envisage a case in which we are engaged in warlike operations on behalf of the Covenant and with the approval of the Council or the Assembly of the League. We are sure that in such a case as this it would be necessary and desirable in the general interest as well as in the particular interests of Great Britain that the British Fleet should be able to operate with the freedom that may be required to secure the rapid success and termination of the sanction. We propose, therefore, when we accept the obligatory jurisdiction of the Court, to make a reservation to this effect, that disputes arising out of warlike operations undertaken by the British Empire in support of the League shall not be referred to the Permanent Court for settlement. It will be observed 662 that a similar reservation is in Article 5 of the draft which is laid before the Committee.I was then speaking in the Committee.These reservations do not appear to us in any way to limit the value of what we are doing to-day. No one desires that the Permanent Court should become a body for controlling military operations. Its purpose, and the purpose of these new arbitration arrangements we hope to set up, is to prevent war altogether by securing the peaceful settlement of disputes. We believe, therefore, that in safeguarding the liberty of action of the British Fleet, which above all things it is necessary for us to safeguard, we are not acting contrary to the general interests of the nations of the world.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I welcome the applause from hon. Members opposite. I think the House will see that it is somewhat misleading to describe this reservation, which I was then explaining, asbeing absolutely necessary to safeguard the freedom of action of the British Navy.—the words of the Amendment. It is plain that the operations of the British Fleet to which I was referring were exclusively—I want to emphasise this point—exclusively operations in the case where we were engaged in warlike operations on behalf of the Covenant and with the approval of the Council or the Assembly of the League of Nations. It was in those circumstances only that I said it was necessary in the general interest as well as in the interests of Britain that the British Fleet should be able to operate with the freedom which may be required to secure the rapid and successful termination of the sanction. Neither in 1924 nor, certainly, in 1929 or 1930, was I ever dreaming, after we had become a member of the League of Nations and had accepted all the obligations of the Covenant of the League of Nations, that we were going to claim that we would have that old-time freedom of pre-War days before there was any League of Nations of which we had become a member. If that was true in 1924, what shall I say of the position now, in these days of the Paris Pact of Peace to which our predecessors laid their hand?
The position as I envisaged it then, and as I envisage it to-day—for since the signature of the Peace Pact it is even more true than in 1924—is that in the view of the British Government, certainly of this Government, it is not conceivable 663 that the British Empire should be at war against the Covenant or against the stipulations contained in Articles 1 and 2 of the Paris Pact of Peace. Therefore, as in 1924, we only envisage the case in which we are engaged in warlike operations on behalf of the Covenant and, I repeat, with the approval of the Council or the Assembly of the League. This being so, we do not contemplate the possibility of any serious differences of opinion arising between us and other members of the League of Nations, differences, at any rate, arising out of action which the British Fleet may be called upon to take under the circumstances which I have described. The League would obviously be as anxious as we ourselves that the action of our Fleet in such circumstances and with the League in control should produce its maximum effect. But if, in spite of this, difficulties of this nature should arise, I am of the opinion now, as I was in 1924, that no one desires to see the Permanent Court become a body for controlling military operations. Such disputes arising out of warlike operations undertaken by the British Empire in support of the League would never, in my opinion, be suitable for determination by the Permanent Court of International Justice, but they would, in my opinion, be very suitable for adjustment by the Council of the League, and for that we have made ample provision in one of the reservations which is contained in the formula which I had the honour to sign. In 1924 we confined ourselves to proposing that such disputes should not be referred to the Court, but to-day, and I want the House to notice this, we go further, and we propose to produce the same result by means of the reservation with which I am now dealing and under which it will be open to us to refer such disputes to the Council of the League, leaving them to be dealt with by the Council rather than being sent to the Court of International Justice. There is, therefore, in my opinion, no difference in substance between our position in 1924 and our position to-day. The only difference is that, whereas we did not then propose to provide any means of determining such disputes as I am dealing with, we have now such means provided in one of the reservations by them being sent to the Council of the League 664 instead of to the Court of International Justice. For the reasons which I have given already, that Council is, in our opinion, most suited to deal with naval action which we might have taken with the approval of the Council or with the approval of the Assembly.
There is another point to which I should like the House to give very brief attention, and that is the question of the Dominions. Not only did His Majesty's Government in this country sign the Optional Clause at Geneva last September, but I am very happy to say that all His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions, and the Government of India, likewise signed the Clause, and may I also say that all the Dominions and India signed on exactly the same formula as we signed on behalf of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I hope hon. Members will be patient. There was only one exception, and that was the Irish Free State, but they signed without any reservations. Not for the first time, they went one better than the rest of us; but they did sign, and they signed two or three days before the whole of the Dominions and India signed on exactly the same formula. The effect of that is that the British Commonwealth of Nations is absolutely united in the decision to take this step forward in the acceptance of arbitration and the substitution of the rule of law for the rule of war. Except in the case of the Irish Free State, His Majesty's Government and all the other countries I have mentioned signed the Declaration in identical terms. I hope I have answered satisfactorily the interruption of the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Colonel Howard-Bury).
Surely the official Opposition does not desire to break up the spirit of unity which prevailed in the entire British Empire Delegations at Geneva last September, and to repudiate the common policy on which general agreement was reached? The movement, for the signature of the Optional Clause had made considerable progress before the Governments took their joint decision. In July last year 19 States had signed and ratified, but the events of last September, 665 and the force of the British example gave a remarkable impetus to this movement. In addition to the seven Governments of the British Commonwealth, seven others, including France and Italy, signed during last September. The position at present is that about 20 States have both signed and ratified, and 20 others have signed but have not yet ratified, although in a number of cases ratification is expected at a very early date, and in my judgment that date will be expedited if we come to a right decision to-day. Only 14 States, members of the League, have not yet signed the Optional Clause, but there is every reason to hope that this number will be still further reduced. I have no doubt that the example of the British Government will stimulate action by other Governments, and that in consequence further general progress will be made.
May I say a few words with regard to the advantages that we believe will accrue to this country and the Empire from the course which we are asking the House to follow this evening. (1) We secure the advantages of arbitration by a method that is rapid and inexpensive; (2) we shall get rid in our disputes of the factitious elements which often inflame the passions of nations, but which so often have nothing to do with the real nature of the case involved; (3) it gives us the right to go to a Court with great prestige and experience whenever we feel that our legal rights are being disregarded. These are advantages which this House should not neglect or undervalue.
Finally, I desire to say a word with regard to the ratification of the Optional Clause, because we regard it as a most important and far-reaching step in relation to our foreign policy as a whole. We consider the production of a practical, reasonable and comprehensive plan of disposing of international disputes by peaceful means as one of the most urgent tasks of present day statesmanship. Too long has the futile instrument of war as the means of settling disputes been regarded as an inevitable and inescapable condition of international life. Moreover, I think there is general agreement that too long has an immense proportion of the wealth won by human efforts and the best brains of each generation been devoted to the sole purpose of 666 preparing the means of making war. The foreign policy of the Government is therefore influenced by the conception that world peace cannot be guaranteed by competitive armaments. Modern war must become increasingly brutal and cannot be localised, and civilisation can only be delivered from such warfare by the application to the international problem of the spirit of conciliation, cooperation, and justice. In other words, the fabric of peace must be built upon an enduring and a surer foundation.
We must do everything in our power to encourage the people everywhere to regard war as a crime. We must do all in our power to influence the people to place reliance, not on force, but on the moral solidarity of nations and upon the expanding authority of international law. My final word is that we were influenced by such important considerations when we signed the Optional Clause last September. We now ask for the necessary authority to ratify and bring our signature into binding effect. In asking for this authority, is it going too far to suggest that the House, by a unanimous decision, should strengthen the lead which His Majesty's Government have given and are endeavouring to give to the other Nations of the world.
§ Sir AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the words:subject to the additional reservation relating to the Laws of War on Sea laid down by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at Geneva on 22nd September, 1924, as being absolutely necessary to safeguard the freedom of action of the British Navy.In every quarter of the House we are grateful to the Foreign Secretary for the explanations which he has given of the policy of His Majesty's Government in recommending to this House for acceptance the signature of the Optional Clause. No one who has followed closely what the right hon. Gentleman has said will doubt that the step which His Majesty's Government propose to take is one of immense consequence and very far reaching effect. That is indeed the claim which the right hon. Gentleman himself rightly makes for it and which I should be the last to dispute. I wish that, after listening to him, I felt that I could respond at once in the affirmative to the appeal with which he closed, that, after listening to his explanation, we on this side of 667 the House should allow this motion to receive a unanimous acceptance. But, if the right hon. Gentleman has contributed a great deal that was not in the White Paper to the elucidation of the mind and policy of the Government, he has, I am afraid, only confirmed in my mind the impression that the action which the Government are taking is not well suited to attain the purpose which they have declared they have in view.
Do not let us exaggerate the extent of the difference between the two sides. Do not let us suppose that one side of the House or one section of public opinion in this country favours arbitration and another section does not, or that one section favours reservations and another does not. Do not let us suppose that any section in this House or in this country contemplates that we shall in future engage in any war, the entry into which would be a breach of the obligations that we have undertaken either under the Covenant or under the Pact of Paris. If I contemplate war as a possibility, I am doing only what the President of the United States himself has done in the message that he has published in connection with naval discussions at the meeting of the Naval Conference. We have not yet reached such a stage of world opinion or of international society that any one of us can say, or that any one nation can say, that we are in a position to depend alone on the good faith of the other for our own security, and His Majesty's Government will not go to war except in conditions which are clearly permissible under both the Covenant of the League and the Pact of Paris. I take that as axiomatic to the conduct of our foreign policy. I may take it as equally axiomatic that there is an equally universal desire to apply arbitration as widely as possible in all appropriate cases. The Government themselves admit that certain cases are not appropriate for arbitration. The Government themselves admit that certain reservations are necessary. The difference between us, therefore, is not whether we should go to arbitration at all, not whether we should go to arbitration in every case, but as to the exact limits within which we can safely undertake in advance to submit automatically to arbitration if a dispute 668 arises. It is a question, not of wide principle—I wish it were; it would be so much simpler—it is a question, not of kind, but of degree, which divides the House, and the right hon. Gentleman himself is not able to formulate any general principle which saves him from the necessity of qualifying his assent to arbitration and reserving certain questions from the jurisdiction of the Court.
What is it exactly that we accomplish if we sign the Optional Clause subject to these reservations? In the past, except where there have been special treaty provisions of a wider character, such as commercial treaties, it has been for each Power to judge whether, when a dispute arose, that dispute was of such a nature that it could be properly referred to arbitration; and it has been possible for them to make their assent to arbitration conditional on the terms of reference to the arbitrator being agreeable, rather than on the acceptance of certain conditions in advance. The change which is made by the present proposal is that henceforth, in the absence of agreement, all questions within its scope must go to arbitration. If the two parties are not at one as to what is the matter in dispute, it is the Court which will decide, and not the parties, and no condition can be imposed prior to that.
The right hon. Gentleman's case, as he put it to the House, is that, unless we do this, our signature to the Peace Pact is an empty thing; that, unless we follow it up, not merely by passively obeying its provisions, but by actively supplementing it by a signature of this kind, the Peace Pact is valueless. Does it not occur to him, or to hon. Gentlemen opposite, that it is singular that, while the right hon. Gentleman again and again repeated that this was true in regard to us, each time he was obliged to put in words which silently excluded the thought of any such obligation resting upon the United States of America? Yet it is the United States of America who are the authors of the Peace Pact of Paris. Why is it that their signature is invaluable without their signature to the Optional Clause, while our signature is insincere and of no value? If that part of the right hon. Gentleman's argument—and it is a very large part—has any meaning at all, it means that the signature of the United States to the Parts Pact is value- 669 less unless they proceed to implement it by undertaking obligations which it is perfectly clear they do not intend to undertake.
Let me examine now for a moment the reservations which the right hon. Gentleman has made. In the first place, and he laid great stress upon this, he has excluded all past disputes. Why has he thought it necessary to exclude all past disputes? There are controversies, there are differences of opinion, some more acute and some less, which have been in existence for a long time between ourselves and other nations—some of them arising out of the War, and some not arising out of the War at all. Why, if we can safely sign for the future, subject only to the reservations which the right hon. Gentleman has put in, cannot we equally safely sign for the past, and settle once and for all in the same way these outstanding cases? The right hon. Gentleman is afraid to do that because that would produce the presentation of bills immediately of a serious character, which he thinks he might have to meet; but he is willing to take for the future and for future generations the liabilities which he cannot accept if they are to be borne on his own shoulders and those of his colleague the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I see the learned Attorney-General in his place taking notes, and I rather hope that he is going to speak in the course of the Debate. If so, I should like him, if he will be good enough to do so, to tell us what is the exact scope and effect of the reservation ofdisputes arising after ratification with regard to situations or facts subsequent to the ratification.I could give a practical illustration of the point which I want to put, drawn from existing circumstances, but, for reasons which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate, I would prefer, if the House will allow me, to take a hypothetical case drawn from the past—a case which has been settled and which cannot re-present itself. Suppose that the Venezuelan Boundary question were still unsettled. I may, perhaps, remind the House that the Venezuelan Boundary question concerned the ownership of territory which was in dispute between a British Colony and Venezuela, a part of which, at any rate, had been in our undisturbed possession and occupation for very nearly a century. Suppose 670 that the right to that territory had not been settled. Could Venezuela, after we had signed, if she were a member of the League and a co-signatory of the Optional Clause, insist upon the question of the ownership of that land going to the Court at The Hague, or would she be debarred from taking that question to The Hague by the reservation as regards limitation to disputes arising after ratification with regard to situations or facts subsequent to the ratification? A dispute may be of old standing; it may have arisen beforehand; but the situation may be either a continuing or a recurrent situation, and I think it is of some importance that we should know as regards such a case, because there are others. I purposely avoided taking it in terms of present conditions, but there are others in an exactly similar position which certainly no British Government would have taken to arbitration without conditions before they signed, and I should like to know whether we are bound to take them to arbitration if we sign this Clause subject only to the reservations which the Government have made.
Then there is a second question which arises on the reservation of disputes which fall exclusively within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. I understand that we have by our signature bound the British Empire outside the Dominions and India. The Governments of the Dominions and India act for themselves, but the signature attached on behalf of His Majesty by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, I understand, would bind and does bind the rest of the British Empire. The purpose of this reservation is to reserve from the action of the Optional Clause a dispute which is within the municipal jurisdiction of the signing member. Is the reservation couched in such terms that it would be effective for other parts of the British Empire than the United Kingdom itself? The right hon. Gentleman talked of its reserving anything within the jurisdiction of the State, but those are not the words that he has used. The words that he has used are "within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom." Suppose that a dispute arose in Malta, or arose out of Maltese legislation, with another country. Suppose that the Maltese legislation was a matter within the 671 jurisdiction of the State. In the case of Malta our jurisdiction is not exclusive; we share it with the Malta Assembly, or partly so. Would a dispute of that kind—and instances can be multiplied throughout the Empire—be safeguarded, as it is, I take it, the intention of the Government that it should be safeguarded, by a reservation which speaks only of a matter within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United Kingdom itself?
Disputes with the Dominions, disputes arising among the members of the Empire, we are all agreed, are matters which we ought to settle among ourselves without foreign interference, and the only-thing that I have to say about that is to express my regret that the right hon. Gentleman was unable to persuade—I do not blame him for it; it is not his fault—the Irish Free State to come into line on this matter with the rest of the Empire. That leads me to interject an answer to an observation which the right hon. Gentleman made in the course of his speech. He asked, did we really desire to break up the unity achieved within the Empire, to influence the British Government to sign on different terms from the other Dominions and India? That is not my desire. My desire is to convince His Majesty's Government, and to persuade them to convince the Dominions—and I think they will find no great difficulty in persuading them if they once persuade themselves—that some further reservation is necessary.
More important in many ways, and obviously so considered by the right hon. Gentleman himself, is the reservation that we made in the first instance as to taking matters which are partly political and partly juridical to the Council in preference to the Court. The right hon. Gentleman's language on that Clause to-day varied from his language in the White Paper. It was, I think, more accurate to-day than it is in the White Paper. His Majesty's Government recognise and insist, as the right hon. Gentleman has asseverated with great emphasis, that there are questions which are not suitable for the Court—questions which are juridical, which no one can deny are juridical, but which have political origins or political consequences which 672 make them unsuitable for the Court. The right hon. Gentleman says that he has provided for that by saying that these questions may be referred to the Council; but to-day he corrects his White Paper by adding, "Observe, that does not exclude them." It does not withdraw these questions from the jurisdiction of the Court. It only suspends the jurisdiction of the Court. If that is so, and it obviously is so, it is a very insufficient defence against those political questions which the right hon. Gentle man says the Court ought not to judge, which he does not wish the Court to judge, which he thinks it would be unfortunate and impolitic to send to the Court, being taken to the Court. You go to the Council. I have no doubt the Council would lend its good offices. If they settled, with the assent of both parties, in the course of a year, well and good, but, if at the end of the year the matter has not already been settled by the consent of both parties with the assistance of the Council, under the helpful guidance of the Council, it is not, as the right hon. Gentleman said in the White Paper, and has said to-day, the Council which will decide whether they remain seized of the matter or not. It is a single member of the Council who can withdraw the matter from the Council and send it directly to the Court if he desires that the Council should no longer be occupied with it.
The right hon. Gentleman talked throughout as if the Council must be unanimous. But the provision he has made enables any single member of the Council to stop proceedings at the end of a year and force us directly to the Court. The right hon. Gentleman asumes that the Council must always sympathise with us in any such dispute as we might be likely to enter upon. I hope that they always will. I think it is probable that our case would be one which would approve itself to mankind at large and to the Council in general, but it would be surely rash to assume that we could count on never having a dissentient voice in the Council in matters of this gravity. Take questions of belligerent rights. A. has a grievance against us, or thinks she has. She, perhaps, under the Optional Clause, could have the question resolved by the Hague. The right hon. Gentleman replies, as he said to-day, that measures of war are never 673 suitable for determination by the Court at the Hague, that the Council is the organ of conciliation most suited to deal with such action. I entirely agree with him. But what happens? He takes the matter before the Council. A., being the complainant, cannot vote, or her vote is disregarded, as ours would be, we being the defendant. But what if B. also has the same interest as A., but has not made a complaint? B. may have the same desire as A. to go directly to the Hague and to avoid a settlement—not merely to go to the Hague, because she prefers a judicial determination by that Court, but because she fears and wishes to avoid a decision by the Council, which takes account of all those political considerations to which the right hon. Gentleman rightly attaches such importance. A.'s vote does not count and our vote does not count. B., which has the same interest as A., an interest contrary to our interest, can bring the Council's proceedings to an end and force the matter to the Hague in spite of the right hon. Gentleman's declaration that it is one unsuitable for determination by the Permanent Court and one which he would never desire to see them decide.
The right hon. Gentleman was at pains to show why he had omitted the reservation which he thought it necessary to make in 1924. What does it all come to? There is only one thing changed in the situation. It is that, in addition to the Covenant, we and a great many other Powers, not all of them members of the League, have now signed the Paris Pact of Peace. The whole argument in the White Paper, and the whole argument of the right hon. Gentleman, is not really based on the Pact of Peace at all. It is based upon the obligations of the Covenant, and those obligations were in force in 1924 just as much as they are now. Why then, if this reservation was necessary in 1924, has it become unnecessary now? The White Paper is a little disingenuous on this subject, and I am not surprised that' when a summary of it was telegraphed to America it gave rise to misapprehension. The White Paper says:The effect of the Covenant and the Peace Pact taken together is to deprive nations which have signed them of the right to employ war as an instrument of national policy and forbid the State which has signed them to give aid or comfort to an offender.674 I omit a long passage. It concludes:In other words, as between members of the League there can be no neutral rights because there can be no neutrals.My first observation is that the Peace Pact has not affected in any way the rights of those who have not signed the Covenant and has added nothing to the rights or duties of neutrals under the Covenant. A new suggestion to the contrary based on a misquotation of the White Paper created alarm in America. It shows how extremely sensitive are the United States lest it should be thought that by signing the Pact of Peace they have undertaken any obligation except to restrain their own policy within the limits of their signature. As to putting any pressure on anyone else, they have again and again disclaimed that there was any such binding obligation. Do not let me be misunderstood. I do not say that they would necessarily stand aloof and uninterested if war broke out. The conditions of the struggle might be such as to make an immense appeal to the generous sentiments and humanity of the United States, and at the time they might be prepared to take special action, but they are in advance—and they assert it again and again—Under no contractual obligation, and no moral obligation, to do anything more than observe their signatures. They are not obliged to bring any pressure, physical or moral, on any other State which breaks its obligations under the same Pact. Accordingly, all the rights of a neutral, like the United 'States, or another nation outside the League of Nations are wholly untouched and unaffected by the signature of the Peace Pact.
The right hon. Gentleman points out in the White Paper that the benefits of the Optional Clause can only be obtained by the Powers who have signed it, and he is at pains to explain that neither America nor Russia has signed it. But it would be easy for the United States, if they chose, to give a temporary signature, as we have done, though it might be much shorter, and to sign the Optional Clause, for the sole purpose of trying the questions which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to see excluded from The Hague before the Permanent Court of International Justice. But, quite apart from that improbable though not im- 675 possible contingency, one of the things the right hon. Gentleman will have shortly to consider, if he has not already done so, is what are to be the terms of the new Arbitration Treaty between this country and the United States. His whole argument on this part of the subject is based upon the statement that only those Powers which have signed the Optional Clause obtain the advantage of our signature, and that these Powers are bound by the obligations of members of the League to one another. Is he, then, going to adduce that argument for reserving from arbitration under the Anglo-American treaty questions which he agrees to arbitrate with 47 other countries, members of the League of Nations, with any of the Scandinavian countries, with Cuba, with Abyssinia? How can he maintain the distinction which he wishes to draw between those who have taken the obligations of the Covenant of the League and those who have not, when the only effect of attempting to maintain that is that you differentiate dangerously in your arbitration obligations from that country which, alongside of us, has been foremost in practising arbitration, though, like us, up to the present she has always been unwilling to come under unconditional arbitration—to arbitrate in advance?
I doubt if the position is as represented by the right hon. Gentleman. "In any war among members of the League of Nations there can be no neutral." That is not the Covenant. That is in contradiction of the Covenant, which does not absolutely express the resolution of the Assembly in 1921, which carefully provided that the uni-lateral action of the defaulting State cannot create a state of war, but merely entitles them to resort to war. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that they went on to declare that it is the duty of each member of the League to decide for itself whether a breach of the Covenant has been committed or not. The right hon. Gentleman rests his case upon Article 16 of the Covenant, and upon the assumption that every nation which has signed the Covenant is bound to give, and will give, the widest interpretation to its obligations under Article 16; or, in the alternative, not having given that interpretation, it will be deprived of all rights and dismissed from the Court as a suitor 676 whose own conduct is so bad that he cannot be heard when, asking for redress. I do not think that that is a safe assumption. I have always been reluctant to discuss Article 16. The truth is that it was drawn upon the assumption that the League would become practically universal, that, at any rate, it would include within a few years all the great Powers, and that in particular it would include the United States of America.
