§ Mr. STANLEY BALDWIN
I beg to move,That a Select Committee of Eleven Members be appointed to examine and report upon the proposals contained in the International Treaty for the Limitation and Reduction of Naval Armaments.Fortunately, it is not necessary for me to detain the House at great length in making clear the reasons which have animated us in putting down this Motion, and I have no wish to stand longer than is necessary in the way of many hon. Members who desire to speak and who are better qualified than I to deal with the various technical questions which they desire to raise. But I wish to assure the Prime Minister that I have put down this Motion with a full sense of responsibility. I am quite sure that he will be the first to admit that, during the whole process of the negotiation of the Treaty, he has been treated by the Opposition with a very proper but not always usual consideration. We abstained from putting questions in the House of Commons which might embarrass him, and, indeed, I myself made a great sacrifice in that I refused every request from every journalist, foreign and home, to give an interview while the Conference was sitting. The House, knowing how fond I am of talking, will know the restraint that it was necessary to put upon myself, but I did it, and, therefore, I feel that I may be allowed to speak freely to-day and that I may be allowed to put down this Motion and to give the House my reasons for it.
We are all supposed to be advancing, and we have here a thoroughly Radical Motion put down by a Tory Opposition. I doubt if any Motion of this kind has been put down before, but the reasons why we have put it down are plain. No such Motion would have been necessary in reference to a Treaty, say, like Locarno or many others. Many treaties involve the country, for good or evil, in certain responsibilities which are quite clear and the explanation of which can be made quite clear in the House of Commons by Ministers defending those treaties. But here we have a Treaty which is, on the one hand, full of technicalities of which few of us are capable of being judges, and which, on the other hand, deals with 1792 a matter more vital to this nation than almost any other matter that could be involved in a Treaty.
America is a country where the problem of naval defence simply does not arise as we understand the phrase. They have had a most exhaustive inquiry, in which those who took part in the Conference and those who gave their advice have had to defend themselves. What they chiefly sought to get at was the effect of the Naval Agreement, not on us, but on the United States. They seem, so far as one can gather from the reports that have come to this side, to be very pleased with the results of their investigation. That in itself does not disturb me unduly, because it is obvious that they are people who have to put the best complexion on what they have done, and, if some American's think that we should be down and out for the future, that is for the future to decide. That does not worry me profoundly, but now that the Americans have had this investigation and appear to be satisfied, I ask why the same procedure should not take place in this country, so that we may satisfy ourselves as to the effect of the Treaty, not on the United States, but on Great Britain which, after all, does concern us?
One of the reasons why I think that it is of great importance is this. At the present time, we are all of us generally in favour of such treaties. There are difficulties connected with them, about which I may say a word or two, but on the whole probably they afford the best means of progress in a direction in which we desire to go. But to make a successful treaty, it is necessary to carry not merely the voting, but the general intellectual assent of both parties. That is important, because, if we do not get it, we shall then have latent in many parts of the country a feeling of dissatisfaction and of want of confidence, and, wherever we have that, we have lying about those embers, so dangerous in a democratic country, which may be blown into flame at any time by agitation, propaganda, and Press campaigns. The last thing that we want in this country, now and in the future, are any more naval scares. Naval scares can be very easily worked up in certain circumstances, and more easily worked up in London and the district around, where there are masses of the population, and where, in 1793 the event of anything going wrong with food supplies or anything of that kind, the danger and the peril will be felt at once and the terror will be greater.
It is partly because I want to obviate the smallest possible risk of anything of that kind arising, that I believe that an examination which would satisfy those who think as I do would be the best thing that could be done at the moment. The situation as regards this country is, of course, very different from that in America, different indeed almost from that in any country in the world. I am not going into certain features of our position which are known to everyone in this House; I want to keep on broad lines, but I want to make this point. Here is a country always dependent on its naval power, existing under the influence of its naval power, owing whatever influence it has in the councils of the world ultimately to its naval power, and a country, which has hitherto always built in reference to what it conceives to be its own needs, haring for the future to build in terms of a very strictly-drawn Treaty. We want to know before we are ultimately committed to it, firstly, whether our security remains; secondly, whether we shall be in a position in many circumstances to fulfil our own sacred obligations under the League of Nations; and, thirdly, and this is most important, how we stand, and how we shall stand in future, with regard to European standards of naval construction, on which I shall have a word or two to say.
Of course, it would be a very simple problem, if, as we all hoped some years ago, the United States had become a member of the League of Nations. The whole problem would have been altered. America as a member of the League of Nations with this country would make war impossible. I hope that some day that may come. There is no sign of it in the immediate future, and we have to consider this question with America outside the League of Nations, and still as determined as she has ever been to maintain her neutrality so far as struggles in the old world are concerned. That, of course, opens up possibilities of grave difficulties in future with the breaking of the blockade. I have no doubt that all these things have been considered, but the question of the functions of the British Navy in Europe is one on which 1794 all of us would like a good deal more information, and yet we realise that a great deal might be asked and said in this House which would be difficult and perhaps dangerous. They are the very things on which a private Session, in which views might be frankly exchanged and questions asked and answered, might be invaluable in helping to quieten anxieties not at all unnatural to those who have studied this question for many years.
I do not think that anybody who has studied these matters would find fault with what has been done in the Treaty with regard to the holiday and the reduction in battleships, but that leads us directly to this consideration. It may be that the battleship, as we have known it, is in process of extinction, and the capital ship, as we now have it, may in a few years become a thing of the past. There is nothing in that by itself that need cause us anxiety, but one must not forget that even if the capital ship, as we know it, disappears, the functions of the capital ship remain and will remain. The functions of the capital ship are to maintain control over those strategic areas of the world's waters where we simply cannot, if we are to survive, afford to run any risks in time of war. If the battleship be gone, the capital ship then becomes for this purpose the largest cruiser available, and if the cruiser is to be used for that work, that diminishes the number of cruisers that will be available for the multifarious work that now falls upon them. That is a point which has exercised my mind, and it has exercised it particularly in the remarkable drop in the Admiralty requirements from the 70 which were demanded when I was in charge of the Government, to the 50 which is now the figure. That may be a perfectly defensible figure—I do not know. I remember very well that during all the time we were in office we always proceeded on the assumption in preparing Navy Estimates—you cannot guarantee the future—that we might reasonably look for peace for 10 years ahead. That is as far as you ought to look in considering Estimates. Secondly, as I think I said once in a speech—indeed I have seen it quoted—we always prepared our programmes without any reference whatsoever to what America 1795 was doing. We always based our standards on European standards, and what might be necessary for our defence in any conceivable circumstances so far as our narrow seas and certain narrow communications were concerned. I want the House to bear that in mind, and particularly that, never as long as I was head of the Government, did we trouble ourselves as to what America had built, was building or might build. We proceeded with absolute independence in framing our programmes so far as she was concerned.
But all the time that we were in office 70 cruisers was the figure up to which our advisers desired to work, and 50, of course, is a very different figure. That is a point which we should very much like to examine, whoever gave that advice. There are many questions which, possibly, the First Lord might find it difficult to answer, because with all respect to him—he is a modest man—he would be the first to say that he has been a short time only at the Admiralty, and has not made a life study of these matters. They are extremely difficult things. But we should like to be assured on that point more than on any point which has come before us in the progress of these debates. Of course 50 is a good deal less to begin with. You have to have a number of that 50 with your battle fleet, and, of course, for work on your trade routes. How vital that was in the War no one in this House will deny, and it is a little disquieting to see that, at the very moment when this figure has been so drastically cut down, our negotiators did what seemed to be so unnecessary in throwing the Australian cruisers into the total number of British cruisers, because, after all, the Australian cruisers—I have no doubt that whoever follows me will correct me if I am wrong—are not, I think, necessarily and absolutely at our disposal. I think it requires the compliance of the Australian Government. I am not sure, but I would like an answer on that point.
Besides the cruisers, we on this side of the House are certainly uneasy about the destroyer position. If I am correct in estimating the new tonnage allowed to us, and assuming that the size of destroyers averages something like what it is now, we shall be able to have about 115. That 1796 sounds a lot, but you have to think what destroyers have to do, and at the end of the War, when we were fighting for our lives, we had close upon 400 in commission, and, besides, 76 old ones. After all, destroyers, especially in an island as we are, have immense responsibilities. You need them for service with the battle fleet. You need them for what is vital work—more vital for us than any country in the world—as convoys for merchant vessels. You want them for sea control in confined circumstances, when they are, perhaps, the best type of ships to work with, and you want them for other purposes. When we have so limited our destroyers, we have got to bear in mind that we have allowed Japan to increase the number of submarines, and we have got to remember that at present France and Italy are outside the Treaty. We are left, so far as I see it, with a complete lack of flexibility. We have always enjoyed flexibility. It is owing to that, very largely, that we have maintained a Navy with such a reputation as we have. We have always been among the first with new designs and new types of building, and we built just at the time when they were wanted most. That, it seems to me, is taken from us, or, at any rate, limited severely under this Treaty, and we lose by the Treaty obsolescent ships which were of inestimable value during the greater part of the Great War.
Having spoken of these things, it brings me naturaly back to Europe, particularly in talking about destroyers. The Prime Minister, until he announced the results of the Conference, always told us that he was going to get, or that he meant to get, a five-Power Treaty. A tripartite Treaty is not at all the same thing, and for this reason. The Prime Minister knows it as well as I do. I rather think he knows as well as I do some of these difficulties which I am going to mention now. We were very interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal party, who applauded the Treaty, and spoke in very warm terms of a great deal of it, make seine observation on the European situation which I should like to quote to the House, because I cordially and warmly agree with him. He said first of all:In my judgment, the greatest achievement is the fact that we have arrived at an understanding with the United States and Japan. That is worth more than 100 cruisers.1797 Of course, that particular figure is rather like the question which my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal asked himself. A thousand was a great number. He would not be precise about the number. Many of us in church sing with great unction "Ten thousand times ten thousand." It does not mean that it represents any particular number, but it means a very satisfactory sum. That is what he meant. He meant that it was a good thing, and I agree that it was a good thing. It is worth something. But this is what he said about the European situation:When you come to the narrow seas, I do not think it is satisfactory. There are elements of very great peril in it. In fact, in many ways I think the situation has been worsened, because you have stimulated activities, prejudices and rivalries which were dormant, but which have been rather stirred into activity by the discussions which took place, and the attempt to achieve agreement at a moment when things were not quite right. As we are concerned, not merely with the deep sea situation, but also very vitally in the narrow seas, on our trade routes, it is a situation which I sincerely trust the Prime Minister will not leave where it is, because it is of such enormous importance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1930; col. 2173, Vol. 238.]I agree with every word of that. It may be a matter of the utmost gravity if the activities, prejudices and rivalries of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke should be stimulated, and that we should find in those two great Latin countries it should lead, instead of to reduction, to increased naval competition. I cannot say what the danger of that is, as that, again, is a subject which it is very difficult to discuss with freedom in this House, but I think we can point out, without doing harm, that there is danger in that direction, because supposing that the programmes of those two great Latin countries should be materially increased, or supposing their programmes should be increased in the direction of ships which would vitally affect our European position, then, apparently, the only means of escape for us is after consultation with the other parties in the tripartite agreement. There, I think, you have a real danger in the amount of misunderstanding, the amount of suspicion, possibly of jealousy, that, I think, might only too easily arise—and those passions easily arise—in trying to do something that fixes you at once a little bit outside what 1798 was agreed upon. It is the very exercise of that option which, I believe, will give rise to a fresh crop of suspicion, that might make further negotiations at later dates infinitely more difficult than they are to-day.
I said at the beginning of my speech that I think we are, probably, most of us agreed that this rather unsatisfactory method of conference and Treaty is, on the whole, probably the only way we have of approaching this subject. It is so difficult to make progress in this work. Even at a conference of which so much was expected, and which, I hope, indeed, may result, there are one or two definite points even now that add to our anxiety. The mere holding of a conference has concentrated the attention of people, certainly in Western Europe and in America, on their own armaments, and just as there is nothing so bad to a human being as to be constantly feeling his pulse, there is nothing worse for a nation than to be always wondering whether it has enough armaments, and so forth, and I wonder if the Prime Minister is satisfied that there is less disquiet throughout Europe to-day than there was before this Conference began. I should be surprised if he could give an affirmative answer to that question. One thing is quite clear, that, as a result of the Conference, there is going to be more shipbuilding in the world by far than there was in any comparable period since the War, and that in itself, is not, in all the circumstances, a wholly good thing. Parity is like a minimum wage which always tends to the maximum. If everybody builds, you must build right up to parity, because we know that America will do it. We know that other countries will do it, and we shall have to do the same. It cannot be helped. We have to go along with our competitors.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I suggested. It is absolutely essential to us now that we have to administer a restricted Navy. At any rate, it may be understood that the Navy inside the Treaty should be efficient and up-to-date, though this is not the occasion to press the Government as to what they are going to do. First of all, they tell us that they are considering a building programme, and, now 1799 that this Treaty has gone through, the building programme becomes really one of the most important questions before the country which we shall have ample opportunity of debating.
There is one point to which I think it is well worth the House giving attention, and that is European standards with regard to the Navy. A country in a position to defend itself, and whose naval requirements are sufficient for its own purposes without any extraneous help, is independent. The moment a country is not strong enough to be independent there is the danger of its being dragged into the orbit of another country, and that is the way in which a country like our own, isolated and an island, may very easily be dragged into what we all want to avoid, and that is war. The House may remember that two or three years before the Great War broke out it became evident that the German Navy was being increased at an alarming rate, at such a rate that we did not feel ourselves in a position to, and had not the time to, build that overwhelming supremacy against it which alone would have kept us secure. At that time, the House will remember, we removed a number of our ships from the Mediterranean to the North Sea, and there was that understanding with the French that we would look after their North coast and they would look after, or help us to look after, the Mediterranean. [HON. MEMBERS: "Secretly."] When that happened it became absolutely inevitable, when 1914 came, that we should be drawn into the War. I do not wish to go into that aspect of the question, but I want to point out that the moment this country ceases to be independent in her own strength in Europe she runs a risk of being drawn into the orbit of some other country.
I am one of those who think there will not be another war for many years, but that there will never be war again in this world is an unsafe assumption, and it is a very unsafe assumption that we shall be neutrals in it. It is, quite frankly, upon the European side—I am not going to say any more—that I feel most anxious, it is on the European side that I should like most to examine experts and our representatives on the Continent, and it is because I think that 1800 there is so much that requires explanation and so much the explanation of which cannot be given with perfect frankness in public, that I ask the Government to accede to this Motion.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald)
I have no objection at all to the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has put his case for a Select Committee. It is the second attempt the Opposition has made to discuss the Treaty. The first attempt was not very successful, on account of certain incidents which happened during the debate; but this is not only a second attempt, it is a second thought. If what the right hon. Gentleman has said is sound it was obviously sound a fortnight ago, and I warn him, whilst he is using the present position to make this proposal, that if this House were to assent to his proposal it would not be something that would merely hang everything again in the air but it would be a departure in the handling of House of Common's business, a departure from the present relations between the Executive and the House of Commons, that would become part and parcel of our ordinary procedure. When he talks about the necessity of this House being seized of all the facts that might be, with some risk, expressed by me here, he must know that every time Army, Navy or Air Force Estimates are presented to this House every consideration to which he has now referred is involved.
I should have liked very much to see the Estimates of the last Government, year after year, submitted to a Select Committee. I am afraid things would have been revealed at those Select Committees that it would not be convenient to reveal here but which, nevertheless, were of precisely the same nature as the things that would be revealed if the London Treaty were to be made the subject of investigation by a Select Committee. The right hon. Gentleman says it is done in the United States of America. It is not done in the United States of America because the London Treaty has been signed. It is done in the United States as an ordinary part and parcel of their constitutional procedure. It is done there on account of the special relationship between the Executive and the Legislature. It is done in the United States on every occasion. The chairman 1801 of the Navy Committee of the Senate is appointed either every year or every Parliament—I am not sure which—and there is a similar Committee in the House of Representatives. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to say to-day that he wants that change for ourselves? I venture to say he will do nothing of the kind, and therefore I come to the conclusion that he does not want this to be repeated, he does not want to help every Opposition that may sit where he now sits to be able to claim against the Government of the day the right to send all sorts of matters of the same class as this London Treaty to a Select Committee for examination and for the production of Papers. I assumed when I saw the decision he had taken that he had taken that decision in order to give him a second day for debate on the Naval Treaty.
I want to draw the attention of the House to this further fact. It is difficult to read the newspapers very thoroughly in these days, but I have tried to keep in touch with the sort of spirit and intention of those who have been agitating for this second day's debate. The back benchers opposite, in the exercise of their undoubted rights, put down a Motion and attached to that Motion was a very formidable and important list of names. Now, what is in their minds? In their minds they are in favour of no agreement at all. As I shall show in a moment, I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman has supported them in that position. They are in favour of unbridled competition. If that policy were carried out by us or by our successors the Estimates would go up by millions upon millions, and the expenditure incurred would be absolute waste.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
May I beg the right hon. Gentleman to postpone to a somewhat later hour his uncontrollable exuberance? The right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Opposition made a strong point, a point which appeals to us all, a point of sentiment, which appeals to me quite as strongly as it appeals to himself. He says that in future we are going to build our ships by a drawn 1802 Treaty. I think that is a very substantial step in advance towards disarmament. How are you going to advance towards disarmament if you do not build your ships, arm your men and put your aero-planes into the air in terms of a drawn Treaty?
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that there was no provision in the Treaty dealing with men.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman is not quoting anything I had said. The Naval Treaty deals with tonnage primarily. It may have been that I made a slip. I would not like any misunderstanding to arise if I used the word men.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Armed men! I was thinking of land forces. I am sorry, it was my fault. I was thinking of the three grades of armament: ships, land forces, and aeroplanes. I will speak in future in terms of ships. If there is anything wrong in that, does the right hon. Gentleman wish to denounce the Washington Treaty? He told us that the battleship as we know it, the capital ship as we know it, may disappear, but the capital ship's function will remain. In limiting our building of capital ships we limited ourselves by Treaty. Does the right hon. Gentleman object to that? If the right hon. Gentleman is so much opposed to building the British Navy in accordance with agreements came to with other Powers, why did he send representatives to the Conference at Geneva in 1927; and, further, if he really is under the impression that a Three-Power agreement is so unsatisfactory, that it is wrong, why did he send representatives to a Conference at Geneva—the one I have just referred to—where there were only three Powers represented from the very beginning? The only difference in this respect is that I saw the desirability of coming to a Five-Power agreement, whether I succeeded or not. He was will- 1803 ing to negotiate a Three-Power agreement without having the opportunity of consulting the other Powers concerned in the European group as to what they were likely to do provided that a Three-Power agreement was signed. There is one other thing which I must mention. I was surprised to find that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) seemed to encourage the idea of an Imperial Fleet which is not a unified one. I think that is one of the most serious things that could happen to the defence forces of this country.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
The right hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. Perhaps he will inform me what is the fact. My recollection is that the Australian cruisers are not under the command of our Admiralty until the Australian Government consents to put them there.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I had better answer that question in this way. Before entering into any negotiations whatever I communicated with the Governments of all the Dominions, and asked whether negotiations could be conducted on the assumption of a unified fleet or not. I received instructions that that could be done. Moreover, as a further satisfactory contribution clearing up the situation, every Dominion within the Empire was represented at the London Conference, every Dominion representative was regarded as a chief representative, and when the heads of delegations met at a meeting, all of the heads of the Dominion representatives were entitled to attend. Every move in the negotiations, every point raised, every difficulty discussed and ultimately surmounted was considered in the presence of the Dominion representatives, and in the end they signed the Treaty in exactly the same way as my colleagues and myself.
There is another point with which I would like to deal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley said that as a result of the Treaty there would be more ships built in the future than had been built since the War. Supposing that was true. It is not true with regard to us. It is not true with regard to Japan, it is not true with regard to France, and it is not true regarding any other Power concerned, unless it is the United States, and the 1804 United States were preparing a programme which it would have carried out, London Treaty or no London Treaty. But if it is true, and I am not saying that it is going to be true, but, assuming it is true, that more ships will be built, within the next four or five years, than were built between the end of the War and the present time, nobody who sat through that Conference, and had to face the cases put by delegation after delegation, could have any doubt as to the truth of this further statement, that but for the Treaty shipbuilding would be enormously increased over and above what is allowed by the Treaty.
The point really seems to me—and I believe this is one of the chief points in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley—that somehow or other, by coming to a mathematical agreement with the United States, we have done something that we ought not to have done. The idea is that we have declared again and again that the United States building is not going to affect us, and that we are saying to the United States, "Build what you like" and that we in our turn should build what we like. That is equal to saying that there should be no parity and no tonnage agreement, and that, as a matter of fact, the whole idea of parity should be wiped out of our minds, and that we should treat the United States so far as it is a naval power practically as if it did not exist. That looks all very well on paper, but what is the very first thing that happens? The Opposition know perfectly well, and the experts who sit on the back benches—I mean the naval men—know perfectly well that, as a matter of fact, the United States are thinking of parity, devising new ships and devising an extension of their fleet always in terms of tonnage. The United States tonnage was going to take a relation to ours, and, therefore, as soon as tonnage was put on the water, we had to consider with the United States—as a matter of fact, we are considering—the tonnage relationship between the British fleet and their own fleet, and every dispatch that has been sent in, and every controversy that has taken place in the American papers and in the British papers, has always gone upon that basis.
1805 A second, and far more serious, point is that the world does not consist of the United States and ourselves. The world does not even consist of the Pacific alone. The trouble is that people consider this problem without being forced to recognise the very first thing that arises in the mind preliminary to negotiations, that there are two great groups in the world. There is the Pacific group and there is the European group, and as soon as that is laid down as a first fundamental proposition, you discover a second thing arising from it, and that is that no member of any one of these groups can build without disturbing the equilibrium of the other group. Therefore, we may say to America, "We are quite indifferent to you," as we have said, and as we shall continue to say; nevertheless, anybody can imagine an American building programme which will affect us very much indirectly, and which will make it absolutely impossible for us to be indifferent to the upsetting of the equilibrium in the group to which America and ourselves belong.
I will not pursue this matter any further. Those who are masters of the problem of naval building know perfectly well the situation which we have to face. The consequence of that is that any agreement come to with us, any hope that we may entertain of reducing armaments, must deal with groups, and every Power in the group must come into the group agreement, and limit its building if it is at all possible. That is the way in which the London Conference concluded. If the right hon. Gentleman's programme, if his idea is carried out, before he is five years older he will discover that he is not indifferent, and will pursue a policy, if he is in favour of limitation of armaments and saving national money, that is precisely the one which has been pursued at the London Naval Conference.
There is another assumption underlying this, and it is that America and ourselves would co-operate in certain conditions when action was required. To discuss that at the present moment is nothing but evil. We know perfectly well that every public pronouncement made by responsible American statesman and representative men is contrary to that assumption. If we are to go on with the League of Nations pursuit of disarmament, we have to come to figures. Fancy our going 1806 to the League of Nations at Geneva—either the Preparatory Commission or the Council or the Assembly itself—and saying, "We are going to make a contribution to the problem of disarmament, and it is that we have agreed that we are going to be indifferent to United States shipbuilding." We should be laughed out of court. We should be told that, instead of making a contribution, we had done exactly the opposite, and, instead of facing the realistic problem of naval disarmament, we had avoided it altogether and shut our eyes to the reality. The naval problem must be treated in the same way as the land problem—the soldier problem—and the air problem. Whatever contribution we make to naval disarmament must be of a kind which will be co-ordinated and dovetailed into the more general negotiations which must take place, I hope, very soon along the lines of military disarmament. Moreover, the way that we have pursued is the only way to reduce expenditure. It is the only way to save money from being wasted. We have to come to an agreement on programmes, and unless that agreement is come to and we take all the risks that are involved, we are not advancing the cause of disarmament.
Another point made is that we have agreed to figures which are below the strength of national safety. We have heard about 70 being the limit to which our predecessors worked, but our predecessors have not worked to 70. If it is true—I am not suggesting anything offensive—that 70 was the limit, then there are very great criminals in the late Government, and one of them was the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the other was the First Lord of the Admiralty. As a matter of fact, their programme has never approached 70, and never aimed at 70. Their programmes could have been going on. The course they pursued could have been developed and developed, and there was no sign of 70 being accepted by the Government as the limit up to which they would go. What is the use of working on false figures? That is where nine-tenths of the mischief in Europe and elsewhere is caused. If 50 is enough, then say 50 and stick to 50.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The question of the difference between 70 and 50 has not been a question at issue between two nations— 1807 one Government and another. What we are interested to know is, what are the technical grounds which have led the technical advisers to change their advice?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
My right hon. Friend, the last time this subject was before the House, gave the technical advisers' views. He explained, first of all, that the Treaty is for a limited period; that weighed with our technical advisers. Secondly, we are proceeding on the same assumption as our predecessors with regard to the possibility of war. Thirdly, we are proceeding upon better ground than they had available. We ask that the security which has been got by political means should be valued in military strength. What is the use of going on arbitrating, making pacts, disarmament treaties, and so on, and yet talking, as I was sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman talking this afternoon, as though nothing had happened? Our position may be perfectly unsound, but it is perfectly clear. It is that by mere military strength you will never get security. If you have been taught, and if we have been taught, nothing by the War, then let us go on in the way in which we have been going on before, until another war gives us a chance of learning something again.
I say that the policy we are pursuing is perfectly clear. It is to strengthen our peace security, and, as our peace security is strengthened, do not let us go on wasting public money in arming ourselves, because then we are not only pursuing two policies that are indifferent to each other, but, the more we pursue the military armament policy, the more we are weakening our peace security policy. These changes have taken place—the signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the ratification by other Powers secured by treaties, the securing of satisfactory programmes of replacement—and our expert advisers tell us that they are willing to work on a 50 basis.
