HC Deb 09 March 1931 vol 249 cc825-939
The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Arthur Henderson)

I beg to move, That this House approves of accession, in respect of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and all parts of the British Empire which are not separate Members of the League of Nations, to Chapters I, II, III, and IV of the General Act for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, subject to the conditions set forth in Annex 2 to Command Paper No. 3803. In submitting this Motion I would at the outset remind the House that a year ago, on 27th January, 1930, it gave its approval to the signing and ratification of the Optional Clause. That decision meant our acceptance of the principle of compulsory arbitration, so far as justiciable disputes are concerned. The Government now seek to take another important step. We are asking the House by this Motion to approve the accession of this country to the General Act for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, which was drawn up by the League of Nations Assembly in September, 1928. Our accession to the General Act would complete this country's acceptance of arbitration for international disputes of every class, subject, of course, to the reservations to which I shall refer in a moment. I am sure that I need not spend very much time in explaining the purport or the provisions of the General Act, as they are so fully set out in the White Paper which we issued some days ago. The General Act, as will be seen from the White Paper, consists of four separate chapters, and comprises 47 articles. The chapters are divided under four heads: First of all, Conciliation; second, Judicial Disputes; third, Arbitration; and, fourth, General Provisions.

The issue raised to-day is very clear. The ease for the General Act is simply the broad case for the impartial arbitration of international disputes. I stated that case when I asked the House to agree to give its approval to our ratification of the Optional Clause. On that occasion, I stated that the Government had defined certain reservations or conditions in our formula of acceptance. We propose now to accede to the General Act with similar conditions or reservations, again set out in the formula by which we shall accede. These conditions are set out in the White Paper, on page 18. Annexe 2 contains all the reservations or conditions that we will lay down in our formula of acceptance. Perhaps I ought to say that this formula is broadly similar in character to that by which we accepted the Optional Clause.


No material modifications?


No material modifications—none at all. We had to adapt it to suit the General Act. The House will not misunderstand me or think that I under-estimate the importance of this matter if I confine what I have to say to one or two principal considerations. I would begin by explaining the broad view which the Government take of this proposed accession to the General Act. When we survey the field of foreign affairs, with due regard to the importance of good international relations, we are impressed by the fact that the coming Disarmament Conference is a matter of capital importance. By its results the course of future events in Europe, and, may I not say, in the world generally, must in great measure be determined. If it succeeds, as I am sure in every part of the House we hope it may, the future of constructive international co-operation will be assured. If, on the other hand, it should unhappily fail, who can foretell what the consequences of that failure will be? All we know, all we can predict with confidence, is that the situation which would result would be extremely grave.

Since this is so, the House will understand that to us the preparation for the Disarmament Conference is in the very forefront of our programme of foreign policy at the present time. It is of the highest importance, we think, that the Conference be given every reasonable chance to succeed. For that reason, not only do we desire, but we feel it is our bounden duty, to do everything in our power to assist its success. For that reason, we have already ratified the Optional Clause. For that reason, we also signed the Treaty of Financial Assistance. For that reason, we proposed the amendments to the Covenant of the League of Nations, and, may I be permitted to say, it was for that same reason that I undertook the journey to Rome and Paris with the First Lord of the Admiralty a few days ago, and it is for that reason that the Government bring the General Act before the House to-day.

We regard our accession to the General Act as an important part of the preparation which we can make for the success of the coming Geneva Conference. I think I may be bold enough to say that at that Conference nations will be prepared to reduce and to limit their national forces in proportion to the measure of their confidence in the constructive machinery of peace. If they are convinced that Governments have renounced war, not in name only, but in real intention, as shown by their willingness to support the League proposals for peace, they will be more ready to dispense with the machinery of war. If the peoples believe that Governments generally and genuinely intend to submit their disputes no longer to the arbitrament of war, but to some other means of peaceful settlement, they will be more confident that war is really and definitely renounced. Such confidence will make both Governments and peoples readier to believe that the nations mean peace and not war, and that they are determined to do something real to strengthen the reign of law and justice throughout the world.