The fact that the United States has not signed and is not bound, and refuses in connection with the Covenant, and repeats the refusal in connection with the Pact, to come under any obligation as to its conduct towards a State which breaks either the Covenant, or the Pact, materially alters the position of Article 16. It makes Article 16, even if all the signatories were hound to live up to the expectations of the right hon. Gentleman, a much less effective measure than it would have been if the United States and Russia had also been included in it. It makes it quite obvious that certain powers may not be in a position to discharge the obligations in the sense that the right hon. Gentleman thinks they ought to do. Russia has not signed the Covenant of the League. What value exactly she attaches to the signature which she hastened to give to the Pact of Peace may perhaps be illustrated by recent happenings on the Russo-Manchurian frontier. Suppose we are involved in a dispute. It is a dispute in which we are justified, if not absolutely declared to be in the right within the terms of the Covenant, and it is within the terms of the Pact. We call upon every nation to take the action contemplated by Article 16 against the aggressor, who has made war upon us. Suppose that aggressor is a great Power and suppose the State on which we call is a little Power bordering on it, unable to defend itself against it, while we in the pressure of the great struggle are unable to offer defence to that little State. Suppose we then take the law into our own hands, as the right hon. Gentleman proposed, and that little State, aggrieved by our action, appealed to The Hague and succeeded in getting us there in spite of the right hon. Gentleman's intention that we should not be there, is it for one moment to be supposed that in such circumstances the Court at The 677 Hague will, as the right hon. Gentleman argues, refuse to hear the little State, refuse to examine its grievances, and will declare, because it was unable to carry out all that we think are its obligations and duties under Article 16, that therefore it has no right of redress from us in respect of action which the Court at The Hague might be prepared to consider as a breach of international law.
I said at the beginning that I wished I could accept the right hon. Gentleman's reason for revising our opinion, but I confess that the reasons which he adduced as having led him to the conclusion; which he has reached as having led him to abandon the reservation which he thought necessary in 1924, only confirm me in the opinion that that reservation, and perhaps something more than that reservation, is necessary to our national safety. It is a common-place of our Debates—and I wish it were more a commonplace of international Debates—that the position of the British Empire in regard to naval strength is an exceptional one. The Prime Minister the other day remarked that the British Navy is Us. The right hon. Gentleman contemplates that in any war in which we may be engaged, it will be in the interests not only of ourselves but of the world at large, that the force of our Navy should be fully felt. It is not merely because it is our first line of defence, or in case of need, our first line of active offence that it is necessary to us. It is our great weapon for putting pressure upon anyone who attacks us. The House will remember the eloquent words in which Admiral Mahan describes the effect of the blockade carried out by the British Fleet in the years preceding Trafalgar, when he concludes:Those far-distant storm-beaten ships on which the eyes of the Grand Army never rested, yet stood between it and the domination of the world.So it was again in the last great War. It is only a maritime nation which, out of its experience, knows how powerful is that weapon in a just cause, how necessary to the attainment of peace, and it is as a maritime nation which will not abuse that power, but which needs it for its own protection and for the safety of the world, that, I say, that the exercise of these maritime rights in war are not fit subjects for the jurisdiction of the International tribunal of the Hague, and 678 that we ought not to sign the Optional Clause without an express reservation of that liberty of action which the right hon. Gentleman claimed for us four years ago.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
The House has listened with great interest and close attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), but I confess that at the end of it I felt uncertain whether the speech was directed in support of his Amendment or in opposition to the Motion, and whether he and his friends propose to vote only for the Amendment, or whether, if the Amendment be defeated, they propose also to vote against the Motion; for the greater part of his argument was devoted to opposition to the signing of the Optional Clause itself, apart from any reservations that might be made on questions of maritime importance. He went so far as to express his view that the right course in these matters was only to agree to arbitration if this country were able to specify, or to share in specifying, in advance in each particular case the terms of reference to arbitration. That would make wholly impossible any general consent by the nations of the world to refer all cases to a judicial tribunal.
The speech of the right hon. Gentleman was quite consistent with the policy which he and his colleagues adopted when they were responsible for the con-duct of our affairs. They refused altogether, and repeatedly, to sign the Optional Clause. They did not say that they would sign it subject to a reservation with regard to British naval rights in time of war; they refused it altogether. I am bound to say, speaking on behalf of my right hon. Friends and my hon. Friends who sit upon these benches, that their attitude in this, and in many cognate matters, was one of the reasons that drove us into very active and strenuous opposition to the late Government. We regard these questions as of supreme national and international importance, perhaps the greatest and the most important questions that now occupy the attention of the world. We were profoundly uneasy and dissatisfied with the halting action taken by the late Government with regard to them at Geneva and elsewhere. The late Gov- 679 ernment presented to the League of Nations in February, 1928, a formal official document setting forth at length the whole of their position with regard to arbitration and with regard to the Optional Clause. It seemed to many of us to have been one of the most unhappy official pronouncements that had ever been made on behalf of this country. It included three closely-worded pages of negatives, pointing out all the difficulties which beset any approach to measures of arbitration and to an instrument such as the Optional Clause. Worst of all, was the reason which was given for this action. I will read the sentences:The cause of the somewhat small measure of acceptance that Article 36 has hitherto met with is to be found in the fact that the considerations which deter States from accepting binding obligations to arbitrate in all justiciable disputes operate in varying degrees as regards other foreign States. In contracting an international obligation towards another State a country must take into account the nature of its relations with that State. Obligations which it may be willing to accept towards one State it may not be willing to accept towards another.That seems to be a principle which cuts at the very root of all international agreements. It denies absolutely the comity of nations, the equal status of nations before international law. And for the British Government in the name of this nation to have told the League of Nations that it would not enter into general arbitration Treaties, even dealing only with justiciable disputes, because it wished to draw a distinction between the course it would take with regard to some and with regard to other nations, seems to be a wholly indefensible action.
The late Government in regard to this matter of the Optional Clause pleaded the interests of the Dominions. They stated on more than one occasion that one thing which deterred them from joining any other States that had signed the Optional Clause was the unwillingness of the Dominions to agree unless their interests were more fully safeguarded. In another place, the spokesman of the late Government, Lord Cushendun, who has already been quoted, declared that it would only be possible to bring the Dominions into an agreement for signing the Optional Clause if it were subject to reservations which would make 680 a mockery of the Clause. Those were his words spoken about a year or so ago. Owing to the action, very largely, of the British Government, other nations hung back and showed distrust, and the general result was a serious discouragement to the League, and a slackening of its pace of progress. The present Government, to their credit, have brushed aside all these considerations and, with much courage and wisdom, have signed the Optional Clause. I do not think that any action they have taken since they have been in office has met with a larger measure of popular approval throughout the country than this. Mark the consequences! As the Foreign Secretary said, every one of the Dominions has signed the Clause, and with no reservations beyond those that we have made ourselves. Through this action of His Majesty's Government and the lead they have given, a large number of foreign States have signed the Clause; altogether, 40 have expressed their agreement with it. I will read to the House a brief quotation from a well-informed Swiss newspaper, the "Journal de Genève," which follows very closely the doings of the League of Nations. Referring to the remarkable action on the part of so many Powers which had previously hung back and which have now expressed their agreement with the Optional Clause, it says:Why has this act (the signing of the Optional Clause), which was folly in 1924, become wisdom in 1929? It can hardly be doubted that the explanation is to be sought in the attitude of England, for it is the obstruction of England that explains the period of stagnation of the League. It is the impetus just given to it by Mr. MacDonald that explains the activity which rejoices us all to-day. This spectacle should make the English realise the enormous responsibility which rests on them in international affairs. If they hold back, the League holds back; if they advance, the League advances.We, on these benches, will give the Government very cordial support in the action they have taken. We are filled, as I believe the vast majority of our fellow-countrymen are filled, with a most eager desire to end what one of our greatest soldiers, Field-Marshal Sir William Robertson, has called:The senseless abomination of modern war.We do not believe that wars are inevitable. We think that those who say that 681 they are inevitable, help to make them inevitable. We believe that mankind is not the sport of some blind chance or some overwhelming, uncontrollable force which must lead us again and again into conflict and disaster. We believe passionately that men should be the masters of their own destiny and that it is the business of statesmanship to make them so, and we regard this action that has been taken as one step towards that result.
The Amendment which has been moved by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham demands careful consideration upon its merits. It may be said that these general considerations are admirable, but they do not dispose of the very real dangers of the present and of the future, and that while considering international issues, we have to consider national issues also. That is quite true. A wise internationalism ought not to be in conflict with a sound nationalism. The two should be complementary of each other. The sentiments that I have been expressing and the general ideas that I have been putting forward give full scope for a patriotic love for one's own country and for a determination to maintain its just rights, and we have to consider how measures of this kind will affect the future of our country. There is a saying of Burke, that:The State includes the past, the present and the future generations.We have to consider the interests of future generations as much as our own.
Into the legal aspects of the question of international law raised by the right hon. Gentleman, I do not propose to enter. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Dr. Burgin), who has a very close knowledge of these questions, may have an opportunity of speaking in this Debate, and I believe that he will deal with some of those aspects; but one or two general observations may be made in regard to them. We have to realise the contingency, which we hope is exceedingly remote, and which we should do our utmost to obviate, that all the barriers that are being set up against war may fail, and that through events which are now unforeseen, war might possibly break out. If we did not have to conceive those possibilities, we should be able straight away to abolish all our armaments, and if we can only do so by agree- 682 ment with other countries it is because we realise that those eventualities are still possible. When we come to consider these eventualities in relation to the question of British naval action, prize law and the other cognate matters, it would be a mistake to assume that the present conditions of the world and the methods of warfare necessarily lead us to believe that the traditional British view of this matter must be the right one, and the only one that should be taken, even on the narrowest grounds of selfish national interest and national safety. We are speaking now of the possible future risks of this country, and this Parliament would be doing less than its duty if it did not frankly envisage those risks.
The conditions of present-day warfare are very different from warfare in the days of Nelson. On the matter of blockade, the submarine has worked a very great change, and, even if the submarine were abolished, it might be found that the aeroplane has worked an even greater change. We are on the eve of the invention of an aeroplane which will be able not merely to pass to and fro at a high speed, but to hover. That has, indeed, already been accomplished, and we may be sure that if, unhappily, war should break out that would be one of the most formidable weapons which it would develop. Such an aeroplane could destroy merchant ships with the same certainty that a hawk can destroy a sparrow in the open field. In this country the one thing that is absolutely vital to us is our own food supply and the supply of raw materials, and in any future war we are just as likely to be the blockaded as to be the blockaders. The right which we should claim for ourselves we must admit for others, and it might very well be that a later generation, if these unhappy eventualities were ever to occur, would consider that the greatest mistake that this country had ever made was to insist too rigidly upon full freedom of blockade of neutral supplies in time of war, and that nothing had proved more deleterious to our interests.
It is most distasteful to dwell upon these matters at the very moment when we are bending all our efforts to prevent such eventualities, and let no one say that this House is engaged in cynically considering the measures for the next war, instead of pro- 683 viding means to avoid them. That is not so. The Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman and its implications must necessarily bring us to contemplate those distant possibilities, which we mean to use our utmost efforts to avoid. Another point arises in this connection. I believe that it is essential to the progress of the world, and is indeed the most important issue in the world politics of to-day, that there should be the most complete harmony and good will between the British Empire and the United States of America. There is no doubt—there is no harm in expressing these views frankly—that there has been a grave difference of opinion between the two nations on this very question of prize law and this very question of neutral rights in these matters. If ever this subject came to an issue with the United States, are we to fight on it? Members of the late Government have said most emphatically, and I am sure that they spoke the mind of the whole nation, that war between us and the United States is unthinkable. If it is unthinkable, then such an issue, if it ever unhappily arose, must be settled by other means. By what means?
Do the Opposition say that it would be settled by our own Courts of law, according to our own view of international law? That, obviously, is an impossible contention. Are things to go on indefinitely as they are, leaving this dangerous issue still open, always in the background? It seems to me that it is a delusion to think that safety is to be found only in inaction. This particular motion does not directly touch the point, for the United States is not a party to the Optional Clause of the League of Nations, but I do think that the signing of the Optional Clause, together with the Peace Pact, and the endeavour which is about to be made at Geneva to bring the Covenant into line with the Pact, and the attempts that are being made to formulate and complete the code of international law, will gradually impel us to secure a settlement of this issue with the United States. Therefore, the strengthening of the International Court, the formulation of international law and all these other measures will tend towards a solution of this most grave problem.
The right hon. Gentleman in his speech covered a much wider range. He 684 was not dealing only with this matter of naval rights, but with the general question of courts of arbitration The world in these days since the War has really at heart the establishment of a new world order, with a better security based upon law. Neither this country, nor any country can at one and the same time share the general advantages of that new world order and maintain the individual advantage, if it were an individual advantage, inherited from the old world order. You must choose one or the other. You cannot proceed upon the narrow view of your own selfish interest, and at the same time share in the advantages of the general recourse to international law. It appears to me that the Debate between the two Front Benches, in view of the general speech of the right hon. Gentleman, is not a Debate merely between two sides of the House but is a Debate between two different points of view; indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that it is almost a Debate between two centuries: not a Debate between two sides of the House but a Debate between 1930 and 1830. For our part, we who sit on these benches will whole-heartedly support the policy and action of His Majesty's Government in this matter.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. NORMAN ANGELL
There is so much complexity in this subject that I shall certainly need all the indulgence which this House generally accords to a new Member addressing it for the first time. If it were true that a Labour Government in 1930 has not made the provision against a certain contingency quite as watertight as it may have desired to make it in 1924, I do not think we on this side of the House are going to be greatly embarrassed thereby. It merely means that the world has moved, and that the hesitation which may have been justified in 1924 is not justified in 1930. Indeed, again and again the late Government in resisting the general tendency to obligatory arbitration up to the point that it must wait upon the development of public opinion, agreed that ultimately it was a desirable thing but that the world was not yet ready, that we needed certain further appeasements. That was the tone of their excuse for failing to go as far as the present Government have gone. Did they mean these things? Did they really mean that as the world de- 685 veloped they would later on take a stand upon obligatory arbitration, or were they just soft words intended to hide the intention not to move at all? If it were true that we have to abide by the position of 10 years ago, there would be no hope in this matter at all, and there would be no sense in any conference's or legislation, or anything else, because they all imply that the world is moving and growing, and that a time comes for new measures and new laws. I suggest that the signature of the Optional Clause is one.
I share the difficulty of the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) in understanding whether the plea of the ex-Foreign Secretary was for the Amendment or against the Motion. The Amendment deals purely with Sea Law, but there was hardly a word upon that point until the end of his speech. His speech, on the whole, was directed against the general principle of obligatory arbitration and even against the principle of Article 16 of the Covenant. Really one wonders at this date, 10 years after the signature of that Clause, whether the world has moved forward or back when an ex-Foreign Secretary can, on the Floor of this House, plead that the signature of Article 16 was dangerous. His argument amounted to this, that we should not go forward to make that a safe engagement, but go back as far as possible and disembarrass ourselves from it's obligations. One word on the juridical side of this question. The argument of the late Foreign Secretary was that the signature of the Clause would internationalise Sea Law and render it less nationalist. On the basis of that argument he foresaw difficulties with the United States. But surely the position of the United States is that we take too national a view of Sea Law, and any move towards its internationalisation would be welcomed by the United States. Having lived there for some 10 years of my life I know something of the feelings of Americans on this subject.
In the short space of time that I intend to occupy the House I am not going to enter into what a former Prime Minister of this country called the juridical niceties of this question so much as the real issue of policy which divides the late Government from the present 686 Government. The ex-Foreign Secretary said that this was a difference of degree. Yes, but it is a difference of degree so great as to constitute a difference in kind. It is a difference of emphasis, and I should describe the emphasis on the other side of the House as not being directed so much at making war less likely as upon being sure of winning the war when it came. The emphasis I suggest on this side of the House is to make the contingency of war improbable altogether. In that difference of emphasis, there is a vital difference of policy. The implication is that every time we sacrifice any freedom of action, any belligerent rights at sea, we sacrifice a useful tool of defence; that we sacrifice safety for a vague ideal; that to the degree to which we get away from the old order towards international arrangements which tie our hands in any way we weaken ourselves and surrender tools which have proved effective. I am going to take complete issue with the idea that in these days the old methods can be effective at all.
We on this side of the House desire to move as rapidly as may be towards an international order, not from any abstract ideal considerations, but because only in the creation of this international order can our country find security in the vital processes by which it lives, foreign trade, the import of raw materials and food, the export of our manufactures. And we are pressing to that new international order because the old order has utterly and completely broken down. May I ask the House to consider for a moment how far it has broken down? In every one of these Debates a great deal is said about the matter of foreign trade and the vulnerability of our economic situation; how our people are fed by foreign trade; ships going out and coming in—by an elaborate industrial, economic and financial apparatus. All that is perfectly true; it is vital to us. If we cannot maintain the smooth working of that international apparatus we have failed, and have failed to protect our people. Has the old method protected that indispensable and vital apparatus? We have just passed through a protective operation, come through a victorious war. Is that apparatus being really protected? Did these vital processes not suffer?
687 The result of our victorious War is that 10 years after we have to face a graver economic crisis than we have known since the beginning of the industrial revolution. That whole machine has been turned completely upside down, and the results are expressed in the problems which confront us in this House—1,500,000 men unemployed, and the uncertainty of the future. Hon. Members opposite may retort: "Oh, yes, but suppose we had lost? Well, look at the State which did lose—Germany. Is her trade so much worse than ours? Does this apparatus work with such great difficulty in Germany compared with our own? Are the vital processes of life in Germany very much less safe and sure than ours? Do her ships, which have behind them no great navy, travel the seas in less safety than our own? Is there much difference between victor and vanquished? The moral of all this is that we have had to burn down our house in order to prevent it being robbed. That is an indispensable element in the operation of the old system, and it is because it is an indispensable element, because under the old system, and under the rights which the ex-Foreign Secretary would preserve, you inevitably get this result, that we want to move towards a new order. May I remind hon. Members why the old order, the exclusive nationalist tool of defence, the kind of right which critics of the new order would desire to see immutable, must inevitably result in conflict? What is the essence of the old method? It was once said by a very distinguished Member of this House when speaking in the north of England:Gentlemen, there is just one way in which you can have peace and be secure, and that is to be so much stronger than your prospective rival that he will not dare to attack you.He went on to say that that was a self-evident proposition, and that by that means alone could you have peace. I was present at the meeting and could not forbear the interjection as to whether that was the advice be would give Germany. The old method amounts to this: Here are two States, or two groups of States, how shall they get peace and be secure? There are statesmen who say that each will get peace and both will be secure when each is stronger than the other. It defies arithmetic, and it 688 defies something else. It defies the only social principle upon which it is possible to create any alternative organisation. It defies the principle with which obligatory arbitration is very intimately linked.
In the objections to the principle of compulsory arbitration, we are urged again and again to think of the needs of defence and we have been reminded, for instance, that the United States have refused to go further than the present obligations of the Pact. I do not take the view that it is the last word of American opinion. I do not believe it for a moment. It will depend a great deal on what we do. But America has undertaken not to fight, as other signatories have undertaken, except for defence, and I want to show how that reservation affects us. What is "Defence"? We have the view that these great navies really do defend ships at sea; that they are a police force. Police forces are not created for the purpose of fighting each other. When we hear that Manchester has increased the effectiveness of her police force we do not immediately hold a conference to establish a parity between London and Manchester. They are not a police force, but they may become a police force if we progress with the general idea of obligatory arbitration. If, therefore, defence is not that kind of thing, is defence the defence of territory to preserve the inviolability of hearth and home? Indeed Mr. Kellogg has suggested that that might be the test of a defensive war—resistance to invasion.
That, incidentally, would condemn every foreign war in which America has been engaged. It would condemn every one of the Allies except Belgium. Look at our own history. We are very proud of it, and as an Englishman I am prepared to plead that all our wars were defensive. I want to keep out the ironic note, because the more you take the view that our wars were truly defensive the more are you piling up the argument to sign the Optional Clause. We are proud of the fact that our Army has gone to almost every country of the world. Kipling writes about it. I was considering the other day the countries to which it had not gone. There was Switzerland, though I am not sure about that. But I was sure about Greenland. But there is one 689 other in which the British Army has for 800 years never fought a foreign foe, and that is Great Britain.
The history of every other major State is the same. America—her first war as an independent State was in the Mediterranean, 3,000 miles from her borders. The next war was, not to resist invasion, but over a question of sea rights, about which we are wrangling yet. Her next was with Mexico, but not to resist invasion. Her next near war was with Maximilian, which might have come about, except that it was just after the Civil War, and Lincoln said to his Cabinet: "One war at a time, please." The next near war was with us, as the ex-Foreign Secretary has reminded us, over Venezuela. That would not have been to resist invasion.
§ Mr. ANGELL
I said "near war." The right hon. Gentleman did not hear my description. The next actual war was with Spain. It was not to resist invasion; there was no question of the Spanish troops invading America. The next was with the Philippines, some thousands of miles from her borders. The next was with Germany. It was not to resist invasion; the German troops were otherwise engaged at the moment. Those were not aggressive wars; they were defensive wars. But my point is that they were not in defence of territory. What were they defensive of? Here we get to the heart of the matter. They were defensive of national interest—what each believes to be his national interest—defensive of national right, ultimately the right to be our own judge of our own rights. Now, if that is what defence means, which it must and does, the demand for a certain preponderance of power, for having our hands free and untied, takes on a rather different colour.
If it were truly merely territory, the demand for a larger Army than a neighbour might not be provocative, but when defence means the defence of our view of our right, then it comes down to this, that one side says to another "Quite true, we ask a larger Army or larger Navy than you, but it cannot be provocative in any sense because it is merely for defence, that is to say, that when you 690 and I get into a quarrel, which we shall, about undeveloped territory, access to this ice-free harbour or the use of this canal or river, all we ask in that dispute is that we shall be its judge and so much stronger than you that you will just have to accept our judgment without question. Can anything be fairer?" Does the other party accept that view? The other party points out that there is just one person who should not be the judge in a dispute, and that is one of the litigants.
The trouble with the old order is not merely that it defies arithmetic, but that it defies morals, because it means that you must, under that order, on behalf of the security of your country, all the time be claiming rights that you do not accord to the other fellow. All the time you are asking the other state to accept a position which you would have refused to accept if it had been asked of you. The only alternative to this is third party judgment—arbitration, obligatory arbitration, arbitration agreed upon beforehand, not arbitration with a reservation that "Oh, well, when the time comes we shall see whether it is suitable for arbitration or not." If there is that large reservation you will inevitably be thrown back on the old order and the old anarchy.