The curious thing is that there seems to be an idea that we took 50 just in the same way as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said a thousand—[HON. MEMBERS: "A hundred!"]—or in the same way that the right hon. Gentleman himself goes to church and sings hymns with very flighty and imaginative mathe- 1808 matics. It was nothing of the kind. There was not a delegation at that Conference that did not fight for programmes different from the figures that were ultimately agreed to. It was no slap-dash agreement. We did not make that agreement in an easy-going spirit of accommodation. Every problem raised by the right hon. Gentleman, and many others that he could have raised perfectly well if he had cared to take the time, were thrashed out with our experts, were thrashed out with the various delegates by joint meetings, were thrashed out at meetings of the heads of delegations. The whole ground was explored, difficulty after difficulty was met and faced, and the agreement was far more a deliverance under pain than a deliverance of a simple, easy-going, humanitarian body of people.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
We had a sincere desire to economise and to make contributions to the disarmament problem without risking a reaction in this State or anywhere else. Our task was most responsible. We used our best judgment with regard to what agreement was come to as the result of that Conference, and I ask this House what is the value of these peace assurances that we have had if, after we have had them, we are still going to talk about 70 cruisers? Let us stop it, if that is the mind of this House, or the mind of any great section of this House. The right hon. Gentleman, if he has followed carefully the discussions that have taken place in other countries, will have found that there has been a great deal of talk in the United States that they have not built quite enough. They have said, and it has been seized upon in this country, that they would not "swap" with us; nor would I "swap" with them. That is the essence of a fair bargain. Why should we "swap" when what is in one's possession is of precisely the same value as what is in another's?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
According to the right hon. Gentleman, he has never done that all his lifetime. He has interrupted me to remind me that he was quite indifferent to American building. If he is indifferent to American building, let him be indifferent to the end of the chapter, and not, when he gets a paragraph 1809 thrown in with another and exactly opposite view which suits him for an interjection, change his opinion once more. I dare say, before I have finished, if he interrupts again, he will have changed his opinion yet again. The United States admirals may not "swap," but ours have not to deal with the American problem, but with the British problem, and, in dealing with the British problem, they are perfectly satisfied that a fair bargain has been made and that they can fulfil their duty to the country.
It is not only America. Japan says that she has not enough, and to-day a section of the British House of Commons says that it has not enough. Could there be a greater tribute to the success of the negotiations? You will never give enough to men—I make no accusation against them; they are objective realities—you will never give enough of arms to men who believe that, unless they are armed in a superior way to other nations, it is bound to lead to war. They are approaching the problem of war; we are approaching the problem of peace. You will never give enough, to men who approach the problem of war, of the arms that those who approach the problem of peace say are perfectly good enough for national security. Moreover, it is all relative. If we had said 50, and allowed nations A, B, C and D to say, 70, 80, 90 and so on, and then signed the Treaty, of course we should have been open to the accusation that is being made against us now. But we never said 50 except as a basis of relationship. The word used, until one got sick and tired of hearing it, was, how does this proposal affect the equilibrium of the group? It was equilibrium that we were asking for. We put down 50 as our standard, and to the standard of 50 we strove with might and main, almost literally day and night, to get relationships which would establish an equilibrium of equal safety within the group.
Regarding the Five-Power agreement, I did say that I would leave no stone unturned to get a Five-Power agreement; anl I do say that, when I found that I could not get a Five-Power agreement, the very last party in this House to object to my taking a Three-Power agreement is the party immediately opposite. As I have already said, they actually went into a Three-Power Conference, and, when 1810 they failed to take anything away from it, they had to apologise for their failure. We went into a Five-Power Conference knowing the difficulties. We got a Three-Power agreement, and we are still working away at the problems which, when solved, will enable us to have a Five-Power agreement.
The discussions in all countries have shown a very remarkable achievement for the London Conference. In every country, those whose fears have been, and whose preparations have been made for, war, are, as is inevitable, displeased with the agreement, but those who are pursuing the path of peace take it as an instalment, take it as a beginning, take it as the beginning of a way which must be pursued stage by stage and step by step, until at last, through equilibrium, we reach disarmament; and all the figures, the diplomacy, the future arrangements and preparations, the declarations of what is going to happen in this circumstance and in that, have been in furtherance of that idea. I hope the House will reject the Resolution that has been moved, and give confidence and support to the Treaty which is under discussion.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
With much of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, I find myself in cordial agreement. It was a very moderate speech. I must say, however, that I do not find myself in agreement with the conclusions at which the right hon. Gentleman arrived. He said that we must reckon our Fleet upon European standards. That, to my mind, is thoroughly sound and sensible, and it is acknowledged by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). The right hon. Gentleman went on to talk of the Fleet functioning in Europe, and warned the House against a naval scare. All that is perfectly sound. But when he comes to the conclusion that we should have this new procedure of a Select Committee to inquire into a treaty such as the London Treaty, I must say that I think that hon. Members on the Conservative benches are very great innovators indeed. I have never heard of such a thing as a Select Committee to inquire into a treaty entered into with such solemnity as this. In regard to this Treaty—and this is about the one thing in which I have agreed with the present Government; of most of their legislation I have 1811 thoroughly disapproved—in regard to this Treaty I think they are right. The Treaty was signed by Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the Irish Free State. If you want an example of Empire solidarity, surely it is in this Treaty. Canada ratified this Treaty on the 26th May. Are we to ignore what has been done in the Canadian Parliament, and what has been done by Canadian statesmen assembled in London? If some Treaties are to be subjected to Select Committees of the House of Commons, other Treaties ought to be subjected to Select Committees here. I should very much like to have sat on a Committee to inquire into that Treaty that sat on the American debt. Supposing the Select Committee should disapprove of the action of the Government, what is to happen? Is the Government to resign? Is the Treaty to become null and void? I do not understand the new-fangled notions of the party above the Gangway on this side. We say quite definitely that if it comes to a question of armament or agreement, we are on the side of agreement. The Leader of the Opposition talked of the sacred obligations of the League of Nations, and there I quite agree with him. We have had the League of Nations, and we have had the Kellogg Pact entered into by hon. Members on this side. Is that to be of no effect? Is that to be treated simply as a scrap of paper? I cannot believe it.
I will cut down my remarks very briefly, because the merits of the Treaty, as I understand it, are not being entered into. [Interruption.] I thought hon. Members here were not discussing them, but that they wished to refer them to a Select Committee. We were, 20 years before 1914, preparing for peace by increasing armaments, and what happened? We had that peace in 1914–1918, and a million of the young manhood of the British Empire sacrificed. Is that the kind of peace you want? I dare say my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) will retort by saving that we want to do in the British Navy, but I will reply that I have had some experience of the British Navy. I had to stand up against him in the year 1909, as I had to stand up with him in 1913. My resignation was ready in the hands of the First Lord of the Admiralty 1812 on both those occasions, so that hon. Members will not think that I have not made some sacrifices on behalf of the British Navy. On two occasions, once under Mr. McKenna and the other time under my right hon. Friend, we had to place our resignations in the hands of the Prime Minister, presuming the Admiralty's requirements were not carried out, because there was the German menace, but where is the menace to-day?
These speeches that are made on this side have their prototypes on the other side of the Atlantic. In America you will find that the head of the Navy League is equally emphatic that this is a very bad Treaty. The President of the Navy League in America—and this I take out of Saturday's "Times"—said:When we realize that without a disproportionate burden we could spend on the American Navy over three times what the British spend on theirs and over 10 times what the Japanese could afford, we see what it means when it is said that from their point of view one of their purposes in naval reduction is to reduce the American Navy to a level on which they can afford to compete with us.That is the President of the Navy League of America, and I have no doubt we shall have the President of the Navy League here making the same kind of speech. [Interruption.] I hope to convert my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), but if, after all his experiences, he still maintains that war mind—well, I have not got it. I had some lessons from 1914 to 1918.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Does the right hon. Gentleman now suggest that he was wrong in taking the very drastic action which he tells us he took on two occasions before the War? Was he right or wrong?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Then might I ask him in what way he is entitled to dissociate himself from the war mind, when he threatened to resign from the Government to secure adequate preparations for the last War?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
My right hon. Friend must realise that there has been a complete change since 1918. The German Fleet, as he knows very well, is at the bottom of Scapa Flow, but may I go a little further and ask my right hon. 1813 Friend a question? I understand that he was one of the participators in the Treaty of Versailles, and the Treaty of Versailles is very significant. Here is the relevant Clause:In order to render possible the initiation of a general limitation of the armaments of all nations, Germany undertakes strictly to observe the military, naval and air clauses which follow:Those Clauses provided that there was to be no German army exceeding 100,000 men, and that Germany was absolutely prohibited from constructing or acquiring any submarines, even for commercial purposes. If the other nations of the world do not limit their armaments, Germany will have the right to go on building again. Was that terribly devastating war fought for nothing? It is one of the most serious things of all, that if the other nations do not propose to disarm, then Germany can call them to account and say, "You have refused to fulfil your share of the terms of the Versailles Treaty, and we will refuse to fulfil ours." We are told that the Naval Boards are to be the judges of what is to be the naval strength. Precisely the same argument is put forward in Japan. The Japanese have this argument, and here I quote from the "Times" of the 14th May:The Opposition concentrated on attacking the right of the Cabinet to agree to the London Naval Pact without first obtaining the consent of the Naval General Staff.That is precisely the same thing that the Opposition put forward here. I find that the Japanese delegate had to be protected against the revolutionary and reactionary groups in Tokyo. That is not the kind of thing that has been going on here. Our delegates have not had to be protected, but we have the same sort of agitation.
I agree with the Government in the Naval Treaty, and I agree for a reason which I hope will appeal to hon. Members on this side. I am perfectly certain that we in this country are spending too much money. The financial condition of the country is extremely serious. Have we money to burn, that we can spend it on building warships or naval bases in Singapore? I must bring that in, because a speech of mine would not be complete without it. The party opposite are saving money on this, but spending it on something else. Unless we are 1814 economical all round, we cannot have a reduction of taxation. On this side they spend money on the Navy, and on that side they spend money on education and social reform. I do not want to spend so much an either, and I say it quite frankly—[An HON. MEMBER: "Say it at South Molton!"] I will talk to the people at South Molton all right. I am sorry that the Conservative Opposition are asking for a Select Committee. So far as I can speak for my friends on these benches, we favour argument and agreement rather than armament. I listened last night to a very eloquent sermon on the wireless by Bishop Gore, and one of the striking phrases in that sermon was: "There is no failure except in not seeking to try." We have tried armaments, and they have led to war. I hope we will try agreement, hoping that it will lead to peace.
§ Commander SOUTHBY
I do not think anybody on this side would be so churlish as not to acknowledge the very hard work done at the Disarmament Conference by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, and I do not think he himself would complain about the treatment which he received, during the progress of the Conference, from hon. Members on this side of the House. We viewed with anxiety and dissatisfaction the progress of the Conference. We felt alarmed, particularly when the drop in the cruisers from 70 to 50 was announced, but lest any word of ours should hinder the work of the Conference or act as a bar to any agreement—and we all wished to see an agreement arrived at—for the limitation of armaments, an agreement which would lift from the back of the taxpayer that burden of taxation which armaments are bound to impose, and above all an agreement which would arise out of the friendship of the United States, a friendship I personally believe to be essential if peace is to reign in the world, we raised no question during the Conference which could have embarrassed the Government. I think the right hon. Gentleman would be the first to admit that, so far as he was concerned in his work at the Conference, he received at any rate silent help from this side of the House.
But now that the Conference has come to an end, we should be doing less than our duty to the people of this country 1815 and the Empire, as we see it, if we did not voice our dissatisfaction with certain parts of the. Treaty, and it is for that reason that we consider that, in the interests of the Empire, the Treaty should be sent to a Select Committee, in order that the whole of the circumstances out of which the Conference arose, the Conference itself, and the resultant Treaty should be discussed. What are the Government afraid of? Have these apostles of open diplomacy now become so enamoured of secret diplomacy that they wish to make this the most secret piece of diplomacy of our times? We like to think that the Prime Minister was welcomed in Washington, not as the Leader of the Socialist party, but as the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and we are glad that he received the very cordial reception which he did, but he went to Washington with the avowed intention of having preliminary conversations which would lead to a Five-Power Conference. There was no doubt in the mind of anyone, when he went that it was a Five-Power Agreement that was aimed at. In his broadcast message to the people of the United States on 9th March he said:Every one of us is determined to get an agreement—an agreement not with two or three of us but an agreement between the whole five of us.Again, he is reported as saying at Lossie-mouth before the Conference opened:Britain, with the full consent of the Admiralty up to now, is prepared to make proposals which will mean considerable reduction in naval programmes without in any degree impairing the security of the Empire. But everyone, both at home and abroad, must very clearly understand that these reductions will depend on an international agreement.He has been asked questions in the House and his replies were always guarded in the extreme. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for London-derry (Major Ross) asked him what was to be discussed at the Conference, and the Prime Minister's reply was:The question of naval policy, as apart from naval strength, will not be considered at the Five Powers Conference."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd December, 1929; col. 1898, Vol. 233.]But what did the Prime Minister say on 15th May?
1816Although the immediate subject of the Conference was the Navy and naval affairs, let there be no mistake about it, the London Naval Conference was not merely a naval conference. It aimed at making a substantial contribution to the problem of general disarmament. We must bend our attention not merely to the sea but to the air and to the land as well, because by the mere limitation of one form of armaments, we are not going very far to secure the peace of the world.But what talk is there here of a Three-Power Agreement? Is it not a fact that, in spirit if not in actual words, it was a Five-Power Agreement which the Prime Minister was out to achieve? There was never any question of a three-Power agreement being arrived at. As a matter of fact, what has arisen from this Conference? The programmes of every single nation that attended it, except ourselves, have been greatly increased. I do not wish the House to think I am attacking any Treaty. I am only pointing out that portions of this Treaty are detrimental to the best interests of the British Empire. I have no wish to be considered as attacking our relationships with the United States.
I may lay some small claim to knowledge of the United States and Washington, and I believe most implicitly that out of our friendship with the United States will come the peace of the world. I believe, and I have stated that belief on the Floor of this House, that if we could get an alliance, offensive and defensive, of the closest possible kind with the United States it would be the finest guarantee of world peace which we could have. We should be able to say, "You build what you want and we will build what we need," and the result would be that the ships or the armies or the aeroplanes maintained for the common pool would be maintained for the purpose of securing peace for the world. But this is not what we are getting out of this Treaty with the United States. It seems to me that the Prime Minister had a conference with a nation whose national game is poker, and he met the fate of all amateurs. He was bluffed out of the game. When I think of the Conference and the part played by the Prime Minister, I call to mind the rhyme of the young lady of Riga who went for a ride on a tiger. The House is familiar with the rest of the rhyme and will remember on whose face the smile was at the conclusion of the ride. No wonder 1817 that in the United States to-day there are smiles upon the faces of those who really know.
I have no wish to discuss the purely technical parts of the Treaty, or to enter into the merits of 10,000 and 5,000 ton cruisers or 8 and 6 inch guns. This Treaty, like the curate's egg, is excellent in parts, but there are parts of it which are extremely unpalatable. So far as the question of limitation of the size or of the life of battleships is concerned, I am entirely in agreement with the Treaty. Anything that will save the cost of the upkeep of a battleship is surely a thing which we should all strive for. I am not often in agreement with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy) but I am in agreement with him on this point. He objected to the word "battleship." So do I. It is a most misleading term. The term that should be use is "capital ship." When you talk about doing away with battleships, to the public mind that envisages ships like the "Rodney" or the "Nelson." But to anyone who considers the question for a moment it is obvious that the capital ship must always exist. If you scrapped every battleship to-day, tomorrow your capital ship would be the 10,000 ton cruiser, and if the next day you scrapped all cruisers the capital ship would be the flotilla leader. The capital ship is only that ship which must be maintained to take the shock of a naval engagement in the main area of operations.
Another matter on which I am in agreement with the hon. and gallant Gentleman is regarding Article 22, which deals with submarine limitations. There is not a single thing laid down in Article 22 which has not been in existence for years. The rules governing visit and search of vessels at sea have been laid down by custom and precept for centuries. In the mind of the people the word "submarine" has a kind of unholy flavour because of its shameful misuse by the Germans. As a matter of fact, subject to its very great limitations, the submarine is subject to exactly the same rules of visit and search as apply to any surface ship. It was only German misuse of the submarine which transgressed the time honoured chivalry of the sea, fouled the good name of the submarine service and made the word sub- 1818 marine stink in the nostrils of the world. The Prime Minister himself replying to a question I asked him on 21st May confirmed this. I asked him if Article 22 was intended only to emphasise the time honoured existing rules regarding visit and search at sea. He replied:That is my information."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st May, 1930; col. 396, Vol. 239.]Do not therefore let us pretend that in the Treaty it does any more. The part of the Treaty to which I want specially to call attention is Part 3, and particularly Articles 20 and 21. The United States entered into the Conference with 90,500 tons of cruisers, and emerged with 323,500 tons. Japan entered with 166,815 tons, and emerged with 208,850 tons. We started the Conference by cancelling 60,000 tons of our shipping and we proposed that there should be nothing new in the 1930 Estimates. What response has there been to this gesture?
§ The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. A. V. Alexander)
Let us be quite clear about the figures. I gather that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is quoting figures of Japan and the United States which only relate to ships built, and he is making a comparison with this country in ships cancelled and ships building and authorised. Will he compare like with like?
§ Commander SOUTHBY
I am giving the figures of cruisers in existence before the Conference and the figures which will emerge from the Conference in the case of the United States and Japan. I do not want to compare our figures with those. I am saying that before we went into the Conference we cancelled 60,000 tons of shipping—not only cruisers but general ships of the Fleet. What response has there been to this gesture? If it was necessary to scrap this amount of shipping before we went into the Conference, surely we could have used it in some way as a bargaining counter instead of making this gesture before the discussion commenced so that we had nothing left to bargain with. The right hon. Gentleman knows that two of the three Powers whose names are appended to the Agreement have made increases which are sanctioned by the Treaty itself, while our reduction from 70 to 50 cruisers was made before the Conference. 1819 I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman four specific questions. He has said that the Government have the support of the Board of Admiralty as regards the reduction of cruisers. Did the Sea Lords agree? Was their agreement unanimous? Was it conditional, and have those conditions, if there were conditions, been in all respects observed both during the progress of the Conference, and since? I shall be very grateful if the right hon. Gentleman will answer those four questions specifically because it would dispel a considerable amount of misunderstanding on this side of the House.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
I do not want this to be left over until we cannot answer it—it is now five o'clock. With regard to the first three questions, I have answered them all. I answered them at Sheffield in January and in the House during the last debate, and the hon. and gallant Gentlemen's Friends were very irritable when I was answering them. As regards the last question, that must be discussed when we debate the Supplementary Estimates.
§ Commander SOUTHBY
As far as the last debate was concerned, the right hon. Gentleman knows that for reasons outside my control I was unable to stay to the end. I have read it, and I have read the newspaper accounts of his speech at Sheffield, but I suggest to him that those four questions have never been clearly answered "Yes" or "No." Now is the opportunity to answer them. These cruiser reductions imperil the trade routes, and if you imperil the trade routes and the safety of trade you not only imperil one party or one section in the country, but you are imperilling the life of the working man and of every one in the Empire. There is no question of this being a party matter. Either the national security is there or it is not. If it is not there, the pauper suffers just as much as the millionaire.
It has been said that the reduction from 70 to 50 cruisers was due to the Pact of Paris. But while we have signed the Pact of Paris, which outlaws war, we are also signatories of the League of Nations and we have certain commitments under it, and the Pact of Paris which impose a very severe liability upon us. The United States, for reasons best known to them-selves, are not members of the League 1820 of Nations. Let us honestly face facts. So far as the Kellogg Pact is concerned, there is not a dollar nor a man of commitment in it from end to end for the United States. I say that the reduction from 70 cruisers to 50 was unjustifiable, and I want the clearest possible proof that the Sea Lords of the Admiralty were in unanimous agreement over it. What is the cruiser position? We have built, building and authorised, a total of 59 cruisers. We have 34 cruisers over 10 years old. The Americans have four, and the Japanese have 10. Annexe 1 of Part 2 of the Treaty limits the life of the cruiser to 16 years. In 1936 we shall have 34 ships out of date. That would leave 25 if no replacements were to take place in the meantime. The Government have agreed that we should only replace 91,000 tons, that is about 15 ships of about 5,000 to 6,000 tons.
Therefore, in 1936 we shall only have 40 effective cruisers. The Government have said that we require 50, therefore, even conceding that we only require 50, in 1936, on their own showing, we shall only have 40, and we shall have 10 which are out of date. Many of our cruisers to-day are old war-worn ships. They are small, built for restricted use in the North Sea, and are not suitable for extended use throughout the trade routes of the world. In addition to all this, in 1936 the other Powers will have all their vessels more efficient, up-to-date and with all the latest improvements. By the limitations which have been imposed upon us by the Prime Minister we shall have a definitely inferior cruiser fleet. In plain English, the 16 years limit operates for the Japanese and for the United States but, when it comes to the British Empire, the limit of life is to be 20 years. Trade route cruisers are vital to us and we are placed by this Treaty in a definite position of inferiority. What parity is there in this? I am glad to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Ammon) sitting on the Front Bench. What are his views on the subject? On 18th March, 1924–I make no apology for quoting again from the speech which he made in introducing the Estimates for the 1924–25 programme—he said:I want to emphasise that these cruisers are part replacement of the 'County' class cruisers, which have already been scrapped, but were not replaced owing to the urgent need for economy. The consequence is that, for the last two or three 1821 years, the number of cruisers available for the protection of our world-wide trade has been below requirements, which depend primarily on the length of our trade routes and the volume of our sea-borne trade, and only to a limited extent on the numbers possessed by other countries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1924; col. 284, Vol. 171.]At that time we had 54 cruisers. If the hon. Gentleman said that in 1924, I could understand that now, owing to the Kellogg Pact, he might conceivably contend that our requirements are much less, and, indeed, I see his point of view while marvelling at his attitude of mind. But how does he get over the fact that he said that the number of cruisers we require depends primarily on the length of our trade routes and the volume of our seaborne trade, and only to a limited extent on the numbers possessed by other countries? Is not that exactly what hon. Friends of mine on this side of the House have been saying all the time; that it is our trade routes and the volume of trade which passes along them and the length of the trade routes which govern the number of cruisers we require for them and not the number possessed by any other country at all? What does the hon. Gentleman think about parity now? How can he reconcile those two views?
There is one startling omission in the Treaty—it was briefly referred to by my right hon. Friend who asked a question while the Prime Minister was speaking—and it is the question of personnel. If you are going to get parity in material, such parity is useless unless you obtain parity in the men who have to handle the material. The material is quite useless without the skilled men to work it. Surely it is logical to suggest that if you are to get an agreement which is going to limit naval material you must also, if you are to get real parity and real economy, arrive at some sort of agreement or arrangement regarding the men who work the machine. There is not a word about personnel in the Treaty from first to last. Questions have been asked in this House as to whether this was going to be on the Agenda. It was not put on the Agenda. I think that it was my right hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton) who asked this specific question, and in the reply it was obvious that not only was it not put on the Agenda but that our representatives at the Conference never once raised the question of personnel.
1822 What exactly has happened? In the Naval Estimates introduced on 6th March—I would ask the House to pay particular attention to these figures, because they are of vital importance—the figures showed a reduction in personnel from 99,800 on 1st April, 1929, to 94,000 on 1st April, 1931. That is the lowest total in this country since 1896. A comparison is not inopportune. In 1914, Great Britain had 146,047 officers and men in the Navy, and in 1930, Great Britain is to have 97,050. The United States of America in 1914 had 67,258, and in 1930 they are to have 114,500. Japan in 1914 had 50,645, and in 1930 is to have 85,000. These United States figures, as the right hon. Gentleman knows quite well, do not include a number of about 12,000 highly skilled and professional men-of-wars men now employed in the United States coastguard service. They have not been mentioned at all. If you leave out the United States coastguard service and try to get parity in personnel in the same way that you have tried to get, apparent parity in material, you would have to increase the personnel in the British Navy by about 20,500 men above the 94,000 figure, which is what the Government say we are to have.
The matter is far more serious than this. Under the Treaty we are to scrap the four "Iron Dukes" and the "Tiger," and that will mean a reduction of 6,034 officers and men. The United States of America are to scrap three battleships, which means a reduction of 4,078, but the 10 new United States cruisers mean an increase of 6,200 officers and men, so that this disarmament Treaty, which has led to everybody increasing their armaments except Great Britain and the British Empire, which does not touch personnel and is out to obtain parity of the machine and not parity of the men who work the machine—this Treaty leads to an increase in the United States of over 2,000 men and a decrease in the British Navy of over 6,000 men, in addition to the reduction of 3,000 which was foreshadowed in the Naval Estimates on 6th March.