In the view of the Government, the acceptance of the General Act is the logical consequence of the Pact of Paris and the logical complement of the Optional Clause. In the Pact of Paris, as the House is aware, our nation has undertaken never to settle its disputes by other than pacific means. It is therefore necessary in our opinion—and may I say it seems to me to be the natural corollary—to organise the pacific means by which international disputes can be determined. The Optional Clause was one of the means to that end, but —and I would impress this upon the House—important though the Optional Clause may be, it, of itself, is not enough. It is, as I said a year ago, only the first step towards a complete and organised system of peaceful settlement. It is our view that that system, if the purpose of the Pact of Paris is to be adequately fulfilled, must cover, not some classes only of international disputes, but international disputes of every class.

The Optional Clause, as I said when I began, deals with justiciable disputes, disputes which are legal in their character and suitable for decision by the Permanent Court of International Justice. The General Act provides arbitration for non-justiciable disputes, for disputes in which the Permanent Court might not be able to find a solution on grounds of law alone. We believe, therefore, that in seeking thus to extend arbitration we are acting in the spirit of the Pact of Paris and taking the steps which are required if that Pact is to become a living reality to the nations of the world.

I would say more. I believe that in taking this new step we are acting in the spirit of the important decision taken by the Assembly of the League of Nations in 1927. That decision was taken by a resolution of 24th September which dealt with the reduction of armaments. That resolution speaks of the measures capable of giving all States the guarantees of arbitration and security necessary to enable them to fix the level of armaments at the lowest possible figure, in an international disarmament agreement. But the resolution also goes on to say that the Assembly considers that action should be taken in these matters by the League of Nations with a view to promoting, generalising and co-ordinating special or collective agreements of arbitration. In our view, the General Act is a collective agreement such as is hinted at in the Resolution from which I have just quoted, designed to generalise guarantees of arbitration. We think, therefore, that we are simply carrying into practice the policy to which our predecessors in office were committed at the Assembly of 1927 when the United Kingdom delegation was from the party opposite.

4.0 p.m.

Having very briefly stated our position in regard to accession, I want to say one or two things on the Amendment which, I understand, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) is to propose. The first observation which I would make on the Amendment is that I confess that I do not understand the reasons which have prompted its terms. Two reasons are advanced in the wording of the Amendment itself, first, that the General Act diminishes the authority of the Conned of the League of Nations, and, second, that the General Act substitutes a procedure tending to encourage international disputes. I shall be much interested to hear the case in support of these two points, but, in the meantime, I desire to make some observations upon them. First, then, with regard to diminishing the authority of the Council of the League, may I be permitted to say that I recognise as fully as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham the value of the action which the Council may take in respect of international disputes. I remember how he used the Council with great effect more than once. The disputes between this country and Turkey concerning Mosul, and between Greece and Bulgaria in 1925, are classical instances of the strength of the machinery which the Covenant of the League of Nations provides. But having said this, I cannot for a moment agree that by accepting the General Act we shall in any way diminish the authority of the Council of the League. And may I put this very pertinent point on the subject 9 If it had been believed in 1928 that the General Act would have had this effect, surely the common sense of the Assembly, to whom the Council is in so great a measure responsible, would never have drawn up the General Act, and, indeed, I think that is more than plain from the terms of the Resolution which the Assembly adopted at the time. This Resolution is rather long, but I think I must quote it. This is the Resolution of 26th September, 1928: The Assembly invite all States to accept arbitral decisions for the settlement of all disputes either by becoming parties to the annexed General Act or by concluding conventions with individual States. For the same purpose, they specifically declare that undertakings such as the General Act are not to be interpreted as restricting the duty of the League of Nations to take at any time whatever action may be deemed wise and effectual to safeguard the peace of the world, or as impeding its intervention in virtue of Articles 15 and 17 of the Covenant where a dispute cannot be submitted to arbitral or judicial procedure, or cannot be settled by such procedure, or where the conciliation proceedings have failed. May I again remind the House that right hon. Gentlemen opposite were responsible for the delegations which were present at the Assembly when that Resolution was agreed to? By the terms of our proposed accession, given on page 19 of the White Paper, we have specifically reserved the right to bring any case before the Council, and we have declared that when we do so Chapter III of the General Act is not to be applied unless the Council has failed to reach a settlement. Surely one would have thought that, as right hon. Gentlemen opposite had seen the White Paper before this Amendment was placed on the Order Paper, that would have sufficed, for there we are leaving a power with the Council and in no way neutralising or diminishing its authority. I, therefore, deny that by accepting the General Act, we shall diminish the authority of the Council or substitute another procedure for that which the Covenant already provides. We only provide another and a necessary means for the settlement of difficulties with which the Council under the Covenant may not have been able satisfactorily to deal.