I want to make two points more. We have an interest in the creation of this international system, not merely as a preventive of war. We have an economic interest in it in this country, because we are dependent upon an international economy in a nationalist world. We have an interest in its development because only by that means can we place these processes of which I have spoken upon a secure foundation of law, of contract. Only by that means can we hope that the barriers to international trade can gradually and ultimately be worn down. The nationalist impulse is, as we know, favourable to the creation of those barriers. There are seven thousand miles more of tariff walls since the War than there were before. Every year almost sees some new one. That is the result of the nationalist impulse as opposed to the international habit of mind. If our position is to be a workable one in the world at all, if the means by which our people earn their daily bread are to be secure, we must somehow create an order, an 691 international order, which shall be a political reality, and upon that base gradually an economic order which shall be international too.
If the world is to remain nationalist, then our position will become progressively insecure. It is impossible. As the right hon. Member for Darwen has so well reminded us, the degree, the pace depends largely on the example which we set. We criticise the League, criticise its instruments, but these institutions and this League are exactly what the constistituent members make them. There is a story of some French peasants who desired to give their parish priest a cask of wine. The arrangement was that each peasant should contribute a bottle. Each peasant thought, "Well, after all, my bottle will not make much difference." So when the tap was turned on the great day pure water came out. We complain that the wine which comes from this international cask is such poor stuff, and yet we water down and water down our individual contributions. We must stop that; we must tie our hands in advance.
This is my last point. We must tie our hands in advance because of a factor, human nature, which is so often brought as an argument against this international institution. All my life I have heard it said that people are so pugnacious and mankind so quarrelsome. I know. That is why we must strengthen the League and strengthen all such arrangements. It is the only reason. If we were not of that nature, if in national patriotism there were nothing irrational or quarrelsome and in human nature nothing defective, of course we should not need a League. But neither should we need our constitution, our laws, this House or the Ten Commandments. The time has come to add to those institutions, and to strengthen them. It is true that the impulse that checks the step forward is a natural one. Nationalism is still a strong force. I suggest to the House that society has become too complex and too vulnerable a thing to be guided merely by impuse, instinct, to be guided even by what I might call bulldog-ism.
The right hon. Gentleman, the former Foreign Secretary, has, I think, rather taken pride in the fact that we are an illogical people. Perhaps we are, but I 692 do not think that we ought to be over-vain of—how shall I put it?—our stupidity. We English have not in the past laid great stress on the need for intelligence.Be good, 'fair' maid, and let who will be clever.I suggest to the House that in these days the fair maid cannot be good unless she is clever. There comes the point when too great a scepticism, too great a caution is suicidal. I would illustrate by a very great American philosopher, William James. He said: "I am climbing in the Alps and I work myself into such a position that I cannot get down, and if I am to save my life at all I must jump a chasm which confronts me—and a chasm confronts Europe to-day—and I put it to myself as a practical man whether it is possible for me to jump this chasm. I decide that it is. This decision gives me the necessary confidence and faith. I jump with confidence, in a business-like way, and succeed. My success is proof positive, the best kind of proof, proof by the event, that that was the true, the practical and the scientific conclusion." But, he adds, "My conclusion would have been just as practical and true and scientific if I had decided that I could not do this, because if I had come to that decision the very fact that I had decided that I could not do it would have deprived me of the will to try. I would have launched myself forward in a moment of desperation and would have lost my foothold, and my destruction would have been proof positive that that was the true, the practical and the scientific conclusion." Which means that in a whole range of human affairs the factor which makes the difference between what is practical and what is not is the factor of the human will. If now we decide that the time has come for this country to give a lead, to give reality to these international institutions, and if we go forward, it is that decision, the decision that it is practical which will make it practical.
James's point is that when you have two courses before you and the considerations are fairly evenly balanced, the course of wisdom is to cast aside doubt and decide for the more hopeful and the more fruitful. It is that decision which will kick the beam in favour 693 of the practicability of the more hopeful. If we believe we shall be saved; if we doubt we shall surely perish. The time has come, in our steps towards a new international order, for us to mix intelligence with our courage and to realise that we are taking these steps towards a new order—to which this Clause will be so profound a contribution—not merely with a view to fulfilling some vague alturistic aim, but because by that method alone can we give our people and our country true and real security. It is on that behalf that I urge the House to pass by a large majority this Resolution, believing that in so doing it will have discharged in the best way possible its obligation to protect the heritage which is ours.
§ Captain EDEN
I feel sure that all Members of the House will wish to extend their congratulations to the hon. Member who has just sat down upon a very exceptional maiden speech. I should be the last to pretend that I am in agreement with all he said; but I should be the first to express what I know we all feel, namely, sincere admiration for his earnestness and for the oratory by means of which he expressed that earnestness to the House. I am sure we shall enjoy on future occasions the contributions with which he honours our proceedings. I feel in rather a quandary after a speech such as the hon. Member's. I am something of a heretic about the Optional Clause in this sense, that it has always seemed to me that a kind of legend has grown up around the Optional Clause. When the late Government was in office, that Government and its supporters were frequently and vigorously accused of failure to sign the Optional Clause. It was even said that this failure might be held to amount to a holding up of the work of disarmament and so forth. I do not think that criticism would be made now by anyone who had an opportunity of studying the White Paper. The hon. Member who has just spoken was suffering just a little from the effect of this legend. The speech which he made with such eloquence really could have been made with equal effect and perhaps even more effect in support of the Covenant of the League to which we have already subscribed.
The truth is that the Optional Clause, immensely important as its consequences 694 may be and probably will be for this country, does not mark a departure in principle from the practice which has been followed before the right hon. Gentleman appended his signature to it-There is no fundamental departure in principle at all. The main principle underlying the policy of which this is part is quite simply whether this country prefers arbitration to war and this has been settled long since. Over and over again in treaties and other documents we have emphasised the fact that this country has preferred and will always prefer arbitration to war. Therefore there is no departure in principle in saying that we are going to accept arbitration. It is simply a question of whether we will accept this particular form of arbitration for particular sets of disputes—that is all. All these other very rich phrases about future international decisions and the effect of arbitration, are really beside the point, because these questions are not raised at all by the signature of the Optional Clause. It simply involves the somewhat technical and perhaps not very inviting question of whether or not by submitting certain disputes to a certain court we are doing the best we could do in the course of international peace. That, I think, is the sole issue before us.
The House will surely recollect—and I am sure the Foreign Secretary will endorse this statement—that this country to-day is making a very extensive use of the Court at The Hague. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Liberal party talked as though the late Government had never heard about the International Court. The late Government made more use of that Court than the Government of any other country whatever. The right hon. Gentleman talked as though the International Court were some new discovery which the Foreign Secretary, with his genius had made, but if he makes as much use of the International Court as the last Government did, he will be following a most excellent example.
§ Captain EDEN
I give the right hon. Gentleman as long as he likes and I hope he does so but he may not deserve 695 another five years. But there is no question about the fact that the late Government made extensive use of the Court at The Hague and if the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Liberal benches had taken the trouble, he could have ascertained that fact without difficulty. Again, on the political issue, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) said at the Geneva meeting in 1927, we have arbitrated more disputes probably than any other country in the world. Why then the impatient appeal addressed to us? It is not as if we had ever shown any reluctance to use arbitration. The House will remember the political dispute which we had with Turkey, and how that dispute was referred at once to the Council of the League, and how we used the judgment of the Council, not to impose it on the Turkish Government, but simply as a means by which we could ultimately arrive, by a more generous concession than even the Council thought right, at common agreement between the countries concerned. Therefore I earnestly appeal to the House that in this Debate we should not allow ourselves to be led into either extravagant denunciations of the late, Government based on false hypotheses, or into extravagant hopes of what the Optional Clause will do.
For my part I am not prepared to join in the chorus of belief that the signature of the Optional Clause or, as it should be called, the Obligatory Clause, is going to have all the moral effect which some hon. Members seem to expect. The House should solely judge it as a business proposition. We ought to consider how far, by appending our signature to it, with the existing reservation, we serve the best interests of international peace. May I state briefly some of the reasons which make me a little anxious about the position as it stands. This White Paper deals with the interpretation of international law and makes very light of the differences of opinion existing between the Anglo-American and the Continental schools of international law. I am bound to say that I think the White Paper errs a little on the side of optimism. We have, for instance, the opinion of a no less distinguished lawyer than a former Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham, 696That International Law really only means the customs accepted as binding by civilised nations. There is the very greatest uncertainty as to what falls within the scope of International Law.I do not think that the Attorney General would quarrel with that interpretation, and it surely places upon us a further obligation to think very carefully of how we express the limitations which we consider necessary in view of the present indefinite nature of international law. In that connection the White Paper uses some curious arguments. It says, in effect, that it is quite true that some differences will exist, but that it may be some time, and probably a long time, before international law can be codified and before there can be certainty where there is uncertainty to-day. Therefore, it argues, it would be foolish to wait and we ought to go ahead. I do not think that that is a logical argument. If uncertainty be admitted, as it is admitted, then the assumption of this argument is that, if it only took a short time to secure certainty, we ought to wait, but as it will take a long time, we ought not to wait. That is a thoroughly unsound argument. If there be uncertainty, and it is admitted in the White Paper, then, whether the time be short or long, there should be a farther definition and a further clarifying before we set our hands to the ratification of this Optional Clause. In support of what I have just said, I shall quote one who was not a member of my own party, namely, the late Lord Haldane. The right hon. Gentleman opposite will be familiar with the observations of the late Lord Haldane on the signing of this Clause, and I will only weary the House by referring to one sentence. Lord Haldane referred to the language of the Covenant and contrasted it with the language which we are now placing in this Clause. He said:The language used in this Article (Article 13 of the Covenant) is less stringent than Article 36 of the Protocol of 1920 (what we are now embodying in this Paper), and gives rise to less embarrassment.That is very similar to the criticism expressed by Lord Hailsham. He concludes:At present I am averse to the explicit acceptance of a principle which will probably give rise, if so accepted, to keen controversy.697 That is an expression of opinion, admittedly given some time ago by one who did not belong to this party—by one who may, indeed, be regarded by some right hon. Gentlemen opposite as a man who was ahead of his time, because he joined the Labour party before they did. I am sure no one would complain of him as being a reactionary. The point of view which he expressed is one with which the House should still be concerned. As I listened to the speech of the Foreign Secretary I was rather sorry to hear what seemed to me to be an implication which could not be resisted from his remarks, namely, that signature of the Optional Clause must logically follow from the signature of the Pact of Paris. The reflection which occurs to me is: What is the position of those who signed the Pact of Paris, but made it quite clear that they had no intention of signing the Optional Clause? The position of the United States in this matter is well known. They have no intention of signing the Optional Clause and they would be surprised to think that this House considered their signature any less valuable because it was attached to the Peace Pact only and not to the Optional Clause. We ought to be very careful in our expressions on this matter.
I do not want to make any difficulties for the right hon. Gentleman or anybody else, but I think that someone speaking in this Debate for the Government ought to make it quite plain that there was no intention in the course of the right hon. Gentleman's speech to suggest that the signature of the Pact of Paris without the signature of the Optional Clause would make the signature of the Pact of Paris, as such, any less valuable. Personally, I think that the right hon. Gentleman would have been on much firmer ground if he had tacked this Optional Clause on to the Covenant of the League instead of on to the Pact of Paris. I think that is the mistake which he made in his speech. I am sorry also to find in this White Paper the implication that the Covenant as it stands does not meet our needs. I suppose I belong to the last century, but I am one of those who think that the Covenant was better drawn than its critics of to-day realise. There is admittedly an elasticity in the Covenant. Personally, I think it is a very good thing that that elasticity exists and that 698 these attempts which are made from time to time to block up holes, imaginary or real, and to stiffen up the machinery, are not likely to have very happy results. You cannot mechanise peace. Peace, if it comes, is maintained as the result of a feeling growing up among the nations of the world, and all that you have to do is to provide the instruments of interpretation. You can make these instruments too rigid. If you mechanise them too much, you are far more likely to hinder the cause of international peace than to help it. These are considerations to which the right hon. Gentleman might well bend his mind.
There is another matter to which I would briefly refer. There is a reservation in this White Paper by means of which some disputes can be referred to the Council and not to the International Court. The impression which arises in our minds is this: In the event of this country having a difference of opinion with some other country, and considering that the matter should be referred to the Council and not to the International Court, is it necessary for both parties to be agreed that the matter should go to the Council? I do not think it is. I think one party can bring a matter before the Council. Very well so far, but there is a later stage. If one of the members of the Council is anxious to transfer the matter from the Council to the International Court, would it lie in its power alone to effect that transfer? I do not see why one should be thought to be making mischief if one speaks quite frankly.
I have in my mind the interpretation of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty proposal, which is a typical example. I hope it will not happen, but it is conceivable that at some distant date there will be differences of opinion between us and Egypt as to the interpretation of some conditions arising under that Treaty. The right hon. Gentleman might think that matter was essentially political, and therefore want it referred to the Council of the League. Egypt might not think so, and might want it referred to the International Court at the Hague. What would happen at Geneva then? We are debarred, as an interested party, from being present, but if Egypt secures the support of one other Power to say the 699 matter must be transferred to the International Court, to be decided by a body which the right hon. Gentleman himself admits is not constituted to decide political differences, would that one Power have its way? It is questions like those which I think should be before us to-day when we are deciding this very important matter.
On the question of belligerent rights at sea, this paper argues this very difficult question very ingeniously indeed, for several paragraphs, but I confess the arguments are so ingenious that when I got to the end I thought them altogether too ingenious to convince me. The final summing up sentence, to which the former Foreign Secretary referred, states thatas between members of the League, there can be no neutral rights, because there can be no neutrals.As between Members of the League perhaps, but unhappily all nations of the world are not Members of the League, and those very important questions which are thereby raised remain unsolved even after the extremely acute and carefully contrived arguments contained in these pages. It is unfortunately, I think, true that in international affairs it is not the expected but the unexpected which disturbs the equilibrium of nations.
You can have your flight of stairs carefully arranged, and you can induce the nations to go up and down in well-behaved order, but there may be somebody who likes sometimes to break away, and who might prefer to slide down the banisters. I am sure the present Foreign Secretary will never want to slide down the banisters—he will never do anything so indecorous as that—but somebody might want to do so, and the more you crowd your stairs with these technicalities, the more temptation there may be to slide down the banisters; and it is that consideration which makes me a little suspicious of these carefully contrived and highly technical arguments. I believe there is no matter, so long as we are a naval Empire at all, which can more intimately affect us than belligerent rights in time of war, and I do not think it necessary to be taunted with going hack to the last century in order to say that we on this side, as I am sure the Government also, 700 are anxious that in the interpretation of our rights under these reservations we shall leave no doubt on a matter which is absolutely vital to the future existence of the British Empire.
In conclusion, I believe the right hon. Gentleman, in going about this signature of the Optional Clause, cannot be too cautious, simply because, as I have said, I do not admit that there is here some great new statement of principle. There are tunes in the lives of nations and peoples when it is necessary to take risks, even grave risks, in the cause of world peace. Several such have arisen since the War. We took such risks when we signed the Covenant of the League, and I sometimes think that some hon. Members have not read the Covenant of the League, and do not appreciate the tremendous obligations we have already under it—far more important, of course, than the comparatively technical obligations under this Optional Clause. When these issues come along, grave issues, the nations of the world have to take risks for peace, and would take them, and must take them. The responsibility would rest upon us. We took them when we signed the Covenant, and again we took very grave responsibilities when we signed the Treaties of Locarno; but there is no great departure of principle here, and upon this comparatively limited issue the House should go carefully, and examine stage by stage the various limitations which are in question.
If this were a great issue, I would be with the right hon. Gentleman, the Foreign Secretary, but it s not a great issue in principle, and nobody who has read the Clause through and compared the present position with what it will be under the Clause can admit that there is any departure in principle, but only the possibility of serious differences in practice. The right hon. Gentleman should walk delicately in this matter. He should be a very Agag here, and I am afraid the effect of general election promises has made him try to drive like Jehu. We think that in this matter the country and the Government have the very gravest responsibility, not so much to ourselves, who may never be called upon to face any of these responsibilities bound up in this Paper, but to future 701 generations, who may have cause to rue our action to-day unless it be carefully watched, studied and explained.
§ Mr. COCKS
After the very brilliant maiden speech which we heard from my old friend and teacher, the hon. Member for North Bradford (Mr. Angell), I think I may say, if I may use one of the images which he used at the end of his speech, that I am not facing the prospect of leaping the chasm of my own maiden speech with any special confidence. I rather feel more like that animal, the chamois, which was described by a poet who was once a Member of this House as an animalWhich suffers from spasmsOn the edge of deep chasms,and lives in perpetual fear.At the same time, I know it is the custom of this House to give to those Members who are undergoing the very trying ordeal of a maiden speech the utmost consideration. I should like to add that I feel it is a very great privilege to be allowed to make my first contribution to the Debates in this House on a subject so important as the present one, important not merely to our country, but to the whole of civilisation. I hope the House to-night will ratify the Government's decision to sign the Optional Clause, and I hope it will do it to-night, without any delay, because, if I may judge from the aspect of the benches below the Gangway opposite, certain meetings have been taking place which may make the continued existence of the Government to-morrow a matter of some doubt.
I was reading the other day that every step in the advance of civilisation is due to the substitution of the force of argument for the argument of force, or, if I may put it in another way, to the gradual conquest of the forces which make for conflict by the practice of those principles which make for reason, cooperation, justice, and law. That is the Way in which our civilisation advances. I think that if we look back we shall see what has happened, how our civilisation has advanced, and how humanity has gradually risen from a condition of primitive barbarism, as the unit of government has gradually extended, first to the family, then to the tribe or clan, then to the city state, then, in this country at least, to the heptarchy, and after- 702 wards we come to the independent sovereign State, inside whose frontiers and boundaries lawlessness has been eliminated and the reign of justice prevails.
Here for the moment it seems to me that this process of co-operation in the development of law and justice seems to have stopped, for before the War we had in Europe a number of separate, independent, sovereign States, each, according to the philosophy which then prevailed, subject to the laws of growth, with their increasing populations, demanding places in the sun, demanding colonies, markets, and so on. Therefore, so it was argued, their interests in the long run were bound to clash, and war thereby became inevitable. That, I think was the prevailing philosophy of that time, and so we had that pre-War condition of a number of independent nations believing that the only defence for the future was to prepare for war. We were told that if we wanted peace, we must prepare for war, and so we bad these independent sovereign States armed to the teeth, we had the system of dividing those States into rival alliances, the balance of power, and so on, we had arms piled up to the sky on every side, and we had the whole atmosphere filled with suspicion and hate and, what is worse, with mutual fear; and in the end we did not have peace at all, but the most disastrous war the modern world has ever seen, a war in which 7,000,000 people perished. As we all know, men perished in that struggle who to-day might have been the leaders of the world, and God knows we need them.
As a result of that terrible catastrophe, most of us, not only in this country, but in other countries as well, have learned a lesson. We have learned that the pre-War system was wrong, that the pre-War system of nations dependent entirely upon their own strength and power, upon alliances, and so on, was wrong, that civilisation itself must not in the future put its trust upon "reeking tube and iron shard," but upon a system, an entirely different system, which recognises that after all nations are not entirely independent, hut that they are interdependent, that each nation is not a unit by itself, a sort of planet swimming around in the universe, but is part of a community, the community of 703 civilisation. It is upon that conception, and upon the changed philosophy that has developed from that conception, not in America only, not in England only, but in many centres throughout the world, that there has been built up, first of all, the League of Nations, that there has been established the Permanent Court of Justice at The Hague, and that finally, only last year, the nations agreed to sign that solemn pact never again to settle their disputes by war—the Pact of Paris. We give all honour to the men who first made it a matter of international fame, Mr. Kellogg and M. Briand.
What is the present position? There are at least 60 nations which signed the Kellogg Pact by which they have agreed absolutely to surrender the weapon of war as an instrument of national policy. But although 60 nations have signed that Pact, the position is yet incomplete, because although the nations have agreed never again to use the weapon of war for the settlement of international disputes, they have not supplemented that Pact by any machinery of agreement by which they shall in the future decide every possible dispute that may arise between them. Side by side with the Kellogg Pact is the Covenant of the League of Nations, and by the Covenant of the League of Nations, as everyone knows, machinery is provided for discussion and conciliation. In the Covenant of the League of Nations there are gaps. For example, if a dispute comes before the Council of the League of Nations then, unless that Council is unanimous, its decision has not any force in law. It seems to me that one of the great opportunities for statesmanship in the future is to close up the gaps of the Covenant in the League of Nations and implement the Kellogg Pact.
Broadly speaking, there are two classes of disputes which divide nations—justiciable questions which involve interpretation of treaties, or questions of international law which can be settled by judicial means; and the great mass of problems and questions which are not juridical and can only be settled by methods of diplomacy and arbitration. The latter are not new before the House, and I will confine myself to the 704 main question which concerns disputes of a justiciable character. To settle them the League of Nations 10 years ago set up the Permanent Court of Justice at The Hague, and, by common consent, in the last nine or 10 years that Court has rendered valuable and useful services. No service has been rendered to that Court greater than the contribution which this country gave in the person of the late Lord Finlay and the various acts which took place while he vas acting in that Court.
It has been said to-night that one objection to signing the Optional Clause is the difference in the conception of the law held by the Anglo-Saxon people, by Britain and the United States, and the Continental conception, which is based on Roman law. It is useful to remember in that connection that the late Lord Finlay was brought up in the traditions of Anglo-Saxon law. He took part in 23 different decisions made by that Court, and on three occasions only was he in a minority, and on only one of those three occasions was there a matter involving international law of any importance. On that particular occasion, when he differed from his Continental colleagues, he found himself on the opposite side to his American colleague who, like himself, was brought up on Anglo-Saxon law. Therefore, that objection is not one of serious moment.
Last September the Government signed the Optional Clause by which it agreed, with certain reservations mentioned in the White Paper, to accept in future the jurisdiction of the Permanent Court and to accept its final decision on all matters of dispute that go before that Court. I would like to congratulate the Members of His Majesty's Opposition upon the progress they have themselves made on this particular subject. I do not say that because of the speech we have heard from the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) for whom, personally, I have the very highest respect, but because of the actual terms of the Amendment he has put down. According to that Amendment the Opposition now accepts the Government's decision to sign the Optional Clause with one reservation only, that dealing with the question of maritime warfare. That was not always the position of His Majesty's Opposition. 705 It was not the position of His Majesty's Opposition up to a few weeks ago. I find that on 11th July, 1927, the right hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson) stated in this House the Government's reason for not signing the Optional Clause. He said:No constitutional Government can guarantee that the necessary legislation that would arise in case of an unfavourable arbitral award would be passed by Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th July, 1927; col. 1886, Vol. 208.]He was objecting to the jurisdiction of the Court because he could not guarantee that Parliament would accept an unfavourable award. Last year, in another place, the late Government refused to accept a Motion in favour of signing the Optional Clause on the ground that there was no way of excluding matters of vital interest. Three days later, in the well-known Note sent by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham to the League of Nations on the subject of arbitration, he said:There are some political questions even of a justiciable nature as to which a country feels that…the stage has not yet been reached when it can agree unreservedly in advance to submit them to an arbitration tribunal.He made the suggestion that public opinion might not agree to an adverse decision made against this country. I see that the right hon. Gentleman has returned. I did not like saying this when he was out of the House. I think that in the Note which he sent to the League of Nations the suggestion that the British people might not accept an adverse award given against them in that Court of jurisdiction which they had accepted was an unfair challenge to the sense of justice and fair play of the British people which should not have been made.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
If he looks at the passage again he will see that was not what I intended to say, or indeed did say.