Our resources in this country are such that if we fall behind in shipbuilding—and I want to make it clear that I certainly desire to start no race in armaments and no naval scare, and that I only wish to plead for what has been ours for 1823 some hundreds of years, that is, adequate sea-power to defend the British Empire—our resources are such that if we do fall behind we might, possibly, by an extraordinary expenditure of effort and of treasure, catch up in shipbuilding, but if we fall behind in trained personnel, and it takes years in these modern technical days to train an efficient seaman, we can never catch up. I think that it is extremely likely that it is a fact that we are now so far behind that we can ever catch up. The United States, which already have parity, not only in battleships, more than parity in destroyers, more than parity in submarines and personnel, now, after the Treaty has been signed, are also to have more than parity in cruisers and a vast superiority in personnel. I would like in this connection to read a letter which appeared in that very well-informed journal, the "Christian Science Monitor," of 7th March, 1930, written by an American citizen. After referring to the length of our trade routes, our peculiar position as an island Empire, and the figures of British shipping tonnage afloat on the seven seas, he says:The late happenings in Palestine, the force England sent to Shanghai, the unsettled conditions in India are but illustrations of the troubles which England has to meet. The axis of her communications with the East, where she has such vast interests lies through the Mediterranean, with two powerful nations on the flank of those communications which are so vital to her. Her naval strength must have relation to this situation, and the parity dispute between Italy and France again bedevils the meeting in London, and may bring it about that England will not be satisfied with the number of cruisers she has now agreed to, and the parity fetish will mean that we (the United States) must also build more ships than those provided for in the Stimson statement.Then he goes on to say:Then too, she (Great Britain) has need for cruisers to protect her communications with Cape Town, with Australia, with Canada, for unless those communications are kept open she can be strangled in case of war. Her life comes from the seas, and for 300 years she has fought for and maintained sea supremacy, and in conceding a 'tons' and 'guns' parity with the United States and cutting down her cruiser strength from 70 to 50 ships, which at Geneva she considered necessary for her security, she has thus far done more than any other nation in London to call a halt to competitive building. She is placing her faith in the 1824 United States, that the United States will not abuse its power, a faith she would not place in any other power.He concludes:The attitude of the American delegation in London means for the United States an expenditure of great sums of money for ships for which America has no real need. Parity and prestige are the two evils which have so greatly threatened the Conference in London.I commend that letter in its entirety to every Member of the House who wishes to take an interest in this question. Let us connect this with the Three-Power Agreement which has been concluded. I contend that Part III of the Treaty is a potential source of friction. I am a believer in peace in the world, but I say that Part III of the Treaty as it stands will do nothing but throw sand into the bearings of the League of Nations. It divides the big naval Powers into two camps. What happens as regards the Italians and French means little to the United States or to Japan, but to us it is a matter of urgent and vital importance. To America it is of no importance at all, relatively speaking, what goes on on the Continent. What is of importance to her is what goes on in the East and in Japan. We are placed in the position that if we find that because the Italians, the French, the Russians, or the Germans increase their fleets it is necessary for us to increase our armaments purely as a defensive measure and to guarantee through the Mediterranean the free passage for our ships and trade to and from the Dominions, we shall have to go to the signatories of the Three-Power Treaty and we shall have to say, "May we build these ships?"
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
No, no. I really must correct the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I commend to him a further study of the Treaty.
§ Commander SOUTHBY
Perhaps I used a wrong word. I apologise for the slip. We shall have to say, "We intend to build." Does the right hon. Gentleman suppose that if they consider that we ought not to build ships they would not say, "We consider you have no necessity for building ships"? What are you going to do, then? Surely, the right hon. Gentleman then responsible for the Government would have to say, "We believe, as the Government of Great Britain, that it is our duty and our responsibility to 1825 build these ships." If you do build them, having been told by the United States and Japan, "We do not consider you should build them," you have obviously committed an unfriendly act towards them. Again, if the United States and Japan say, "Go ahead; we are delighted that you are going to build ships," what will happen? They will build more ships and you will then get a race in armaments. They will build ships which neither their defence nor their commitments require, not because they need them, but simply and solely because we have built more ships. Does any sane man deny that this is anything but a race in armaments which you are going to start? I suggest that this is the most obvious commencement of a race in armaments which this House has seen since the War. Already the United States are spending more than they spent before the War, and they are now adding to their expenditure. I think that the real feeling of the United States was most adequately summed up by the Prime Minister when he quoted Admiral Pratt's remarks when giving evidence before the inquiry in the U.S.A. I would suggest to the House that the Prime Minister's reading of those words was not the meaning which Admiral Pratt intended. Admiral Pratt said:You build your fleet up as the Treaty provides, and I would not swop it for the British.Everybody knows what he meant was that he had a much better fleet than the British Fleet and he would not swop. The United States have achieved supremacy at sea by means of our reductions. Anybody who has studied the Treaty closely knows that that is an absolute fact. Supremacy has been secured by the United States through the reductions which we have made. I am sorry the Prime Minister is not on the Front Bench. I would like to ask him these two questions. Are the Sea Lords of the Admiralty in unanimous agreement with the provisions of the Treaty, and if they are not in unanimous agreement with the provisions of the Treaty, have they made any protest at any time as regards the provisions of the Treaty, and, if so, what protest did they make? In asking for a Select Committee we are only asking that a matter should be investigated which is of vital importance to the Empire and upon which we have loyally kept silence lest we 1826 should imperil any efforts being made towards world disarmament, although we believed, as everybody in the country and the Empire and indeed the world believed, that it was a Five-Power Agreement, and not a Three-Power Agreement which was to be sought. We kept silent because we did not wish to hamper. Now we say that, in the interests of the British Empire, it is essential that the whole of this matter should be gone into in the clearest possible way. Hon. Members below the Gangway have said that this is an innovation. Why not? Are not hon. Members opposite always talking about innovations? Are they not always talking about having new methods and new ways?
I suggest that we might in this respect follow the lead of the United States, which says that before a Treaty can be ratified, as it were, behind the backs of the people, it has to be examined by an impartial Select Committee in order to see whether it is for the good of the people of the United States or not. We are the only nation which was kept in the dark by its Government and its representatives during the time of the Conference. This Treaty was cradled in secrecy by hon. Gentlemen who make a boast and a proclamation of their hatred of secret diplomacy. There has never been a more glaring example of secret diplomacy than the one we had during the time that the Conference was sitting, and I suggest that there is only one reason, and the country will understand that there is only one reason, why the Government have refused to accede to the wish of the Opposition, and to have the matter referred to a Select Committee, and that is because they are afraid to do so. They are afraid of the evidence that would come out as to what was said and what was not said, what was done and what was not done. I suggest that when the Division is taken to-night, it will be a Vote of Censure on the Government.
§ Commander SOUTHBY
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear." We all know that right hon. Members opposite escaped a Vote of Censure by the skin of their teeth the other day. Perhaps they think that they will get away better this time. They 1827 may have another five-power pact with their gallant little ally below the Gangway on this side of the House. The country, however, will realise that to-night's vote is a Vote of Censure. I do not think that hon. Members opposite can congratulate themselves that they are on particularly safe ground, because I believe that deep down in the hearts of the people of this country is the feeling that they wish the sea power of this country to be supreme, and to be maintained. By signing Part III of the Treaty the Government have not only given away British sea power, but they have jerry-mandered the interests of the British Empire in the most shameless way that has been done since they have been in office.
§ Mr. NOEL BAKER
The hon. Member who has just spoken, and other hon. and right hon. Members opposite, have made it abundantly plain in this debate and in the debate two weeks ago that they have neither lot nor part in this Naval Treaty which the London Conference has made. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) told us that the signature of the Treaty was a memorable and melancholy event. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) said that he viewed it with grave disquiet. They have warned us, and so did other hon. Members opposite, that, when 1935 comes, if they have the opportunity, they will make a very different Treaty from that which we have made. We on this side of the House are in warm agreement. We agree that hon. and right hon. Members opposite have no claim to responsibility for the Treaty; and they have no claim to the credit which accrues to those who made it. Nor are any thanks due to them for having done anything to render easier the task of those who made the Treaty. On the contrary, the whole of the action that they have taken has made harder the task of the Prime Minister and his colleagues in the Conference this year. [Interruption.]
Anyone who has made a study of the negotiations since 1924 is well aware that both the failure of the Conference in 1927, for which the Conservative Government more than any 1828 other were responsible, and the making of the so-called Anglo-French compromise, which did so much to destroy confidence between our country and the United States, rendered the task of the Prime Minister incomparably more difficult than it would otherwise have been. Had it been the case that in 1927 we had made the treaty which the Prime Minister has made this year—we might have made it, for both the Japanese and the Americans offered to settle with us then on precisely the terms of the present Treaty—everyone knows that if we had made this Treaty in 1927 we should have been able this year to get a Treaty which would have taken us far further, and we should have been able to bring in Italy and France as well. Therefore, we are very grateful to hon. and right hon. Members opposite for making it perfectly plain by this debate and by the debate two weeks ago that the responsibility for the Treaty is ours and that the credit is ours as well. It is in the public interest that the people should know where the Conservative party stand on this subject of disarmament. I have no desire to make party capital of any kind out of any question connected with foreign policy with the League of Nations, or above all with disarmament. I would give unqualified support to any Government of any kind which would make a disarmament Treaty that brought us nearer to the goal which is in view. But having regard to the record of the Conservative party, I think it is desirable that the people should know exactly where the different parties stand.
This debate and the debate of two weeks ago have brought out fundamental differences on a number of different matters. First, and perhaps most important, they have brought out a difference with regard to what we may call the philosophy of armament preparation, and the broad general grounds of policy upon which Governments ought to determine the armaments preparation which they make. Hon. and right hon Members opposite consider—at least we are bound to deduce from their speeches that they consider—that armament policy ought to be determined by what they call technical considerations, and that political considerations are not relevant to the decisions to be made.
The right hon. Member for Epping said it. He said in the last debate that he could not understand how improved conditions for peace were relevant to the technical considerations upon which the number of our cruisers ought to be determined. If the hon. Baronet will look up the debate, he will see that I am not trying to be unfair; he will see that the whole argument of the right hon. Gentleman was to the effect that the scale of our preparations ought to be determined by the technical advice of naval experts, and naval experts alone. We say that there are a large number of other factors that ought to be taken into account; that the scale of existing armaments of other nations is a very important factor; that the intentions of other nations and the programmes which they are laying down are another important factor; that the nature of international relations must also be taken into account, whether those relations are friendly or are bad; that if there is the risk of a violent or irreconcilable dispute with any foreign Power, that also should be considered; that if there is a risk that any dispute cannot be settled by arbitration or other peaceable means, then that should be taken into consideration; and if there is the risk that the non-settlement of a dispute may lead to war, especially to war in which you may stand alone with a great combination of Powers against you, that also must be taken into consideration in the decisions which you make. The right hon. Member for Epping denies all that.
It seemed to me a very strange position which he took up when he said that improved conditions for peace are irrelevant to the decisions which we must make. What does it mean? It means that if we limit the programmes of other Powers and cut those programmes down by means of a disarmament treaty; if we improve our relations with other Powers by a world-wide general treaty renouncing war; if we set up machinery for the settlement of international disputes; if we test that machinery on a large number of occasions and secure the settlement of disputes in more than 40 different cases; if on a number of occasions we have actually succeeded in stopping hostilities that have already been begun; if, when there is actual aggression against us, all the other members of the League of Nations are to join in support against 1830 the aggressor when we are attacked—it means that all these things make no difference to the scale of armament preparations that we should make. We say that this is a fantastic contention. Indeed, the position of the right hon. Member for Epping is like that of a man who builds a house of fireproof material, and brings in fire extinguishers of the latest model, and proves the efficacy of those fire extinguishers on a number of occasions, who has at hand a large and efficient fire brigade, and yet continues to pay as high an insurance against fire as he did when he was living in a wooden house and carrying on a dangerous trade which involved the risk of fire and when he had no fire-extinguishing resources near at hand.
We say that it is impossible to leave out of account these political conditions. We say more; we say that these political conditions are the dominating factors upon which our armaments policy should depend. We say that if you take up any other position, such as the position adopted by the right hon. Member for Epping, you are brought to this conclusion: that each nation in considering its security against attack, should wholly disregard the Covenant of the League of Nations; should regard that Covenant as completely useless; should act upon the assumption that sooner or later, and probably sooner than later, war is absolutely certain; that when war occurs its neighbours will be combined against it, and that it can look for help to no one but itself. If you act upon that assumption the only possible result is that you will devote every ounce of your national effort and every penny of your national resources to making preparations for the inevitable war. We say that any such assumption as that is both absurd and wrong. We say that not only does that mean tearing up the solemn international treaties which we have made, but that it would stultify the whole system of peace organisation that we have begun and would render impossible the whole fabric of Western civilisation and the whole system of free international intercourse and co-operation by which that civilisation is maintained.
It is precisely because this Naval Treaty is in itself a factor in these political conditions, because it has greatly improved the security of this country and 1831 of the British Empire, that we most warmly support it. We support it not only on general principles, not only because it brings a settlement where settlement was urgently required, but we support it also in detail.
I should like to deal with some of the points made by the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Commander Southby). He attacked Part III of the Treaty on a number of different grounds. Broadly speaking, the arguments used may be divided into two parts. They deal with what is called parity, and they deal also with what is sometimes called the absolute requirements of the British Empire. They say that, whatever it may purport to do, this Treaty does not give us parity with the United States and that it leaves us with less armaments than we require, quite apart from preparations that any other nation may make, to maintain our Empire intact. Let us take, first, the question of parity with the United States. The right hon. Member for Epping and other hon. Members opposite have distinguished between two kinds of parity, between what they call mathematical parity and combat parity; the mathematical parity being parity in ships and guns measured ship for ship and gun for gun, and the combat parity being what they call real equality in battle strength when you have made deductions of the total force which you require for trade protection and other special purposes.
The right hon. Member and other hon. Members opposite declared that the Treaty gives us parity in neither sense. They propound elaborate mathematical arguments and say that we have not the mathematical parity that they desire. They say that in 1936 in our cruiser fleet we shall have 16,000 tons less of new ships than the United States. They make various elaborate percentage calculations as to the margin between ourselves and the United States. They talk about 91,000 tons and 62,000 tons and the rest of it. I cannot believe that the country is going to treat those arguments seriously. It is plain to anyone who reads, that the Prime Minister has taken us as near to mathematical parity as it is possible for us to go, and that no Treaty of disarmament that will ever be made will go so nearly to secure parity 1832 as this Treaty has gone. The argument about combat parity is a good deal more important than the argument about mathematical parity. I should like to make three observations on the point. In the first place, although they do not intend it, and I believe they do not feel it, hon. Members opposite are really thinking, when they talk about combat parity, of war with the United States. I know that they do not mean it, but I am absolutely certain that it is in their minds; their subconscious self gets the better of them. All these calculations about percentage margins are exactly like the calculations we used to make about the relative strength of the German and British Navies before the War. I was much struck by one passage in the speech of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook in the last debate, and I ask hon. Members to take particular note of what he said. He was discussing what he called "our permanent inferiority to the United States in cruisers," which this Treaty fastens upon us; and he said:the needs of our scattered oceanic routes, of policing those routes, are bound to deprive and weaken the actual cruiser strength which we might have in any battlefield. The absence from such a field owing to the policing duties of a number of our cruisers gives them (that is to say, the Americans) an advantage through their having all their cruisers practically ready for battle purposes as against our great disadvantage from having our cruisers locked up, as it were, by the policing duties which we are called upon to perform."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1930; col. 2182, Vol. 238.]That may be a valid point, but, if it is a valid point, it means that they are thinking of the hypothesis of a war with the United States in which major naval battles are going to occur; and they hold that it will be a disaster to us if in such a battle we have not an equality in cruisers with the United States of America. We on this side, and the Government in all the negotiations they have carried out, absolutely repudiate that hypothesis. We have excluded the possibility of war with the United States, and I am certain that the people of this country are prepared to do the same.
In the second place, it is surely pertinent to observe—it was said this afternoon by the Prime Minister—that whatever we may think about the question of securing combat parity, we can never 1833 get it; we can never get it whatever we may do, whether with a Treaty or without a Treaty. Suppose you go on the assumption that you are going to make a Treaty and you say to the United States of America, "Yes, we are perfectly prepared to be equal with you, but in order to secure equality we must have more ships than you have." Are they likely to listen to you? They are not. It has been tried before, and everybody knows that it is absolutely hopeless.
On the other hand, if we do not have a Treaty, what is going to happen? We know perfectly well what will happen. There will be unlimited competition and the United States will outbuild us at every point. Only this last week the leaders of the big navy party in the United States said that they can outbuild us by four times; and of course they can. Is that going to help to give us the combat parity for which hon. Members opposite ask? It is not. This combat parity is a mirage; it is a dream. We cannot attain it, and, therefore, the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty have done well to take the mathematical parity, which it was within their power to take.
Thirdly, it is really not for the party opposite to cavil at what the Government have done in accepting mathematical parity with the United States. A Conservative Government had already done it. Not in 1921. The Americans thought we had in 1921, because we announced to the world the policy of the one-Power standard. But they were wrong. It is true that the right hon. Member for Epping by his famous telegram then prevented us from agreeing to mathematical parity in all categories of ships. But in 1927 that was not the case. It is on public record that on the 29th June, 1927, when the Coolidge Conference had been sitting for, perhaps, a fortnight, Mr. Bridgeman and Lord Cecil of Chelwood offered to the United States parity in every category of ship. On the 11th July, Mr. Bridgeman was reported as saying:We have never disputed the right of America to parity in all ships.And on 14th July, he said the same thing in the Plenary Conference at Geneva. It is true that the right hon. Member for Epping afterwards denounced that policy. When the Conference was 1834 over, he said that he hoped the day would never come when we should agree to mathematical parity with the United States. I hope hon. Members opposite will assure the House that the Conservative party does not depart from the decision made by their own Government in 1927 and will explain, therefore, why the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty were wrong in what they have done.
Let me turn now to the second part of the argument brought against Part III of the Treaty—the doctrine of what is called our absolute requirements. The doctrine of absolute requirements first appeared at the Coolidge Conference in 1927, where it was used to defend our first enormous demand—the programme we put forward in which we asked for 874,000 tons in these three categories, in which by the present Treaty we have 541,000 tons. It was used often at that Conference to defend the proposition that we must have an absolute minimum of 70 cruisers; and it is on that proposition now that the doctrine is brought forward. We may be perfectly certain that it is going to reappear. When the present Government go still further and reduce our battleships from 15 to 10 or to six, or to none. When that happens we shall be told that there is some mystical naval truth according to which it is absolutely indispensable for us to have 15 battleships and no less. The doctrine was stated in the last debate by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook in the following terms—he was repudiating the suggestion that the number of cruisers we required depended on the number of cruisers in the possession of other Powers—These requirements of ours are based on the extent of routes which we have to defend. The problem is the same as the policing of a great city, where the number of police is not affected by the number of criminals at large, but by the number of streets and of property which have to be protected."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1930; col. 2182, Vol. 238.]It is a strange thing that that doctrine should be seriously put forward. If the right hon. Gentleman was given the duty of maintaining order in two different cities, say in Chicago and in Stockholm, would he really require the same number of police per square mile in each? No one would maintain that he would; and 1835 if the Home Secretary was made an offer that the criminals of this country would be reduced by half if he would make a reduction in the police force, would he accept it or not? Everybody knows that if he could carry through such a negotiation, the security of the country would be enormously increased and public funds would make an economy which is much to be desired. But the analogy of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook is not complete; there is an important difference. In the contest between criminals and police the advantage is always with the police; but in trade protection, in the contest of defending cruisers against cruisers which are going to attack the ships upon which the vital supplies of our country depend, the advantage is not with the defending cruisers, but with the raiding units. And this is where the argument of the right hon. Member not only breaks down, but distorts the whole truth in this matter.
Look at the argument for the 70 cruisers as it was stated by Lord Jellicoe at the Conference in 1927. The hon. and gallant Member for Epsom has restated it in an admirable manner. The argument is that the number we must have depends absolutely upon the miles of trade routes we have to defend. We were told that we must have these 70 cruisers; that 25 would be available for service with the Fleet, that at a given moment 12 would be refitting and refuelling; and that the remaining 33 would be left for trade protection, that is one for every 250,000 miles of trade route. That was the absolute minimum, it was said. Of course it was a moderate claim on the principle upon which the calculation was made; no one will deny that. When Lord Jellicoe put forward that proposal, he defended it on the basis of his own experience in the War. He said that he commanded 114 cruisers. There were out against him on the high seas two German armoured cruisers and six light cruisers. They were able in spite of the efforts of his Fleet to destroy no less than 250,000 tons of British and Allied ships. At one moment the "Emden" was being chased by 29 different units at once and still she escaped. Before she was captured, 70 different cruisers at one time or another took part in the chase, and yet she was able to go about and do a great deal of 1836 damage. Moreover, in that case, as Lord Jellicoe pointed out, we had a great advantage, because the high seas were virtually closed against Germany by the great natural barrier of the British Isles, and he said that in any probable future war we shall not have that advantage, but we must look forward to far greater numbers of cruisers attacking these trade routes upon which we depend.
Everyone agrees that if you start with Lord Jellicoe's hypothesis, his demand for cruisers is very moderate; on his arguments we need not 70 but 300 cruisers. But I should like to ask whether the real lesson of that experience is not a very different one? Lord Jellicoe's argument proved one thing quite clearly, and that is that the overwhelming advantage is with the attacking cruisers. If that is the case, what does it mean? If one cruiser attacking has the advantage against one cruiser defending, 70 cruisers attacking have an equal advantage against 70 cruisers defending, and that is equally true under the system of convoy which we introduced in the later stages of the War. Cruisers convoying ships cannot concentrate to make a mass attack, whereas the attacking units can do so and can wipe out the convoy units one by one. The real lesson of this experience is that our advantage in this matter lies not in increasing the number of cruisers we have for defence but in reducing the number of cruisers which potential enemy Powers have for attack; that every proportionate reduction of cruiser strength must give a differential advantage in favour of the British Empire.
Certainly. If the Treaty had not been made, other Powers which are signatories would not stop at the point they are, but would increase their cruiser fleets enormously. We know the pre-Conference programmes of the United States and Japan. Unless the Treaty is completed by an agreement with France and Italy, France alone will build as great a strength in cruisers as we have, and Italy will do the same. How can hon. Members apposite challenge that proposition? Therefore, I repeat that any Treaty which reduces the number of cruisers in the world gives a differential 1837 advantage to the British Empire. If our purpose is peace, and not some aggressive attack at our chosen moment, then what has been done in regard to cruisers, even from the strictly strategical point of view, is a great advantage to us. We do not regard this matter from the strictly strategical point of view alone, nor, I hope, does any party in the House. We should regard this matter from the broader political point of view, and it is obvious that our true security lies in every improvement of international relations we can make, in every improvement of the machinery of international organisation we can carry through, and in building up that confidence between nations, that good understanding upon which, in the words of the Covenant, the peace of the world depends.
Because this Treaty is a disarmament treaty, because it means that fewer ships will be built, because it makes possible greater reductions in the future, we welcome it as the means of giving true security to this country and to the Empire as a whole. We agree with what the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said in the last debate—that the understanding which has been reached by the Government with the United States and with Japan is alone worth 100 cruisers to us. We know very well that the right hon. Member for Epping and the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook do not agree with that statement; we know that at least the right hon. Member for Epping, and I think his right hon. colleague, both have what in our flippant moments we call "The Navy League mind." They never did believe in disarmament; they do not believe in it now. The right hon. Member for Epping, by the telegram which he quoted in the last debate, stopped the making of a general naval disarmament Treaty or did what he could to stop a general Treaty, at the Washington Conference. He did what he could to render abortive the Preparatory Commission at its decisive meeting in March, 1927. He, more than any other man, was responsible for the smashing of the Coolidge Conference of 1927. He smashed that Conference, and he has told us that if he could have done so, he would have smashed the Conference which has just taken place. Unless I greatly mistake him, he would be very pleased to see un- 1838 successful the general Disarmament Conference to be summoned by the League of Nations. When the Prime Minister said this afternoon that if we had pursued the right hon. Gentleman's policy we would have had to spend millions more on armaments, and that those millions would have been wasted, the right hon. Gentleman replied with an emphatic "No." We for our part hope that he will never again have a chance to determine the disarmament policy of this country. We are afraid that if he went on smashing Conference after Conference he would end by smashing the fabric of the British Empire itself. For if one thing is more certain than another, it is that the great democratic communities of the Dominions will not follow this country in a policy of aggressive militarism and war. We do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman will get the chance, because we believe that the people of this country, like the other peoples of the world, are sick and tired of waiting, are sick of words and pledges, and want performance. It is because this Treaty has brought them a first measure of results that they have given it so warm a welcome. It is because it is a first step to greater things, because it opens the door to a general policy of disarmament, to general progress in the scaling down of the devilish instruments of war, that the people are behind it. I hope that the Government will go forward with even greater confidence, knowing that the people of this nation will give them their unhesitating and unqualified support.
§ Major HILLS
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom (Commander Southby) made a very good speech. He approached this Motion from the point of view of one who opposes the Treaty. I do not think it was an inquiry only that he wanted. In fact, if any of the arguments that he used are sound arguments, the Treaty ought not to be ratified. He said that the Treaty endangered the safety of the Empire; he said that it gave a huge superiority to the United States; and he said also that we should be very much better off with no Treaty, and if we were allowed to build the ships that we thought were necessary. But I am not sure that my right hon. Friend did not say very much 1839 the same. I shall come to his speech in a minute. The speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Conservative party was directed, I admit, to an inquiry into the effects of this Treaty. But I do suggest to him very respectfully that his leading the Conservative party into this Motion will be taken by the country as a condemnation of the Treaty itself. I do not think that you can examine. You either say the Government are wrong, and in that case you do your best to turn them out, or else you say that they are right, and then, with the usual modicum of criticism that obtains in political controversy, you let the matter go through. But to say that you want to inquire seems to me to be a half-way house that does neither the one thing nor the other. I need not labour that point.
I am within the recollection of the House, that all the speeches made on this side during the debate of a fortnight ago were directed against the Treaty itself. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom made a speech of the type to which I refer. Another hon. and gallant Friend said that he would consider himself a traitor to the country if he signed such a Treaty. In fact, the speeches all round were in condemnation of the Treaty. The conclusion of the speeches from this side was that the Treaty placed us in definite inferiority to the United States of America, that it was risky as far as France and Italy were concerned, and that it ought not to be ratified. I propose quite shortly, because I am here to state my own views only, to examine these statements.
The first is that the United States is definitely superior in strength. Those were the words used by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping. Of course it would be ridiculous for me to pose as an expert; I can only read and consider and judge the opinions that I can gather. My right hon. Friend—I say this in perfect sincerity—is a man of very wide experience, and his judgment on naval matters ought to be taken into serious account. I do not in the least agree with the last speaker in the animadversion he made on my right hon. Friend. I admit my right hon. Friend's great authority, but I would like to bring to his attention three matters which seem to me to be worth noting, First of all, 1840 our newspapers have been full of reports of criticisms in the Senate at Washington. Admiral after admiral has said—they have come in troops and droves—that this Treaty is definitely to the disadvantage of the United States. A redoubtable gentleman named Senator Johnson has never tired of saying so. When he had finished with this country he turned to Japan; that was after having proved—I think it was he who stated this—that two British ships could blow the whole American Navy out of the water. After he had quite conclusively established the superiority of the British Navy, he proceeded to give a great uplift to the strength of the Japanese Navy. I do not want to compare my right hon. Friend with Senator Johnson, but still I do pray the House to mark that in the United States and in Japan the same criticisms are being made as are made in this country. That is my first point.