With regard to the second reason which the Amendment urges, may I say that I am equally at a loss to understand the reasons behind the suggestion. The right hon. Gentleman in his Amendment says that this procedure of arbitration will tend to encourage international disputes. I hope that when he speaks in the Debate he will explain to the House very clearly what he means. International arbitration, need I remind the House, is no new institution. For more than a century the nations have been using it in increasing measure. There have been hundreds of disputes in which arbitral awards have been given. There have been dozens of bi-lateral treaties under which individual Powers and States have bound themselves to this procedure of compulsory arbitration, and under none of them, I believe, have international disputes either been provoked or encouraged.

Then I must point out that we are not the first Government to accept the General Act. In spite of the short time which has elapsed since it was prepared, it is true to say that up to last Wednesday eight Governments, including Spain, Belgium and Sweden have already accepted, six of them without reservations of any kind.

Captain EDEN

Can we have the full list?


I can get the hon. and gallant Member a full list. I have given three of them. I think they were given in answer to a Parliamentary question. Furthermore, on Wednesday last—and this is very important—I want the House to remember that M. Briand secured the unanimous approval of the French Senate for a Bill which had already passed through the Chamber of Deputies providing for France's accession to the General Act. Moreover Signor Grandi, Foreign Minister of Italy, recently informed His Majesty's Ambassador at Rome that the Italian Government has the matter under very careful consideration at the present time. So that we shall not be, the first Government to take this important step forward. But we shall, nevertheless, I still firmly believe, be giving a most important lead to the nations of the world.

May I remind the House that before this country signed the Optional Clause, only 17 Governments were bound by its undertaking. To-day not 17, but 34 Governments are now so bound, and we hope again with regard to this General Act for a similar result. In giving this lead to the world, the United Kingdom will not stand alone. If hon. Members will look at page 6 of the White Paper, they will find the terms of the report by which the Imperial Conference approved the principle of the General Act. It will be seen from the White Paper that our proposed action has been preceded by full consultation with all His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions. This matter was very carefully considered at the recent Imperial Conference. All the delegations, with the exception of the Union of South Africa, who desire further time to study certain questions involved, intimated that they would commend the General Act for accession to their appropriate authorities at home.


Since the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned South Africa, might I ask whether any further communications have been received from the South African Government since the Conference?


I think not since the Conference closed. I believe intimations have been given by one or two other Governments that they were considering putting the question before the proper authorities. This report of the Imperial Conference is a significant demonstration of the solidarity of the Governments and, we hope, the peoples of the Commonwealth in favour of peace by arbitration.

May I say, in conclusion, that I hope that even now it may be possible for this House also to be united on this question. Surely it cannot be asking too much of those who signed the Kellogg Pact that they should join with us in showing to the world that we include general arbitration among the pacific means for securing peace and justice in international life? Having renounced war, let us unite in supplementing our renunciation by expressing our willingness to rely upon the judgment of reason secured by the application of the principle of universal arbitration.