§ Mr. COCKS
I fully accept the right hon. Gentleman's assurance that he did not mean that, but I had quoted just, before he came in a statement made by the then Under-Secretary in which he made that point. On 1st May last in another place, the late Government resisted Lord Cecil's Motion in favour of signing the Optional Clause, and in the Debate on the Address at the beginning 706 of Parliament I did not detect in the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman or any of his colleagues any particular enthusiasm in favour of signing the Optional Clause, even with the reservation about maritime warfare. On the question of maritime warfare, which has been discussed—and I realise that in making a maiden speech I must not be too controversial; it would be a want of tact to do that—but on this question of maritime warfare I would like to say that I do think the Foreign Minister has made a very full and effective reply to the criticisms on that point. After all, as I have shown from the quotations which I have given, if the Foreign Minister has changed his views on the question of this particular reservation since 1924 owing to the changed international conditions, the chief Members of His Majesty's Opposition have changed their views also, and they have changed their views, I am glad to say, for the better.
What is this point about maritime warfare? I am not a Law Officer of the Crown, or anything of that sort, so I would like to put the point shortly as it occurs to me. It seems that conditions have changed entirely since the Foreign Minister made his speech in Geneva in 1924. The League of Nations was, of course, then in existence, but the League of Nations is now very much stronger. Its prestige is very much higher to-day, largely as a result of his own action, than it was five years ago. We have also had the signature of the Kellogg Pact. What is the result of that double obligation, of the terms of the covenant of the League of Nations and of the Kellogg Pact, on the question of maritime warfare? Most people agree that if the British Navy is to be used in the future—and I hope, as all Members will hope, that there may never be any need for it to be used at all—but if it is to be used again, the British Navy will only be used on behalf of the Council of the League of Nations as against some Power which has broken the Covenant of the League or the Kellogg Pact. I do not conceive that in such a situation the Court at the Hague would formulate any rule or law preventing this country acting on behalf of the common unity of civilisation as far as maritime warfare is concerned.
There is another point which has occurred to me which has not been raised to-night. It is this: Supposing there is 707 a case in which our neighbour across the Atlantic—and it has been said in a case of the sort that I have mentioned America would not find it incumbent upon her to give succour to the nation which had broken the Kellogg Pact—but supposing America took the opposite view-to that, and maintained her position regarding the rights of neutral shipping. Even in a case of that sort, the Kellogg Pact must be maintained. Then, even though the International Court at The Hague held that our action, say, in searching neutral shipping, was legal, I am sure that the British Government at that time would say, "Legal or not, it is not expedient."
I believe that the greatness of our country depends not so much on the power of our Navy, or upon the wealth of our citizens, as upon the extent to which we accept the obligations of international law and international justice. I feel that the time has come when England should say, "We do not believe any nation has a right to judge its own cause." Because I believe that, I feel that one of the most glorious days in the history of this country in future will be the day when, having taken a case which we believe to be absolutely right to the International Court at The Hague, a decision is given against us on behalf of some small Power, and we, although we have all our proud history behind us, accept the adverse decision. An even greater day will be when a decision is given against us, not in favour of some small State to whom perhaps we could be magnanimous, but to some rival State, a Power equal to ourselves, and we can say, although we might believe we were right, that we accept the decision of the Court, because we believe in international justice and international law. The day when that happens will be a more glorious day than the day of Jutland or the day of Waterloo. It is because I believe the signing of the Optional Clause will bring that day a little nearer, that I hope the House will vote for the Government's Motion.
§ Major HILLS
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the wider aspect of this question. I assure him that the House has listened with very great interest to his maiden 708 speech, and may I very heartily congratulate him. He has given a real contribution to this Debate for, starting with the larger view of the subject, he brought down his argument to the point that is before the House. I think that he will be satisfied that he has pleased the House, and I hope that he has pleased himself. The point before the House is one of immense importance, but is really a very narrow point: are we to add one reservation to the reservations already made on the effect of the Optional Clause? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) takes a view which I find it hard to follow. The Foreign Secretary proposes five reservations, all of them important, and one very important indeed. We suggest that a sixth should be added and because of that, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen tells us that we are living in the last century. The Foreign Secretary ought to be pleased that, while five reservations are the last word in progress, six reservations are reactionary.
I stand where I believe a vast majority in this country stand. I want the Optional Clause to be signed; I have pleaded for it for many years past. I have been asked on many platforms if I am in favour of it, and I have always said that I am, but that certain reservations must be imposed. Among those reservations I have always included the one on the Order Paper. The question is not one between arbitration on the one hand and war on the other. I envisage the future very much in the same terms as the Foreign Secretary. After the Covenant and the Kellogg Pact were signed, this country could be at war under two conditions—first, a defensive war, and second, an action in pursuance of the Covenant of the League of Nations. I submit that, in either of these contingencies, certain questions of international law might arise. I do not dispute whether the British view of international law or the American view or the Continental view is the best or the right one, but, when you submit to a court, it is important to be clear of the law by which your case will be judged; and all that we ask is that it should be made clear beyond all argument what that law should be.
709 It is not a question of limiting the effect of the Optional Clause. In fact, the reservation imposed by the right hon. Gentleman claiming the right to withdraw a case from the International Court is far more important than this reservation. All that this limitation does is to say that we define the law that is to guide the Court in certain contingencies. I cannot see any danger or risk in that, and, when I am told that it infringes on the Kellogg Pact, I have yet to learn the reason why. The Kellogg Pact makes no difference in maritime law, but it is a document of extreme importance and efficacy. When the right hon. Gentleman, in 1924, persuaded the Assembly of the League to pass the Protocol of Geneva, I strongly supported it, and I was anxious for the Government to ratify it. Now that that time has gone by, I believe that we are better off, and I believe that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that we are better off, with the Kellogg Pact. That Pact is the expression of the Anglo-Saxon mind, while the Protocol of Geneva was the expression of the continental or Latin mind. The world has found in the Kellogg Pact a real step in advance of the Covenant, a real way of taking the world a stage further on the road to peace, and I hope that nothing will be done to overload the Kellogg Pact with detail, and to try and foresee a future which nobody can foretell, but just to say two simple things which the Pact says—first, that no nation will use war as an instrument of national policy, and, second, that all nations that have signed will submit their disputes to arbitration, and leave it there.
I cannot see why a reservation that was right in 1924 is wrong in 1930. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen has a very simple explanation; it is that what the present Foreign Secretary does is right, and that what my right hon. Friend the ex-Foreign Secretary does is wrong. He accused him of living in the last century. I wonder what he will think when he reads that to-morrow morning. I wonder what history will say to a charge of that sort against the author and enforcer of the Treaty of Locarno, and against the Government which adhered to the Kellogg Pact. When the record of my right hon. Friend comes to be scanned by history—I admit that I have not altogether always agreed with 710 him—it will be found that that record is a fine one of consistent and earnest work for peace. I have supported the Optional Clause for many years past, and I want to see it signed. I shall vote for the Amendment, because I have always made that reservation in every statement which I have made about the Optional Clause. If I am asked whether I would rather have no Clause at all than the Clause without this sixth reservation, while I should very much regret the absence of it from the other reservations, I would choose the Clause without it, for I believe that it adds one more bulwark to the edifice of peace, and that it will not be quite so dangerous as an hon. and gallant Friend here thinks, for I believe that it is in consonance with the spirit of the Covenant and with the Pact of Paris.
§ Miss PICTON-TURBERVILL
I support the signing of the Optional Clause, because I believe that it is one more step on the path of enduring and permanent peace, and I believe that, if by chance it was not ratified to-night, it would be a step back to the cause of peace, and would kill the hope of people not in Great Britain alone, but throughout the world. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said that this Clause is implicit in the Kellogg Pact. Of course it is. It is not only implicit in the Kellogg Pact, but in the Preamble of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and, of course, implicit in Article 15 of the Covenant—that on arbitration. In the Preamble, we have the words:The High Contracting Parties, in order to promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security.…by the firm establishment of the understanding of international law as the actual rule of conduct among Governments.So the signing of the Optional Clause, whereby it is agreed that all juridical disputes shall be taken to the International Court, is inclusive not only in the Covenant of the League of Nations, but in Article 15 of the Covenant, as well as in the Kellogg Pact. It is the logical development of all that has happened in international work since the War. It has been said, Why is it necessary to sign the Optional Clause when it is possible to take your disputes to the Council of the League of Nations? I do not think it can be too often emphasised—because again and again people have spoken as 711 though the Council's decision were final—that unless the Council gives a unanimous verdict on a question there is no decision; and all that the signatories to the League of Nations pledge themselves to do in the event of the Council not being unanimous is to wait three months before going to war. The signing of the Optional Clause is not a final step, but is one step to closing the door on the possibility of war between the nations. We are asking the House to ratify the signing of the Optional Clause, but I hope before long Parliament will be asked to sign the General Act of Arbitration.
Why was there this holding back from signing the Optional Clause by the late Government? I am proud to think that in the history of the past, Britain has led in matters of arbitration. By accepting arbitration in quarrels Britain has, to a certain extent, though only to a small extent, rescued mankind from the haunting fear of war. Great Britain signed a Treaty with America when the feelings between this country and America were bitter indeed. The other day I was reading the letters of an officer of the British Army, written just after the American Declaration of Independence. They show that the feeling in England was very bitter—the Americans were then referred to as "rebels"—but in spite of that bitter feeling Britain signed a great Treaty whereby she pledged herself to take all disputes that arose out of the Declaration of Independence to a court of arbitration. I am proud of the part Britain has played in the past, and I regret that since the War she has held back from leading the great cause of rescuing mankind from the haunting fear of war. It has been assumed that what we are being asked to do might be to our disadvantage, but, economically, continual quarrels and disputes are a great loss. A friend of mine was describing to me the other day the 100 years' dispute between France and England over the Newfoundland fisheries, and the great economic loss in which both nations were involved, until the late Lord Salisbury piloted through Parliament an arbitration Treaty which settled that matter to the comfort and economic gain of both nations.
How can it possibly be said that we are to exclude from arbitration or the 712 judgment of the International Court vital interests and things that affect our honour? Does anybody really suppose that so subtle and glorious a thing as honour can be vindicated by force? Does anybody suppose that honour and justice is better secured when a man is the judge in his own case? That is plainly an impossibility. The men who in days gone by resisted the law against duelling were not the men who had the finest sense of honour, I am afraid, but the men who knew themselves to be excellent swordsmen. I feel that the man—or nation—that has the highest sense of honour is the one claiming not to be the judge in his own case, but prepared to stand aside and submit his case to an international and impartial tribunal because of his confidence in the justice of his case. Then it has been said that perhaps we would not be satisfied with the judgment of the Court. That may be granted at once; one is not always satisfied with a judgment in a court of law, but the point is that in the long run greater justice is done by taking international disputes to an impartial tribunal than any nation can claim to achieve if it is left to be the judge in its own disputes.
The hon. and gallant Member for Warwick (Captain Eden), who I am sorry has gone away, spoke as though it would be the same thing if we decided on the method of arbitration after the quarrel had arisen. There is all the difference in the world. The psychology is different. When once a quarrel has arisen passions are aroused and to decide then about arbitration is a dangerous proceeding. The only safe course is to decide in advance the method of arbitration. Things move swiftly when there are quarrels and passions have been excited, and that is the worst time to decide on how to arbitrate. If it is not decided beforehand that any quarrel shall be taken to an impartial tribunal, then when the dispute does arise the stronger Power of the two is put in a position in which it feels that it can insist on a particular method of arbitration as a condition of arbitration. That puts the weaker nation at a grave disadvantage.
Though it may perhaps seem somewhat of an impertinence on the part of one who is so new to the House of Commons as myself, I am profoundly persuaded 713 that the late Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is wholly wrong in believing that the proposal before us will not be a further step forward in the permanent cause of peace. It is not enough to desire peace. One hon. Member opposite said they desired peace. Surely we may almost take it for granted that everybody desires peace; what we have to do is to build up machinery whereby that which we desire shall be made possible. All down history men have desired peace. Napoleon, according to his letters, desired peace, but he never secured it. Slowly, painfully, and with a certain amount of sacrifice, the nations to-day are creating machinery whereby enduring peace will be possible. It has been said that it may be well to arbitrate with some nations but not with others. I hold in my hand the observations of the late Government on the Committee of Arbitration and Security, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) drew attention to a very painful paragraph in those observations. In paragraph 15 the Government say they may be willing to accept obligations towards one State but not willing to accept them towards another. Whether that means that the Government would be prepared to accept arbitration with a powerful nation but not with a weak nation I do not know, but that has an uncomfortable implication, and is contrary to the whole trend of evolutionary thought upon which the nations are attempting to build a new international order.
Then we come to the question of public support. Lord Cushendun said in November, 1927, that to sign the Optional Clause would be to go beyond public opinion, and the late Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs took the same view. If that were the fact, I should say they were perfectly right in their judgment, because no Government ought to go beyond the nation; but I am convinced that they are wrong in thinking it would be going beyond the wishes of the nation to-day if we were to sign the Optional Clause. A great number of Conservative Members are in favour of the Optional Clause. I have noticed the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) very busy amongst her colleagues on the benches opposite. I hope she is going 714 to be effective, and that despite what the late Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said we are going to carry hon. Members on the benches opposite into our Lobby, so that it can go forth to the world that there was a unanimous vote for signing the Optional Clause. I would remind the Noble Lady that she still has probably two hours in which to work amongst her colleagues. Many Conservatives are in favour of signing; all Liberals, I think I am right in saying; and all Labour Members. Surely, then, it cannot be said that public opinion is not in favour of signing. Even in the days when the question of giving the franchise to women was being debated I was never one of the foolish people who said we must not give votes to women because they would all vote one way, and that if they were opposed to the men then the poor men would be outvoted. Women do not vote as a rule together. I find it difficult to get even a committee of a dozen women to agree, or men either; still less is it easy to get all the women of the nation to agree.
§ Miss PICTON-TURBERVILL
Yet it does happen, but not very often, that there are questions upon which women in the country are in the main united. I could refer to one or two instances in history where women were united on a political issue, if I did not want to detain the House, but I can assure hon. Members that on this particular point the women of the country are united. To say that the Optional Clause was too technical to be explained to the electorate and too difficult for women to understand is quite beside the mark. Women throughout the country had the Optional Clause explained to them. In 1926, 28 national organisations of women arranged a pilgrimage throughout the country and held more than 1,000 meetings on the subject, and Mrs. Alfred Lyttelton, who as everybody knows is a distinguished member of the Conservative party, said in an interview after the last General Election that one of the reasons for the defeat of the Conservatives was that the women of the country were persuaded that the Conservative Government had not been keen enough on securing peace. She said that in her opinion the impression the women of the country had 715 received was a false one, but she stated, as one of the reasons for the defeat of the Conservatives, the belief on the part of the women that the Conservative Government had not led, as it ought to have led, in securing and seeking peace.
§ Miss PICTON-TURBERVILL
I am persuaded that the signing of the Optional Clause will close another avenue that makes war possible, and will provide another piece of the machine which will make permanent peace possible. Hon. Members may have read the letters of Lord Disraeli, and will remember that in one of them he cried out almost in despair "War is so much easier than peace." Why is it that war is easier than peace? Because the machinery for war is at hand. You have only to say a word, almost only to press a button, and the great machinery of war is put into movement, and when once it is in movement it is very difficult to stop. Now we are creating machinery to be put into movement to secure not war but permanent peace, and the signing of the Optional Clause is an important part of that machinery, not yet perfect, but soon, I hope, to be perfected. Well do I know that machinery alone is not enough. There must be the spirit for peace behind it. That spirit is already in the nation, but desire is not enough and everybody desires peace. A young man once wept over a city, not because the Romans would destroy it, as they had done many before and would do again; but because his nation, while longing for peace, did not study the things that belong to peace. I sometimes wonder if the deep desire for peace may not be even a danger, lest people think the desire alone will secure it.
We must study the things that make for peace, and which create the machinery that makes for peace. I am persuaded that the Optional Clause is one step further towards the goal of permanent peace. I sometimes seem to see a neck and neck race between reaction—unintentional reaction but nevertheless reaction—ending in a final catastrophe, and education ending in the permanent peace of the nation, yet I do not really doubt which will win. By our achievements since 1918 and by yet fur- 716 ther efforts we are literally entering into a new era in which war will find no place. The signing of the Optional Clause is another step in that direction. I believe that the children of the next generation will read no story, no tragedy, no epic poem, with deeper wonder or deeper feeling than the story of how the men and women of this generation, by moral couarge, infinite patience, and by a readiness to take risks built up a new social order which gave a deathblow to the horror of war.
§ Mr. MANDER
I would like to remind hon. Members that 379 Members of this House at the last Election were pledged to support the Optional Clause and that total included a substantial number of Conservative Members. I feel certain that those hon. Members are going to honour their pledges to-night by voting for the ratification of this Clause. Some of the most distinguished Conservatives in the country are behind the Government on this question. In this respect I only need to mention Lord Cecil, a man of world-wide reputation on this subject, who, although he left the late Government in disgust, will always remain a great Conservative. I am glad to be able to speak in support of the ratification of this Clause to-night, because it so happens that I was present in the famous glass council room of the Secretariat at Geneva when the Foreign Secretary, amid all the publicity of the world, signed the Optional Clause on behalf of this country on the 19th of September last. While the Government in some matters nearer home have been timid and disappointing. I do say that their foreign policy has been admirable, and I desire to give their my wholehearted support so long as they continue to carry out a foreign policy which is so entirely in the interests of the country. I hope that the Foreign Secretary is not going to stop merely with the signature of the Optional Clause. I think the right hon. Gentleman has already indicated that in due course he will sign the General Act of Arbitration, Conciliation and Judicial Settlement so that we shall have an all-in warproof treaty which will make it impossible, under any circumstances, for disputes of a war-like character to break out.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) seemed to be labouring under a mis- 717 apprehension on this point, because he said it was agreed by the present Foreign Secretary and all parties that there were some things which could not be submitted to arbitration. I think that the right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong there. My view is that the vast majority of the Members of this House would admit no limit, and no exception whatever to the settlement of disputes by judicial means or by arbitration. I think the late Foreign Secretary is quite mistaken in assuming that he has many sympathisers in this House on that point.
I particularly want to congratulate the Government upon having shown British leadership in regard to this question. I believe it is because of the attitude which has been taken up by the present Government, and solely on that account, that, in addition to our own signature, 14 other countries, including Italy and France, have signed the Optional Clause; and, of the 14 countries who have not yet signed, I believe that quite a number of them will be persuaded to do so. We are the natural leaders of the League of Nations, and, if we continue to lead, other countries of the world will be glad to follow. Those who attended recent meetings of the Assembly must have felt the humiliating position in which we were when they saw this country lagging behind in regard to the affairs of the League instead of giving a lead to the world. I recognise that the late Foreign Secretary has rendered great service to the League, and by far the greatest service he rendered was that he attended personally every meeting of the Assembly and the Council while he was Foreign Secretary, except when he was not in a good state of health. In that way, the right hon. Gentleman set an example which I hone will be followed by the Foreign Ministers of this country in the future. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham did not have the courage and get the credit for bringing off this fine stroke of policy instead of acting in the timid way which he did. The right hon. Gentleman adopted a policy of safety first, and he lost a chance of doing something which would have been a great credit to himself and his party. Personally, I do not care which party gets the credit for progressing in these matters so long as progress is made.
718 It may be said that we are taking certain risks in signing the Optional Clause, but surely you cannot do anything in life any day of the week without taking risks. You cannot cross a London street, without taking some risk, but that is no reason why you should stand shivering on the pavement for ever. In taking the slight risk which we have taken in signing the Optional Clause we are overcoming the infinitely greater risk of, leaving so many questions to drag along which might end in the arbitrament of war in the final issue. The late Foreign Secretary was very much concerned when he pointed out that in the ultimate issue, questions taken to the Council under our reservation might go to the Permanent Court. I think they ought to go to the Permanent Court, and, if the Council is not able by means of conciliation under their procedure to come to a settlement, they will go to that Court as a matter of right, and the Permanent Court may become an international prize court. I think that should be so, and in that respect I think the late Foreign Secretary is mistaken.
I should like to deal with certain objections which have been raised. It has been said that a decision might be given by the court which might be regarded as unjust. May I remind hon. Members that no case is ever taken into any court without at least one side thinking that the decision has been improperly given. I think the best answer to that argument is to read the remarks made by Senator Dandurand, the Canadian representative, who said at the 8th Assembly:We have not been fortunate as regards the awards of courts of arbitration to which we submitted questions affecting our territories. In East and West alike we have lost immense tracts. We did not swallow that pill without pulling a wry face, but Canada notwithstanding remains a firm supporter of the principle of arbitration, and we still think it is preferable to run the risk of an injustice than to have recourse to arms, for even an unfavourable settlement is better than a victorious war.Those eloquent words give a complete answer to an argument of that kind. The late Under-Secretary suggested that a decision might be given to which the people of this country would object so much that we should not follow it out. I venture to say that that is a libel on the people of England, and it is most unfair to say that. I am sure that the people 719 of this country are far more advanced than was shown by the attitude of the late Government on this question, and we desire nothing better than to base our policy on justice and justice alone and take the consequences whatever they may be. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said that it is desirable to keep our hands free in dealing with any dispute so that we may adopt whatever procedure seems most suitable. That really means that if as a great Power we believed that we could do better by going to the Council we should go there instead of to the Court and use our power to get a settlement to which we should not be entitled on the strict basis of justice. I think that is an unworthy reason which cannot be defended on any understanding of the comity of Nations.
It is said that this country always goes to arbitration, and that we intend to go in that direction in the future. The people of this country may know that, but other countries do not, and therefore it is essential that other nations should know what we mean in the words of the Clause and that they should understand that ipso facto without any special agreement, any dispute of a certain kind that arose would go without any question or any consideration or debate to the Court for judicial settlement. This is a concession which ought to be made to the logic of Continental nations and in that way we can do a great deal to satisfy other countries that we really do know what we mean to do.
There is one last objection that I would like to mention. It is sometimes urged that international law is uncertain, that we do not quite know what decisions might be given, and that, therefore, we are taking great risks, and should wait until the whole thing is codified. As regards maritime law that may be so, but that is dealt with on the lines that have already been discussed to-night. As regards international law other than maritime law, I venture to say that there is no such great uncertainty. At any rate, there is no more uncertainty than there was in English law in the reign of Edward II, and, on the basis of the English law as it then was, has been built up that 720 magnificent structure of the English common law through succeeding centuries, entirely as the result of the decisions of the Judges of this country I believe, therefore, that, if we give the eminent lawyers who are the judges of the Permanent Court their chance, they will in the same way, by their own judicial decisions, build up a world common law that will be worthy of the splendid example of the common law oil this country.