§ Major HILLS
I cannot tell what the truth is, but there are other ways of getting that than by an inquiry. My second point is this: We have experienced and patriotic and well-known Sea Lords. We have a Board of Admiralty, experienced in war, men who are responsible, men who know that if things go wrong they will be blamed. So far as I know the Government have their support. How can I disregard that—the support of the very people who ate constitutionally and properly appointed to advise the Government?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Does my right hon. Friend suggest that the Sea Lords of the Admiralty have expressed the opinion that the British Fleet, after this Treaty has been carried out on both sides, will be as strong for all its purposes as the fleet of the United States?
§ Major HILLS
I know nothing except what I read in the newspapers. But I submit to my right hon. Friend that if he thinks that the Sea Lords have either failed in their duty or that the Government have disregarded the advice of 1841 the Sea Lords, the method to adopt is not such a half-way house as an inquiry, but a definite vote of censure on the Government for neglecting the country's interest. I put it to him that that is the only way of meeting that situation. Anyhow, I do not want to use any heat in this matter. After all this is a matter in which a great many people whose opinions are entitled to weight, and certainly to quite as much weight as my own, do take very different views, but until I am informed to the contrary I prefer to believe that the Government have got behind them the support of the professional opinion of the Admiralty.
The third point to which I wish to bring attention is this: Are my hon. Friends quite sure, in stressing the position that the Navy takes in defence, that they are keeping the balance of defence quite steady? Are they not aware what experiments have been going on across the Atlantic and elsewhere in attacks by airships and aeroplanes on battleships? Surely there is something, some weight in national defence, that is not borne by the Navy? Putting it as a matter of pounds, shillings and pence, are they so certain that they are right in insisting that all this vast expenditure should be on ships? Should we not carefully consider, at any rate, whether we are not thinking in pre-War terms, and should we not take into account the great change which the air has made in defensive tactics?
§ Major HILLS
An inquiry would not bring out that information. My hon. and gallant Friend must really speak more seriously. An inquiry would be into the fact of the Treaty or no Treaty. I put it seriously to my hon. Friends that they over-estimate, from a feeling of loyalty which I greatly appreciate, the part that the Navy plays in national defence. Here, in passing, let me call attention to the great difficulty that we are in, in all these defence questions, because we have no Ministry of Defence; we have no single body which can think and in thinking can save money for the country, while keeping the country as strong as before. For these three reasons—the fact that the American Admirals think that we have got the best of it, the 1842 fact that the Sea Lords have not protested against the Treaty, and the fact that it may be that in the future less weight ought to be left to ships and more weight left to air—I come to the conclusion that I cannot for one oppose the Treaty.
If we do oppose it, suppose that we were to defeat the Government? Of course there would be no Treaty. Where are we then? We are where my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping with his direct mind left us. He said: "Let us each build what we think we require." Well, I ask the House to pause. What if we each build what we think we require? Does not that policy lead straight to a race of armaments? It must and will. Do not forget that the United States is a richer country than ours, a young country, an energetic country, a country imbued with a great sense of national prestige. She will go right ahead if there is no Treaty. The big Navy party there will gain the day and we shall see a very large increase in armaments. Are there no misgivings upon these benches as regards that prospect? Are we to disregard entirely these considerations? I am afraid if we did so a position would arise in which there would be a movement for us to build in competition with America.
My second defence of the Treaty is this. We must recognise, as I have said, that we are a poorer country than the United States. We can afford less on armaments and surely in that case the advantage is all with the poorer country, if the richer country is limited below its ability in the matter of expenditure. I understand from a statement in the "Times"—the words have been quoted—that either Admiral Bristol or the President of the Navy League in America, I forget which, claimed that the United States could build four tons to one and of course they could do so. Surely a bargain of some sort must be to our advantage. Surely my hon. Friends here must see that a policy of "go-as-you-please" in this matter cannot suit us who have the smaller purse.
So much for the United States. What about France? When this subject was discussed before the Conference I ventured the opinion that France would never agree. The First Lord rebuked me at the time and told me that I was a 1843 prophet of evil, but my prophecy has turned out to be right. I put it to the House: Are we really afraid of the French carrying on building? We have a right under Article 21, of which I would remind my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom. All we have to do is to notify, and as soon as we have notified we can build what we please. No agreement is necessary, no comment is asked for, no criticism is invited. All we have to do is to say, "The position is so-and-so, and we notify you that we intend to build." I cannot think of any better way of getting out of the difficulty. At all events, we can build if we see danger from European building. That being so, how do you get the best defence for this country? I should be the very last to advocate anything which was contrary to the interest of national defence; but what you do in defence seems to me to depend on the view you take of the Navy, on the view you take of the world and on the view you take of the United States.
If we regard the Navy as our sole defence and if an attack from the United States and France and Italy and other countries in combination is possible, why then of course we shall never really be safe until we are stronger than all combined. Then we go on to consider that the Navy is not everything. Air forces may come into the matter and land forces may be convoyed across the sea, and thus we end up by trying to be stronger than all the rest of the world on sea, on land and in the air. When we come to that point I confess that I personally am rather appalled at the idea of what it is going to cost. In fact I regard British taxes as being more dangerous than United States ships—especially under the present regime.
I felt that I could not give a silent vote upon this matter. I cannot oppose this Treaty. I do not say how many Conservatives hold the same opinion as I do, but I venture to think that there are some. I, of course, speak for myself, but I regard the Treaty as a real step forward. It is something which the last Government of which I was a supporter tried to get in 1927. For reasons into which I will not enter, and possibly through no fault of their own they failed. The First Lord at the time, Lord Bridgeman, did his best, but as I 1844 say the effort then was not successful. I regard this as the same sort of Treaty as that which my right hon. Friend and Leader tried to get three years ago; and, that being so, I cannot bring myself to vote against what I regard as a great advance to peace and a very great Treaty.
I venture to intervene in this debate with all becoming modesty, because I am very far indeed from claiming to be an expert, but I should like to speak from what I believe to be the point of view of the vast majority of plain men and women in this country who, having been taught by bitter and unforgotten experience, are much nearer to genuine expertness on the great question of peace and war, than members or late members of the military and naval professions can claim to be. There is a much bigger question of policy in the minds of the people of this country than one which can be solved by the technical experts. Just as in education you do not necessarily go to the manufacturer of pencils and slates to determine the number or the size of your schools, or, in housing, consult a bricklayer as to the lay-out of your general plan, so when dealing with a great question like this, which profoundly affects the life of this country and of the whole world in every relation, there is strong reason indeed for consulting the general opinion of the great mass of citizens. To-day, we are all surely well aware that on this question there is a much clearer and more informed and more responsible opinion to be had from the great body of middle class and above all working-class people, than you can get from the narrow circle of what used to be called the governing class.
I am perfectly convinced that I am within the agreement of hon. Members in all parts of the House in saying that there is no single subject upon which the working people of this country feel so keenly as the question of how this country is to be guaranteed against a repetition of the catastrophe of war, and how peace is to be made secure. I wish to stress the point that opinion upon that question, which is very nearly unanimous, represent no mere vague sloppy sentiment. It is a sentiment which has ranged behind it the great body of opinion of the masses of the 1845 people, and in that sentiment the people have faced a large number of the most difficult fundamental factors in this situation with greater clearness and more effectiveness than have been shown by some of the speakers on the opposite side of the House. I must confess that I had a feeling like that of Rip Van Winkle, only reversed—a feeling of having been suddenly and surprisingly put back 25 or 30 years—when I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin). His speech succeeded in giving me a more acute sensation of horrified surprise than I should have thought possible.
The essential conditions of security are not easy but very difficult to define, yet in broad outline I think they are appreciated with surprising clearness by the great body of ordinary opinion in this country. I think that this Treaty is welcomed and valued by the people because it is felt that the only sure road to security is agreement and that an agreed programme, as between great nations, is of more value from the point of view of peace than decisions taken separately by different Powers to reduce armaments, even though those decisions may result in smaller expenditure on armaments. The vital thing is the existence of agreement. If that agreement means that the negotiators at the Conference have had to come away with less than they themselves would willingly have given on behalf of this country, and with much less than they would like to bring back; if sections of people in every country are criticising this or that provision of the Treaty, that is, unfortunately, the standing mark of any result which represents agreement between different points of view. Agreement can be purchased on no other terms.
There are two other broad points—and I am only going to touch on the broadest points in what I say—which are also fully realised by the mass of ordinary non-expert opinion. Co-operation is the method by which you get agreement and everyone who has experienced co-operation, even in the most limited form, knows that the test, the proof as to whether or not it is being effectively used, comes when you get down to details. All the long and elaborate discussions summed up in the Articles of this Treaty represent more than the substantive facts there set out. Those 1846 Articles are the product of patient co-operation extending over months, a co-operation which has produced important and lasting results. Those results have been the issue of the method of co-operation applied to details, instead of the method of leaving matters in broad general phrases with which we can all agree. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), in our last debate, when the Prime Minister claimed that this Conference had been conducted with good will and a great measure of frankness and had issued an agreement, remarked that that was not saying very much for it, because, as he said and as we all too well know, there has never been a Conference yet ending in real disagreement and a failure to achieve results, in which that failure and that disagreement have not been masked in phrases to the effect that the greatest unanimity prevailed.
With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman's great familiarity with Conferences of that type, I suggest that the criticism does not apply with force to the London Treaty. There you have an instance of a Treaty which, whatever its shortcomings, is complete and precise and expressed in defined terms and which has solved, we hope, for future occasions some of the most thorny problems in connection with this matter, such as the question of the method of determining tonnage, whether it is to be global or by categories and so on.
The point about co-operation applied to details is vital, but the other point is even more vital, and again I think it is a point which is well recognised by ordinary opinion. It is this. Co-operation can proceed only between persons, groups, communities or nations between whom something in the nature of equality is recognised. You can dictate terms to an inferior, but in working out the technique of agreement and mutual understanding it is only on the basis of equality that you can proceed; so the discussion on parity is not exhausted when you have examined parity as expressed in arithmetical units. There is something more behind it, and it is that something behind it, I am convinced, which is resented by hon. Members in their criticisms of this Treaty. What they cannot bear is the acceptance of the fact that, in reference to this issue and to many others 1847 that may arise, we and the great people across the Atlantic are standing side by side in a relation of practical equality. By the Treaty, we have admitted that they are there, and that we desire to walk side by side with them and no longer to claim a superiority over them.
No one who has had the experience which has been mine, to pay visits to the United States over a series of recent years—1926, 1927, 1928—could possibly come away with the idea that friendship and good understanding between us and them were going to spring automatically out of the ground. On the contrary, an honest observer in those years had to face with a great deal of deep distress the fact that there was fast growing up resentment, suspicion, irritation and all those symptoms which together constitute the little cloud no bigger than a man's hand in the international sky out of which catastrophe has come in the past and might come in the future. It was not by pursuing a policy of isolation, a policy of our building what we liked and their building what they liked, or by letting the thing alone that we could have reached the result which we are now discussing. On the contrary, a political question had to be handled. It was handled by the Prime Minister. I should like to underline the remarkable impression which I received in the United States last January; an impression I found still remaining over from the Prime Minister's visit in September. They still talk of him and think of him because they recognise in him, not perhaps particularly a Socialist—although that, too, to some extent, because a Socialist has a specially keen interest in peace—but as a person who to them represented what their new mind is working towards, and what our new mind and the new mind of the whole world is working towards, namely, a constructive conception of peace in place of the old negative conception; a conception which sees that nations united together in pursuit of peace need not abrogate anything essential to their national freedom.
It needed a frank recognition of the suspicion that was there, and is not now there; it needed the Prime Minister's visit and his political conversations with President Hoover; above all, it needed that the new good feeling should be ex- 1848 pressed definitely in concrete terms in the Treaty; it needed all this to make us able, as we are able to-day, to look to the friendship and brotherhood of the English-speaking peoples as a fact on which we are going to build. Behind the whole of our discussions of how we are to make peace secure, and of the provisions in terms of armaments which we have still to make, let us not leave out of our minds one fact which dominates the minds of hundreds of thousands of men and women in the country—this country is committed up to the hilt to a different attitude to the whole of these international questions and to our international relations from that which prevailed before the War. I was really horrified by some of the speeches that have come from the other side of the House; not so much that of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), because one knows what to expect from him; but when I listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and heard from him that despairing accent of pre-1914—splendid isolation, independence, supremacy and safety, all expressed in the old terms—my heart sank and I wondered what the people of this country would think if they knew haw easily Members seem to forget the existence of the League of Nations system to which we are committed, and the whole machinery of international co-operation, to which we are not merely committed, but in which we play an important part; and if they realised how easy it is for even persons of great political standing and experience to forget all that.
After all parity in terms of the Naval Treaty runs with the equality expressed in the Covenants. Indeed the most essential feature of the Covenant, and the very keystone of the whole structure of the League of Nations, is our acceptance of the idea of equality between nations and our abandonment of the fatal view that we are to be for ever judges in our own case. As long as we hold on to that, there is no hope. In so far as the Treaty is a definite and conscious step away from the old view towards the new, it is a step towards the light and to that extent a contribution such as I am sure every Member desires to make after the awful waste and sacrifice which still lives on both in the physical bodies 1849 and in the nerves and hearts of millions. On us who remember that rests a grim responsibility. How can we bear it? How can we meet it? Only if we act in the spirit expressed in Nietsche's words:This is great in man, that he is a bridge and not a goal.If we can make a bridge across the abyss into which we fell in 1914, then we can feel we have done something. In my heart I have a conviction that I am expressing what are the deepest feelings and aspirations of hundreds of thousands of men and women in this country when I thank the Government for their courage which has enabled them to take this first crucial step. I warn the Opposition that they have done for themselves and for a cause which is bigger than themselves or us—the cause of peace—a bad day's work in putting themselves on record as being opposed to a concrete and vital step towards peace.
§ Major ROSS
I wonder if the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Hamilton) realises that every word of criticism which she has directed to hon. Members on this side must also be directed at the United States, to the responsible Minister of the United States and the Government of that great country. What we are claiming to-day is no more than they have properly claimed for themselves. She may have heard the statement that all beer is good beer, but that some beers are better than others. Does she say that all treaties are good, and not admit that some treaties are better than others? Are the people of this country to be forbidden to see what has actually been effected in their name and to see how this country is compromised as regards its naval position, as it is compromised? If it is not compromised, the Government have nothing to fear from any inquiry into this matter—an inquiry which the Americans were not afraid to face, but which it appears His Majesty's Government are not only afraid to face, but determined not to face.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on having discovered a new bogy—a bogy of back bench Members of the Unionist party who wish to have no naval agreement at all. In putting forward that terrible picture of these ferocious fellows who wish to have 1850 a competition in armaments, he has neglected all the facts, because throughout the negotiations for this Treaty, which we understood was to be a Five-Power Treaty, not one word was willingly said by Members on this side in any way to affect or jeopardise the success of a Five-Power Agreement. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in the chivalrous way we knew he would, paid a tribute to the Conservative party during the discussion on the Naval Estimates, at not doing anything to jeopardise the Treaty. He cannot pay the same compliment to hon. Members behind him, because their attitude was not quite so restrained as ours. I hope that that effectively disperses the suggestion that we on this side do not want a treaty. We want a treaty, but we want a good one, and we think that this Treaty is probably so bad that it is not worth having, but we want an inquiry to see whether that is so. The Conservative party considered a Three-Power Treaty at Geneva, but they did not enter into one because it was impossible to get one which was compatible with the interests of this country. The fact that they did not enter into such an agreement is not an argument that they failed.
The whole negotiations for the present Treaty were hedged about with secrecy, and there was a sort of sanctity about it because nobody could speak of it. There was no agenda, and it was difficult to find out what was going on. Now, when this Treaty has come from the smoky obscurity of the negotiations into the light of day, we are told that we are not to be allowed to have an inquiry such as the United States have had into their side of the Treaty. I do not know whether the Government claim infallibility, but that is a claim to which I and many of my fellow countrymen have a great distaste. If it be possible for the Government to have made a mistake, and if they think that there is a possibility that they may be wrong, why should not the matter be examined? If they are right and have made a treaty in accord with the interests of the country, this inquiry can have no result but an addition to their prestige. I suggest that they are not prepared to let their technical advisers be examined in such a way that they can frankly state their opinion as to the naval aspects of this Agreement.
1851 What was the object of the Agreement? Surely it was to achieve parity throughout all classes with the United States and some strength appropriate to the interests of this country, to limit or reduce other navies to approximately the proportions of the Washington Agreement, and to stop naval competition. Has it done that? That is one of the things we want to know. As far as I can examine the Treaty with the inadequate means at the disposal of a private Member, I think that the United States have got more than parity, and that the other three fleets concerned are going to increase, or will be enabled in future to increase their strength—
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
The statement is made again and again that the United States will have more than parity. Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman mind demonstrating his argument?
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Major ROSS
I am glad that the First Lord of the Admiralty desires to have this matter put in this way. In the battle fleets, the United States have the best of the bargain, because taking it on a gun basis, the United States can put in the line, when these ships have been scrapped, 160 heavy guns against 118 British guns. We are scrapping five to their three. If you work out the situation under that long table in the Washington agreement, I suggest to the First Lord that our position was better then, and can it be argued that when the five ships of ours and the three of theirs have been scrapped, the United States with three post-Jutland ships, with their superiority in 16-inch guns, and with their enormous superiority in the total number of heavy guns are not in a superior position to us?
§ Major ROSS
This Treaty. The figures I gave are the figures resulting from this Treaty. The point put to me was the relative strength of the two Fleets, and I suggest that the United States Fleet is stronger as regards battleships. Take the question of cruisers. Admittedly, they are stronger in 8-inch cruisers, or they will be during the period which this Treaty contemplates. Then there is the question of the smaller cruisers, 6-inch 1852 cruisers. Owing to the holes in the Treaty, the United States can build a type of 6-inch cruiser, and, having no necessity to build in large numbers, they can concentrate their tonnage in the 8,000 or 9,000 ton class, whereas we have to spread our tonnage over the 5,000 or 6,000 ton ships. Therefore, I suggest it is in the question of 6-inch cruisers that we are getting the worst of it. I put it that in these three principal classes we have not got parity with the United States. I feel that the Floor of this House is not altogether appropriate for arguing out the fullest technical details, because what is required is not to hear the opinions of politicians but the opinion of the expert, and that is what has been kept from us. This is a practical question, have we parity or have we not?
With regard to the escalator Clause, Article 21, I want to ask a question. There has been controversy about the meaning of the Treaty, and this raises one of them. Suppose that this country has to build extra ships under Article 21. Then a corresponding increase can be made by the United States. Suppose that we have to build small cruisers, will that entitle them to build big cruisers? I think not. But take the effect of this escalator Clause. It is obvious, when we ask for extra building, when we say that we are going to build against some other Power, there is this further disadvantage, that the United States and Japan must be compelled also to build because we are building, or else lose their proportions. One argument which I have heard in this House frequently, and it is an argument which has only to be examined in order to be shown to be unsound, is that there are people in the United States who are also attacking this Treaty from their point of view. It sounds a cogent argument when left at that suggestion, but, when you go into it closer and see why they are attacking the Treaty, you see that not only does it fall to the ground, for the purpose which so far it has been used, but it is an argument against the suggestion that the United States has an inferior position under this agreement. Two main objections have been raised. There is the case of the 8-inch cruiser in relation to the 6-inch cruiser, and that has been urged by Admiral after Admiral and they say that they should have more 8-inch 1853 cruisers. But in this Clause they are assured of superiority, so what they require is greater superiority.
The second objection is that with regard to frozen tonnage. They fear that at some future date they must be in a less favourable position than they are now owing to the building of ships between now and 1935. But that is only a situation in regard to the far future, and, as regards the question of parity, by about 1936, if there is numerical parity, our ships will average over 19 years old and the United States only six or seven years old. I would say, quite frankly, that America can never be considered as a possible opponent. I admit the remarks of the hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Baker) on that point, but what we say is that the existence of the country should not be dependent upon the good will of any other nation, however friendly that nation may be, and that, while we agree to parity, we cannot agree to inferiority.
This Treaty ties up our shipbuilding and our means of shipbuilding in a manner which make it difficult for us to build ships which Continental construction might suggest to be necessary. I will take only one instance. It is a technical subject, and I do not want to tire the House by going into details. Take flotilla leaders, the most powerful destroyers on the sea, and let us consider this country and France. We are on the most friendly terms with France and are likely to continue so. The French consider that their naval requirements involve large destroyers. They have built a large number of them, and in 1933 they will have 24 more building. By the terms of the Treaty, we are not allowed to build destroyers of anything like their power or size. The French destroyers will be about double in number those of our flotilla leaders, and each one will be quite certain of defeating its corresponding ship of the British type because of the Treaty. Then consider again the question of the submarine. In 1933, France alone will have more than double the number of submarines that we shall possess. Seventy-three to 32. It will be superior and we shall, I suppose, very soon have to avail ourselves of Article 21, with all its disadvantages, or else face a position in which our naval forces will have become inferior in many respects to 1854 those of Continental Powers. I now turn to Article 22. That, I suggest, is a matter for inquiry, because there is nothing new in it; in fact, the terms of it are worse than those in the Washington Treaty. I know that those in the Washington Treaty were not wholly ratified, but you had a phraseology which protected the merchant seamen of this country. There is no attempt throughout this Treaty to protect merchant ships of this country from being sunk from the air. I think there should be. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), who has taken and continues to take a keen interest in naval affairs and in the position of merchant seamen, has down upon the Paper a Motion couched in trenchant terms, in which he disapproves of Article 22. I hope that is no mere gesture, but that the document which he has in his pocket from the merchant seamen disapproving of the way in which their interests in the future seem to be jeopardised, will lead him into the Lobby with us in order to ask for an inquiry into this Treaty.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
If we separate Article 22, most certainly, but, if I went into the Lobby with the hon. Member, I would be supporting an agitation for more and greater Navies in the world.
§ Major ROSS
The hon. and gallant Member has misconceived the Motion, for what is required is an inquiry to show that the situation has been adequately dealt with by the Government. Included within its scope will be the Article to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman very properly objects. Finally, might I judge the Government by their own standard? Let us see for a moment whether they are good bargainers or not. I say that they have been bad ones and that they have made a bad bargain, even according to their own showing. They began by giving away most of their assets for bargaining in the shape of 20 cruisers. If they had not been bad bargainers, they would not have given away one of their chief assets before the Conference started. I would put to them eight points, and then I would ask hon. and right hon. Members whether it is not an appropriate occasion for serious inquiry into the whole of the Treaty. We are fortunate in having a Memorandum issued on the 1855 4th February dealing with the position of the London Naval Conference and giving the desiderata which appeared to the Government at that time to be appropriate. The first point is on page 4, paragraph 5, of Part I, which reads:This equilibrium will not be secured by mere numerical equality in ships and tonnage—which may indeed be a condition of serious inequality from the point of view of effectiveness—but by agreed programmes which will be based on considerations of requirements affecting dispersion, etc., and in which menace will be reduced as much as possible. For this reason, there can be no general formula or ratio.The right hon. Gentleman approves. I would ask him in what respect throughout this Treaty that equilibrium, described in this Memorandum, has been achieved? There is only one point in which anything apart from numerical equality has been achieved, and that is in giving the United States the choice of whether they will have 8-inch or 6-inch cruisers, and that is a point in their favour and not in ours.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
The option to which the hon. and gallant Member refers is not a one-sided one. If we wish to do so we can also have the option.
§ Major ROSS
As far as I can see the Treaty gives us no option whatever. I would advise the right hon. Gentleman to read the Treaty. We are confined to a certain tonnage in 8-inch cruisers and a certain tonnage in 6-inch. We are confined to a maximum of 15 8-inch cruisers and cannot go beyond that maximum whether we wish it or not. The United States have the alternative of having 18 8-inch cruisers, or an equal number of 6-inch to those possessed by ourselves. Here is a second point on which the Government have failed. In paragraph 4, on page 5, there is a passage advocating a reduction in the size of battleships in the future from 35,000 tons to 25,000 tons, and of guns from 16 inches to 12 inches. That would be a very admirable provision, but in that the Government have failed to secure what they want. Incidentally, I would like to ask the First Lord a question which he was asked on a previous occasion by my Noble Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Lord Erskine): "Who is responsible for the passage in this paper stating that the battleship is of doubtful utility and that it should disappear"? 1856 My Noble Friend asked the First Lord whether that was merely his opinion and that of the Prime Minister, or whether it had the approval of the technical advisers of the Admiralty. We have never had an answer.
To proceed to the third failure of the Government: In paragraph 5, on page 5, the view of the Government is stated that the maximum tonnage in aircraft carriers should be reduced from 135,000 tons for this country and the United States to 100,000 tons. On this side of the House we should all agree that that would be a useful reduction; but have the Government secured it? No, they have not. They have failed in that, too. Tonnage has not been reduced from the first figure I mentioned to the second. Then there is the fourth point. When we turn over the page of this interesting document we find at the bottom of the first paragraph on page 6 the pious hope that the life of cruisers may be fixed at 20 years. On that idea I can certainly congratulate the right hon. Gentleman. He has had a qualified success. He has fixed the life of his own cruisers at 20 years, while fixing the life of those of other countries at four years less. He has failed there.