Hon. Members on the Conservative benches have sometimes attacked the Government, or have endeavoured to attack them, because they were not uniting the Empire, because they were acting independently in some respects. I think that that comes very strangely from a Government which concluded the Locarno Treaty without the concurrence of a single Dominion. Not one of the Dominions has ever given its assent to the Locarno Treaty. I think the late Government were quite right in doing that, but it really does not lie in their mouths to come here and attack the present Government, who have been infinitely more successful than they were, for not getting on every occasion the complete assent of all the Dominions. In this case they have been very successful. The whole Empire is united.
What would be the effect of carrying this Amendment or defeating this Motion to-night? It could only be to split and divide the Empire. Is that what hon. Members want? Let it not be imagined for a moment that, if this Motion be rejected to-night, Canada and the Irish Free State and the Union of South Africa are going to be held back, to say nothing of the others. Some of them have been pressing for years for this, and have only been held back by the reactionary and obstructive policy of the late Government. If the Conservative party were to do what some of them want to do, and throw out this Motion to-night, it Mould be one of the worst pieces of work in dividing the British Empire that hat been done, at any rate, since they passed the Treaty of Locarno.
It is difficult to speak to night, or to think of what we are doing to-night, without a feeling of emotion. We are by our action taking away from the field of possible violence a very large number of disputes, and bringing them into the calm 721 atmosphere of the judicial bench or the council chamber. More than that, I believe there are children growing up in different parts of the world to-day who, as the result of our action to-night, are going to live long and useful lives to their very end, instead of being cut off in the flower of their youth as the present generation have been. Therefore, I most heartily support the Motion.
§ Lady CYNTHIA MOSLEY
It has been a source of the greatest gratification to all of us on these benches that one of the very first steps that this Government took was to signify its intention of signing the Optional Clause; and they not only said that they would sign it, but, at the first opportunity, they did sign it. Of course, that Clause ought to have been signed years ago, and the various excuses which have been trumped up by the Conservative Government to mitigate their failure to sign it will not bear looking into at all. The trouble is, as the Foreign Secretary said in his opening speech, that the attitude of mind which has dominated the Conservative Government during the last five years has been that there were certain interests and points of honour which one could not submit to arbitration and, unfortunately, the late Foreign Secretary gave voice to those very sentiments in a speech at Birmingham on the 6th April, 1925, when he said that there were some questions so vital to the honour, or the necessities, or even the life of the nation, that they could not consent to refer them to arbitration. What question in the world is so vital to one's honour that one could not submit it to an impartial international tribunal, and what in the world is more vital than the preservation of peace in the world at the present time?
They have tried to justify their inaction by a variety of other reasons, but, as I have said, those reasons do not really bear looking into. The fact remains that for five years they have blocked every suggested method of extending our arbitral obligations; and this country, which, as other speakers in the Debate have already pointed out, has been in the past the pioneer in regard to arbitration, which has very often led the way, has been for the last five years one of the chief obstacles in the way of a further and very widely desired advance in the direction of yet more arbitration. There 722 is one excuse put forward by the Conservative Government which has already been touched upon, but I want to say something more about it, because it seems to me to be very important. It was the excuse that Parliament could not be relied upon to honour its bond if an arbitral award went against us. I have here the actual words of the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the last Government on that subject. He said:No constitutional Government can guarantee that the necessary legislation that would arise in the case of an unfavourable arbitral award would be passed by Parliament.Why, I should like to ask, would it not be passed by Parliament? The implication was—and that implication was further developed in the 1928 Note to Geneva—that public opinion would not be behind them if they did pass it. It was argued in that Note that one could not trust public opinion to be behind them, that public opinion might not tolerate such a commitment, that the people of this country might be unwilling to submit themselves to the judgment of this International Court, and that they must keep a free hand and must keep and reserve to themselves the right to go to war if and how they wanted to do so.
Whoever heard such an argument as that at a time like this? If there is one thing about which the people of this country are solid, it is the question of peace, and never, not only at this time, but at any time in history, have the people, the rank and file, of any great country wanted to go to war when their Government has not wanted to go to war. Who has ever known of any occasion when the great masses of the people clamoured to be allowed to fight, and those in authority said, "Oh, no, please don't; we don't want you to; we want to keep the peace?" Of course, it is absurd to suggest such a thing; the case is exactly the opposite. Generally speaking, it is the Government and those in authority who, by one means and another, have to get the people up to the desired scratch, and very often the means they employ are most reprehensible. At the present moment, more than ever before, the determination for peace is uppermost in people's minds, and, therefore, it was a very poor reason to put forward, 723 and a very bad excuse, to try to pretend that public opinion might not be behind any awards given by an International Court of Justice if those awards were against us.
What are the facts of the case? We signed the Optional Clause on the 19th September. Was there a great outcry? No, it was one of the most popular things that we have ever done; there was widespread satisfaction throughout this country, and universal approbation; and the interesting fact is before us this evening that even His Majesty's Opposition, when they tabled their Amendments, decided that it would not be politic to table an out-and-out Resolution against our signing this Clause, but timidly put down a reservation which is amply covered by the formula of acceptance that we have already adopted. The Conservative estimate of public opinion in this country is, to our mind, wholly wrong; it could hardly be more wrong. The people of this country have a much better understanding of other peoples, a much stronger respect for law, a much clearer recognition of the insecurity of lawlessness, and a much finer sense of what is right and wrong, than the late Government seem to give them credit for. The mere fact that we are on this side of the House at the present time, and hon. Members opposite are over there and are not the Government of this country, shows the intense desire that there is that something more should be done about peace, and that steps should be taken to substitute law for war at the very earliest possible moment.
There was another excuse that the late Conservative Government advanced. It has been fully dealt with this afternoon, and, therefore, I shall not have much more to say about it. It was the excuse about the Dominions. I would only like to draw the attention of the House to this one point, that, away back in 1926, at the Imperial Conference, when the Resolution was tabled putting off the whole question until further discussion had taken place, the Conservative Government at that moment, if they had really wanted to do so, could well have persuaded the Dominions to come in with them. Canada, Ireland, and South Africa were perfectly willing; the only two Dominions about whom there was 724 the slightest doubt were Australia and New Zealand, and they said quite openly that they would be satisfied to leave all questions of foreign policy in the hands of His Majesty's Government. Even then, in 1926, some 19 or 20 other nations had already signed the Clause, and still further members of the League had signified their intention of signing directly we signed.
This whole question of the Dominions, the whole contention that it would split the Dominions, has been proved this afternoon to be groundless by the facts of the case, and I need not repeat what has already been said. Every one of the Dominions has signed the Clause, and has accepted fully the position that we took up; and not only have the Dominions signed, but a great many other countries that had said they would sign have now done so. There was quite an amusing paragraph in the "Economist" of the 14th September last year about that question. It said:Everyone had realised that the acceptance by Great Britain of the principle of compulsory arbitration in justiciable disputes would have far-reaching effects, but it all seems almost too easy now, from the way in which one delegate after another has come up to the Tribune to declare the intention of his Government to accept the obligation of this famous Clause.I am glad to say that it is the rule rather than the exception for members of the League to be subject to this Clause.
The Conservatives advance a third reason for not signing this Clause. I wish the Conservatives were as good at thinking of reasons for doing things as of reasons for not doing things. If they did that, they would be a better party than they are. But they argue that, as long as we were willing to submit all our disputes to the Council of the League, it was as good as submitting them to the Court of International Arbitration. Of course, that is not so. I will not go in detail into all the differences, hut the main difference is that, in all disputes before the International Court of Justice, the award is binding on both parties. In the case of a dispute submitted to the Council of the League, if the decision is not unanimous, the parties are left free to go to war at the end of three months.
It seems to us that the reluctance of Great Britain to submit herself to a court 725 of international justice has tended to make foreigners think our loyalty to the League would never stand the strain when our own interests were involved. That was a very unfortunate impression to create, but it was a very obvious one when the reluctance existed. Now I am delighted to feel that that reluctance has gone, and, therefore, it is impossible for that suspicion to exist any longer. I am sure it has by now been dissipated. But still I think the fact that we have signed this Optional Clause will do a very great deal to make foreigners feel that we really mean what we say in all the fine sentiments that we express, and I am certain our action has added to the security of nations and shown that we mean business and are out to substitute law for war. I hope that Members of the House, or anyone else who feels like it, will take courage from the knowledge that, after all, no dispute that has ever been submitted to arbitration has resulted in war, and no case ever submitted to arbitration would have been better replaced by war, and from the growing recognition that not one of the wars of recent years has served our interests better than a reasonable award would have done. I found a very remarkable paragraph from a speech by a very great man the other day, the late Earl of Oxford, speaking at Southend in 1925:The only way in which we could attain anything in the nature of practical international brotherhood was to submit all disputes and differences, whenever they arose, and whether they affected points of honour or points of so-called vital interest, to the fair arbitrament of a judicial tribunal and to abide by its result.It seems to me a most extraordinary thing that people should be so scared of arbitration. Why should not matters of vital importance be decided by unbiased and intelligent people in a calm and collected atmosphere, instead of by blood and bombs, underground or up in the air? It passes my comprehension that there should be any division of opinion on the matter. People talk about the hazards of arbitration. Are the hazards of arbitration so great? On one thing we are all surely united, that they are nothing like as great as the hazards of war, and nothing could be so frightful as the possibility of another war.
It seems to me that this generation that knows what war is, that was occupied with the last war and took part 726 in it, must be the generation which finally establishes peace, and a permanent peace. Ten years have gone by since the War—ten years before men of authority have been found with sufficient nerve and courage to take the elementary step of pledging our word, instead of behaving like animals in the jungle, that we will behave like civilised human beings. We should conduct our international affairs like we conduct our home affairs. We should go to law about them instead of fighting it out between man and man. That step, thank goodness, has been taken. That risk, if there is a risk attending it, has been taken, and I am glad of it, but I hope this Government is going to take more risks in the same direction. We want them to take a lot more risks in the winning of peace so as to avert the greatest risk of all—another war. After all, nothing can be as bad as that.
In the last four years I have gone about from one end of the country to the other, speaking at meetings, and it is impossible to over-estimate the strength of the feeling among the men and the women in favour of building up this peace. It is our task. The generation that knows war ought to do it. It is as much the task of the women as of the men to do something about this, perhaps more. Anyway we mind about it more than it is possible to tell. I hope that the Government will have an overwhelming vote to-night, but I hope that they will not be satisfied to rest there. I hope that they will go on with the great work. Arbitration is a great thing, but we want a lot more in the establishment of peace. We want to -get a feeling of security among nations, and, until you get a wide measure of disarmament, you are not going to get a real feeling of security. That, I suppose, is outside the scope of the Debate, so all I can say is that I hope the Government will get a very substantial majority and that not only the House but the country will back them up in the great efforts that they are making to establish peace and law instead of war and force.
§ Commander SOUTHBY
I rise to intervene in this Debate, not in order to go through the whole question of the effects of our signature of the Optional Clause, but to submit to the House the effect, as I see it, that that signature will have on the exercise of our age-long belligerent 727 rights at sea. No one can doubt the sincerity of the Noble Lady who has just spoken, in everything she has said. No one can doubt the sincerity of the House as a whole when it expresses its wish that war should be no more. As far as the signature of the Optional Clause is concerned, there is very little difference between the two sides of the House, but on both sides it is recognised that there must be some reservation. The only difference appears to me to be that we want another reservation to go in, because although we are no less sincere than the party opposite, we feel that it is a duty to the Empire, as we see our duty, to submit that there should be one further reservation, and that is the question of our naval belligerent rights. It is a great pity that the term "freedom of the seas" has got into public minds and public mouths, because many people who have neither the leisure nor the wish really to examine the question do not understand what is meant by it. It is not a question of some form of tyranny being exercised upon people who wish to use the seas both in peace and in war, because in peace time the whole of the seas are just as free as, nay even freer than, the land, and that freedom is due, in a large measure, to the beneficent work done in the past by the great maritime nations of the world. In wartime quite a different situation arises. Then the question of the freedom of the seas may be, and is, to an island Empire like ours, entirely vital.
I think this House might well stop to consider what it is that we are doing if we sign this Clause without making a reservation regarding our belligerent rights at sea. I do not think that anyone denies that we are now standing at the parting of the ways. What we do tonight may have an effect in years to come which none of us can foresee. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I know hon. Members opposite are sincere, but they will perhaps allow that I may be just as sincere in my wish to build rightly for those who come after as they are. I hope and pray that the day when war shall be no more will come. No one could be more sincere in that than I am. But it is our duty to those who will come after us to make perfectly certain that, if another war comes, they may not be in such a position that they are bound to go completely under. In peace-time 728 the seas are free. It is true that the United States, for reasons best known to themselves, infringe the old idea of the three-mile limit and the liberty of action of those industrious people who wish to trade in spirituous liquors. It is true that the Russians have endeavoured to enforce a 12-mile limit as against our fishermen, but, in the main, the seas are entirely free, and I do not think anyone will deny that that is so. When you come to war, a different situation arises and it is vital to an island empire that there should be some measure of control. It is right that we should examine exactly what will happen if the question of belligerent rights is to be submitted to an international tribunal. I believe I am right in saying that the Prime Minister has always said that the signature to the Optional Clause should be subject to reservations. What does the Clause do? If we sign it, it means that any question involving our belligerent rights must be submitted to an international court. It has been made quite clear in all the speeches to which we have listened that in the end it is practically certain that every question of belligerent rights at sea will ultimately get to this international court. The hon. Lady says, "Hear, hear!" It is perfectly true. But let us consider the fact that that court is going to be composed of people who hold the Continental view as regards the law of war at sea in contradistinction to the view held by this country, which, I would remind the House, has in fact always been the view held by the United States of America whenever she has herself been at war. It is even possible that should we be at war—God forbid that that should be so—our conduct at sea would be submitted to a court upon which would sit representatives of the country with which we were at war. The Continental school has always been hostile to the traditional view of Great Britain as to sea warfare.
It is not the first time that an endeavour has been made to form an international prize court. In 1907 and in 1909 we had similar attempts. On each occasion, I would submit with great respect to the House that behind them there was grave suspicion that the wish was to tie the hands of the British Empire. In 1907, at the Hague Convention various agreements were come to. I will only mention two: one, the inviolability 729 of hospital ships, and the other, that ships should be boarded before anything could be done as regards their capture. Both those agreements were torn up by Germany the moment she was involved in the maelstrom of war. She treated them like scraps of paper and, as far as the agreements were concerned, they were of no benefit whatever to us. It might be well for the House to remember what were the instructions of the United States delegates to that same Hague Convention. The instructions of the Chief Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the United States were as follows:Considering the temptation to which men and nations may be exposed in time of conflict, it is doubtful if an international agreement to this end would prove effective.It is true that the particular thing which they were discussing was the use of gas. In 1909 came the Declaration of London. Does anybody in this House deny that we were thankful at the end of the War that we had never ratified the Declaration of London? If there is one thing above all others concerning the War which is certain, it is that we started the War as far as our Navy, our first line of defence, was concerned with one arm tied behind our back. It is also true that the War, with all its horrors and hideous expenditure of blood and treasure, was unduly prolonged simply and solely by the action of those who endeavoured at the Declaration of London to tie our hands. In the end, Germany was beaten largely because she could not get any copper, and yet at the Declaration of London copper was put upon the list as being entirely non-contraband. Even aeroplanes were only partially contraband, and rubber, which everyone knows is one of the most indispensable articles in any warlike operation nowadays, was put entirely on the free list. Nowadays, it is not merely armies and navies which go to war; it is whole nations. I submit that it is neither humane nor common sense to impede the use of any weapon which will make war shorter if it should come. I will quote the words of a great writer, Admiral Mahan, who has been quoted already in this Debate from the opposite side of the House. He said of the War of American Secession thatthe alternative to blockade, was the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of lives and money.730 If we happen to be involved in another war is it reasonable to suppose that if our enemy was perfectly certain that by attacking our trade he could beat us with one decisive stroke he would hesitate for one single moment to take that action t Are the Government prepared to trust the whole of our sea-borne trade, food and everything that it entails, to the action of some neutral? How can any belligerent States guarantee the freedom of sea-borne communications any more than two contending armies could guarantee each others communications? How can any Court guarantee, if you are a belligerent, sea communication or freedom of land communication? Nobody has denied in any speech to-day that there is still—and I am sorry to say it—the possibility of war being used as the last resort. I hope, as everybody in this House hopes, that every means will be taken on every possible occasion to use arbitration such as is visualised at The Hague and at Geneva instead of the arbitrament of war. I hold that view most strongly, but if you have to go to war there are two ways by which you can subdue your enemy. One is by actual physical assault, and the other by economic pressure. I ask hon. Members; Where is the ethical distinction between the two. Why is it moral or right, if you are going to make rules at all, to blow your enemy to pieces, but wrong to prevent food coming into his country? Those who advocate the free passage of food-ships, to my mind, are most illogical. You guarantee immunity to a foodship passing across the ocean, but you do not guarantee the immunity of that food-ship when it arrives in your harbour. It is to be safe at sea, but it may be bombed in harbour, and, in addition, the food, after being put in the stores, is also subject to bombing. Where is the logical argument in that? Why should you protect food going across the ocean if you do not protect it when it gets to the other end?
The only country which has ever been really consistent in the exercise of its belligerent rights has been Great Britain. Whenever the United States has been at war, their view has been the same as our view. Indeed, it is common knowledge that in the late War they wished to go much further in the exercise of those rights than we did. I would remind 731 the House that in the original Declaration of Paris, in 1856, when we were anxious to sign the Declaration, the United States refused to sign, because they wished to be allowed to use privateers, the use of which the Declaration abolished. I have referred to the Declaration of London. Four times was that great American, Mr. Walter Hynes Page, then Ambassador to this country, instructed to press the then Foreign Secretary belonging to the party below the Gangway unconditionally to ratify the Declaration of London, and four times our Foreign Secretary refused. This is what Mr. Page said in writing to Colonel House:The case is plain enough to me. England is going to keep war materials out of Germany as far as she can. We would do it in her place. Germany would do it. Any nation would do it"—And he goes on to say that,if England be let alone, she will do it in a way to give us the very least annoyance possible.He pointed out that we had not then confiscated a single American cargo even of unconditional contraband. We stopped some and bought some for ourselves, but did not confiscate one single cargo. And then, says Mr. Page:What do we, the United States do? We set out on a comprehensive plan to regulate the naval warfare of the world, and we up and ask them all, 'Now boys, all be good, damn you, and agree to the Declaration of London.'Further, this great American says—and what he says should be read and understood by every Member of the House:If we let England go on, we can throw the whole responsibility on her, and reserve all our rights under international law and usage, and claim damages, and get them, for every act of injury, if acts of injury occur, and we can keep her friendship and goodwill.So strongly did he see the justice of our position, our age-long attitude as regards belligerent rights, that he definitely said:If Lansing again brings up the Declaration of London, after four flat and reasonable rejections, I shall resign. I will not he the instrument of a perfectly gratuitous and ineffective insult to this patient and fair and friendly Government who, in my time, have done us many kindnesses and never an injury, and who sincerely try now to meet our wishes.It is fair to look back at history and see what these same maritime rights, which 732 it is suggested should to-night be given up by this House, have done. Blockade broke the power of Napoleon, who set out for the domination of the whole world. On this point I should like to make one more quotation. Lord Aberdeen, when peace was being discussed at the end of the Napoleonic wars, warned the French:against supposing that any possible consideration would ever induce Great Britain to abandon a particle of what she felt to belong to her maritime code, from which in no case could she ever recede.To-night, we are being asked to recede in a very grave degree from that same maritime code. Our maritime rights have never been used except in the interests of the peace and liberty of the world. Again, I would quote from Mr. Page, a great American, a great patriot and a great lover of this country. He said:So far as ensuring peace is concerned, the biggest factor in the world is the British Fleet.Shorn of its age-long belligerent rights, properly used, fairly used, justly used, that same British Fleet as an instrument for keeping the peace and maintaining the peace of the world, which we all wish to see kept, is absolutely useless. If this House ratifies the signature of the Optional Clause, without the reservation to us of our naval belligerent rights, it will be subscribing to a similar proposal to that characterised by Lord Nelson in another place, in 1801, as:A monstrous proposition, contrary to the laws of nations and injurious to this country's maritime interests.The Government of this country, no matter from what party it is drawn, is responsible for the lives, liberties and well-being of the people of the British Empire. It is the guardian of their safety, and if this Government ratifies this Optional Clause, without the reasonable reservation of what is absolutely vital to us, I submit that it will be betraying its trust as no other Government in the history of the whole British Empire has ever betrayed its trust. For these reasons, I support the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. NOEL BAKER
The speeches which have been made from the benches opposite have appeared to us on this side to be rather arguments against the acceptance of the Optional Clause as a whole, than in favour of the Amendment 733 which has been proposed. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] At least, a number of them have been of that character, and since our policy is the acceptance of the Optional Clause it is of importance that the arguments that have been used should be answered. I want, within the limits of my powers, to answer some of the contentions put forward by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) and the hon. and gallant Member for Warwick and Leamington (Captain Eden). The late Foreign Secretary took great exception to what was said by the Foreign Secretary when he argued that the acceptance of the Optional Clause was a logical consequence as our signature of the Pact of Paris. He said that that was as good as saying that the signature of the United States was insincere. With respect, I do not think that that contention can be seriously maintained. I remember very well a speech made by the American Secretary of State, last April, when the Kellogg Pact came into force, that the next step which his Government must take would be to see what it could do to organise machinery for the settlement of international disputes.
That is obviously a duty which devolves upon those who signed the Pact of Paris. The United States are doing it in one way, because they are not members of the League. They have begun by accepting an all-in and general treaty of arbitration drawn up by the American Union. We do it in another way, because we are members of the League. We say that it would be fantastic to start providing new machinery for the settlement of international disputes, when we have the machinery of the Permanent Court already there. We say that it would be fantastic to make new treaties to impose the obligation to go to the court when, in fact, we have the Optional Clause. That is all that the Foreign Secretary contended, and it is supported by a remark made in the note which the British Government sent to Geneva in 1928, to the Committee on Arbitration and Security, to the effect that in respect to justiciable disputes it was desirable that such disputes should be dealt with by the Permanent Court rather than other machinery. Therefore, the argument against the Foreign Secretary does not hold water.