Take the next point. It was said the smaller cruisers should be limited in size to 6,000–7,000 tons. This is a most important point. On account of our widely separated possessions and dependencies, and our long trade routes, we have to have many little ships. The United States are not under that necessity. Therefore, they can build ships which, unit for unit, must defeat ours. They will be able to build ships of 8,000 or 9,000 tons armed with 6-inch guns which will be able to make hay of our small cruisers of 7,000 tons, and our only way of keeping a comparable power in these ships would be to sacrifice the numbers which are essential to us. Now take the sixth point, which is, perhaps, the most vital of all, or one of the most vital. Half way down that page, in paragraph 7, appears this statement:Its"—That is, the Government's:present building programme will ultimately consume 200,000 tons of destroyers, but this can be reduced if the submarine programmes of other Powers are similarly reduced.1857 There we have 200,000 put down as the appropriate tonnage for destroyers, with the condition that if other submarine programmes are reduced that figure can be reduced also. Whose submarine programmes can affect us more, those of the Continental Powers or those of the Asiatic Powers? In my humble judgment those of the Continental Powers; and there we see submarine fleets with 100 per cent. superiority likely to become the rule in the near future, as far as one can forecast the situation; and at the same time we are reducing the destroyers, the maids of all work, the one protection against submarines, to a figure which even the Government themselves did not envisage before the Treaty. With our great commerce the destroyer is, perhaps, more necessary to us than to any other major naval Power. The seventh point. The Government had hoped to abolish submarines, and they have failed. Of course they failed in that, as everyone knew they must. Finally, they said they would make it a Five-Power Agreement and in that they have failed. The Treaty has emerged as a Three-Power Treaty.
These are, I suggest, serious points, and they require some little examination. The Secretary of State in the United States has recommended the Treaty to the people of America on the ground that it has already been condemned by two British First Lords of the Admiralty and the most distinguished living British sailor, and in vew of that condemnation we are entitled to know a little more fully the views of the professional sailors. We have been given this very complicated formula for the reduction from 70 to 50. It is conditional on this and that. If it is to go to the people of this country, and they are to understand it, it should be examined much more fully. The Government should submit their technical advisers to public examination, which would allow the people to see what the real position is and whether at last, after all these hundreds of years, our will to be second to none in naval power is at last broken and our heritage of the sea is lost.
Mr. FRANK OWEN
The terms of the Motion cannot disguise the fact that the House is divided into two irreconcilable camps: on the one side those who are for the Treaty and on the other those who are against. The Conservative party do 1858 not want this agreement, they do not want any agreement. The right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) was at great pains to explain the danger of agreements. He said agreements would be a potent cause of arousing suspicion. That is on a par with the argument advanced by his party at the last election when they told us there was no purpose in signing the Eight Hours Convention because the other signatories would not keep their word. If we are to accept those two suggestions, we might as well tear up any Treaty we have ever made and make no more at all. We might as well go back to the Stone Age. The right hon. Member for Bewdley told us he feared this agreement because it concentrated thoughts upon armaments. Of course it concentrates thought upon armaments—but the armaments were there, or we could not have concentrated thought on them. He might as well have objected to the concentration of the attention of the fire brigade upon his own house when it was burning. He said there was more ship-building going on in the world since the Treaty. Of course there is more ship-building going on, more cruiser building, and there is bound to be more cruiser building as long as nations are determined to build cruisers of any kind.
I cannot follow his argument or the argument of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). Two months ago the right hon. Member for Epping addressed a meeting of the Navy League, and to-day he holds the same opinions as he propounded then, but he had a more appreciative audience than he will command to-night. The right hon. Member for Epping said:What has the Kellogg Pact got to do with the strategy and the precautions of the Admiralty? The Kellogg Pact might be a very proper matter for Parliament or the Cabinet to take into consideration, but it plays no part at all in the technical questions which the Admiralty is responsible for answering.The right hon. Gentleman professed to be amazed because the experts at the Admiralty had said three years ago that this country needed 70 cruisers as a minimum and to-day say we need only 50. Of course this country needs only 50. The number has decreased because the need has been diminished. The right hon. Gentleman must have lost some of his perception, due perhaps to 1859 his present associations. When his mind was daily stimulated by the more fortifying intelligences of hon. Members on these benches it was considerably more active. He knows perfectly well that the circumstances are different from what they were when the Admiralty experts declared 70 cruisers to be the minimum. I do not understand and I do not appreciate this extraordinary worship of stability in the right hon. Gentleman, this extraordinary fetish for fixation. He has changed his own mind sufficiently enough in his time. Is it not possible that even an Admiralty expert or a Sea Lord can change his mind? The right hon. Gentleman went on to make this amazing statement:The size of the American Navy is no concern of ours at all, or at most only a matter of friendly and detached interest. If they tell us they must have a Navy second to none, that they must build a Navy the replica in every class of ship of what we build, we have no reason to complain. We have no reason to add a single vessel.That is an extraordinary position to take up. If 70 cruisers were enough for us when the American Navy was at the level it was in 1927, if now the American Navy is to build as many cruisers as they want, what becomes of our relative strength to their fleet? [Interruption.] I am not contemplating war with America, but obviously if we are to build for the purposes that we say are necessary, to secure our own trade connections and our trade routes, if the Americans are going to build far above the level in 1927 it must considerably alter our relative positions.
What we are trying to do and what this Treaty does is to introduce an element of rationalisation into national defence. We are rationalising everything else in the world. We are rationalising industry. Only to-day we rationalized the Liberal Press. To-morrow we shall be rationalising the party above the Gangway, and perhaps displacing the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping in the process. He told us that we were going to be subject to treaty dictation. There is a more severe dictation than treaty dictation and that is the dictation of hard facts, for facts cannot be altered even with the consent of the parties. The right hon. Gentleman said we were bartering away our naval superiority and were giving a 1860 legal sanction to the Americans outbuilding us. As soon as the Treaty was concluded Mr. Hoover, the President of the United States, told the world that up to 1936 his country would have saved £180,000,000 or £200,000,000. The Government, whose whole interest is to put the figure as high as they can, still claim that they have saved £67,000,000. The disparity between these figures shows exactly the potential strength from which the American Navy has been reduced.
The whole of this debate is an illustration of the mentality of the party above the Gangway. They can only think upon this question as they think of the relations of trade and industry as one perpetual conflict. They pay lip service to the League of Nations, and they damn with faint praise the International Labour Office which is working to avoid trade war. Like the popular newspapers which dominate their counsels, as well as their minds to-day, the party above the Gangway are talking of peace and conciliation, but at the same time they are exciting the passions of the people in a way that tends to make for war. When they have raised in Russia a new North Sea menace, or in America a, fresh Atlantic threat, at least we shall see where they stand.
We approve of the Prime Minister's handling of our business abroad. We believe that the London Treaty was the best day's business which this nation has done since November, 1918, but we want the Prime Minister to turn his mind for a moment from the business of foreign policy to the problem of peace at home. We know that the Treaty is safe enough in this House, although the fulminations of hon. Members above the Gangway have done much to endanger its passage through the Senates of other signatories. On these benches, we recognise that peace is the first condition of prosperity among nations. We know that friendship and conciliation is required in the world if we are to advance to a better state of things than that which exists at the present moment. Although it is very important that nations should have confidence in each other, it is equally important that our countrymen should have confidence in themselves. Peace and disarmament are not enough.
There is a new danger for the people of this country who are standing solidly 1861 behind the Government, and it is that they will get a little cynical of pacts and treaties if they do not get something more from them than they have got in the past. Idealism is not enough any more than patriotism is enough, and there is a danger in people believing that peace is to be made the be-all and the end-all of the policy of the Government. Since the War we have had peace—of a very anxious kind. But no miracles have happened except that there has been a little fraternising between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley and Lord Beaverbrook which seems to me to be a case of the wolf lying down with the lamb. The Prime Minister has been able to put this Treaty through, and he will be able to have it endorsed to-night, because he has mobilised the good will of the better part of the nation. We appeal to the right hon. Gentleman from these benches to secure and establish that peace by mobilising the same good will in this country in order to put our home affairs on a sounder basis.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I desire to turn my remarks for a few moments towards the legislators who are likely to appear in the next Parliament, namely, hon. Members opposite. We have heard several interesting, eloquent and sincere speeches from those who are supporting the Government. I am not going to deal with the technical side of this question, but I will state a few broad principles, because I do not wish to give a silent vote on this occasion. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Hamilton) made a small jibe at military men, which I think was undeserved, because, if any class is anxious to prevent war, it is those who took part in the late War and who know something about it. The hon. Member for Blackburn also stated that the people and not the experts must decide this question. Our complaint is that this is the most vital question which we have ever considered in this country. In this instance, the people have not been consulted, because this Treaty was rushed through secretly, and even hon. Members opposite knew nothing about it until the First Lord of the Admiralty came down to the House and stated what under the Treaty was to be the naval fate of our country. If the Prime Minister in his Election manifesto had said that he intended 1862 to place this country in a position of naval inferiority to any other country in the world, he would not now be sitting on the Treasury Bench. I can say that with some confidence, and, if hon. Members opposite would only take their constituents into their confidence, they would find a grave sense of uneasiness existing with regard to the result of this Treaty.
Let me say here that from the very start I have done everything in my power to encourage the idea of world disarmament, always on the understanding that it was pari passu, but never on the understanding that other Powers should greatly increase their strength while our Naval strength should be reduced. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills), who speaks on this subject with great sincerity, says he is going to support the Government this evening on two major grounds. First of all, he says that he is prepared to back the professional opinion of the Naval experts. Is it quite fair to suggest that the opinion of the Naval experts was taken by the Government without political considerations being forced upon them. [Interruption.] Does the First Lord of the Admiralty say that no political considerations were placed before those experts? Is it not highly probable that the First Lord went to his Naval experts and said, "In the opinion of His Majesty's Government, the Kellogg Pact has changed the hole position; we are now responsible for policy, and we tell you that no war is possible within such and such a time." That is probably what happened. After all, the sea lords are not responsible if the Government instruct them to provide a certain number of cruisers which they consider are all that are required. Of course, the Government take the responsibility, and, if they say that there cannot be another war for at least 10 years, then the Naval lords are doing their duty in arranging their programmes on the lines dictated by the policy of the Government. I submit that that is the answer to the argument of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon.
Stress has been laid on the fact that we live in a post-war age, and that we have now got a great air service and airships which did not exist before the War. I am aware that on this subject my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sueter) has 1863 a bee in his bonnet. England cannot afford to take any risks in regard to her Naval security. My one short answer to the points which have been raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon is that I believe I am right when I state that no surface ship has ever been sunk by an aeroplane or an airship.
§ Rear-Admiral SUETER
The United States have sunk several in their experiments on the sinking of submarines, destroyers and battleships by aircraft.
§ Sir H. CROFT
That was an experiment, and I still think I am right in saying that, in war time, never has a single surface ship been sunk by aeroplane action, and in these circumstances we have no right to gamble with the fleet and reduce its strength on those lines. An interesting speech was made by the hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Baker), who, I regret, is not now in his place. He suggested that the party to which I belong has never done anything in the direction of disarmament. I suppose he will not deny that the Coalition—although I was not a Member of the Coalition party—
§ Sir H. CROFT
I never received the right hon. Gentleman's coupon, and at least I can hold up my head to-day and say that I never had anything to do with that; but the hon. Member will not deny that a large majority of the Coalition party and Government were Conservatives, and, when the hon. Member for Coventry declares that the Conservative party has done nothing in the direction of disarmament, I say that history will record that, while Conservative thought was dominant in this country, we led the world in the reduction of our Army, our Navy and our auxiliary forces. That fact cannot be disputed by any fair man. The hon. Member went on to say that all the modern factors—the League of Nations, the Kellogg Pact, and so on—make a profound difference in the situation. Of course they do, and that, I understand, is why we have reduced our Navy from a strength in 1914, two and a half times as great as that of any other country in the world, to a position of parity in fighting ships. The answer of the hon. Member to Lord Jellicoe, who 1864 pointed out that we must have a certain number of cruisers to defend our seaborne traffic during war, was that, according to Lord Jellicoe's reasoning, nothing less than 300 cruisers would be sufficient, and, of course, if you believe in that theory, you want no Navy at all, because that is what it reduces to.
We on this side are also greatly blamed for talking about parity, but the idea of parity came from the United States, and not from ourselves. It was their leaders of thought who said that they insisted on having a Navy second to none, that they wanted parity. I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but I believe that that is generally agreed, and, therefore, we ought not to be blamed for it, especially when the Prime Minister talked so much about parity. Since the word has been mentioned, we naturally wish to examine the Treaty from that point of view. In my opinion, as a humble citizen of this country, we ought never, in our defence policy, to consider our naval needs with regard to any one single country, and I think that a great deal of harm on both sides of the Atlantic has been done by stirring up this comparison of fleets and so on as between the United States and ourselves. Again and again it has been proved that our naval needs are simply those which will save us from starvation in our hour of peril. When the hon. Member for Coventry says that we have done nothing towards complete equality with the United States, I would remind him that what he would call conduct parity was achieved at Washington, and, in regard to battleships, so far as you are considering the question of possible or impossible war with our friends across the Atlantic, we on this side have always agreed to parity in that respect.
The Prime Minister, in his speech this afternoon, talked about those who are pursuing the path of peace as if we on these benches were not equally anxious. I venture to think that our whole record shows that in every respect we have done as much as could possibly be hoped by any section of the nation towards reduction, having regard to the safety of the country. The whole of the Government's case with regard to this subject, as I see it, is based on the hope—and of course it is the prayer of everyone—that there will be no more war; but I would remind the House that always after a great war there are people who will tell 1865 us that there will never be another war again. You can go back all through history, and you will find that that is correct. I will only give a few instances. Pitt, in 1792, demanded a reduction of British naval and military expenditure, strange though it may seem, because, he said:Unquestionably there never was a time in the history of this country when from the situation in Europe we might more reasonably expect 15 years of peace than we may at the present moment.Almost exactly 12 months later, on the 1st February, 1793, a war began which lasted for over 20 years. In 1870, the Permanent Under-Secretary to the Foreign Office, Mr. Hammond, told Lord Granville that he never in his long experience had known so great a lull in foreign affairs. Six weeks later, on the 19th July, the Franco-Prussian War began. Again Lord North, in 1772, said:I do not recollect to have seen a more pacific appearance of affairs than at this moment.… This is the time, if ever there was a time, for a reasonable and judicious economy. Great peace establishments will, if we do not take care, prove our ruin.The losses and catastrophes of the war of 1775 to 1783 were the aftermath of that policy. I can quote from a much later period in history than that, namely, the spring of 1914, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who, I believe is still the leader of the party below the Gangway, solemnly declared that we were safe in severe reductions in our naval armaments. That was from a man who had his hand on the pulse of the world, and was always regarded as a profound wizard in the matter of foresight.
With regard to the question of economy, I presume—in fact, it leaks out in speeches from the benches opposite from time to time—that the reason why we have accepted this position of inferiority is our poverty. I do not know what exact sum it is hoped that we may save, but let us put it for the sake of argument at £50,000,000. It may be more. I wonder if hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are so concerned in regard to unemployment in this country, have ever worked out what the building of a battleship or cruiser costs in terms of labour? I think it will not be denied that, if you save £50,000,000 upon armaments, you will, as things look for the 1866 next four or five years, unless the policy which I advocate is brought in in this country, see every man who is thrown out of work going on to relief or displacing someone else who is in employment. Eighty per cent. of the cost of a ship of war goes in labour. You can trace it from the coal-miner upwards. I submit, therefore, that, supposing it to be claimed that £50,000,000 will be saved, the saving in reality will only be something like £10,000,000, because you will be compelled to keep these people from starvation.
The Prime Minister also, in his speech to-day, said that military strength has never given security. That is a very curious doctrine coming from the right hon. Gentleman. Curiously enough, immediately afterwards, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) told us how on two occasions he had resigned, or threatened to resign, because his own Government appeared not to realise the menace of German naval aggression. All honour to him for his courage. We may also remind the Prime Minister of this fact, that, although he talks these sentiments now, if we had not insisted on naval security prior to 1914, the position of this country would now have been deplorable. We should have been completely starved into submission, and should have been driven to accept practically any terms that our enemy cared to impose upon us.
I would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that, before this Naval Treaty ever came forward, all sections of the House, as far as battleships were concerned, had accepted the principle of equality with the other great naval Power in the world. But our concern is not as to a possible future war with the United States of America; our concern is as to how we are to feed our people in this country in the event of a great naval war. I would remind the House of the prophetic words of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Arthur Wilson when he was First Sea Lord in 1910. He then said that our greatest danger was not invasion, but starvation, and events proved that he Was absolutely right. Admiral Sims, in his first report to Washington after his visit to this country, said:Mr. Hoover"—that is to say, the present President of the United States, who knows our position— 1867informs me that there is only sufficient grain supply in Great Britain for three weeks.Therefore, our friends in the United States of America are well aware of our imperative need of small cruisers for the defence of our sea-borne foodstuffs. What is the whole basis of this Treaty? Why have the Government gone back on expert opinion? I am sure that they are sincere about it, and that they think there is no danger. That opinion is founded on the Kellogg Pact. Mr. Hoover, the President of the United States, in his famous speech on Armistice Day, said, referring to world forces:There are men under arms, including active reserves, numbering 30,000,000 in the world, or nearly 10,000,000 more than before the Great War.He went on to say:Among the nations there are fears, distrusts and smouldering injuries which are the tinder of war, nor does a single quarter of a century during all the ages of human experience warrant the assumption that war will not occur again.With those striking words from President Hoover, I ask, are His Majesty's Government really justified in taking the risks which they have taken in proclaiming their belief that war is not going to take place, at any rate for some considerable time? One more word with regard to the position of the United States. Mr. Hoover said, speaking of the expenditure of the United States of America on armaments—and I think we must realise these facts—that:The total of our expenditure is in excess of those of the most highly militarised nations in the world.… In 1914 the officers and men in our regular forces, both Army and Navy, were about 164,000; in 1924, 256,000; and in 1929, 250,000. Our citizens' army, hovewer, including the National Guard and other forms of reserves, increased these totals up to 299,000 in 1914, 672,000 in 1924, and 728,000 in 1929.It is quite clear that the United States would not be making an enormous increase in armaments if they held precisely the same views as His Majesty's Government, for Britain decreased her Army, Navy, Territorials and Reserves since 1914, under the Conservative and Coalition Governments, by 429,000 men, while the United States increased theirs by 302,000.
I need not go on, but I do hope the House will realise that it is in no jingo 1868 spirit that I suggest that we ought not merely, on the dictates of two right hon. Gentlemen who come down to this House and tell us that they have passed this Treaty, to agree to it without the gravest examination. The Navy, as the Prime Minister has said, is us, and, after all, the British people have a right to know what we are doing. They have every right to the fullest examination. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite talk very lightly about this question, but the Navy is our greatest insurance, and we have been driven now into this position. If our Fleet is to work as a tactical unit in war—and if not, why not scrap it?—it means that you must have 25 of your cruisers at least with your battle fleet, and, allowing for ships which will be reconditioning and refuelling in time of war, that really means that you are left with only about 15 cruisers to guard your food supplies over these vast oceans, with British interests spread throughout the length and breadth of the world. I think the right hon. Gentlemen opposite ought not to have criticised us for wanting the fullest inquiry into this vital matter. I believe the country, which has never been consulted on this question at all, will say that we have done right to ask for an inquiry, as has been granted in the United States of America, even if the Government refuse to grant it.
§ Mr. RENNIE SMITH
If the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) were a citizen of the United States of America, he would have made exactly the same kind of speech in the Senate in condemning the American side of the settlement as he has made here this evening in condemning the settlement which his own country has reached. We have seen for some weeks a public dicussion in America by "big Navy" men, like the hon. and gallant Member, who have used exactly the same arguments, in almost exactly the same words, to prove that the practical effect of the Treaty is to put America in a position of inferiority as compared with this country. I think, therefore, that we can feel a certain measure of satisfaction when we have speeches such as that to which we have just listened. If we accept the hon. and gallant Member's way of looking at life, we might as well give up the business of the House of Commons altogether. He 1869 said that if we tried to frame a political policy for this country on the assumption that peace is probable, we should go astray, and he gave quotation after quotation to prove that after every war those who proclaimed that an era of peace was coming were always wrong, and therefore, presumably, the present Government were wrong to-day in their attitude. If we are going to proceed on that assumption, that war is probable, on the basis of historic evidence, we might as well accept all the conclusions which the hon. Member has reached.
I listened very carefully to the speech of the late Prime Minister. You can always tell when he is really interested in his own speeches. When he is speaking about Safeguarding, for example, we invariably get a sound speech, but there are times when his speeches seem to be forced upon him from without, and I thought his speech this afternoon was one of that latter kind. He said, "We are not the least bit interested in America and what she does, and yet we are pressing for this Select Committee to inquire into the dimensions of the British and American Navies." He went on to spend a quarter of an hour examining the claim of parity between the two countries, and he said that what really concerned him was not the American side of the settlement, but the European side. If that be the case, it would have been better to have delayed any further discussion of the subject until the European side of this effort has been settled, and that it would have been more useful three or four months hence to have discussed our relations with Europe.
I find it difficult to understand, in almost every speech from the other side, why hon. Members should reiterate that they are not interested in the size of the American Navy and immediately spend the major portion of their time in arguing that we have not got parity, but are in a position of inferiority and have done grievous harm to the British Navy in the settlement which we have reached. It is perfectly clear that if we approach this matter from the admirals' point of view, we can never hope to get satisfaction. It is almost as though two mothers should compare their own babies. You would never get a couple of mothers to admit that there was parity between their respective babies. You can never get any sort of equation in such a valuation of 1870 two children, and it is the same with regard to the naval question. You can never expect to get nearer than some sort of rough approximation.
I understood that it was agreed on all sides that we were not pressing for meticulous considerations of a ton here and a ton there, but were really satisfied to let the Americans state what they believed was parity, that we would make our statement with regard to parity, and that we would more or less accept each other's point of view. I understood that that was the temper in which the Prime Minister, as the head of the British nation, went to America, and when he came back, by the warm way in which he was received here, I understood that he had given every satisfaction because he had stated his case in that form. I find a lack of gratitude among hon. Members opposite. Conservative Members have never shown a great deal of gratitude towards the Labour party, but I think this was an occasion when they might have played the gentleman and shown a little bit of gratitude for what we have done for them.
The outstanding achievement of this particular Treaty is that we have succeeded in doing what they themselves tried very hard, though in vain, to do for five long years. The late Government tried very hard indeed to get a naval agreement with the United States of America in terms, if possible, of the whole of the five categories of vessels, re-opening the question of battleships and aircraft-carriers, and, failing that, to get a limited agreement with regard to the three outstanding classes of vessels. They failed. They tried to come into some kind of friendly understanding with the United States of America, and they failed badly in that effort. I submit that, apart from any other consideration, the mere fact that it has been possible, three years later, to achieve these two very great results, which are going to have a profound influence on international history, might have led some hon. Member opposite to get up and say, "Thank you for having redeemed the blunders which we made in the last five years."
I prefer to approach this question to see how we can use these two new political tools which we have won in this Conference for the further improvement of the international situation, and in 1871 this connection I commend some words that Mr. Stimson used when he was surveying the results of the Conference. He said:The principle of limitation is strengthened by its successful practice. At the first meeting of the Conference in January, I made this statement: 'Naval limitation is a continuous process.' We regard disarmament as a goal to be reached by successive steps, by frequent revision and improvement. Human affairs are not static, but are moving and, we believe, improving. For that reason, we feel that the sound and obvious course is to reach such agreements as may be possible now, with the knowledge that they are open to revision at appropriate periods.That is not merely a Labour party attitude, but what we can describe as a reasonable, national approach towards the solution of the problems that faced the Conference. How can we use these two tools—these new-won tools of a friendly understanding with the Government and the people of the United States, and the fact that we have established principles of limitation for each of the five categories of naval vessels—further to improve the international situation?
I was astonished, in this connection, to hear the late Prime Minister say to-day that he was taking it for granted that, so far as America and Japan were concerned, they would without question build up to the full limits allowed by the Treaty, that they would exhaust to the extent of 100 per cent. all the building provisions laid down in the Treaty. With great respect to the late Prime Minister, I should like to ask him what authority he has for making such a statement. I have always been under the impression that the American and Japanese nations understood that the figures laid down in this Treaty are not minimum but maximum figures, and that there is no element of compulsion, that there is nothing laid down in the Treaty that any one or two of the parties to it are bound, by the end of 1935, to construct every one of the vessels provided for in the Treaty.
One of the most important ways in which we can implement this Treaty, from the point of view of using the new tools that we have got, is that we should exercise the greatest possible caution, care, and conservatism, in the best sense of the word, in using the opportunities for warship construction contained in the 1872 Treaty. At all events, I hope we shall take up the position that we are not going to give a lead in exhausting the resources of the Treaty. I am not without a very deep appreciation of the large amount of reduction which this Treaty brings about. If we measure reduction in terms of projected programmes, it is very great indeed. The First Lord has said that we shall save in the next five years between £50,000,000 and £70,000,000. On the other hand, I doubt very much if we are going to see either in the United States or in this country any serious diminution in the annual budgetary provision during the coming five years. If the United States carry out the full intentions of this programme, I am told the construction costs will be roughly three times what they are now, and we ourselves, if we built up to the full limits of the Treaty, would have to make an appreciable forward movement in construction costs. One very important way in which we can implement this Treaty is to go slowly in applying the shipbuilding provisions. When 1935 comes, we want to be able to say we have an unused bargaining power in our hands; we have regarded this as a maximum, and we did not employ the powers we possessed to the full. If other nations take the responsibility of building up to 100 per cent., let them do it. At all events, I hope we shall try to encourage the interpretation that Mr. Stimson has put on the Treaty by going slowly.
There is a second point of view arising out of the Treaty in the fact that the success that has been achieved makes possible, after many years of effort and many years of delay, the convening of the Preparatory Commission for general disarmament. The fact that agreement has been reached with regard to measurement by categories makes it possible for the disarmament representatives of the French and British Governments at Geneva to present something like a common front and to lay a technical foundation for a treaty to be considered by the World Disarmament Conference. That is a very important step in advance. There, however, we meet with an important consideration arising from the fact that the French and Italian nations have not entered into the full provisions of the Five-Power Treaty. For that reason we have been 1873 obliged to insert what is known as the escalator clause, which provides that, in the event of certain circumstances arising in the Franco-Italian agreement, we may be obliged to revise the present Treaty provisions with regard to cruisers, destroyers and submarines. I should have appreciated much more the speech of the Leader of the Opposition if he had addressed himself to this side of the problem. What contribution can we make to adjust the difficulties as between the French and Italian Governments? What contribution of politics can we make so that, if possible, this escalator clause, which is giving rise to such real anxiety on the American side, may never be brought into operation? I discovered very little in the right hon. Gentleman's speech to give much hope in that direction.
That leads me to my last point, that in the Press, and in public speeches on international affairs in the last few months, there has been something like a disintegration in our conception of international relations.
Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Robert Young)
We cannot count between a quarter-past eight and a quarter-past nine.
§ Mr. SMITH
The general temper of international discussions has been changing at a rapid rate. The Prime Minister made a very solemn statement a fortnight ago when he said:We have created the League of Nations. We have signed arbitration treaties of various scope and sweep. We have signed treaties of peace and peace pacts, like the Kellogg Pact, but curiously enough, when we come to close grips with the problem of armaments, we find deplorably little value placed upon these peace pacts. Nations are undoubtedly falling back into their old mentality, and old fears and old superstitions regarding security are returning.This aspect of our public life gives me, in relation to this Treaty, the greatest concern. Quite a number of our most responsible journals have been rather tending to turn away from the conception of League of Nations politics as we have understood them since 1919 and to set up the view that we perhaps ought to come back to the position which the 1874 United States occupy at present, a position of isolation, a position where we shall determine our own armaments in the world without reference to the situation of other groups, that we should go back to the pre-1914 situation, where we determined for ourselves the size of our armaments and the conduct of war. When you get a journal like the "Observer" conducting a campaign such as it has conducted during the Conference, it is symptomatic of a rather grave movement in public opinion with which I cannot help feeling that hon. Members opposite have a real moral sympathy.
We can only make good in this quest for peace, if at all, if we get the right policy. I have never heard anyone suggest that there were more than three ways in which we could win through to peace. One was the method of the absolute pacifist, the Tolstoyan point of view, the point of view which said, "If you can get a reasonable majority of all nations to refuse the vocation of soldiers, to carry out literally the teaching of the New Testament, you can encompass the peace of the world." I will take the point of view that, for any length of time in the future that we need to consider, that method will not become practical politics. The second method with which we are familiar is the method of armed isolation, the method of armed anarchy which we pursued in common with other nations right down to 1914, when we said, "In the last resort, our strength is our own right hand, the right to determine whether we will take part in wars and our right of determination whether we refuse all concert with other nations to establish a peace," the system that led in practice to the balance of power. I thought we as a nation really had made up our minds, in the light of the experience of the first world war, that balance of power politics could never lead to the peace of nations.
I have always understood that the one reason why we as a nation made ourselves willingly and firmly a party to the establishment of the League of Nations was that we were determined to do what we could, at all events, to bring to an end balance of power politics in the world, and to substitute this new and untried experiment of common association of all 1875 the nations in the world through something known as the League of Nations. I know that the right hon. Gentleman is a member of the League of Nations' Union and he referred this afternoon to some of our obligations as members of the League of Nations. I would suggest to him that, in the light of all the speeches to which we have listened on this side of the House to-day, and the speeches we heard a fortnight ago, we are still trying to make the best of two worlds, and that while we pay a great deal of public devotion and lip service to this new conception which we began to organise in 1919, yet in practice the old traditions and the old ways of looking at things are very strong, and from time to time the power of tradition and the power of old habits seem to be swamping these new ideas which only come to life and efficiency through great effort and great struggle.
I could not help thinking, as I listened to the right hon. Gentleman, that in the matter of the organisation of the peace of the world, we are, in 1930, as a nation, much where we are in regard to the problem of India. In 1919 we made a new and momentous declaration in regard to the future of India. The whole House promised that the goal of India was Dominion status, but there cannot be responsible people in India given to believing in the light of 10 years' experience, that Dominion status was the goal of Indian politics. There have been all kinds of die-hard and reactionary movements, all sorts of public activities, which have led the best conducted Indians to disbelieve in the foundation of politics which was laid 10 years ago. For that reason more than any other we as a Government had to reaffirm in almost identical language the foundation of the politics of this country towards India. If we are to succeed in a peaceful solution of our politics with regard to India, it will be precisely in proportion as that statement is, in fact, believed and accepted sincerely by the peoples of both countries. We are in precisely the same position at the present time with regard to the wider experiment of the League of Nations. I almost wish that we might have some reassertion of what is, in fact, the foreign policy of the British nation.
1876 If my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had not promised last week that he was going to make the British domestic problem of unemployment his main concern in the coming weeks and months, I should have felt inclined to suggest this evening, that, just as he made a visit to America a few months ago to interpret the spirit of the British people in terms of the American aspect of our foreign policy, he might very well use the time between now and the next Assembly of the League of Nations to make a similar visit, not to Washington but to France. He might then in plain, unmistakable and direct language convince not simply the French Government but the French nation, just as he convinced the American nation, of what is the real and unvarying substance of our foreign policy, and that as far as we as a nation are concerned we are not going back to the American position of isolation and neutrality. He might convince them that we are going to do our level best, as in 1919, to see that there is carried out the new policy of organised international relations, where we have contracted out of the right of private war to the extent laid down in the Covenant and undertaken to come to the aid of others who are in distress and likely to be attacked to the extent provided in the Covenant; where we have undertaken to safeguard the peace of Western Europe to the extent provided in the Locarno Pact, and where we have undertaken, as in the Optional Clause, to submit all disputes to arbitration and to the world court for final settlement. We should go to France in this spirit and tell the French nation that this is our policy, and that we are standing for these things as a part of the common policy of the world. If we were to do that, and we had some great reassertion of our principles in this way, we should make a contribution towards the further development of the Five Power Pact which would be of great significance for our future relations.
I can understand right hon. Gentlemen opposite using the first debate on this subject to bring out critical points, but I greatly regret that on this occasion, when the Prime Minister has supported the European aspect of this problem, we have not had some positive and constructive suggestions, and, above all, a clear cut abandonment of this notion that we 1877 are still alone, and that our politics are still the politics of calculation and of isolation. We should have had some kind of reassertion that we are members of the League of Nations, and that our politics are not the politics of going out of the League of Nations but of attracting America, if not inside the League of Nations, at all events, to some effective international co-operation and obligation. I greatly regret that the Opposition have not used the occasion to be more helpful than they have been, and, just as a fortnight ago their contribution redounded neither to their credit nor to the credit of the nation, their contribution to-night will not help this nation, and will not help the cause of disarmament, but will add to the general power and strength of the big Navy group in the United States of America.
§ Sir BERTRAM FALLE
The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Rennie Smith) must, in one part of his speech at any rate, have been speaking with his tongue in his cheek when he asked us on this side of the House to show our gratitude to the Labour party for what they have done in bringing about this Treaty with the United States of America. He suggested that we tried in 1927 and failed, and that his party were well on the road to success. There is this difference between our failure and their success. When we tried in 1927, we placed the security of this country and of the Empire first; there are some of us who consider that in this Treaty we have put it last. That is a matter of opinion. The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Owen) reminded us that Mr. Hoover had to pass his Treaty through the Senate, and that is the reason we read and hear of the different opinions of the American Naval experts. They have to make it possible for Mr. Hoover to get the Treaty through the Senate, and I have no doubt he will do so.
The hon. Member for Hereford also told us something which I must contradict at once. He said that we as a party did not ratify the Washington Eight Hours' Agreement because we said we could not trust other nations. That was not the reason, and if he knows anything about the subject, he must know that that was not the reason. He also told us that it was the Liberals who always brought peace, retrenchment and reform. I am 1878 old enough to remember a great man who was called Gladstone. He brought a Government into power by a three-fold cry of peace, retrenchment and reform. I remember that in that Government, which lasted for some years, there was hardly a month in which there was not a war. There was a Budget which exceeded £200,000,000 for the first time in history. As to the reform, well it was third on the list and had no chance of getting in. We have been privileged to listen to that kind of argument for a considerable period. I hope to be more interesting when I deal with the question of the Treaty.
I look upon the Treaty as a Treaty for the creation of disputes. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills) said that our Motion to-day was a Vote of Censure on the Government. It may be. I believe that if this Treaty were laid before the people of this country and they understood what it meant there would be one opinion upon it, and that opinion would not be favourable to hon. and right hon. Members opposite. It is a strange thing that in this country it is difficult to get an audience to listen to the subject of the Royal Navy. I do not pretend to speak as an expert, but I do say, having sat for many years as Member for the headquarters of the Fleet, and the premier port, that I do know what the Navy people think of the Royal Navy and of this Treaty. The people of this country look upon the Navy as they do on the sun.
§ Sir B. FALLE
Yes. Something that you do not see in Glasgow. The sun is bound to shine to-morrow, and the Navy is bound to be there. The Navy is something that is there always, ready to help and to protect the country, the Empire and the food of the people. Because they have these opinions, the people do not take the apparent interest in the Navy that they would if it were not so certain in its existence. My old friend on the Liberal benches, the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) states that in 1913 he offered his resignation to the Government, not because they wanted to cut down the Navy, but because they did not wish to make it of sufficient strength. We who went through those 1879 years know what years they were. There were different ideas as to the purpose for which the Navy existed. Some people thought that it was for ornament. One distinguished Member, now on the Front Bench, thought that the Navy was there in order to give the admirals a chance of war exercise. We knew what the Navy was for, and what the Navy did. The hon. Member for South Molton said that there was no doubt he was absolutely right, and so he was. The hon. Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) has told us how fallible are the opinions of the cleverest and most far-seeing Members of this House for the past 100 years, and how they were invariably wrong in their prognostications of how long peace would last And when war would break out.
The hon. Member for South Molton could not avoid touching upon Singapore. He would be more than human if he could have avoided that subject. He did not, however, tell us to-day, as he did the other day, that Singapore was at the door of Japan. He has found out that it is 3,000 miles distant from Japan, as far away as New York is from Queenstown. He told us that there were two groups, and that one was the Pacific Ocean group. What I have never been able to understand from my hon. Friend, whom I like and admire, personally, is why he should always imagine that Singapore Dockyard was being built against Japan. It is quite possible that both Japan and the United States may give thanks to England for having the Singapore base.
§ Sir B. FALLE
The Australians are giving their money, and so are the Straits Settlements and New Zealand.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Mr. Montague)
Who is the enemy?
§ Sir B. FALLE
The enemy! Who knows? The enemy will come like a thief in the night. That is how he will come, and hon. Members opposite will probably not go to fight him. One hon. Member opposite said that we ought to save on 1880 armaments in order that we may spend it on education and social services. I say to hon. Members opposite if you have no Navy you will have no education and no social services. You will be slaves, and you will thoroughly deserve that fate. My hon. Friend was persuaded that there was nothing to beat arbitration. We all agree that arbitration, if it can be carried through, would be a most wonderful thing. Where it has been possible to bring it forward and carry it through on several great occasions it has possibly saved war, but I do not think there is a single occasion on which England has gone to arbitration in which it has been moderately successful. We had an arbitration on the Maine Boundary, and we were beaten. We had an arbitration about Prince Rupert Island, and we were beaten. We had arbitration on the subject of Alaska, and we were beaten. We had arbitration about the "Alabama," and we paid. After we had paid for every single person who could possibly be paid for arising out of anything that the "Alabama" had done, there remained several hundreds of thousands of pounds which the U.S.A. did not know how to distribute. That is our experience of arbitration. Certainly, it costs less than war, and for that reason I am in favour of arbitration, but it must be on fair lines. It could not possibly be that on the four occasions that I have mentioned we were wrong in each case. When our people went to arbitration they thought that they had a good case for arbitration, but they found when they went to arbitration that instead of having friends we had very few friends. I ask any hon. Member opposite to mention the name of a single nation that is really friendly to this country. I do not know one.
§ Sir B. FALLE
Germany! That is why they are building six cruisers which will be able to sweep off the waters any six cruisers that are now afloat. Reference has been made to the most vital mistake in regard to this Treaty, and that is the drop from 70 to 50 cruisers. I have asked the right hon. Gentleman on more than one occasion, if the First Sea Lord and the other Sea Lords were of that opinion, and I have not had what I consider to be a clear and definite 1881 answer. If we can get it to-night I shall be very glad. It is hardly fair to ask these gentlemen, who have risen to the top of the tree, to go against the Government and the Board of Admiralty who have the giving of the plums of the Service. It is hardly fair to ask them, but I think the country expects it and would honour them if they had insisted upon their opinion being made known to the people of the country. It would make all the difference if we know that the four Sea Lords were absolutely convinced, and said they were convinced that the present arrangements were sound and would assure the security of the country. All we know now, as the First Lord of the Admiralty has said, is that the Government accept entire responsibility for this settlement.
What is the responsibility of right hon. Gentlemen opposite? They will vanish. They will not be punished for a want of knowledge or for not paying attention to the advice of the Sea Lords. Has anyone ever heard of any Government being punished for their sins? If it were so, there would be fewer applicants for the Government Front Bench. What I ask, and what the country wants, is real parity. We are getting nothing of the kind. Something is said about the calibre of the guns and about 10,000 ton cruisers, but there is no question of speed, or the length of the gun, its range or its shell. Nor is the explosive mentioned. Only the other day we were told of a new 7.9 gun which is to carry 90 miles. If we put one of those guns into a new cruiser we should be going against the spirit of the Treaty; but if other people put a 7.9 gun we should proceed to try and build a gun which would carry a little further. It is these kind of things which make for war far more than ordinary armaments and being content with the best we can put upon the water, as we have always done. We want real parity. If we do not get it, we must be inferior and subservient. Anyone who takes the trouble to read the history of the United States will be aware that in all the wars in which she has been involved she was the aggressor, the party who declared war against Mexico, France, Spain, and ourselves in 1812. Although we repealed the Orders in Council to which she objected, she went to war with us in 1812. There is nothing said in the Treaty as to personnel. We are to have 94,000 and the 1882 United States 114,000 men. In the 1812 war some of the American ships were manned by Englishmen, and there was an interesting account in "The Times" the other day of the action between the "Essex" and the "Phoebe."
This is very discursive and does not seem to have anything to do with the Treaty.
§ Sir B. FALLE
If we do not restrict the men we shall have the same conditions as obtained in 1812 when some of our men, of course at their own risk, manned the ships of the United States. However, I will leave it at that. One result of our subservience, I cannot call it anything else, is the repercussion it is having throughout the world. That may be considered history and I will not touch upon India or Egypt who, believing in our decadence, are hurrying to put themselves in our place. Never was a nation prevented from going to war because it was unprepared or had no money, or was without arms. The contrary has always been the case. The history of war has been summed up by a distinguished Member of this House who called attention to the example of this Island Empire which, although wholly unprepared, went into the last war. We were unprepared with the exception of our Navy. We have never abused our strength and power on the sea. We have policed the seas for the benefit of ourselves and others. We have always been ready to give a helping hand to those who were feeble. We have protected smaller peoples against injustice, tyranny and bullying. But the great need for our Navy is to give security to our people at home. In my opinion, so far as our sea routes are concerned and so far as the security of the Empire is concerned the Government in this Treaty have betrayed their trust.
§ Mr. SORENSEN
As a young Member of this House, I have discovered, as many others have, that one of our functions is not only to listen to speeches but to take various of our friends around 1883 the House and indicate to them the more interesting portions of this ancient institution. I mention that because in our procession round this venerable place we have acquired a great deal of information for the interest of visitors, some of which, no doubt, is true, but a great deal of which is untrue, which, nevertheless, we purvey to those who listen openmouthed to us. Among the various items of information one has acquired is that somewhere down in the Crypt there is a cupboard where in pre-War days a lady hid herself for many hours in order that some day at a particular time she might pounce upon the House of Commons and air her suffragette views. I am reminded of that story, whether it is true or not I do not know, by the utterances of the last speaker and other speakers on the other side of the House. They must have been buried in one of those cupboards and have just emerged to weary themselves and us with ideas which are distinctly pre-War. One can detect cobwebs upon them. The only charitable explanation is that they have not been alive for the last 20 years.
If it is true that only a most powerful Navy can secure our overseas food supplies, and that without it this country is bound to sink in time of war into famine, and even in time of peace into stagnation, it seems to me that the Tory party itself is guilty of a most abominable treachery. In pre-War days we were accustomed to hear from them that nothing less than a two-Power standard was required by this country to guarantee our security. I ask where that plea has gone to-day. If another war were to break out—from the tone and implication of the speeches of some hon. Members opposite they believe it to be inevitable—where would this country be if we were face to face with the whole world? No doubt the gallantry and efficiency of our Navy and Army and Air Force would do something to hold at bay the united forces of the world for some time, but that does not alter my argument that in the end we should have to withstand the whole world, and certainly no amount of courage would be able to withstand such a shock for an indefinite period. If that is so, it would seem that the only deduction we can draw from the attitude of hon. Members opposite is that we should 1884 not merely try to repudiate the Treaty, but to get back to pre-War days with a two-Power, and if possible a three-Power standard, so that we might guarantee our food supply in time of war. Not only have we heard an echo of the dug-outs this afternoon and this evening, but there is another reason why this Motion is being supported, and that is summed up in two brief words—sour grapes. There are Members opposite, I am sure, who would have welcomed what has been achieved in the Treaty had it been achieved by the Conservative party.
§ Mr. SORENSEN
If there is not one, that simply proves that the main body of objection to the Treaty comes from the dug-outs and not because of sour grapes. I leave that argument where it is and ask any subsequent speaker to explain how the Opposition, on their own premises, can guarantee the security of this country if another war were to break out and the whole world were against us. Other arguments have been used, and to my humble mind they reveal themselves as hopelessly shallow. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) advanced the astonishing plea that we should hesitate to sanction the Treaty or any similar treaties because of the vast amount of unemployment that we were bound to cause. I wonder whether he believes that and is sincere about it? If so I would ask two questions. Why does he not advocate the doubling of the Navy, and indeed the establishment of a conscript Navy, in order to absorb our unemployed? Surely by that means he would kill two birds with one stone?
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. SORENSEN
Although that may be very gratifying to the hon. Member, it would be much better still if we could double our Navy in order to be thoroughly protected in the event of the whole world being against us. We have heard that there is no nation in the world which is friendly to us at the present time. Surely we have to consider the possibility of all the unfriendly nations uniting against us? I suggest that by doubling the Navy the hon. and gallant Gentleman could at one and the same 1885 time be ready to resist the attack of all the unfriendly nations and be able to absorb a large number of the unemployed. On the other hand the argument that any reduction of the Navy should be resisted because it would cause unemployment, might equally be used in regard to the reduction of crime. The less crime we have, the less burglary and so forth, the more unemployment there will be amongst prison warders, policemen, detectives and people of that kind, and of course the hangman would be out of work. We know, economically speaking, what the result would be of the savings of millions on Naval and Air Forces. The capital would be diverted to more productive channels. Although there is a perfectly understandable apprehension amongst dockyard workers and others as to what will happen to them immediately—I for one want to see them guaranteed against serious loss—yet I am convinced, knowing many of the dockyard workers and sailors, that they would be delighted if they could find some other non-destructive occupation. I suggest that that could be done in the course of time by diverting the capital and wealth of this land from its present destructive source to a much more constructive source.
I trust hon. Members opposite will forgive me for saying that, although sometimes they quote the sentiment, "No more war," they do not believe that the world will ever be without war. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth made the statement, for instance, that a number of statesmen and politicians had asserted, after some particular war, that no more war would ever occur. The hon. and gallant Gentleman then tried to verify the assertion. As a matter of fact he did nothing of the kind. All that he did quote was the statements of certain politicians who said that in their estimation there would not be another war for a certain period. That is a totally different thing. As a matter of fact there has never been in the history of the world such an opportunity for real disarmament as there is now. There have been periods in the past when a great longing for peace has seized men and women of good will, but there never has been on the same world scale the demand for peace and disarmament, or the same readiness to follow a 1886 lead in that direction, as there is now. What we have to do is to recognise that while, undoubtedly, there are belligerent instincts within us and the war mind is possessed by us all—that is evident in this House—on the other hand the other mind is possessed by us as well; the peace mind is here too. Most of my hon. Friends opposite are continually stressing and encouraging the mind that must disappear, whereas we on this side are continually trying to encourage and fertilise the mind of the future.
It is just like a garden. Some fool goes into the garden with a watering can and fertilisers and attends carefully to the thistles, the weeds, and the nettles and the docks, and of course he gets an abundant crop. That, as I see it, is the Tory mind, continually fertilising and encouraging the rank and luxuriant weeds that belong to the past and to our jungle nature. We can never expect the abolition of war, and that in consequence we can never expect the development of real humanity in man until there is a much greater and deeper desire on the part of all sections of the community, not merely to tolerate ideas of peace, but to fertilise and stimulate and cultivate them, so that in their growth they swamp the others. We know that one means by which weeds can be checked is by growing another crop of more use to mankind. That should be our business to-day. Instead of trying to find openings for criticism, instead of throwing doubt upon peace aspirations, instead of expounding the old war mind hon. Members opposite would be better occupied if they devoted that thought, that energy and that time to encouraging the hope which is in the breast of democracy to-day. If they do not, then shame will be upon them in the days to come when, having achieved a considerable measure of disarmament, having brought about a better understanding between the nations of the world, we shall remind them that they in their day and opportunity instead of assisting that movement, did their utmost to frustrate it.
I can understand and appreciate, though I cannot wholly agree with the attitude of some hon. Members opposite who want to see England top dog; who believe that any attempt to achieve parity between this country and other countries, any attempt to limit, what I will call pseudo-patriotism in the in- 1887 terests of wise internationalism, is derogatory to the honour and interest of this country. I understand and appreciate it, because I once possessed that mind myself, but I suggest that it is not the highest patriotism. I remember in pre-War days going into a public-house. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] Hon. Members do not know why I went there. I did not go in there for the same reason, possibly, as would some of the hon. Members who now say "Shame"—with none too much sincerity. On the wall of that public house there was a picture representing a tug-of-war with three miserable looking beasts at one end of the rope, and one typical British bulldog at the other. Underneath was the legend,Two mangy Frenchies, one Portugee,One British bulldog can beat all three.I am certain that in those days many habitués of that historic institution gazed reverently at this picture and muttered, "That's the stuff to give them," and the same sentiment rules in many minds to-day. We must be top dog and stand out before the world and declare that we are able to beat the rest of the world put together. I want to see my nation on top. I want to see my nation supreme. I want to see real patriotism flourish, but I earnestly suggest that we have to revise our idea about what is meant by being "on top." I do not want to see my nation on top in the prowess of arms and victory in battle. I want to see it on top in its willingness "to seek peace and ensue it," and in its readiness to re-interpret patriotism, not in terms of destruction and battleships and insular pride, but in terms of international friendship and understanding and concord. That is the patriotism which commends itself to the best that is in me, and because what our Government has done is assisting that patriotism to be "understanded of the people," I welcome the Treaty and earnestly hope that the Motion will be rejected by a substantial majority.
§ Sir GERVAIS RENTOUL
If the hon. Member represents, as he humbly claims, the mind of the future, it seems to me to be a somewhat vituperative mind. He was good enough to refer to those of us who happen to hold different views from him on this matter as "dug-outs"; as people possessing the jungle nature, as 1888 people actuated by the motive of "sour grapes" and I do not know what else. But I do not propose to follow the hon. Member in that trend of thought. The Prime Minister prefaced his speech by suggesting as a gibe that this Motion indicated second thoughts on the part of those who sit on these benches. It seemed to be a source of complaint to him that we were seizing this opportunity for a second discussion on this question. If ever there was a matter about which second thoughts might be best, and in regard to which it was desirable if possible to have, not one or two, but any number of discussions in the House of Commons, it is this question. The Prime Minister also made an accusation against some of us which I think was distinctly unfair and I think we are amply justified in repudiating it. He said that we were obviously in favour of no agreements at all. There is no ground for such a suggestion. We are very much opposed to any agreement which we believe is likely to be detrimental to the interests of the country, but that is totally different from saying that we are opposed to all international agreements on the question of disarmament.
I am glad to have the privilege of speaking in this debate not only because my name happens to be attached to the Motion, but also because I have the honour to represent a maritime constituency which gave many gallant lives to the Royal Navy during the War and which has helped to lay the foundation of our sea power. There are many aspects of this matter which are technical in character and I shall not be so foolish as to involve myself in any calculations of global tonnage or considerations regarding the categorical limitations of war-ships—nor shall I embark upon controversies regarding the number and size of cruisers. It is, perhap, a presumption for a layman to express definite opinions on such questions, but underneath all these technicalities there are certain broad principles upon which each Member of this House is not only entitled to form an opinion, but on which it is his duty to form an opinion. I have no knowledge in regard to these matters except what I have gained from the official documents and the published statements of those who took part in the negotiations. I have been re-reading those and as a result I 1889 express a detached opinion on the case for the Government as set out in their own publications. A perusal of those documents, as a connected whole, leaves me distinctly uneasy on a number of points.
There are certain impressions which indelibly fix themselves on one's memory. When the Prime Minister went to America he made a speech in the course of which he used certain words which will probably become historic, and which made a great appeal to the hearts and sympathies of our people. He said "The Navy is us." We were encouraged and comforted by that statement because we believed that it represented no mere rhetorical phrase but the statement of an immutable fact. Could anyone who reads the history of these negotiations say that that has been the guiding principle of the Conference; that our naval interests have been in any way the predominant factor. One rather gathered the impression, in the concluding stages of the conference at all events, that what was desired was an agreement almost at any price, so as not to go empty away from the negotiations. In any case, we sailed far away from the impregnable rock of our own basic requirements and of the Prime Minister's speech into the uncharted waters of international pacts and agreements. That may be safe enough at the present time when the weather is calm, but who can foretell what may happen when storms arise and the currents and cross-currents of international rivalries are given full play? When he was in America, the Prime Minister made another speech which it is well worth recording. He said, when speaking to the American Council of Foreign Relations:In our case our Navy is the very life of our nation. Europe is at our doors. For good or ill the lines of our Empire have been thrown all over the face of the earth. We have to import our food. A month's blockade effectively carried out would starve us all.What was the point of that speech, unless it was to show that we are in quite a different position from any other nation, and that our naval requirements cannot be dependent upon those of other Powers, least of all on those of the United States? Can it be said that this Treaty is consistent with the tenour of 1890 that speech? It raises this dilemma, that either we rely on an adequate navy to keep far distant from us the horrors of starvation, as undoubtedly it has done in the past, or we place our faith in the future on treaties and agreements of goodwill. If we do that, there does not seem very much point in the Treaty, at all events, so far as America is concerned, because under the Treaty America, if she desires, can build a fleet which could undoubtedly starve us out, although I agree that she is not likely to do anything so unfriendly.