734 I think the same is true of what the right hon. Member for West Birmingham said about the speech of the Foreign Secretary when he complained that in respect of an important matter there was a divergence between the White Paper and the speech which the Foreign Secretary had made. The divergence which the right hon. Gentleman thought he detected was that in the White Paper we said in the last paragraph of our Declaration that we can withdraw a dispute from the Court by sending it to the Council instead, whereas in his speech the Foreign Secretary made it plain that we could only suspend the jurisdiction of the Court. With due respect, I would suggest that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham has not examined the White Paper with the care it deserves. If he had done so and had looked at Page 6, he would have found there an explanation in the last paragraph of our Declaration. He would have found there these words:At the end of the formula comes a proviso which enables disputes to be referred to the Council of the League before they are dealt with by the Court.…This formula places the United Kingdom in much the same position as a State which has agreed to a Treaty of arbitration and conciliation poviding for the reference of all disputes to a conciliation commission before they are submitted to judicial settlement.That is plain. The purpose of the proviso is, that with respect to any dispute an attempt should be made in the first place through the highly successful machinery of the Council of the League, machinery which has been highly successful up to the present time, to secure a settlement by agreement. If that attempt to get a settlement by agreement should fail, the procedure of law is to go forward.
I come to other arguments used by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham and the hon. and gallant Member for Warwick and Leamington. They said that there was no great importance in the Optional Clause, because we have always been in favour of arbitration, we have always wanted arbitration, we have accepted the Covenant of the League, it is in accordance with the spirit of the Covenant that we should go to arbitration, and by signing the Optional Clause we agree to go to one particular tribunal instead of to another. With great deference, I would suggest that there is 735 all the difference in the world between saying, under the Covenant, that you will either go to arbitration or to the Council, and that if the Council make a recommendation you may accept it or not, and agreeing with other nations in case of dispute to go to a court of law, and whatever verdict that court of law delivers you will carry it out in full faith. I say further, that the more substance there is in their argument, the truer it is, in fact, that the British people do desire on every occasion when opportunity arises to go to arbitration, then the more foolish it is not to accept the obligations of the Optional Clause. If it is true that when the point arises we really do desire to go to arbitration, then surely it is emphatically and overwhelmingly true that it is in the British interests to accept the obligation to go to arbitration in order that we may oblige the other party to do the same even if it is reluctant to do so.
I come now to the arguments used rather freely to-night, and also in the past by hon. and right hon. Members opposite, which are very dangerous, and which have done a great deal of harm. I mean the arguments which were developed to-night by the hon. and gallant Member for Warwick and Leamington (Captain Eden) when he said—as was also said by a distinguished ex-Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham—that international law is an indeterminate thing; that it is very vague, that you are never sure what it contains, that you will never be sure what it means and that there is, in fact, a vagueness about it which attaches to no other accepted legal system. They have done a great harm, because they have led people into believing that international law is vaguer than any other system of law and so have undermined the authority of international law. In undermining the authority of international law they have undermined the authority of the verdicts which, on the basis of international law, the Permanent Court must give. It is because I believe that argument cannot be sustained on any grounds of law that I desire, briefly, to offer some observations against it.
When they put forward this point hon. Members opposite, and some lawyers outside, always advance the illustration of 736 the cleavage between Anglo-Saxon and Continental schools of thought, but before I deal with that question let me first of all deal with some of the arguments on the general point. I say with the utmost confidence, because it has been my professional duty to study this matter for many years, that no authority on international law in the world would accept the statement with regard to the vagueness of international law. In recent times, even in the last year or two, men of eminent authority on international law in this country have express y repudiated that contention. There is Lord Philli-more and Sir Frederick Pollock, one of the greatest living British publicists on legal matters, Lord Buckmaster and Lord Beading. Even if it was true before 1914 it must be incomparably less true to-day because of the greater precision and development which the Covenant of the League and the Conventions attached to the League have made.
If you will look at the facts of practice you will find that there is absolutely no support of any kind for this contention. The Foreign Office month after month and year after year settles hundreds of cases out of hand on the rules of international law; and they have no trouble. The Arbitration Courts have settled cases by the hundred, and they have no trouble. The Permanent Court itself, in the few years it has been in existence, has settled over 30 cases, and in only one case, the Lotus, can it be said there was the slightest doubt about the rules of international law, and in that case I know of no one who has any knowledge of international law who would suggest that it should not have gone to the Court. It shows how little practical men of the world fear the vagueness of international law that no less than 39 other Governments besides ourselves have signed the Optional Clause.
If hon. Members opposite carry this argument to its logical conclusion, they will say not that we cannot accept the Optional Clause this year, but that we cannot accept it in this generation, or perhaps in the next. They say that we cannot accept the Optional Clause until there has been a complete codification of international law, and that is a process, as anyone knows, which cannot be done in less than one and probably two 737 generations. I do not think anybody in this House seriously desires that the nations of the world should go in for a systematic codification of international law before they accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the court. We have always said in this country that codification is a bad plan for the development of a system of law and that it is far better to develop the law by building on the basis of existing rules and the construction of the Courts in the verdicts they give. The argument has been used that the international court in developing international law is the strongest reason in favour of the acceptance of the Optional Clause by two eminent authorities. The first is Sir F. Pollock, and the other no less a person than Mr. Stimson, who, in explaining the adherence of the United States to the Statutes of the Permanent Court, urged as the strongest reason for doing so that it was because the court would be able to develop international law by the judgments it would give.
Therefore, I say that, so far as the vagueness of international law is concerned, we may accept with every confidence the words of a great Lord Chief Justice of this country, Lord Reading, when he said that if we were to wait to settle every item and detail about the rules of international law before we accept the Optional Clause we should never advance a single step. He also remarked that lawyers often disagreed in the courts of our own country after centuries of procedure and judicial intrepretation, and he concluded by saying that he really could not think it was a serious argument. I submit that that is true, and it is equally true that it is not a serious argument to say that there is a divergence between Anglo-Saxon and Continental international law. I have here a private letter from an eminent British authority on the Continent who has been consulting with Continental lawyers for the last 10 years, and he says that on no question with which he has had to deal has any serious divergence of this kind arisen. Lord Finlay, on another occasion, said that in no case with which he had to deal on the Permanent Court had there been this cleavage between Anglo-Saxon and Continental schools of thought.
738 As a matter of fact, the only examples of this so-called divergence of cleavage which are ever produced relate to two questions. One to the rules of evidence used before the Permanent Court, and surely it is not quite certain that the rules of English law must necessarily be the best and the only rules to be applied in any international court. The other subject is the question of maritime law, which we have discussed freely to-night. Before 1914, even before 1909, the divergence between the Continental and the Anglo-Saxon schools of thought was enormously reduced by the development of the doctrine of contraband, so that the divergence between the two schools of thought diminished. In the War the process went a great deal further because the most important of our Allies on the Continent accepted our own Orders in Council and applied them in their blockade. If you pass to the post-War period, with which, after all, we are concerned—and this is the whole of our contention—all that divergence has passed away. We are not living under the old system but under the regime of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and under Article 16 we have all the belligerent rights which any country could ask for and which any belligerent, in its wildest dreams, could hope to obtain.
Hon. Members have expressed the gravest doubts about our position in this matter. I desire to anticipate, if I can, some of those results by restating the position as we think it will be. We say that Great Britain has determined to observe her undertaking under the Covenant and under the Pact of Paris of last year, which means—and it depends on this alone—that we shall never be operating in war or that our Fleet will never be exercising a blockade on the high seas, unless it is doing so in support of the Covenant of the. League—never. But if we are in defence we shall have the Covenant on our side. If we are acting under the Covenant it means that we are not alone, but that we have 53 other Powers, all the maritime Powers, with the exception of the United States, cooperating on our side. Therefore we say, as is said in the White Paper, that as between the members of the League there can be no neutrals.
The hon. and gallant Member who spoke last, if I may say so in his absence, 739 did not really face our case at all. He was talking of nothing but the old kind of private war, which is entirely out of date. He will forgive me if I do not follow him. But the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) did go into detail on the basis of this statement which is made in the White Paper that there would be no neutrals. He cited two cases of possible difficulty. He said, in the first place, that there might be a war in which some small neighbour of Russia will be coerced by Russia into non-fulfilment of its obligation under the Covenant of the League. It will then, under the Optional Clause, being still a member of the League, take the matter to the Court and the Court will go against it. Why in the name of fortune should the Court go against it? How can the Court say that, because a State has been coerced by force majeure into non-exercising its obligations, those obligations have ceased to exist? Of course it will not. The Court will do as it would do in every other case, and by Article 16, as between the members of the League.
The other case which was taken by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham was this: That under the Covenant there will be neutrals, because under the Covenant every State decides for itself when war has broken out and when an act of aggression has been committed. The right hon. Gentleman seems to deduce from that proposition, which no one disputes, that the members of the League would be free as air to do exactly what they liked, either to co-operate or not at their discretion. But nothing could be further from the truth. It does not mean that they are free. They are bound by their solemn treaty obligations, which in good faith they must observe unless there are absolutely good grounds for honest doubt. There will not be absolute grounds for honest doubt for two reasons—first, because it is the duty of the Council to sit and make a recommendation, in other words to give a verdict as to who has been the aggressor; and because, if the Council finds any difficulty in so doing, it will apply the procedure which the right hon. Gentleman himself applied when he was in doubt in such a case. I mean when a state of war arose between Greece and Bulgaria 740 in 1925. On that occasion what the right hon. Gentleman did was to say: "As to the war we do not know who began. We will call upon the two parties to withdraw their troops behind their frontiers, and the side which will not accept the armistice is the aggressor."
In any case that is conceivable the Council will do exactly the same thing. In consequence there will not be cases in which there will be doubt about the aggressor; there will not be cases in which States can honestly fail to carry out their obligations. In other words, the system of the Covenant will work. But even on the right hon. Gentleman's hypothesis, what is the conclusion? That the whole system of the Covenant has broken down. There will be neutrals, yes. But why? Because we shall be in the old world, because we shall be working under the old system of international law, because international co-operation will have lapsed, because we shall not be acting together against the aggressor. Does anyone suggest that when the Peace Pact has been torn up, when the Covenant has been torn up, when all the structure has fallen to the ground, the one thing resting amid the general chaos and confusion will be the Optional Clause? We do not suggest it and we do not believe it. That is why we say that these hypotheses are really not founded in fact. Assuming that our proposition is right, what is the conclusion? We are acting under the Covenant in co-operation with 53 other States. The interest of those other States, the interest of the League, is that action shall be as effective as possible. They want to get a result, they want to close down the aggression.
It follows that it is virtually certain that no dispute can arise about the matter. For a dispute to arise a foreign government must back one of its own gunrunners who have been breaking the international blockade, which a foreign government in the face of the world cannot do. Suppose the case did actually arise in which a government thought there had been injustice on the facts, that the ship was not really going to an enemy destination. It would go to the Council. The Council could not determine the dispute. It would be able to send it or would allow it to go to the Permanent Court. What would that Court do? The 741 catastrophe foreseen by hon. Members opposite would then have arisen. What would be the result? The result would be that the Court would apply the international law of Article 16, which is absolutely safe for us because it binds all the possible litigants and gives to us all the possible belligerent rights. Therefore, we submit that under these arrangements which we propose, on the hypothesis, of course, that quite honestly we are going to observe our obligations under the Covenant and the Pact of Paris, the liberty of the fleet is protected, preserved, and maintained in as full a degree as anyone can possibly desire.
It is on these grounds that we submit that there is no case for the Amendment that has been moved. I am going to express the very ardent hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite are not going to press the Amendment to a Division. After all, they agree with us about so much. They agree that every extension of arbitration increases the security of the world; they agree that the Optional Clause is a most effective way of extending arbitration; they agree that when the time comes the good sense of the British people makes them always want to go to arbitration. They know, above all, that by strengthening the whole system of international law they will be helping to substitute law for order in international affairs, and thereby promoting the greatest of all British interests. Therefore, we say to them that we hope they will not throw these solid advantages on one side for what we believe will be a remote and indeed an imaginary risk. It has been said, and it is true, that the greatest value of the action that we are going to take to-night-will lie in its moral effect. It may lead on to great results. The moral effect of our action to-night will be enormously increased if this House acts, not by a Division, but unanimously.
The Optional Clause is not an isolated action. It is part of a great policy—the policy of organising the world against war. When we have finished with the Option Clause, there will be lots of other Resolutions of the same kind brought forward by the Government for our consideration, and I hope that in these matters we may act as a nation. If we do so, we shall be able to fulfil the purposes for which we stand. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for 742 Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) quoted a remarkable article from the Journal de Genève and I was glad to hear it because I have often wondered whether hon. Members understand the immense power of the British Commonwealth of Nations when they stand for peace. The power of our country extends far beyond the confines of the Empire which it rules. Whether we like it or not, whether we seek it or not, a leadership in the affairs of mankind has been thrust upon us by the very nature of the Commonwealth in which we live. I hope that the House to-night, and on all other similar occasions, will give to the Government a mandate to use this leadership for righteousness and peace. If so, they will lead the world as they never did before. I believe that it was during the fight against negro slavery that Abraham Lincoln said:Public sentiment is everything. With it nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.Public sentiment got rid of negro slavery and if we use it public sentiment will get rid of war. If this House and this Government desire it, and if they have behind them in their work for peace the public sentiment not only of this nation but of the nations of the world, they can use that sentiment to build up around the jurisdiction of the Permanent Court a bulwark of moral authority, of public confidence and trust which will make it certain that no criminal of the future will venture to stand against it. I hope, therefore, that they will go forward with courage to the other tasks which lie before them. If they do so, they may be certain that whatever the forces of reaction may attempt against them, the cause of peace and justice will prevail.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I congratulate the hon. Member who has just spoken upon what seemed to me to be a very able speech. I cannot say, however, that he has satisfied me. There is no question whatever between us, as I understand it, about the Optional Clause. Most of us, at any rate I, myself, feel just as strongly in favour of the Optional Clause as anybody on the opposite side of the House, and the whole question with me is, whether it would not be wiser to add this reservation to those which are already included in our adherence to the Clause. It is not a question, as some speakers 743 seemed to think, of doing something to encourage war or to make war more likely than peace. The whole point which arises is this. If despite your League of Nations and your Kellogg Pact, there should be war what is to be our position regarding our maritime rights? It is all very well to assume, as the last speaker did, that all the nations belonging to the League will, at all times perform to the full their obligations under the League. That may not be the case. The hon. Member also seems to forget that there are nations outside the League and that nations may leave the League. That has been done before and may be done again.
I wish, quite shortly, to state the position as I see it. To begin with, I wholly dissent from what the hon. Member said about unanimity existing throughout Europe regarding maritime law. I quite agree that as to a great deal of international law there is a considerable amount of agreement, but it is not taking a correct view of history to say, as the hon. Member did, that there has been, or that there is unanimity with regard to maritime law. There is, and there has always been conflict in Europe about it and the rights which we have claimed as the greatest maritime Power, have never been admitted by the other nations of Europe. These questions always arise between a belligerent and a neutral. Controversial matters such as the right of search and capture arise, not between belligerents but between a belligerent and a neutral. See what happens. Suppose that we are at war with a nation which is not a member of the League or a nation which, being a member of the League, has not subscribed to this Clause. Let us take the first case, that of a nation which is not within the League. If a question arises between us and a neutral and if we do not impose this limitation upon our adherence to the Clause, then the dispute has to go to the Hague Tribunal. Note first that the decision will be taken by a tribunal of neutrals. Of course a belligerent being a party to the dispute could not sit as judge in his own cause, and the decision, therefore, would be that of a tribunal wholly composed of neutrals. No one can pretend that that would be a very satisfactory tribunal in the circumstances.
744 The next point is that this tribunal, with every desire to be fair, would have no law to apply. They could not turn to precedents, to accepted decisions, accepted views, or accepted declarations. In reality they would be legislating and not applying law to an existing state of facts in which case, if they were trained lawyers, they would be able to put aside prejudices. I want the House to appreciate that you might thus have a body of laws built up without the two great maritime nations of the world, Great Britain and the United States, having had any part in it whatever. A body of law created in that way by neutrals, by a tribunal in which the two great maritime powers played no part, and had no say whatever, could not command the assent of the maritime powers of the world and would have no permanence whatever. There is another point which has not been brought out in this Debate. We talk about building up this body of international law, but when that has been done, what happens? Supposing this tribunal gave a decision concerning this or that right, such as the right of search. Supposing the United States Government are neutral and supposing that they are still outside the League they are not bound by the decision. The Hague Tribunal might decide that we as belligerents had a certain right against some particular neutral. That decision would not bind the United States and they might say, "We contest that view altogether and we as neutrals claim that you have no such right." There would be no unanimity at all.
What would be the position of a belligerent in a situation of that kind? As regards certain neutrals you would have one tribunal giving one decision: as regards neutrals not members of the League such as the United States and Russia, those decisions would not be binding and might be repudiated and you might have to arrive at some different conclusion. But the Kellogg Pact lays it down that you are not to fight about it: that you are to find some other way of dealing with it, and, thus, some other form of arbitration tribunal would have to be appointed. That tribunal might come to a conclusion directly opposite to the conclusion of the Hague Tribunal. Thus the position might arise that there would he one set of decisions as between the belligerent Power and the neutrals 745 within the League, and another set of decisions as between the belligerent Power and the neutrals not within the League.
The position seems to be absurd and I ask the House to note also that your enemy might not be bound by a decision which was binding on you. Your enemy might be outside the League and thus you might be bound by a decision, and, your enemy not being a member of the League, would not be bound by the decision, and might continue to exercise rights against neutrals which have been debarred to you by the decision of the Tribunal at The Hague. The only satisfactory way of dealing with this maritime law is not to wait before you sign the Optional Clause—I do not suggest that—but to retain this exception until you have got an agreed code of maritime law. It is really not such a long business as some people seem to think. If you have any desire to create a code, it can be done. Accept the Optional Clause with this limitation, and proceed to get your agreed code of law, and once you have got it, I do not think there would be the same objection to its being applied by the Tribunal as you have when there is no code of law to apply and where that Tribunal would really be building up a body of law.
I rather dissent from the suggestion that the attitude of our party has been one of advocating war against peace. The Noble Lady opposite, the Member for Stoke (Lady Mosley), made a very good speech, which might have been addressed to a party which was repudiating all desire for peace, but when the whole point of the Amendment is not a rejection of the Optional Clause at all, but simply the retaining of a right to keep the control of our own maritime rights until such time as those rights have been settled by agreement with all parties, merely because we wish, in our interests and for our own safety, to retain that right, to be addressed in the way in which this party has been addressed to-night does not seem to me to be very relevant or fair.
§ Dr. BURGIN
One of the most fascinating tasks for any student of foreign relations is to investigate the extent to which international law has contributed to world peace, and I join with the 746 greatest pleasure in to-night's Debate because I believe that if this Resolution is passed, as I feel confident it will be with an overwhelming majority, we shall do something again to enthrone international law in the place it should occupy. The International Court of Justice was a new Court, and it had to proceed with caution. In the realm of private international law one of the great difficulties we have in inducing one State to accept the judgment or decision of another is that such different rules apply in different countries for the selection and appointment of Judges and for their methods and standards of justice. One of the great things about the International Court of Justice at The Hague was the happy way in which the selection of Judges was made, and we think with gratitude of the part that the late Lord Phillimore played in that decision. The Court established, its Judges elected in an impartial manner which satisfied the world, it proceeded slowly. In the reputation which the Court set out to gain from 1920 onward, Lord Finlay, another great British jurist, played a very prominent part.
We are now at the logical sequence of those events—a new court, new judges, in a sense a new system of law, proceeding cautiously, trying some 30 odd cases, building up a reputation. We now ask that the jurisdiction of that court may be compulsory so far as our own country is concerned. Anyone who reads the Covenant will surely admit that the idea behind its framers was ultimately the reign of international law, and may I remind Members of this House that law, at any rate municipal law, is not a matter that is optional; it is a matter that is obligatory, and law that is optional is a misnomer, and international law that is optional is an equal misnomer. So I find the whole weight of reason on the side of international law, so soon as it is securely established, becoming obligatory upon the different countries that desire to use it, and to-night I applaud the decision of the Government in signing the Clause at Geneva and in bringing forward this Motion. I was present at Geneva in 1924 when the present Foreign Secretary made his previous observations on this same subject. I was actually in the room when it was done, and well I remember the scene.
747 The course of this Debate has shown that there is a general feeling of agreement for the principle of the signing of this Clause, but differences have arisen with regard to reservations. It would be quite idle for this House to imagine that this Debate is not of a very far-reaching character and the decisions of great importance. It is not a big contribution to this Debate merely to talk of the advantages of international arbitration and to blind oneself to the admitted difficulties which exist, and I trust I shall not be thought to be striking any discordant note if I speak with language of some exactitude on the reservations which have been added to the signature by our country and by the Dominions. Let us recollect that, although we talk of arbitration somewhat freely in this Debate, we are really dealing with the settlement of a legal dispute by a legal tribunal, and arbitration is at least an odd word to use for such a process. We are really dealing with a voluntary agreement to determine certain classes of legal disputes by a particular legal court, and it is well that we should realise exactly what disputes are to be so submitted and exactly what are excluded.
Article 36 decides what can be submitted to the Court; the reservations of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary decide what is not to be submitted. Everything that is within Article 36 and everything that is without the reservations is, if the House ratifies this Clause, submitted to the Permanent Court of International Justice at The Hague. It is well that that should be firmly in mind, because I apprehend that every close attention will be paid to the wording of the reservations should ever any dispute arise as to what they mean; and I would call the attention of the House to the fact that Article 36 itself says that, should there be any doubt as to what a reservation means, it is the International Court which decides the doubt, and if there is any question as to the jurisdiction of the Permanent Court at The Hague, it is that court which decides whether it has or whether it has not. That is very material, so that we are conferring—I do not say it is wrong, but I am anxious that the House should do it with its eyes open—upon the Permanent Court of International Justice 748 at The Hague the construction of certain words in which we table our reservations. We must face that fact. I do not desire to make any comment upon the reservation which deals with matters that are past. It seems to me not at all undesirable that we should draw the line and say that from now onwards we are under this new jurisdiction and in no doubt as to some matter being dragged up which relates to the past. That does not seem to me at all an unstatesmanlike attitude and I have no comment to make upon it.
I desire to look for a moment at the remaining reservations, and I do so in the hope that I may perhaps, by questions, raise points which the learned Attorney-General may think it well to deal with in response. First of all, it is very proper to find that there is a reservation of disputes in regard to which the parties have agreed on some other method of peaceful settlement. A good deal has been said in the Debate to-night about the linking up of the signature of the Optional Clause with the signing of the Peace Pact. I would like to remind the House that the Peace Pact, of course, contemplates the settlement of disputes by a number of other methods than by submission to a legal court. Anybody who reads the Peace Pact and sees that matters may be settled by diplomatic intervention, by mediation, and by various methods of peaceful settlement that are open would have wondered at it being said that the signature of the Optional Clause flowed from that Pact. It does not flow from it, but reservation No. 1 secures all the advantages which the Peace Pact gave. Therefore, I accept reservation No. 1, because is provides for using the other methods of peaceful settlement which are contemplated by the Pact of Paris.
With regard to reservation No. 2—disputes with any other members of the League who are members of the British Commonwealth—I want to put this question to the learned Attorney-General, who, I believe, is to reply. This deals with disputes with any other member of the League who is a member of the British Commonwealth. On the face of it, that seems quite simple to interpret, but is it not quite easy to imagine circumstances in which we might find that the dispute, while involving another member of the British Commonwealth, might 749 involve another country as well? If that were so, would not the question of whether it was a dispute which came within reservation No. 2 or not be decided by the Court? Does not this, if left in this somewhat bare form, expose us to the possible risk of a difference as to Whether or not the dispute does affect another member of the British Commonwealth being decided, not by ourselves as the Imperial Government, but by the Permanent Court of International Justice? I raise the point, not in any spirit of criticism, but in a spirit of inquiry, because to some of us it seems that this reservation, while quite proper, is not quite sufficiently explicit in terms to exclude such a possibility as that.
The third reservation is:Disputes with regard to questions which by international law fall exclusively within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom.The right hon. Gentleman, in making his speech to-day in introducing the Motion, paraphrased that in the language used elsewhere in the White Paper and referred to:Matters which fall within what is called the domestic jurisdiction of a State.I should like the learned Attorney-General to consider whether the paraphrase and the reservation both mean the same thing? "Matters which by international law fall within the jurisdiction of a country "is a phrase far wider than" domestic jurisdiction of a State." I would like to remind the Attorney-General that in the Tunis nationality case, which was decided by this Permanent Court of International Justice, and which brought to a happy conclusion a dispute which threatened serious differences between our own country and the Republic of France, the Court referred to something concerning the problem which I am indicating. May I quote a sentence from the judgment of that Court:The Court finds that in the present state of international law questions of nationality are, in principle, within the domestic jurisdiction, but it may well happen that in a matter which, like nationality, is not, in principle, intertional law, the right of a State to use its discretion may be restricted by obligations undertaken towards other States.In other words, a matter that is apparently within the domestic jurisdiction of a State may be excluded from it by international treaty and agreement or by an award or some other decision. 750 While I do not in the least quarrel with the reservation of questions which by international law fall exclusively within the jurisdiction of our own courts, I venture to ask whether it would not be policy at some time for us to state openly to the world the meaning which we attach to those words, particularly if there is the slightest risk of ambiguity? I do not wish to comment on the powers which the Foreign Secretary has taken to ask that a matter be suspended from the consideration of the Court so long as it is under consideration by the Council. As one who from the very earliest day the Council met has followed with the greatest interest and attention the working of that body, and indeed of the Assembly, I am certainly of the opinion that there is a large field of matters in which the Council is at least as appropriate a body to decide as the Permanent Court, and therefore I am all in favour of power of this kind to ask for consideration to be suspended pending consideration by the Council.
It appears to me, having listened literally to the whole of the Debate, that the Amendment which really is the cause of the Debate assuming the proportions that it has, is all a mistake. I have been expecting all the evening that somebody would table a manuscript Amendment to the Amendment. As I understood the Foreign Secretary when he made his speech, he too suspected that the right hon. Gentleman above the Gangway on the Opposition side might have been misled by some abbreviated or telegraphic report of what really did happen in 1924, because, unless he has been misled, almost all the oratory we have heard to-night from the other side of the House was not in order on the Amendment at all. We have heard speech after speech deploring the fact that Britain appeared to be giving up her liberty of action in maritime law, and talking as if a safeguard was to be found within the Amendment. It is not. The Conservative Amendment suggests that a reservation should be added to those laid down by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in 1924. It follows that, if he did not lay it down, it is no good adding it now.
As I understand the Foreign Secretary, what happened in 1924 was this: He stated that, if ever the British Fleet were called upon as an instrument of execution by the Council of the League 751 to carry out some decision, its use should be determined by the principles of maritime law. That is a very different proposition from that which has been put from these benches to-day. The proposition thoughout the Debate has been that we are not prepared to surrender contraband, blockade, and the law of prize generally. That is an entirely different proposition. I should have been prepared to argue it had it been so tabled, but, in point of fact, this Amendment merely asks that we should have a reservation of the very limited kind which the Foreign Secretary made in Geneva in 1924. It is a matter of regret that the Foreign Secretary did not communicate to this House long before the White Paper of the 12th December the fact that in the Government's view prize was not excluded.
I would remind the House that question after question was asked by the late Postmaster-General, and I can recall specific instances in October and November when the Government were asked: "Will you say 'yes' or 'no' whether the law of prize is excluded from the submission to the International Court of Justice or not?" I can recollect a whole aeries of evasive answers, which suggested that it was quite impossible to deal with the law and the reservations in an oral answer. No doubt "yes" is very difficult to utter on many occasions. It is a pity we did not know the Government's attitude on that point until the publication of the White Paper. Whether I am well founded in that or not, we did know it on the 12th December. On the 11th December, actually the day before, Professor Pearce Higgins, of Cambridge, a distinguished international lawyer, published a little pamphlet on the British acceptance of compulsory arbitration under the Optional Clause and its implications, and he took pains to argue as to whether by any stretch of the imagination prize law could be held to be a question which by international law fell exclusively within the jurisdiction of Great Britain. So I say that the country has to some extent been unnecessarily troubled about this question of prize law by the delay of His Majesty's Government in making their meaning clear on that point. Now that we have the mean- 752 ing clear, let us examine it. The right hon. Gentleman, in 1924, may have made a mistake; it is dreadful to think of that possibility; but I suggest that he may have made a mistake. I think, really, that he feels that the reservation which he made in 1924 was not a necessary one. If he felt that it was a necessary one in 1924, he would have made the same reservation now in 1930. The real explanation behind all the plausible arguments about belligerent rights at sea is that the right hon. Gentleman has changed his mind, but it has not been plainly and clearly stated.
Let me deal for a moment with the question of belligerent rights. For a good many years before the War, conferences of international lawyers the world over had been endeavouring to arrive at agreement with regard to the rights of belligerents. I have here a great authority on the law of prize, and there is an entire chapter, the whole burden of which is that all courts dealing in prize have at all times endeavoured to administer international law. If the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, when sitting as a prize court, have endeavoured—and I may say in the hearing of this House with conspicuous success—to apply and administer rules of international law, it is not much of a step forward to say that we should consent to the Permanent Court of Justice at The Hague being an appellant court from our own supreme court in prize, when we are admittedly administering international law.
Even had the Conservative Amendment been rightly worded, even had it been aptly worded to cover the subject matter of the Debate, had it been so phrased that what has been said from these benches would have been strictly relevant, I should have been well prepared to argue against it, because I think that the whole trend of modern international legal learning has been that in matters of prize, contraband, and blockade, we were prepared to have these matters referred to an international court. For these reasons, I feel that the reservations that have been made, subject to these notes of additional explanation which I hope may be forthcoming, are adequate, and that there is no point or substance in the additional reservation which is asked for. I trust that now that this 753 Debate has run its course, now that from all sides of the House appeals have been heard urging our country to take this step, with the knowledge that the eyes of the world are on us and that they approve forward tactics, this House will by a large preponderance give the Government this Motion.
Mr. ARTHUR HENDERSON, Junr.
The hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Burgin) made one criticism of the Government's policy with which perhaps he will allow me to deal. In the position that exists to-day, there is a new conception of prize law. Under the operation of Articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant, what we know as prize law in one sense no longer exists, from the practical point of view; in other words, a possible dispute between belligerent and neutral nations is no longer a practical possibility. An hon. and learned Member who spoke from the Conservative benches said that, supposing you had two countries, "A" and "B," at war, and one of the countries was our's, there would be a large number of neutral countries deciding whether or not we were acting in accordance with international law. That is a proper and effective criticism, but only on one assumption. That assumption is that the machinery established by the League of Nations had broken down. If that machinery had not broken down, having regard to the Covenant and the Kellogg Pact, there could not be neutrals so far as international law is concerned. Private war is abolished, and the only war we can have is what I may call a League war. All those countries which are members of the League of Nations would be parties to the war, no matter what might be their contribution towards the sanctions under the Covenant. Therefore, the question of prize law between this country and neutrals cannot arise.
The same learned gentleman complained that there had been some criticism from this side of the House on the ground that Members of the party opposite were not very enthusiastic in the cause of international peace. I very much doubt whether any hon. Member on this side of the House would ever east any reflection upon the sincerity of hon. Members opposite, but we are entitled to look back a little, and, if we examine the attitude towards this question displayed by the 754 previous Government, we are entitled to draw this conclusion, that their objection to the signing of the Optional Clause is based upon the fundamental fact that they are not believers in the International Court. The right hon. Gentleman the late Foreign Secretary, in a speech in this House some months ago, said international law was a very indeterminate thing. He might have reminded the House that the same criticism could have been made about the Common Law of this country when it was first evolved in the twelfth or thirteenth century. He went on to say there was a difference of opinion between what he called the Continental school of international lawyers and the Anglo-American school of international lawyers. I should have thought, having regard to the past, we would be more justified in taking a risk even in that direction than in pursuing the old methods which operated up to 1914.
The same right hon. Gentleman made, if I may be allowed to say so, one or two rather academic criticisms of the structure, the phraseology, of this Optional Clause, and asked various questions which I have no doubt will be dealt with by the learned Attorney-General; but may I deal with one or two points he put forward in his speech? He wanted to know whether "disputes that arise after the ratification of the present Declaration with regard to situations or facts subsequent to the ratification" would apply to the dispute that this country had in the past with Venezuela. I would point out to the House that in this phrase the critical word is the word "disputes." It is not a question as to when the situation or the facts arise, but when the dispute arises. If there was a dispute between this country and Venezuela in September of last year, then that dispute would come within the Optional Clause. If there was no dispute on the date on which this Optional Clause was signed, then, of course, that would be a thing of the past, and would be excluded by the terms of the agreement.
The same right hon. Gentleman said that under the Declaration a dispute could be referred to the Council and suspended for 12 months so far as the International Court was concerned, and that then, after the expiration of 12 months, failing unanimous agreement on 755 the Council, it would go to the International Court. I suggest that if such a provision had been in existence in 1914 if it had been possible to suspend for 12 months the dispute that arose in August, 1914, then in all probability the Great War would never have taken place; and from that point of view I suggest that this is a very valuable and excellent provision. My time is up. I understand the agreement is that the right hon. Gentleman who is to wind up for the Opposition shall be on his feet by 10 minutes to 10, and therefore I must bring my remarks to a conclusion; but may I say that I think the Government have shown very great courage in going forward along these lines? The trouble with hon. Gentlemen opposite is that they are living in the past, and fail to realise that the people of this country and other countries are determined, if possible, to prevent us having recourse to the method of war; and in so far as this new policy tends to establish and perpetuate international peace I suggest that it will have the support of all right-minded men and women.
§ Sir WILLIAM MITCHELL-THOMSON
I should be extremely unkind if I did not acknowledge at once the courteous way in which the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. A. Henderson, Junior) has kept the understanding that was arranged, and I too will do my best to keep within the limits of time convenient to allow every opportunity for the right hon. Gentleman opposite to reply. We have had a very interesting, and, if I may say so, rather a discursive Debate, which has tended sometimes, as I think the last speaker suggested, to pursue more the academic fringe of the subject than to deal with the actual realities. I want to recall the House to what it is that it will vote upon in an hour's time. The terms of the Amendment raise the question whether or not there is to be appended to the ratification of this Optional Clause a reservation either similar to or on the lines of the reservation which was deemed necessary in 1924. It would not be courteous if I were not to say one word about the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Ripon Division (Major Hills) said he found the speech of the right hon. 756 Gentleman hard to follow, and I confess that for the first time in a comparatively long experience I had the same difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman, who can be extremely concise and clear, seemed on this occasion to be somewhat diffuse and rather vague. No one in this House can be a greater master of precise language and precise argument, and yet we found him involved in labyrinths of woolly generalities. He devoted a considerable portion of his speech to urging the advantages of establishing a system of arbitration with the United States, and having heard that I expected to see him arrive at his usual precise conclusion; but what was the conclusion at which he did arrive? It was that conclusion which we all knew was a fact, and that is that the United States has so far not expressed, and shows no symptoms of expressing, any particular desire to ratify the Optional Clause.
The right hon. Gentleman said that this Debate is a dispute between the centuries; that blockade was a nightmare of the past and Lord Nelson a "back number." It is a dispute, not between the centuries, but between theorists and realists. The right hon. Gentleman came down on the side of the realists, because, after all, he was reduced to the reflection that it might be, in spite of every care, that war might come, and he said that, if a war should come in which we should be engaged, it would be the hope, desire, and belief of all of us that it would be what the Foregn Secretary called a covenant war, and the right hon. Gentleman refused to conceive circumstances in which we should be engaged in war (a) except for the purposes of defence, or (b) for the support of the League as a whole. There can be no doubt about that. It is idle to suggest that you are going to make such a revolution in society that you can dismiss once and for all the possibility of a recurrence of war. If that be so, why not insert this reservation? The real truth of the matter is that it is no use dogmatising about the future. It is all very Well to set off cheerily for the new Jerusalem, but you arrive nowhere unless you take into account in some degree the experience of the past.
I am going to tell the House, for reasons that I will give, that you cannot dismiss the experience of the past in the 757 light-hearted way in which it has been dismissed by some hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate. My claim to speak is not as a theorist, but as one who has had practical experience. My qualification is that I am one of the few survivors, almost the only one, who can speak freely of those who had the actual administrative responsibility for the conduct of the blockade during the latter part of the War. In December, 1916, I was asked to take over the administrative responsibility as Director of Restriction of Enemy Supplies, and I continued in that position until the Armistice. I ask the House to believe that I am stating, not what I think, but what I know as the result of practical experience. This is not the time to talk about the blockade, but I will only say that, during the last few years of the War, the blockade was developed to a degree hitherto undreamt of, and no one, only those close to it, knew what a terrible instrument it was. I will not attempt to assign to the blockade its share in the victory, but I have no hesitation in saying that, without it, victory would have been much more doubtful and the struggle much more prolonged.
What we call loosely the blockade, really means the restriction of supplies? What are functions of sea power? They are intended, in the first place, to assure the free movement of our own forces; and, in the second place, to assure the safety of our own supplies. In the third place, to prevent the free movement of the enemy forces; and fourthly, to restrict, so far as you can, the free movement of enemy supplies. Those are four vital functions. The restriction of enemy supplies is founded upon three things. First of all, the control of the sea by the Navy, which guarantees the free exercise of the right of visit and search. So free did that become that in the concluding stages of the War the neutrals actually used to put into ports like Halifax rather than wait for the inconvenience of being searched and visited at sea. First of all, there was control of the sea by the Navy. Secondly, there was the control of supplies—and this form of control is sometimes imperfectly understood. It means the control of the sources of supply by the Allies and the control of the supply of great commodi- 758 ties like wheat, oil, and coal which enabled us to impose conditions upon neutrals. As a condition of selling them those supplies it was provided that they should do or abstain from doing certain things which might be respectively convenient or inconvenient to the allied forces.
In the third place, there was the restriction founded upon the progessive development and the amplification of the old conception of international law as concerns the rights between neutrals and belligerents. Those old concepts were of a very ancient origin indeed. They date back through the centuries, right back to the Oleron and the Consolato del Mare, but they had to be interpreted in the light of modern conditions. During the War our Prize Courts developed a process which begun in the United States Prize Courts during the American Civil War—a process of interpretation of those old laws. Those laws were framed for quite a different state of things from that which obtained in the last War, and which would obtain in any future war. They were framed for the days when contests between nations were, so to speak, contests between armies of professional gladiators, with the rest of the population looking on as spectators, sometimes interested, sometimes not so interested, sometimes scarcely interested at all. Those were the days of great fortified places, of great places of arms, of laws applied to great fortified places and places of arms—a conception and a theory of war which was shattered with the bursting of the first German shells on the Belgium forts. Let the House realise how fast events move. Even the Declaration of London, which was drawn up well within the memory of many of us who sit in this House to-day—some of those sitting around me were actually here and took part in the discussions—the Declaration of London was drawn up at a time when wireless was in its infancy, and when air warfare was equally so. Therefore, these old concepts had, as I have said, to be modernised, they had to be examined under modern conditions and to be developed and expanded to suit those conditions. That process, as I have said, had already been begun in the American Civil War by the American Prize Courts, and the evolution was followed by our own Prize Courts 759 during the Great War. Gradually there was evolved by our Administration and by our Prize Courts a series of orders and rules which profoundly modified many of the old concepts of international law. They practically abolished the "Free List" for instance; they largely abolished the distinction between absolute and conditional contraband; and they greatly extended and amplified the old doctrine of continuous voyage. I say—and this is the first point that I wish to make to the House—that without that process of amplification and development by our Prize Courts of the international prize law in the light of modern conditions, following the same line of precedents as had been followed in previous years by the American Prize Courts, the effective restriction of enemy supplies during the last War would have been impossible. I do not ask the House to take that from me. Even so far back as April, 1916, we had already perceived that that in fact was the case, and I am going to recall to the House, because I said I was going to take them back to actualities, what it was that Lord Grey actually said in April, 1916. I am not quoting anything that I ought not to quote, because this has already been published in a Command Paper. On the 24th April, 1916, Lord Grey wrote this:The United States Government will, it is believed, agree with His Majesty's Government that no belligerent could in modern times submit to be bound by a rule that no goods could be seized unless accompanied by papers which established their destination to an enemy country"—I am omitting irrelevant words—To press any such theory is tantamount to asking that all trade between neutral ports should be free, and would thus render nugatory the existence of sea power, and destroy the pressure which the command of the sea enables the Allies to impose upon the enemy.The concepts of international law developed first, as I have said, by the United States, and afterwards developed here, have always differed from what I may call, for want of a better word, the Continental concepts, which, though we call them Continental concepts, were, I think, largely Dutch in origin. The difference that existed before the War, great as it was, became vastly accentuated during the progress of the War, and I confess that I was amazed to-night 760 to hear the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) say that, after all, there was not much uncertainty to-day about international law. I do not know about international law as a whole; perhaps that might be said in some respects of the general body of international law; but, if that phrase is intended to apply to international maritime law, I say at once that it will not stand examination for an instant. On the contrary, the whole course of the War showed that, more and more as we developed and expanded to meet the new conditions, so more and more did the neutral countries cling closely to the old formula. So far from there being no uncertainty in international law, something much nearer the truth will be found in Mr. Erle Richards' recent book on "British Prize Courts in the War," where he says that, if you start to discuss principles of international maritime law, there are hardly any accepted principles on which discussion can even begin. That corresponds much more nearly with the actual facts than does the suggestion of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton. Let the House realise that the real truth is that, if we are to submit possible disputes to the jurisdiction—the appellate jurisdiction if you like—of an International Court, in which Continental jurists are, ex hypothesi, in the majority, there is no doubt that their views will tend more towards the Continental concept than towards the British concept. That may be all very well if we are certain that we are going to be neutral, if, indeed, there are any neutrals in the next war, and I shall have a word to say about that later. I confess, however, that I find it somewhat difficult to console myself with the reflection that we are to be put in that position, because the uneasy thought recurs to my mind, and even to the mind of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen, that there may possibly be a state of things in which we shall find ourselves engaged as belligerents, and under those conditions I say at once, and with the utmost emphasis that I can, that a modification by the International Court on the lines of those Continental concepts, which were maintained by neutrals during the War, would render the restriction of supplies by blockade absolutely impossible. The Government know that. They were told 761 that in 1924 by their professional advisers. I can very well believe that their professional advisers will tell them the same thing to-day, and, although I do not want to be dogmatic on the matter, so far as I have any title to speak, so far as I have any professional qualifications, I would tell them the same thing to-morrow. You could not enforce a blockade under those conditions. The proof of that is what happened in 1924. Why was this reservation made? It was because the right hon. Gentleman was told by his professional advisers that he had got to make it. He did not invent it. He did not make it off his own bat. He was told he had got to make it. [An HON. MEMBER: "To whom are you referring?"] I am referring to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
I want to know who are the professional advisers that the right hon. Gentleman is referring to.
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
The right hon. Gentleman is as well acquainted as I am with those who are fitted to advise him in these affairs. [Interruption.] If the right hon. Gentleman says that is not the opinion of his professional advisers, I accept it from him at once.
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
Then I will ask the right hon. Gentleman this question quite plainly. Did he put that reservation in in 1924 out of his own head or did he put it in because it was suggested to him by his then professional advisers? Of course it was suggested to him, and of course he put it in, and of course he put it in because he was told it was necessary. I say it was necessary then and I say it is necessary to-day. Let me see why the right hon. Gentleman suggests that it is not necessary. First of all, does he suggest that it is not necessary? I do not know what my right hon. Friend thought of his speech but I found it rather difficult to follow, because at one moment he read out a long passage in the ipsissima verba of his speech to prove that he was really making no change at all in what he had said before, whereas at another moment he appeared to be drawing attention to the fact that he was making some great step forward. I do not know on which leg he desires to rest, but I will assume, from what he has 762 said by way of interruption, that there is a change since 1924, and that there is some reason why this reservation, which was necessary then, is not necessary now. Let us get down to the kernel of the subject. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I hope I am not detaining the House at too great length. I have been trying to explain how it is that I come to be in a position, at all events, to express some views on the subject. They may be right or wrong but I have some practical experience behind them.
I will now address myself to this question what is the change since 1924. It can only mean two things—either in the Covenant or in the Pact. Let us examine both and see which it is. Take the Covenant first. Is it suggested that there is some modification, or interpretation, which has occurred in Article 16 of the Covenant since it was drawn up which tends to support the view put forward in the White Paper that it is becoming more absolute and automatic than it was? The contrary is the fact and, as the years go by, Article 16 has tended to become more and more permissive. That is not surprising. Here I speak again as one of those who took part in the drafting discussions when Article 16 was framed. I say openly—it has been stated already—that it was never present to the minds of the framers of Article 16 that it would have to apply to a system of things under which it should not be, broadly speaking, of almost universal application, and the framers of Article 16 would have been the first to perceive the immense difficulties that were going to attend its execution if you have great nations like the United State and Brazil outside its ambit. As framed, and as pleaded in aid by the Government in the White Paper, Article 16, it is true, was more or less peremptory and automatic, but the whole tendency of the discussions in the Assembly and elsewhere since has been to mitigate the peremptory and automatic character of Article 16 and to give States, members of the League, precisely something of that freedom of determination as regards the application of Clause 16 which the Government, for their own purpose, have been arguing in this White Paper does not exist at all.