Let us leave America out, however. It has been agreed on all sides that we should not take America into our calculations. If we do not, it is very difficult to understand the big claims which are made for the Treaty, because we are told that war with America is unthinkable and can never happen, and at the same time we are asked to believe that a marvellous achievement has been brought about for our own security and the peace of the world by having induced the United States to limit her armaments. If war is unthinkable with America—and I am quite prepared to accept that proposition whole-heartedly—how does it affect us in any way whether the American fleet is large or small? The Prime Minister tried to deal with this point at some length, but he was not very convincing to me. He said that we might ignore the United States, but that, even if we did, other countries would not. He talked about the European and the Pacific groups; presumably we belong to both of these. I do not think that the First Lord will deny that we are in a totally different position from any other of the great Powers, inasmuch as we have definite and direct interests in both these groups of naval Powers, which makes our equilibrium much more difficult to preserve. I cannot help feeling that the European Powers are much more likely to attach importance to what we are doing than to what the United States are doing thousands of miles away.
I am not at all sure that it is in the interests of peace for us to have tied our hands in the way we seem to have done under this Treaty. Article 21 of the Treaty places us in an altogether invidious and impossible position, because, if we take advantage of it, we shall have to intimate to the world that the building 1891 of some other European Power was a menace to our security, and I cannot conceive any state of affairs more likely to create a hostile atmosphere than if we were forced to take a step of that kind.
The Treaty has admittedly failed to achieve the main purpose of its promoters. I am not referring to its technical aspect in regard to battleships, submarines, and so forth. The whole foundation of the Treaty originally was that it should be a Five-Power Agreement. The Prime Minister, in his broadcast message to the nation only a month or two ago, emphasised this aspect. That purpose failed. The Prime Minister taunted us by saying that we on this side had no right to object to a Three-Power conference because we embarked on several ourselves; and he went on to say that these Three-Power conferences were unsatisfactory. If that is his view, and if the main purpose upon which this conference was based has failed, I cannot help wondering whether it would not have been far more in the interests of peace for the Powers concerned to have separated for the time being in amity and friendship in the hope of meeting again at some date in the near future than for us to have tied our hands while these European Powers remained free. We could have done so in good faith, and we could have separated without our object being impugned in any way, because we have actually disarmed more than any other nation in the world. That being so, there are obvious advantages for us in a Five-Power Agreement that would embrace not merely the Trans-atlantic, but the European Powers as well.
We have led the way, but, if there were obvious advantages in that arrangement, there are obvious disadvantages in a Three-Power agreement, and we want to know by inquiry how far these disadvantages may be overcome. I want to ask the First Lord this categorical question: Is it or is it not a fact, as has been publicly stated, that as a result of the Naval Disarmament Conference, at which five great Powers of the world were represented, four of those Powers will increase their armaments, and the only Power which will reduce its armaments is the British Empire? That is a very simple and direct question.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
I answered that at great length on the last occasion, and gave detailed tonnage figures for every country.
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
I am very glad to have that answer from the First Lord, because that statement has been made publicly and on responsible authority, and, if it is untrue, it is a matter about which there cannot be much controversy. There are other questions which we are asking. In regard to the cruisers, three or four years ago we were led to believe that, in the opinion of our expert technical advisers, a minimum of 70 cruisers were required for the adequate protection of our trade routes, and so on, and that to-day they will be satisfied with 50. There has been no suggestion that there has been any alteration in the general situation since then, except the Pact of Paris. I do not want to minimise the importance of that agreement, but what puzzles the layman is how an incalculable factor such as an agreement of that kind, without any specific force or sanction behind it, can be translated from a technical point of view into any definite number of cruisers. That, surely, must be more or less guesswork. While the members of the Government may find it convenient at times to speak in riddles, I do suggest that the safety and defence of the Empire ought not to rest upon guesswork.
The question has been put as to whether the naval advisers agreed to what has been done. I presume we must assume that they did. First, we are told that they did, and, secondly, they are still accepting responsibility. What makes us apprehensive is to read the kind of statements and explanation given by the Government on this matter. For example, may I remind the House of the statement made by the spokesman of the Government in another place when this matter was debated? He said, in the course of his speech, that the Government were acting conscientiously and carefully upon advice from the Board of Admiralty, and he went on to say—and I ask the House to mark these words:It does not mean necessarily that we take every view that is expressed by our expert advisers. It means that we had that advice, we considered it, we acted upon it on our own responsibility and I believe that our advisers were satisfied with what we did. The Board of Admiralty are prepared 1893 to agree to 50 cruisers as the minimum requirement of the Empire up to the next date for Conference and revision, about the year 1936.I do not quarrel in the least with the proposition that the Government should lay down policy. That is the duty of the Government. This is the way it works out: The Government place before their technical advisers certain assumptions and hypotheses, and, on the basis of those assumptions, their advice is given. I think that we are entitled to know the nature of these hypotheses and assumptions that the Government put forward. We are justified in examining and criticising the policy of the Government in this matter—and complaints about this have been made not only from this side, but by many hon. Members sitting on the opposite side of the House—in that we have been kept very largely in the dark during the progress of those negotiations. It has even been suggested that if questions were put on the matter, it was unhelpful and almost unpatriotic. We are now told that the Treaty has been signed and there it is, and surely we do not desire to cavil at what has been signed by other parties. The Prime Minister, as long ago as last September, when addressing a Socialist conference, said:We are not trying to present any other nation or nations with a fait accompli which they must take or leave.That may be so, but, at all events, there is one nation to which it seems to me the Prime Minister is trying to prevent a fait accompli, and that is his own nation. That is why we desire to have a Select Committee and a full inquiry, because we claim the right to know where we are in this matter, and upon what foundations this Treaty is really based and what are its implications. We do not necessarily condemn the Treaty. We have no materials at present upon which to form a final opinion. We are told that this proposal is unprecedented, but so is the situation unprecedented. According to the Prime Minister, the Navy is the very life of the nation. A treaty affecting the very life of the nation has been negotiated by a minority Government, and we have to take it or leave it. If I desired to make a debating point, which I do not, against the First Lord, I would like to remind him that, so far as there has been an opportunity 1894 of applying the test which he himself suggested, the country outside has already decided against this Treaty, because I am informed he paid a visit during the by-election at East Fulham and used these words:Every vote that is given for Sir Cyril Cobb is a vote against the Naval Treaty.
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
In spite of that admonition from the First Lord, I am happy to say that my hon. Friend is now a Member of this House. I do not want to press the First Lord too much upon that, because it was, obviously, one of those foolish statements made in the enthusiasm of an election, and which I am quite sure he himself did not even believe. We are desirous that an inquiry should be held, in order that the nation may be in a position to judge for itself whether due regard has been paid to our national security and our world-wide responsibilities, whether this instrument that has been admittely forged in the interests of peace will indeed bring peace and not a sword, whether it will lead to that general disarmament of nations which we all desire or whether, as many people fear, it will actually lead to an increase of armaments, and whether, in truth, it will bring us away from all the horrors of further armed conflict into that realm of universal accord and mutual understanding among the nations which everyone of us desires to reach.
§ Mr. HOLFORD KNIGHT
It would be querulous, I think, to complain of the discussion to-day. While I do not propose to support the Motion before the House, I think that this is a matter which should be discussed as fully as possible. For reasons best known to themselves, the Government, in pursuing this instrument, did not take the House into their confidence, and I think it would be an unreasonable complaint at this stage to query such a discussion as we have had to-day, if only for the reason that on the other side of the Atlantic a very close discussion is proceeding. I think it is right that this House should enjoy the fullest possible opportunity of discussing the contents, consequences and intentions of this Treaty, at the same time as on the other side of the water American citizens are engaged in the same occupation. The right hon. Gentle- 1895 man the ex-Prime Minister, in opening the discussion, went so far as to suggest that it would be desirable to have a secret Session of this House. That is a suggestion which I cannot think would be put forward seriously if only for the reason, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, that a secret Session of this House would be anything but secret.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I do not think my right hon. Friend suggested a secret Session of this House, but a secret Session of the Committee.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
There have been secret sessions in recent years, and I understood the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that there were very grave matters concerning the Treaty which might more fittingly be discussed at a secret Session of the House. However, there are one or two questions I desire to put to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who, I understand, is about to address the House, in further elucidation of questions with which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) opened the debate. First of all, the ex-Prime Minister suggested that the need that the British Navy is intended to fill is a need which does not arise in America. That is to say, if I understood him aright, the function of the British Navy, in its relation to Great Britain and the Dominions, is different in character from the function which the American Navy discharges in relation to the United States. I think that is a fair statement of the matter as put by the ex-Prime Minister, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite to tell the House if we are to understand that, in his view, one of the principal functions of the American Navy is to protect the American commercial marine? The main function of the British Navy has been described in many speeches as a function of that character. I suggest that the function of the American Navy is exactly identical in this competitive world, in which trade and commerce have expanded right over the universe. A navy is a special instrument to protect that commerce at sea, and it is unreasonable to complain of Americans who plead for an American marine for exactly the same purpose for which it is claimed the British marine exists. If there is anything wrong in that statement, I would 1896 like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping to be good enough to point out where it is inaccurate.
The second statement of the right hon. Member for Bewdley was expressed in these terms: that the function of the British Navy was also to maintain strategic control over world waters. I took those words down, but I do not wish to use them unless they are correctly set out. I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping whether he is going to present to the House the view that it is a special function of the British Navy to maintain the strategic control over world waters. Now I come to the third point, which I desire to put to the House with all possible respect. These discussions—not so much to-day's discussion, but discussions outside—have suffered from all sorts of people whose assistance is not anything like as important as some of them seem to think. On the one hand, there are naval experts who cannot understand that their business is to provide the equipment to give effect to the policy which the Government of the day intend to pursue, subject to the approval of this House; and, on the other hand, these matters involve considerations of international law, in the discussion of which pedantic and academic people with no practical experience of the way justice, national or international, works out, confuse matters by using terms which they do not understand and using them in ways which throw no light on the subject.
I wish to put this matter in a very practical way. We had a speech from an hon. Member behind, who discovered two sorts of parity, which he described as mathematical parity and combat parity. Those two categories are one category differently expressed. It is merely a description of the relation between ships and their equipment to the task which they have to perform. I wish to suggest that there is another form of parity, the parity which arises from an equal relationship of parties. The parity which has been sought on the other side of the Atlantic and the parity which has been advocated here is not a parity to be found by calculation of the number of ships and of the elevation of guns, but a parity which arises from the same relation to an international law regulating all parties within its scope.
1897 I am most anxious not to weary the House. I had a short opportunity in the previous debate of raising a conclusion to which I have arrived, and I am not anxious to create a reputation in these early days of my membership of having a sort of King Charles's head which I bring in at every opportunity. But I do most seriously press upon the House that what we have to face in the solution of these problems of disarmament is not a series of arrangements for the regulation of numbers of ships and guns and equipment; we have to pursue a settlement which will relate the interests of all nations at sea to the same rules. This is a view which is current on the other side of the Atlantic. It is a view which has shown itself during the discussions before the Senate, and it is a view at which, in my humble submission, this House will finally arrive, that true parity means extending to the commerce of the seas the Covenant of the League of Nations, providing for the submission of disputes which may arise to a law which has been shared in by all.
In my humble submission that is the true parity, and when the right hon. Member for Epping addresses the House perhaps he may find a moment in which to point out, if he can detect it, the error which is to be found in that conception of parity. With these few observations I desire to say that while I approve of every opportunity being given for examining the contents and consequences of this Treaty, the step which is proposed in this Motion is one which, in my view, is not in accordance with the best interests of the country.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The hon. Member who has just spoken is at any rate in agreement with the main point which is adduced from these benches, namely, that we should make careful and searching examination into the details and the consequential reactions of this Treaty before we commit ourselves to it. It is, indeed, a grave matter, and may well occupy the attention of the House. It is not a treaty of parity; it is a treaty of inferiority. As I hold, it is a treaty of inferiority in form and on paper, and it is still more a treaty of inferiority in reality. When one applies what is written on paper to the actual problems of keeping the life and soul of the Empire together, it is undoubtedly a treaty of inferiority. 1898 I do not believe that this statement is seriously disputed. If it is all I can say is that we shall have very full opportunities of threshing it out in closest detail upon the Navy Estimates.
I was surprised at the First Lord's suggestion that any naval authority, official or unofficial, would have guaranteed that the British Fleet at the end of this five-year period, having regard to its practical obligations, would be the equal of the United States Fleet. I should have thought that it was not possible to find any authority to support that view. Therefore, I start from the basis that the Treaty is a declaration that the British Empire accepts the position of a second Power at sea. That is a very grave and formidable position from whatever point of view it is examined. Moreover, it is made certain that this position of inferiority shall be established before the Treaty can be reviewed in 1935. That is the point from which I start. We shall have inferiority in fact and in form, and it is beyond dispute that the measures now taken will place us in that position before we have an opportunity of reviewing our position.
My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills) and my right hon. Friend below the Gangway both say that there are extremists in every country who are against the Treaty settlement. Of course, if those are the kind of facts upon which hon. Members found their action in a matter affecting the life and welfare of the Empire, then I am sorry for them. Hon. Members should avoid extremist views and should endeavour to find out the facts for themselves, and the true interest of the country would be better served by having a full investigation of the facts. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) asked us to put away the war mind. Have we not set an example in this country in that respect and have other countries followed our example? I read the other day in a newspaper a statement made by a naval witness in America. A distinguished Admiral was asked a question about the new cruisers which are to be built for the American Navy, and he was told that the new cruisers would not only be newer but far stronger and more modern than any we possess. I think we in these islands 1899 should show equal patience and thoroughness in the examination of questions which are matters of life and death to ourselves. I cannot help but admire the American Senate for the care they give to the foundation of American prosperity and power. In these matters, surely it is not to the Conservative party that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton should address his rebukes about putting away the war mind.
It seems to me that now we are abandoning our naval supremacy and all claim to it, and that it is merely the question of parity we are debating with another great Power. Never since the reign of Charles II has this country been so defenceless as this Treaty will make it, and never in the reign of Charles II was it so vulnerable. It is said that this does not matter because we have signed the Kellogg Pact, which pledges all nations to the abolition of war, and because war is unthinkable between us and the United States. This Treaty rests upon a self-destructive argument. We are told that war with the United States is unthinkable; we have ruled it out; the Kellogg Pact has abolished it; we do not mind if they have a stronger Navy than we have, or if they have the power, as they certainly would under this arrangement, to interrupt all our supplies of food and raw material. We have such confidence in them that we place ourselves unreservedly in the hands of our English-speaking kith and kin across the ocean.
That is the premise. What is the conclusion which the Government draw? The conclusion from this premise is that we must bring the United States to our council table, and measure swords round the table with the utmost nicety for weeks and months—how long they are to be, how heavy they are to be, how sharp they are to be, what kind of hilts they should have, and so forth. That is a strange conclusion to draw from the premise I have recited. The premise is no war—[Interruption.] Surely, we may be allowed to put our case without mockery. You have your majority; you will carry your policy over our heads; but, surely, we may be allowed without mockery to put our case. The premise, as I say, is that we omit the United States from all 1900 our calculations. The conclusion is a so-called parity, calculated to an inch, to an ounce, haggled over point by point in every category of ships, we, I think, getting somewhat the worse of it on each of the points. The premise is no competition; the conclusion, the worst form of competition, namely, parity, a neck-and-neck rivalry. The premise is entire detachment from each other's affairs; the conclusion, intense detailed concentration on most unhealthy and, as I consider, altogether unnecessary attention by each country to the other's naval establishment.
Whatever else may be said about this, it cannot be deemed to correspond to any process of truth or of reason. The United States pressed for an extra battleship. The Prime Minister resisted them stoutly, and he succeeded in repulsing their demand. But, if they are no danger to us, if war is unthinkable, if we are to bring them in no way into our calculations, why should not they build extra battleships if they want to do so? For weeks and months the Prime Minister has been arguing and fighting as to whether they should have 18 or 21 eight-inch-gun cruisers. What concern is that of ours? We are now to scrap five of our capital ships, and they are to scrap four—[HON. MEMBERS: "Three!"]. Four; I have the paper here. But what have their ships to do with us, on the assumption that we exclude the United States from all our calculations? We are to delay for five years to allow them to overtake us, but why, if we are not in any competitive relation? It is perfectly clear that the House and the country are in the presence of what I may call a diplomatic grimace.
I propound to the right hon. Gentleman the following exhaustive dilemma: If the idea of a hostile United States is not ruled out, this Treaty is impossible; if it is ruled out, it is quite unnecessary. If war between Great Britain and the United States is unthinkable—and that is certainly our heartfelt wish—what is the true conclusion to draw? Surely, it is to forget and to ignore the United States Navy altogether, and to reserve full freedom to study our own unique problems in our own way. That is the natural conclusion; that is the sensible conclusion; that is the safe conclusion. We have ruled the United States out of our cal- 1901 culations. Why, then, should we calculate about them to a decimal point? Let us address ourselves to our actual dangers. Let us have full freedom to build the Navy we require to shield us from European and Asiatic dangers, and no more than those dangers. Then, having done that, having settled what that standard is, let us by all means invite the United States to build to parity, and to set their own interpretation upon what they require to bring them to that point.
Let me examine the question of the battle fleets. All these conferences have had a tendency adverse to our interests. The Washington Treaty regulated the battle fleets, but it is not the battle fleets that really matter now. That is why agreement has been easy about battleships. It was easy at Washington, and it is easy now. All parties have agreed not to build the battleships that they were not going to build in any case. The right hon. Gentleman, with great success, has forced an open door; a lot of ships that would not have been built will now never be built at all. There are only three Powers in the world that have battle fleets, and they have them at opposite corners of the globe, separated from each other by thousands of miles of ocean. Whichever of those powers crosses the ocean to get at another will suffer the greatest naval disadvantages. Our danger is not that a battle fleet will be defeated in action; our danger is that our food will be cut off in far distant seas and oceans.
The hon. and learned Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Knight), who spoke just now, asked me to define the purpose of the British Navy, and how it differs from those of other Powers. Our purpose is not aggression; it is not blockade. It is clear that, with the naval forces now in the world, we could never enforce a blockade which was not in accordance with the wishes of the United States. That was so in the Great War, but it has been overwhelmingly more so since the War ended. The purpose of our Navy is to secure the arrival of our daily bread. We cannot and we ought not to let ourselves get into a position in which any Power, even the most friendly, has undoubted means of putting irresistible pressure upon us by threatening to starve us out. Such a power, once it 1902 existed, would not need even to be exercised to be effective; we should be forced to compliance once it was clear that the supplies of this country could be interrupted.
If trouble comes—I do not believe that trouble will come; I believe that wars are over for our day—it is indispensable that we should be able to survive for two years, and to feed ourselves for two years, so that we could rebuild, as we could in these Islands, with our unequalled resources, the naval power necessary to secure victorious escape from that trouble. By restricting the general battleship programme—which restriction I am not opposing—it must be recognised that we have turned the whole naval effort of other Powers into the building of commerce destroyers. What are these eight-inch gun, 10,000-ton cruisers which the right hon. Gentleman built—the five "Kents"? They are commerce destroyers; and the ones that are going to be built in such great numbers in the United States are commerce destroyers, and the destroyers of the protecting vessels. While the whole naval argument to-day turns upon the attack and defence of trade, we alone being committed to the prodigious task of defending vital supplies—while the whole naval argument turns upon that, the drift of all these conferences and treaties has been increasingly to make it impossible for us to have any security for our food supplies.
I do not wish to plunge into the technical aspect to-night; when we come to the Votes, if the opportunity occurs, I will go into more detail; but I must say this, that our food and other supplies, in a war with a great naval Power, cannot be ensured only by cruisers. We can never have enough cruisers to clear the seas. Even if we had 70, we could not clear the seas in order to bring in our vital supplies. We must rely upon convoy.
Where are the ships to guard the convoys? In the late War we had great numbers of old battleships and armoured cruisers laid up in reserve, with nucleus crews, costing little or nothing. Now there are none. They have all been scrapped by international agreement. There is no material reserve for the British Fleet. That is a loss which falls only on us, because we alone have to bring in our food, and we alone have a 1903 reserve of seafaring manhood which would enable us to produce crews for a much larger Fleet than we keep in commission. That is a terrible weakening of our vital defence. Look at the five capital ships which are to be scrapped under this Agreement—the four Iron Dukes and the Tiger. Fine ships! We have spent, I suppose, £15,000,000 upon them. The cost of keeping them in reserve would be negligible. They are the very ships to protect our convoys. These heavy ships, with enormous cannon, would each form the centre of a convoy in which 40 or 50 merchant ships laden with provisions might come with safety through areas infested with hostile cruisers to these islands.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am assured that these ships would retain, if they were properly looked after, value of this kind and for this particular service for at least 10 years.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I do not follow that point. My argument is to show that by these agreements we are steadily depriving ourselves of many necessary facilities and advantages which we require and which no other country requires in the same way. Now these ships have to be taken out and sunk, and I ask myself, "Is this economy? Is it making our limited money go as far as possible? Is it getting the best kind of naval defence for the least burden upon the taxpayer?" In a week or two the First Lord will be proposing a new programme. He will come down to the House and ask for two or three more cruisers, and others in future years—£6,000,000, £8,000,000, £10,000,000 more money on new construction—small cruisers, with 6-inch guns. No doubt we need them. We need them at once, but I have no hesitation in saying that we should be far safer with these five big ships for which we have paid £15,000,000 than with three or four of these new, little, weak vessels, much weaker than those constructed by any other Power, that are now to be built at a new addi- 1904 tional expense; and here we are throwing away costly, valuable ships on the one hand and being called upon to build new ships at great expense upon the other. Is that economy? Is that the saving of money?
If we were free—and here I address myself again to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton—to make our own arrangements for naval defence, it does not at all follow that we should have to spend more. There might be periods in which we should spend less, but we could spend it to better advantage. The two essentials to a thrifty housekeeping of the British Navy—vital and essential points—are, first of all, the power to maintain a material reserve, which we alone can man, when expansion is required and trouble comes; and a second and even more important point is our initiative and freedom of design. This country has always hitherto led the world in naval design. Although it is quite true that the Germans before the War improved on our naval designs, and were better in some respects than we were, nevertheless, in all the essentials of naval design, we have led and still lead the world, for good or for ill. Surely it is a great shame to take away from this country, by international instrument, all that flexibility, that power of varying types, modifying types, which in itself was a restraint on this absurd process of building long series of ships, all of one kind, and matched exactly with their counterparts in another Navy.
All this we lose, but it does not figure in any calculations that have been made at the Conference table. This loss of material reserve falls on us peculiarly. This loss of initiative and design that is almost our birthright and one of our greatest assets is merely swept away and thrown in with the general loss that we have sustained. The First Lord smiles, but I will argue this with him at length, not only to-night, and I hope he will give his mind to these matters. I have given a great portion of my life to them.
The right hon. Gentleman said that if the United States builds, Japan and others will build more, and we should be forced to build more. Let us look into that and see what this Treaty does for us about Japan. I have the highest admiration for Japan. Very good friends they have been to us, and I mention 1905 them, not in any invidious or doubting spirit, but see what the Treaty does for us about Japan. We are to scrap five battleships, and the Japanese are to scrap one.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken; it is a provision of the Washington Treaty anticipated by two or three years.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am aware of that. My argument is directed to showing the House how extremely detrimental this whole series of arrangements have been both to naval economy and to our own special interests. Besides this, Japan has secured the authorisation to build to within 30 per cent. of the cruiser strength of Great Britain or the United States. Surely that is not a good bargain. Undoubtedly, this Treaty worsens our position relatively to Japan. So also will the competition which this unfortunate discussion has started between France and Italy worsen our relative position in Europe.
I know the right hon. Gentleman will say that it would have been far worse if this Treaty had not been negotiated. He said to-day that, but for the Treaty, shipbuilding would be all the greater. We are told that the United States would build and certainly could build a Navy twice as large. I do not believe she would. I can only record my own opinion, but it is my sincere conviction that the United States will build more ships under this Treaty than she would have built without. Do not underrate the American deterrents upon American naval expansion. There are immense pacific forces, active and operative throughout the United States. Thank God for it. They have always held in strict check and often in control what is called the "big Navy" movement there, and we must never underrate those powerful forces. But you have disarmed those forces by this Treaty. A naval officer, an admiral, brought up before the Senate Committee, used a most instructive phrase. He was asked if he approved of the Treaty as a whole, and he said, "Yes, I approve of it because it gives the United States Navy something to hang its hat up on."
Just look at that. All the difficulties of overcoming this volume of pacific opinion, which was so threatening two 1906 years ago when the big Navy proposals were put forward, and which forced Mr. Coolidge to modify his proposals and to withdraw them—all this opinion can be overmastered by the answer, "We are only building to the standard fixed by the Treaty. We are only building a Navy up to the limits agreed upon as fair. We are exposed to no possible reproach for forcing the pace in armaments. All this is part of a policy. All this vast expansion of cruisers and armaments is part of an international treaty for the limitation and reduction of armaments. It is all settled. There is nothing to do now. The argument is over. The pacifists are routed. There is nothing for the United States to do but open the arsenals, lay down the new slips, and assume, with universal assent, including the assent of Great Britain, the sovereignty of the seas."
I want to know what we gain. We have this Paper here—"An International Treaty for the Limitation and Reduction of Naval Armaments." Is not this the most glaring misnomer that has ever stared at us from an official document? Let me suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the true title of this Treaty. "An international treaty for the limitation and reduction of British naval, armaments and for the expansion, actual or relative, of the naval armaments of the United States, Japan, Italy and France." Let me give the right hon. Gentleman another title for this Treaty. "An international treaty for the limitation of the power and the right of Great Britain to safeguard its food supply and for the multiplication and improvement of all means possessed by other nations for interrupting the said food supply." Let me give a third alternative. "An international treaty for stereotyping naval armaments at a very high level to the special detriment of Great Britain." Let the right hon. Gentleman put these three definitions to his Naval Lords and ask whether they are not a more truthful account of this document than the misnomer that appears on its face.
You call it a Treaty of Disarmament. Do not delude yourselves with that. Nothing is going to happen under this Treaty which will give any satisfaction to the Germans in respect of the Clauses of the Treaty of Versailles. On the con- 1907 trary, they are going to watch a vast process of re-armament going on over the greater part of the world. For the next five years after this Treaty, for which we are making such sacrifices and under which we are losing so much, all the arsenals of the world will be clanging with hammers and riveting machines building new formidable instruments of war. Even our own dockyards will not be idle. We shall soon have the First Lord making the most of all our own dockyards and large increases will be required in naval expenditure. In this Treaty of Disarmament our own dockyards will not be idle. What will they be doing? At great expense they will be fashioning a key which will not unlock the door of our own particular problem. At enormous expense they will be making a ten-foot plank to cross a 12-foot stream and, for that we shall have to pay in Navy Estimates greatly in excess of £50,000,000 and yet we shall not get the security that we require. [Interruption.] You may as well consider the facts patiently. It seems to me that from the point of view of the party opposite this is the most unfortunate and sterile ending of their hopes in regard to disarmament.
If it was a treaty of peace and good will among great nations, we might make great sacrifices for that, but there is the crowning disappointment. Since the War the only quarrels and causes of ill feeling among the nations had arisen through these Conferences over disarmament. Every conference, except perhaps Washington, which dealt only with battle fleets, which were passing out of the area of seriously controversial discussion, has inflamed the fears and passions of the nations that have taken part in them. A set back has been caused by these Conferences through the well meant attempts of nations not themselves in danger to regulate and cut down the defences of those that are. These conferences have given an enormous advertisement to naval and military men and topics. They have focussed the attention of millions of people upon war topics. They have spread the war mind. They have forced Governments and statesmen to come back from policies of social reconstruction to concentrate upon ships and cannon and strategic problems. The right hon. Gentleman has been so 1908 busy that he has not been able even to look at the outlines of unemployment. They have raised the whole basis of debate on national power, prestige and existence. It would have been far better to have trusted the growing confidence that is in the world, and far better to have trusted to the enormous economic pressure of the wasteful expenditure upon armaments, and to have allowed the navies and armies to fall back gradually into the background, as they would have done in the progress of a long peace, shrunk and shrivelled, as they did after the Napoleonic wars, perhaps leaving our country, because of its unique naval needs, with mild primacy, or perhaps not.
This conference is the supreme failure of all conferences. We have seen what it does for our naval defence. But what of other countries? France and Italy—their relations have been definitely worsened. There was no particular assertion of naval competition but, by bringing this on to the table, you have compelled both these nations to assert a demand for absolute parity which will undoubtedly lead to large naval expenditure. There is tension created between America and Japan which did not exist three months ago. And what of Anglo-American friendship? It is dear to my heart, as I believe it is the foundation of future safety and success. [Interruption.] Why not? The United States, as a result of this Treaty, is said to have to spend anything between £100,000,000 and £200,000,000 in construction in the next five years. No nation—not even as wealthy a nation as that—would produce these enormous sums without all sorts of stresses and contentions arising inside the body politic. Every year as the naval estimates of the United States, already two-thirds again as large as ours, bound up £10,000,000 at a time, the whole great issue will be debated. All the big Navy people will point out how vital it is for them to secure themselves against British machinations, and how generous they have been already in making so many concessions to British requests.
In every case the argument will be put forward that it is our large establishment which forces these immense sacrifices from the pacific people of the United States who would gladly have a Navy a quarter, or a fifth, or a tenth of the size which 1909 they are now forced to build. Is that going to make for good will? And after five years of this it will all have to be done over again. Once again the great Powers will meet around the table, having focussed their attention upon these details, and measure their swords once more, and this time, in 1935, our sword will be definitely and finally shorter. I cannot think that it is a wise course of policy for us to pursue. I am aware of the fact that newspaper opinion tends to chloroform the nation at this time and to paralyse its mind. In the history of falling or declining Empires, there comes a period when some mistake is discovered. Too late! That is not our case. It is not yet too late. It is still not too late to pause and make a searching examination of this matter before we take a final step. "Oh!" says the right hon. Gentleman. "Every time that a proposal is made, you will ask for this sort of inquiry"? No. This is a unique occasion. We are asked by treaty to accept naval inferiority—that is our allegation, that is our charge—after all these centuries.
Surely, if you hold special inquiries, and invite Members of other parties, to consider a question like the Channel tunnel, surely this vital matter, so vital for the welfare of this country and the Empire, is sufficiently important to be made the subject of a special inquiry. At this stage we seek an inquiry. If the right hon. Gentleman, the Prime Minister of a minority Government, consents to an inquiry, we suspend our judgment upon the Treaty. We are not voting upon the Treaty. We are voting for an inquiry into the Treaty. If the right hon. Gentleman refuses that inquiry, then I say that he and his Government will alone bear the grievous responsibility for an event perhaps disastrous to the safety of this country and certainly of no real service to the cause of the peace of the world.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
The House has listened to a speech which if it could have been broadcast at the same time as it was being delivered here would have convinced the country entirely where the Conservative party stand upon disarmament. I have heard a great deal in the few years that I have been in this House, from Members of all parties, about disarmament, about the need for real progress in disarmament, 1910 not disarmament imposed by this or that Power, but by co-operation and mutual agreement. I have heard lip service in that direction from Members of the party opposite in particular, and we have applauded when they have secured any measure of progress for conciliation and arbitration by agreement. But we know now that in the heart of hearts of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down there is no real desire for peace. I cannot hide from the House what has been running through my mind as I listened to the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I remember reading, before the War, a short biographical sketch of the right hon. Gentleman. I will tell the House what was said at the end of that biographical sketch. It said:Let your watchword be: 'Keep your eye on Churchill!' He is a soldier first, last and always. He will write his name big upon our future. Let us take care that he does not write it in blood.As I listened to the right hon. Gentleman to-night and I cast my mind back over the events of the years since 1912, when he first began his great Naval work at the Admiralty, I cannot find that he has learned a single thing from the events of the War which would lead him to work sincerely for peace by disarmament or by arbitration. In any case, the charges that he makes to-night are not true. I am not at all sure that there would not be a large volume of opinion in this country which would not mind if some of his charges were true if thereby the world were to make definite progress towards Peace. But his charges are not true.
I have listened to the whole of this debate with a view to seeing whether the detailed figures I gave in the course of a long speech a fortnight ago would be challenged. Not a single Member on the other side of the House has challenged a single one of the figures I gave when winding up that debate, proving conclusively that although this agreement does mean a, reduction in naval programmes in the world it does not mean any reduction in relative strength so far as the British Navy is concerned. Why did not the right hon. Member for Epping address himself to that problem? He has had the detailed figures on battleships, on cruisers, on destroyers, on submarines, but he never for one moment attempted 1911 to answer the argument I put forward on that occasion, and the whole fight to-day, from that point of view, has been a purely sham fight. What is the real dilemma of the Conservative party? It is this. By the unfortunate event of a few days ago, when the right hon. Gentleman led an attack upon the Treaty, he divided his own party. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition who opened the debate to-day knows that that is the position. Take the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills). Hon. and right hon. Members opposite are perfectly well aware that that speech represents a large body of opinion in their own party.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
May I illustrate what is the real Conservative opinion in the country from considered leading articles in some of the Conservative Press. Take the "Times" leading article on 16th May. Referring to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping it says:Those doubts and fears are not generally shared. On the contrary, it is the general conviction that the naval agreement will contribute effectively to the growing improvement in our relations with the United States as well as advance the cause of peace and disarmament throughout the world; and in that conviction the treaty is supported by the great bulk of British opinion.Take other Conservative papers. Take the paper in which the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) with his experience of foreign affairs, will be interested—the "Birmingham Post." On the 16th May, the day after the debate in the House, it said:Subject to the contingency of further naval building by France and Italy—in regard to which our hands remain free even to-day—the London Agreement left us to deal with known and measurable risks. And we believe that Mr. MacDonald, who thinks it sufficient to provide under the provisions of an international agreement against such dangers, represents more accurately the mind of the general public than does Mr. Churchill with his plea of liberty—which is to say absence of agreement—even in the altered circumstances.1912 Let me give one more illustration, from the "Daily Telegraph" of the 21st May. Addressing itself in a leading article to the terms of the Motion on the Paper by the party opposite it says:The terms of the Motion in question amount to the repudiation of what is regarded by the vast majority of our own people as the outstanding and undeniable success of Mr. MacDonald's administration.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
The hon. and gallant Member has made an interjection, but it is very certain that the "Daily Telegraph" would not go out of its way to point to that success if the reference were not justified. And I may add that the country has not yet given its final verdict, because we have not yet finished our work and other successes will be achieved. Let me continue the quotation:When the Prime Minister went to America last year with the express object of exploring the possibilities of such an agreement, he enjoyed national support in a measure seldom given to any statesman, and he continued to receive it throughout the later stages in so far as he was known to be working hard for the establishment of friendship and understanding with the United States on what was seen to be the firmest and securest basis.Who can possibly deny that the result not merely of the Prime Minister's action in America, but followed as it was by actual discussions in London between United States delegates and ourselves, and the findings arrived at between the United States and ourselves in the Treaty—who can deny that these have been actually fruitful in consolidating good feeling between this country and the United States? The right hon. Gentleman and a number of his friends have, right through the recent two or three weeks of controversy, taken the line that we ought to keep for ourselves complete freedom in relation to the United States, that the United States should be allowed to build whatever Navy they liked and that we should be equally free to build just what we pleased. Is that not just the situation in which we found ourselves from 1924 to 1929? Was not that the situation which arose when his party failed to secure a three-Power—a three-Power, mark you—Treaty? What was the result of that?
Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that he is going to convince the 1913 House that leaving both countries in that position of complete freedom would lead to good relations between the two countries? Is it not perfectly true to say that the United States representatives went back from Geneva in 1927 and found an Act of their Parliament authorising eight eight-inch cruisers, that they increased it to 23, to build ship for ship and gun for gun, if not more guns, with the 23 eight-inch-gun ships that were in our programme? How did the right hon. Gentleman deal with that? He persuaded his Cabinet—and I believe that he was the most potent force in that situation—to reduce the White Paper programme of this country from 23 to 18. In face of circumstances like that, what right has the right hon. Gentleman to get up to-night and say that we have sold the pass, that we have made our country a second-rate Power, that we have put our country in a position of inferiority, when as a matter of fact upon the programme just outlined the position that we have attained is superior for this country to that which we found when we came into office?
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
It is very easy for the right hon. Gentleman to say it is quite untrue, but I am giving the facts. We have always been attacked at the Admiralty as to why we should have agreed and agreed at the outset, to a reduction in our cruiser requirements from 70 to 50. The right hon. Gentleman ought to be the last to stress that point. May I remind him of a speech which he made, the one speech from that side of the House which was at all embarrassing to us during the Conference? I appreciate what was said by the Leader of the Opposition, and I repeat what I said during the debate on the Navy Estimates, namely, that in the course of the Conference negotiations we had reason to be grateful for the consideration shown. The one mischievous speech made during the Conference, and now republished as a pamphlet by the Navy League, was made by the right hon. Gentleman at a meeting in the Cannon Street Hotel. What did he say then about the cruiser problem?I remember well when the case for 70 cruisers was presented by the Admiralty. I remember it well because it was my duty as Chancellor of the Exchqueer to argue for a lower figure than 70.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
The right hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear" to that statement, but we have been attacked by his party all the time for agreeing to a lower figure than 70. As Chancellor of the Exchequer he never agreed that 70 were required. Why, then, are we attacked? Why was the right hon. Gentleman when Chancellor of the Exchequer always pressing on the Admiralty to agree to a lower figure than 70? Was it because at some time in previous negotiations on naval matters some lower figure than 70 had been mentioned? On what did the right hon. Gentleman base his case to the Admiralty at that time that 70 were not required? He has been putting lots of questions to us. I think we are entitled to put that question to him.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I have never made the slightest secret of the fact that I personally have never held the view that the 70 cruiser estimate of the Admiralty was the minimum compatible with security. I have always argued that a lower minimum was compatible with security. I always held that a lower figure might suffice, and have never made any secret of it at all. That was the view which I took as Chancellor of the Exchequer, but the question which we have asked the Government is what are the technical reasons which have led the naval experts so markedly to alter the advice which they gave to the late Administration.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
Now we know exactly where we are. There is no Member of the House who has more experience in these matters than the right hon. Gentleman, and with all his wide experience he does not agree that in present world circumstances 70 are required, but he asks us to state what are the technical grounds for agreeing to a lower figure. I have stated them before, and I will repeat them in the hope that perhaps they will sink in this time. Twice before, once in Sheffield, and once in this House—during the last debate—I stated the technical reasons, and I pointed out that what I stated was the view not of myself merely but of the Board of Admiralty. [An HON. MEMBER "The Sea Lords"?] An hon. Member of this House ought to, know by this time that the Board of Admiralty consists of the 1915 Sea Lords and Members of this House. What is the opinion of the Board? That if the circumstances had been the same as they were early in 1927, then their requirement would have been 70, but in the light of the facts, first, that the Treaty was for a limited period only, and, second, that in the interim we had signed the Kellogg Pact, a solemn agreement among most of the nations of the world to outlaw war—
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
Certainly. There was also the fact that we had lessened the risk of war by signing the optional clause. In these circumstances, and for the limited period, and subject to two other technical provisions, first, that other Powers reduced their programmes, and, second, that we had a reasonable programme of replacement—subject to these two further conditions and in the circumstances which I have already indicated, then the Admiralty said to the Government—not the Government to the Admiralty—"We agree to a reduction from 70 to 50." I hope that having stated it two or three times, I have at last been able to convey to hon. Members opposite the official view of the Admiralty in such a way that it will not be misunderstood.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Not one of those reasons is a technical reason. They are purely political reasons, of which the Government are the judges, and of which admirals are no judges.
§ Commander SOUTHBY
I asked the right hon. Gentleman if the agreement of the Admiralty was unanimous. Would he kindly answer that question?
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
I have given the view of the Board of Admiralty, and I shall give no other view than that. If that is what is really required by referring this matter to a select committee, it is pretty plain what is wanted. The Opposition ask for this select committee to examine the Treaty so that they can bring before them individual members of the Board of Admiralty, retired admirals, and all kinds of people who have technical views on the Navy, and to examine them at length. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I wonder whether hon. Gentlemen who are sitting on that side of the House would have granted us a similar 1916 inquiry in 1927, if we had asked for a select committee to inquire into the reasons for the resignation of Lord Robert Cecil, and to call before the Committee Members of the Cabinet in order to find out which was the particular faction which had been responsible for the breakdown of negotiations. I wonder whether hon. Gentlemen on the other side would have supported a Motion for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the views of the Board of the Admiralty when the right hon. Gentleman was year after year cutting down what they considered to be their reasonable demands.
I think that, without pursuing that further, the Leader of the Opposition will see quite clearly that to accept this Motion would create for him as well as other leaders of parties serious difficulties and complications in the future. I want to repel the charge that this Treaty was arrived at in a way that was secretive, and that the negotiations were carried on behind the backs of Members of the House of Commons and of the country. Nothing of the sort occurred. At the opening of the proceedings, a White Paper was issued on what were the aims; it did not say what the Treaty was going to be. The Prime Minister promised, and carried out his promise, to inform the House from time to time during the progress of the Conference of anything that was material. The Press were admitted on exactly the same grounds to the plenary sessions of the Conference as they were admitted in Geneva. In 1927, the party opposite did not admit the Press to any sessions except the plenary sessions. When we were pressing in 1927 for information as to how the Treaty was going on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) said that it would be most improper and unreasonable to have a discussion on it, and we on this side of the House acquiesced and let the discussion remain open until later in the autumn, so as not to embarrass the Government. Not a single thing has been done in connection with this Conference which was out of harmony with the practice of Governments who have conducted conferences in the past, and the charge of secretiveness cannot be true.
The right hon. Gentleman, in the speech to which we have just listened, 1917 not only said that we had reduced our country to the position of a second Power in the world in naval matters, but he added this extraordinary statement, that never since the days of Charles II had we been so defenceless or so vulnerable. As First Lord of the Admiralty for the time being, I want to ask him what his Government were doing for the past five years? If his statement is true, and never since the days of Charles II have we been so defenceless and vulnerable, what have the people been doing who were in charge of the Government of the country almost without cessation since November, 1918? [An HON. MEMBER "Since King Charles the Second's time!"] I am much more reasonable than that—since November, 1918. It is perfectly obvious that if there were any responsibility at all for any deficiency in the British fleet at present, there would be little of it resting on the Government at present in office. Already the right hon. Gentleman has told us that as a consequence of this Treaty, we shall have to submit supplementary Estimates to the House. I should have thought he would have welcomed these Estimates for two reasons, first of all, that he will want to have the fleet which is provided by the Treaty an efficient and up-to-date one, and, secondly, I should have thought he would have welcomed it in the present stress of industry and employment from the point of view of having a stabilised and steady programme of replacement. What is the case put by the right hon. Gentleman? I seem to recognise in what he said a relic of a very old saying of his when he was First Lord. I do not know whether it originated with him, but I remember reading it in one of his speeches. It was:Build late, build fast,Each one better than the last.It may not have originated with the right hon. Gentleman, but it was certainly something which he adopted. I should have thought that he would have welcomed a different policy from us, and would have desired to stabilise the measure of work over a number of years. One of the great difficulties which the Prime Minister found in his early days of office was that in the past there had been allowed to grow up a complete disregard of the interests of the employés in the 1918 naval building yards. They put up a big programme one year and dropped it the next. If you were to follow out the plan of the right hon. Gentleman, it would mean having a number of large, old ships in reserve which could not possibly have been kept under the Washington Treaty. I should have thought that with his great knowledge the right hon. Gentleman would have been aware of that. Five ships would have to go under the Washington Treaty within three or four years. What is the case of the right hon. Gentleman? He says, "Let us keep a number of these ships in reserve." Can there be any reason for it? He said that we could within a short time meet any attack made against us. What does that mean? It means something more serious than he seemed to contemplate. It means, for one thing, a distribution, a dispersal of our skilled personnel. I would much rather that the Navy should be kept efficient by a continuous and steady replacement programme under which both manufacturers and employés would know where they are to be. The right hon. Gentleman opposite says, "Hear, hear," but I do not think some of his actions in the late Government bear that out.
I should have liked to refer to one or two other points, but my time has gone more rapidly than I had expected; but I want to add this final word. The inquiry which is asked for to-night would mean practically submitting our case for the Treaty to a jury, and I submit that there is no case to go to a jury. So far as the party opposite are concerned it is largely tried and settled. It would not matter what case we made out before the Select Committee, the right hon. Gentleman would not accept the verdict. His mind is made up. The hon. and gallant Member for Londonderry (Major Ross), in a very interesting speech, said, speaking as the representative of this recalcitrant naval group in the Conservative party—
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
The hon. and gallant Member endeavoured to prove that in the course of arriving at this Treaty we had failed on eight counts. He said we had failed to secure our proposed reduction in the size of battleships and in the size of aircraft carriers, in the limitation of the number of cruisers and the size of cruisers, in the provision of destroyers versus submarine, in the abolition of submarines, and over the question of a five-Power agreement as compared with a three-Power agreement.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
Then what on earth is the reason for wanting this sent to a Select Committee? It is settled. It would not matter what we said. No, Sir, it is for the Members of this House, as the accredited and elected representa-
§ tives of the country, having had all the documents put in front of them, having had full particulars, to make up their minds to say whether this is to be so or not. We believe this Treaty is a real step—I am quoting now the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills)—on the road to a progressive disarmament, and therefore the consolidation of peace in the world, and I am convinced that when that issue of itself is put to the country this party and this Government will find the country entirely of that opinion.
That a Select Committee of Eleven Members be appointed to examine and report upon the proposals contained in the International Treaty for the Limitation and Reduction of Naval Armament.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 201; Noes, 282.1923
|Division No. 326.]||AYES.||[10.58 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cunllffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Dalkeith, Earl of||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Albery, Irving James||Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Leigh, Sir John (Ciapham)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Little, Dr. E. Graham|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Dixey, A. C.||Llewellin, Major J. J.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Duckworth, G. A. V.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)|
|Balniel, Lord||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Long, Major Eric|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||McConnell, Sir Joseph|
|Beaumont M. W.||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.)||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Everard, W. Lindsay||MacRobert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M.|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Ferguson, Sir John||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Fielden, E. B.||Margesson, Captain H. D.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Fison, F. G. Clavering||Marjoribanks, E. C.|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Ford, Sir P. J.||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.|
|Boyce, H. L.||Forcstier-Walker, Sir L.||Meller, R. J.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Frece, Sir Walter de||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Mond, Hon. Henry|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Gower, Sir Robert||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Muirhead, A. J.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Butler, R. A.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||O'Connor, T. J.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||O'Neill, Sir H.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. H. (Prtsmth, S.)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Penny, Sir George|
|Chadwick, Capt. Sir Robert Burton||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Hanbury, C.||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Christie, J. A.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Hartington, Marquess of||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Haslam, Henry C.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Colville, Major D. J.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Remer, John R.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)||Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'te'y)|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecciesall)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Iveagh, Countess of||Ross, Major Ronald D.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Salmon, Major I.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Stewart, W. J. (Belfast, South)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Savery, S. S.||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome||Tinne, J. A.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Simms, Major-General J.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Withers, Sir John James|
|Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfast)||Todd, Capt. A. J.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Train, J.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Smithers, Waldron||Turton, Robert Hugh||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon||Wright, Brig.-Gen. W. D. (Tavist'k)|
|Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.||Major Sir George Hennessy and|
|Sir Frederick Thomson.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Forgan, Dr. Robert||Lawrence, Susan|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Freeman, Peter||Lawson, John James|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Leach, W.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Gibbins, Joseph||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Gibson, H. M. (Lancs. Mossley)||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)|
|Arnott, John||Gill, T. H.||Lees, J.|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Gillett, George M.||Lewis, T. (Southampton)|
|Ayles, Walter||Gossling, A. G.||Lindley, Fred W.|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Gould, F.||Lloyd, C. Ellis|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Longbottom, A. W.|
|Batey, Joseph||Granville, E.||Longden, F.|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Gray, Milner||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.|
|Bellamy, Albert||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Lowth, Thomas|
|Bennett, Capt. E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Lunn, William|
|Benson, G.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Groves, Thomas E.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Grundy, Thomas W.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||McElwee, A.|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Hall, G. H. Merthyr Tydvil)||McEntee, V. L.|
|Bowen, J. W.||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||McKinlay, A.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||MacLaren, Andrew|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Harbord, A.||MacNeill-Weir, L.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Hardie, George D.||McShane, John James|
|Bromfield, William||Harris, Percy A.||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)|
|Bromley, J.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Brooke, W.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Mansfield, W.|
|Brothers, M.||Haycock, A. W.||Marcus, M.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Hayday, Arthur||Marley, J.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Hayes, John Henry||Mathers, George|
|Buchanan, G.||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Matters, L. W.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Maxton, James|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Herriotts, J.||Melville, Sir James|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland)||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Messer, Fred|
|Caine, Derwent Hall-||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Middleton, G.|
|Cameron, A. G.||Hoffman, P. C.||Millar, J. D.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Hollins, A.||Mills, J. E.|
|Charieton, H. C.||Hopkin, Daniel||Milner, Major J.|
|Chater, Daniel||Horrabin, J. F.||Montague, Frederick|
|Church, Major A. G.||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Clarke, J. S.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Morley, Ralph|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Isaacs, George||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Mort, D. L.|
|Compton, Joseph||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Cove, William G.||Johnston, Thomas||Muff, G.|
|Cowan, D. M.||Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)||Muggeridge, H. T.|
|Daggar, George||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Dallas, George||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Noel Baker, P. J.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)|
|Day, Harry||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Kennedy, Thomas||Palin, John Henry|
|Dickson, T.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Paling, Wilfrid|
|Dukes, C.||Kinley, J.||Palmer, E. T.|
|Duncan, Charles||Kirkwood, D.||Perry, S. F.|
|Ede, James Chuter||Knight, Holford||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)||Picton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Lang, Gordon||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Egan, W. H.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Potts, John S.|
|England, Colonel A.||Lathan, G.||Pybus, Percy John|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Foot, Isaac||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Richards, R.||Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)||Walker, J.|
|Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)||Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Ritson, J.||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs, Stretford)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Romeril, H. G.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Snell, Harry||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Rothschild, J. de||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||West, F. R.|
|Rowton, Guy||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)||Westwood, Joseph|
|Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Sorensen, R.||White, H. G.|
|Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)||Stamford, Thomas W.||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Salter, Dr. Alfred||Stephen, Campbell||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)||Strachey, E. J. St. Loe||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Sanders, W. S.||Strauss, G. R.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Sawyer, G. F.||Sutton, J. E.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Scott, James||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Scrymgeour, E.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Scurr, John||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Sexton, James||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Tillett, Ben||Wise, E. F.|
|Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Tinker, John Joseph||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|Sherwood, G. H.||Tout, W. J.||Wright, W. (Rutherglen)|
|Shield, George William||Townend, A. E.||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Shillaker, J. F.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Shinwell, E.||Turner, B.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Vaughan, D. J.||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.|
|Simmons, C. J.||Viant, S. P.||Charles Edwards.|
Question put and agreed to.