Let me illustrate what I mean by reference. There are two or three illustrations that I could give. Let me give one. 763 Here is a note to Germany signed by Belgium, Great Britain, France, Italy, Poland, and Czechoslovakia explaining what the Locarno powers understand to be the obligations imposed by Article 16. It says:The obligations under Article 16 must be understood to mean that each State member of the League is bound to co-operate loyally and effectively in support of the Covenant, and any resistance to any act of aggression to an extent which is compatible with its military situation and takes its geographical position into account.Where do you find that in the White Paper? Let me illustrate again with another reference which is perhaps not quite so strictly relevant but which is equally illuminating—the German Government to the Soviet Republic on the conclusion of the German Soviet Treaty in 1926:The question of whether the N.S.S.R. is the aggressor in the event of conflict with a third party can only be determined with binding force for Germany with that State's own consent, and therefore an accusation in this sense supplied by another Power against the N.S.S.R. and regarded by Germany as unjustifiable would not bind Germany to take part in measures of the kind initiated under Article 16.In the face of illustrations of that kind, I say to the Government again, "Do they seriously suggest that it is due to any tendency in the Covenant to become more automatic and more peremptory in its application? They can safely absolve themselves from the necessity of inserting this reservation. In fact, there is no such change in the Covenant. The experience tends, if anything, rather to go in the other direction. If it is not in the Covenant, where is it? Is it in the Kellogg Pact? I hope that the learned Attorney-General will answer this precise and specific question. Is it in the Kellogg Pact? Where in the Kellogg Pact do you find any fresh legal application which would justify an assertion such as that? It is one of may greatest complaints against this White Paper that anyone who reads it, unless he does so with extreme care and caution, will jump at the conclusion that it is suggested that in some way or another the Kellogg Pact has legally changed the situation. If they will look in page 10, paragraph 21, hon. Members will find these words:This being so, the situation which we have to envisage in the event of a war in which we were engaged is not one in which 764 the rights and duties of belligerents and neutrals will depend upon the old rules of war and neutrality, but one in which the position of members of the League will be determined by the Covenant and the Pact.The truth is that the position of the members of the League in that particular regard is determined solely by the Covenant and not by the Pact at all. As the right hon. Gentleman appears to doubt that assertion, let me recall exactly what happened. So wholly was the wording of this White Paper that it deceived even the trained pressmen who cabled summaries to their particular papers in America They cabled a summary to America which, in fact, did produce a wrong impression. Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman exactly of what Mr. Stimson thought it proper to say and necessary to point out when the actual details did arrive there. I am going to quote from the "Times" of the 31st December.The argument made by the British Government was based upon the relations of that Government to its fellow members in the League of Nations; and upon the obligations assumed by members in that Covenant.…Their argument thus does not apply to the position of the United States as a signatory of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. That Pact contains no covenant similar to that in the Covenant of the League of Nations.…The entire argument of the British White Paper clearly shows that it was addressed solely to obligations created by the League of Nations.I have dealt as far as I could, within the limits of time, with the obligations alleged to be created by the League of Nations.
In the face of that statement by Mr. Stimson, will the Attorney-General address himself to this particular question—what is the change since 1924 which involved us in the necessity for this hasty assumption of obligations, some of them rather imperfectly defined, without the reservation which was deemed necessary in 1924? We have far too much at stake in this matter to be able to afford to take risks. The Foreign Secretary admitted the whole of our case for this Amendment, in his opening speech. What did he say? As some hon. Members did not hear it, let me repeat the point. In regard to the question of maritime rights, he took the view that disputes of that character were not fit justiciable subjects for the International Court. The right hon. Gentleman assents to that. 765 Having taken that view, that they are not fit subjects for the International Court, what did he say? He said that he proposed to remove them from the Court, to filch them away from the Court by going to the Council of the League. It was then pointed out to him by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) that one member of the Council of the League could defeat him in that. If that be the view of the Government, if they are really agreed that these are not fit justiciable subjects for the International Court, as such, why not say so? Why not accept that reservation, and then we shall have done? If they do that, we shall have little cause of quarrel between the two sides of the House. If they do not do that, if they insist on passing the Optional Clause, without this reservation, then I do not believe that, at the best, they will be advancing the progress of the cause of peace. At the worst, they will be placing in grave jeopardy some of the most vital interests of this country.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir William Jowitt)
There is no topic that could come before this House on which I am more proud to have the opportunity of speaking on behalf of our policy than on this topic. Whereas in our domestic problems we are doing what we can to help the people of this country— [Laughter]—what we can, and no Government can do more; only fools think they can do more. In this matter, I believe that we are really helping humanity as a whole to come on to some firmer and better foundation than the foundation on which it has hitherto stood. The Debate has been marked by several remarkable speeches. On the one hand, we have had the remarkably clever speech of the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) which was referred to as a woolly labyrinth by the right hon. Gentleman who preceded me, after which he gave us some pungent sentences from the point of view of a realist. He will forgive me for saying in all good faith that I find the woolly labyrinth easier to understand than the pungent sentences of the realist.
As the right hon. Member for Darwen pointed out, the Debate has divided itself into two streams. On the one hand there have been a series of speeches which 766 have shown that the speakers are radically opposed to the signing of the Optional Clause at all. The speech of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) showed that he viewed the signing of the Clause, altogether apart from the Amendment, with misgivings, and the questions he addressed to me were not concerned, or not mainly concerned, with this particular Amendment. Even if the speeches had been limited to the Amendment, we on this side of the House should have had a lurking suspicion that really at the back of them all was a fundamental dislike to the Optional Clause as a whole. It is idle to ask us to forget that this topic has been debated before on the Floor of the House. We cannot forget all the reasons we have heard against the signing of the Optional Clause. There was the unfortunate fact that the Dominions would not come into line. We were able to sign the Locarno Pact without the Dominions; a Pact which in a certain event might cause us to take up arms, but, apparently, we are not able to sign without their consent a Pact which sends disputes to arbitration. That excuse has now gone.
Then we were told, and it has been repeated to-day, that international law is too vague; that you do not know what the decision will be. The hon. and gallant Member for Warwick and Leamington (Captain Eden) asked us to wait until we have codification. I have had more years' experience than the hon. and gallant Member in the law, and every lawyer will agree with me that British Common Law has been in existence for something like 600 years. Does anybody say that British Common Law is certain? Before I accepted my present office my practice at the Bar mainly consisted in arguing points of common law, and some of those points of law frequently went to the highest Court in this country, and were frequently decided by a majority of one. And that after 600 years! What we are trying to do by signing this Optional Clause is to help towards a codification of the law, and you will find the best codification of international law for this purpose in a sentence contained in Article 16 of the Covenant. It is also said that the difference between the Anglo-Saxon and Continental schools of law is acute on 767 this topic. As a student of the prize cases arising out of the last war I think it is true to say that the divergence between the principles established in this country and the principles claimed by the United States are greater than the divergencies between this country and Continental countries.
For instance, on the matter to which the right hon. Member for Croydon South (Sir W. Mitchell-Thomson) referred, the very important matter of visit and search, and the question as to whether you can send a ship into a port to be searched, we contended that we could. The United States contended that we could not, and that visit and search should take place at sea. To-day, all the Continental nations have committed themselves to our point of view. In other cases arising out of the War there has been no great divergence with regard to belligerent rights between this country and the Continental jurists.
The next argument we heard was to this effect: "We are prepared to arbitrate with some people, but we are not prepared to arbitrate with other people. What we should do is not to lay down any general principle, but make up our minds, as and when the dispute arises, as to whether we are to arbitrate or not." Does not the right hon. Gentleman see that to adopt such procedure as that is to lay ourselves open to the taunt, "Yes, you will arbitrate when you think you are in the right, but when you think you have a bad case you will not arbitrate but will go and do whatever you choose." We want to put ourselves in the right by making it clear that this country is not prepared to take any action which it cannot support and substantiate before a fair, just and impartial tribunal.
The right hon. Member for Croydon South asked me various questions. I would venture most respectfully to point out to him that he is still too imbued with the experience which he had at the time of the late War to realise what a fundamental change there has been. His criticism was all based on and was all applicable to the old private war. If we were still in the region of the old private war, I should concede at once that there is great force in his criticism, but it is be- 768 cause we believe that private war has been abolished, not only by the Covenant but by the combined effect of the Covenant and the Pact, that we decline to apply to public war the same principles as were in the past applied to private war. In the limited time available let me answer the questions put to me. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham asked me first of all with regard to that portion of the Clause which states:…all disputes arising after the ratification of the present Declaration with regard to situations or facts subsequent to the said ratification.The right hon. Gentleman gave as an illustration—it was plain that he took it merely as an illustration, because the matter was all over and done with years ago—this sort of question: Suppose that the Venezuelan boundary dispute was still alive and had not been settled. It had been the subject of controversy for some years and was not settled. That being the situation, this Clause is signed. Where do we stand? I think there is really very little doubt at all. The right hon. Gentleman will observe that to come within the Clause there must be two-things. There must be, first of all, a dispute arising after ratification, and secondly, that dispute must be with regard to a situation subsequent to the ratification. Let me answer the Venezuelan point. I venture to assert that there is very little doubt at all that the first qualification is not satisfied. The dispute in that case, it is manifest, arose before ratification and, equally, I should say that it fails to come within the second qualification. Remember that it must come within both. I should say that the situation which was there complained of was manifestly a situation which did not arise subsequent to ratification. The situation existed before ratification even if it survived and continued after ratification. Therefore I am able to answer the right hon. Gentleman—I need hardly say, not without having taken counsel with others who are in a position to advise on the subject—and I am able to tell him that no doubt is felt, and, I am bound to say that I share that view, that such a case as that would not be within the Clause.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me a second question, and again he gave art illustration which was merely a hypo- 769 thetical and convenient illustration. That was in relation to the question of the reservation of disputes with regard to questions which, by international law, fall exclusively within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. The illustration which the right hon. Gentleman gave was some dispute in connection with Malta, and he asked me whether, in my view, such a dispute could be said to be exclusively within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. My answer is: Yes, it could be so said. When we speak in this reservation of the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom, the right hon. Gentleman will observe that we are speaking of this jurisdiction from the international standpoint. It is manifest in the reservation that it refers to disputes with regard to questions which, by international law, fall exclusively within our jurisdiction. As far as international law is concerned, Malta does fall exclusively within our jurisdiction. Malta is a colony, and, as far as the foreign relations of Malta are concerned, we and we alone are responsible. If any foreign country had any complaint arising out of these foreign relations, it would be with this Government, and with this Government only, that those disputes would have to be taken up. Therefore—again after having taken counsel with my advisers—I am able to say that their view confirms my own view, and that the answer in this case is that such a dispute would be exclusively within our jurisdiction.
The right hon. Gentleman made another statement. I am not sure if he cast it in the form of a question, or indeed if it is a question which admits of any answer. He said that, in asking the House to authorise the ratification of the Optional Clause, we were, in some way, differentiating adversely against the United States. I am most anxious that it should not go forth from this House even that that is the view which the right hon. Gentleman from this side of the House forms of what we are doing. May I point out that it takes two people to agree to an arbitration? As far as we art; concerned, there is nothing that we should like better than to agree to arbitrate with everybody. But that depends on being able to arrive at precise agreements with everybody to arbitrate. We are saying that, on the basis of reciprocity, we will agree to arbitrate with anybody who will 770 agree to arbitrate with us. If other people, for any reason, do not choose to avail themselves of that offer, it is surely unfair to say that we are differentiating adversely against them.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I did not make my point clear to the hon. and learned Gentleman. What I said was, that if you accept this obligation as members of the League and refuse to put it in an arbitration treaty with the United States, you make an invidious discrimination against the United States. On the other hand, if, as you now say, you would gladly put it into a treaty with the United States, then we have none of the protection which the right hon. Gentleman drew from the provisions of the Covenant.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I pointed out that if the United States chose to sign the Optional Clause, as they could do if they liked—[Interruption.] The next question he asked was in regard to a small State next to a big one. He pointed out that the small State might be too frightened to carry out its obligations under Article 16, but that notwithstanding that the small State might take us to The Hague Court. What, he asked, would be the position there? Surely, The Hague Court would not be concerned with the question as to whether the small State was carrying out its obligations; The Hague Court would be concerned with the question whether those obligations existed. The small State would not be in a better position because it was not carrying out obligations which it had undertaken, and I would point out, with regard to Article 16, that with regard to military measures there may be some measure of doubt, but could anything be clearer than this? This is the obligation undertaken by Article 16. This is why I was able to say that this enshrines what the new principle of international law was to be as between members of the League. The League membershereby undertake immediately to subject it"—that is, the State committing the act of war—to the severance of all trade or financial relations, the prohibition of all intercourse between their nationals and the nationals of the covenant-breaking State, and the prevention of all financial, commercial or personal intercourse between the nationals of the covenant-breaking State and the nationals of any other State.771 Your little State which, on the hypothesis of the right hon. Gentleman, takes itself to the Hague Court has undertaken this obligation and cannot excuse itself from the consequences of that obligation by any other consideration whatever.
I have not much time, but I am anxious to answer all the questions put to me in the course of the Debate so far as I can remember them. I come now to the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Burgin), who asked me what is the meaning of the phrase:Disputes with the Government of any other member of the League which is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.I ventured to hope that at any rate those words were clear. Although law, as I have already said, is a somewhat uncertain thing, and the results attendant on law are uncertain, at least this much is certain about law, that you always know the name of the person you are litigating against. The reservation is "Disputes with," and although we have the greatest admiration for the Hague Court, we feel that we ought to be able to settle our own difficulties among ourselves. We do not intend, therefore, to allow the Court to settle a dispute between this country and another member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
The second question the hon. Member asked me was in regard to the third reservation:Disputes with regard to questions which by international law fall exclusively within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom.He asked whether I have any precise view as to the meaning of those words. The words were intended to mean, and I think do mean, precisely the same as the words which he will find in Article 15 of the Covenant, namely, the words "solely within the domestic jurisdiction of that party." So far as the adverb is concerned, I think even his ingenious mind would be the last to suggest a distinction between "exclusively" and "solely." There may be difference of opinion as to what an adjective may mean, but I do not appreciate the distinction between "within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom" and "within the domestic jurisdiction of the United Kingdom," because the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom must be a domestic jurisdiction. Therefore, my answer is that, as far as I 772 am aware, the intention with which the words were there inserted has been carried out. They have struck out an unnecessary adjective and substituted another and equally good adverb, with the result that the words are the same.
I have dealt with the two questions that were put to me. I now come to the conundrum which the right hon. Gentleman opposite put to me, and with which he asked me to deal precisely. He said this: "In 1924 the Foreign Secretary thought it right to insert a certain qualification." The right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I say that I am not quite certain he appreciated what the qualification was. It was not a general qualification but a qualification which, in terms, applied, and applied only, assuming we were waging war on behalf of the League. As the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Burgin) has pointed out in the course of this discussion, that very important and cardinal point has been obscured more than once. But the right hon. Gentleman asks me this question: "If it was right to insert that in 1924, how can it be right to leave it out in 1930? The Covenant has not been changed, and the words of the Covenant are the same, and in regard to the Pact, although it has been signed, the Pact says nothing about it. All this springs from the Covenant." That is the situation and the question which I understand the right hon. Gentleman to put to me.
I would point out that, although the Covenant has not been changed, what has happened is this: One of the gaps which existed in the Covenant had been stopped by the Pact. The weakness of the Covenant as it existed before the Pact was that there was an event, in which private war could exist, and as long as you had the event in which private war could exist, it was no doubt dangerous and, perhaps, impossible to accept a principle and lay down a canon which, though primarily right as regards public war, might get you into trouble as regards private war. I have not the slightest doubt that my right hon. Friend thought there was something to be said for that in 1924, but now the effect of the Pact is this: As between members of the League, if we carry out our obligations, there can be no such thing as private war. It cannot exist and, that being so, we can now apply another principle and another canon. We can apply, as a principle, 773 a principle which is perfectly sound in the case of public war, and we need no longer consider private war.
The whole speech of the right hon. Gentleman and the whole of the arguments he adduced, proceeded on the assumption that there really had been no fundamental change and that the sort of war which we might have to meet in future was the same sort of war as we had to meet in the past. May I put this to him? He was frank enough to admit that we could be quite certain in this House, whether the Government come from this side or from that, that if we do wage war in future, it will not be a war waged in breach of our obligations to the Covenant, or our obligations to the Pact. That is why I say we can assume, no matter from what quarter the Government may be drawn, that it would be a public war, and not a private war. Being a public war and not a private war, it is a case in which we ought to be only too glad to avail ourselves of the privilege conferred upon us by Article 16, when we shall find ourselves with all other members of the League ranged alongside us to fight a common battle, under the auspices of the League—a public war against the Covenant breaking State and the wrong-doer. All the other members of the League will be bound to take the steps which I have already indicated, and in these circumstances, surely it is only right that we should in this case be prepared to take a risk, if risk it be; as the right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway has said on more than one occasion, why should you not be prepared to take a risk for peace? If it is a fact that since 1924 we have changed and advanced, why
§ should we be ashamed of taking another step along the road of peace? I hope that every ordinary person in the course of six years grows wiser than he was six years ago. I do not suppose that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will merely maintain his high standard of excellence in six years time; I think that he will surpass himself.
§ Let it be clear that the Prize Court, even as administered in the past in this country, is not a mere branch of the Executive. It is a Court of Law administering international law, not administering what it thinks convenient to a naval power, but an independent court. We saw in the Great War, in the passion and turmoil of the War, Germans coming over here to obtain justice from the British Prize Court. Yet it always seems to me to have one weakness. As important as justice itself is the necessity for maintaining the appearance of justice, and what has always been weak about our British Prize Court is that it is drawn exclusively from citizens of this country. I am glad to think we are going, in place of that Prize Court, to have a great international court whose wisdom and justice we can fully and freely trust; I am glad to think that at last in 1930 we are taking another definite step forward along the road of peace, and I am thankful to see that the nations of the world are following our example. This country must lead the van in peace as in everything else.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 193; Noes, 278.777
|Division No. 119.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Collen, Major J. Brunel|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Boyce, H. L.||Colville, Major D. J.|
|Albery, Irving James||Bracken, B.||Conway, Sir W. Martin|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)||Brass, Captain Sir William||Courtauld, Major J. S.|
|Allen, W. E. D. (Belfast, W.)||Briscoe, Richard George||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopoid C. M. S.||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Cranbourne, Viscount|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Buckingham, Sir H.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Crookshank, Capt. H. C.|
|Atkinson, C.||Butler, R. A.||Croom-Johnson, R. P.|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Butt, Sir Alfred||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Castle Stewart, Earl of||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)|
|Balniel, Lord||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Davies, Dr. Vernon|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)|
|Berry, Sir George||Chapman, Sir S.||Dawson, Sir Philip|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Christle, J. A.||Dixey, A. C.|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Dugdale, Capt. T. L.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Eden, Captain Anthony|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Savery, S. S.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Ferguson, Sir John||Long, Major Eric||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfst)|
|Fermoy, Lord||Lymington, Viscount||Skelton, A. N.|
|Fielden, E. B.||Macquisten, F. A.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Fison, F. G. Clavering||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Margesson, Captain H. D.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Marjoribanks, E. C.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Meller, R. J.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Gibson, C. G (Pudsey & Otley)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Stanley, Maj. Hon. O. (W'morland)|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W.||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Mond, Hon. Henry||Stuart, J. C. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Greene, W P. Crawford||Muirhead, A. J.||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Peake, Captain Osbert||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Penny, Sir George||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Power, Sir John Cecil||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Purbrick, R.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Ramsbotham, H.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Withers, Sir John James|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'te'y)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Iveagh, Countess of||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Kindersley, Major G. M.||Ross, Major Ronald D.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Salmon, Major I.||Commander Sir B. Eyres Monsell|
|Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||and Major Sir George Hennessy.|
|Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Chater, Daniel||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Church, Major A. G.||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Cluse, W. S.||Gray, Milner|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro)||Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Compton, Joseph||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Cove, William G.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)|
|Angell, Norman||Cowan, D. M.||Groves, Thomas E|
|Arnott, John||Daggar, George||Grundy, Thomas W.|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Dallas, George||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Dalton, Hugh||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Ayles, Walter||Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Harbord, A.|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Dickson, T.||Hardie, George D.|
|Batey, Joseph||Dukes, C.||Harris, Percy A.|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Duncan, Charles||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Ede, James Chuter||Hastings, Dr. Somerville|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Edge, Sir William||Haycock, A. W.|
|Benson, G.||Edmunds, J. E.||Hayday, Arthur|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Hayes, John Henry|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Egan, W. H.||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)|
|Bowen, J. W.||Elmley, Viscount||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Herriotts, J.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Foot, Isaac||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)|
|Bromley, J.||Forgan, Dr. Robert||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)|
|Brothers, M.||Freeman, Peter||Hoffman, P. C.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Hollins, A.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N)||Horrabin, J. F.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Hudson, James H (Huddersfield)|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph|
|Buchanan, G.||Gibbins, Joseph||Isaacs, George|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland)||Gill, T. H.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Cameron, A. G.||Gillett, George M.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)|
|Cape, Thomas||Glassey, A. E.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Gossling, A. G.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Gould, F.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Morley, Ralph||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Simmons, C. J.|
|Kelly, W. T.||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)|
|Kennedy, Thomas||Motley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Kinley, J.||Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Kirkwood, D.||Muff, G.||Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)|
|Knight, Holford||Murnin, Hugh||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)||Nathan, Major H. L.||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Lang, Gordon||Naylor, T. E.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Lathan, G.||Noel Baker, P. J.||Snell, Harry|
|Law, A. (Rosendale)||Oldfield, J. R.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Lawrence, Susan||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|Lawson, John James||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Sorensen, R.|
|Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Owen, H. F. (Hereford)||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Leach, W.||Palin, John Henry||Stephen, Campbell|
|Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)||Paling, Wilfrid||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Palmer, E. T.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Lees, J.||Perry, S. F.||Sullivan, J.|
|Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Lindley, Fred W.||Phillips, Dr. Mar[...]on||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Lloyd, C. Ellis||Picton-Turbervill, Edith||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)|
|Longbottom, A. W.||Pole, Major D. G.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Longden, F.||Potts, John S.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Lovat-Fraser. J. A.||Pybus, Percy John||Tillett, Ben|
|Lowth, Thomas||Quibell, D. J. K.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Lunn, William||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Tout, W. J.|
|Logan, David Gilbert||Rathbone, Eleanor||Townend, A. E.|
|Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Raynes, W. R.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Richards, R.||Turner, B.|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Vaughan, D. J.|
|McElwee, A.||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)||Viant, S. P.|
|McEntee, V. L.||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Walker, J.|
|MacLaren, Andrew||Ritson, J.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Romeril, H. G.||Watkins, F. C.|
|MacNeill-Weir, L.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|McShane, John James||Rowson, Guy||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Malone, C. L' Estrange (N'thampton)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)||West, F. R.|
|Mansfield, W.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|March, S.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Markham, S. F.||Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Marley, J.||Sanders, W. S.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Mathers, George||Sandham, E.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Matters, L. W.||Sawyer, G. F.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Maxton, James||Scrymgeour, E.||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Melville, Sir James||Scurr, John||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Messer, Fred||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Middleton, G.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|Millar, J. D.||Sherwood, G. H.||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Mills, J. E.||Shield, George William|
|Milner, J.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Montague, Frederick||Shillaker, J. F.||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. B.|
|Morgan Dr. H. B.||Shinwell, E.||Smith.|
Main Question put, and agreed to.
That this House approves the ratification of the Declaration under Article 36 of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice, signed at Geneva in respect of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the 19th day of September, 1929.