I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from the word "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words: whilst reaffirming its adherence to the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Pact of Paris, declines to accept the General Act of 1928, which diminishes the authority of the Council of the League and substitutes a procedure tending to encourage international disputes. I rise to move the Amendment which stands in the names of two of my colleagues on this bench and myself, and I hope, in the course of the observations which I shall address to the House, to justify its terms and supply the explanation which the right hon. Gentleman opposite invited me to give. But before I do so, as this is the first opportunity that I have had, and as later I am forced to express disagreement with the right hon. Gentleman, I should like, at the very beginning of my observations, to offer my sincere and hearty congratulations on the success of the visit which he and the First Lord of the Admiralty recently undertook to Rome and to Paris. If I may say so, it would seem to me, on all the information that is available to us, that the British representatives played the part that we should wish to see our country play in helping to remove difficulties between two great States, with both of whom we happily entertain the most friendly relations, and who, per- haps, without such friendly British services, might not, at any rate for a long time to come, have reached the happy agreement which has now been achieved. If I may do so, I would like to pay my tribute to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleague, and also to the statesmen with whom they were associated, Signor Mussolini and Signor Grandi in Rome and M. Briand in Paris, with all of whom it has been my good fortune to work in the same cause in past years.

If I thought that the General Act, to which we are asked to give our approval to-day, were as well adapted to the needs and to the object in view as was the recent intervention of the right hon. Gentleman, I should give it an equally warm support, but I want the House clearly to understand what is and what is not the difference between us, at any rate, at this stage of our discussion. We heartily accept the purpose which the right hon. Gentleman sets before himself and us. We accept fully, in the spirit and in the letter, the obligations of the Covenant and of the Pact of Paris, which we ourselves signed. We have no more desire to seek a solution of any difficulties by war than have right hon. or hon. Members opposite, and the whole difference that exists between us—and it is, I think, a very important and a very grave one—is whether the particular methods which the Government now ask us to adopt are well adapted to serve the purpose which is common to us both.

In our view, as we have said in the Amendment, the accession to this Act must diminish the authority of the League of Nations and particularly of its Council, which, to my mind, is by far the greatest instrument for the solution of international difficulties and the preservation of international peace that has yet been devised, and it must offer opportunities for frivolous complaints, opportunities which, instead of diminishing the causes of friction between nations, are likely to provoke fresh troubles.

What is the argument which the Government have set out in their White Paper and which the right hon. Gentleman has repeated to-day? We have signed the Covenant of the League; we have signed the Pact of Paris. By the Pact of Paris we and other signatories have renounced recourse to war as an instrument of national policy. "But," says the right hon. Gentleman, "the Pact of Paris provides no alternative means of settlement." Therefore, it was necessary first of all to give our adhesion to the Optional Clause. That provided that every case which could be decided by a rule of law should be referred to the International Court. "But that again," the right hon. Gentleman says, "is not enough. Logically," says he, "we must go further, and we must provide a compulsory arbitral tribunal with the power of giving a decision which is binding on every other question"—that is to say, on questions which are not determinable by any known rule of law.

The first observation that I should like to make about that is that, though the Pact of Paris originated in a suggestion for a bilateral treaty between the United States of America and France, made by the French Foreign Minister, it became, in the hands of the Americans, the international document which we know and which we and so many other. States have signed. It was transformed from the original bilateral treaty into a multilateral treaty, and the real authors of it in that form are the United States of America. Now observe that the United States of America, who are the authors of the Pact of Paris, do not share the views of the right hon. Gentleman that the Pact of Paris, in order to give it any reality or force, needs some other document, that it is in itself imperfect, and that it needs to be buttressed by other documents which will give it a life and a force and a reality which it does not contain within its own four corners. The United States have not joined the League of Nations, and they are not going to. [Interruption.] At any rate, though everything is possible if enough time is given, it is quite sufficient to say that no party in the United States has any idea of joining the League of Nations at the present time, or of making that a feature of their present policy. They have not signed the Optional Clause, and are not parties to it. They will not sign this Agreement.

Accordingly, we are piling obligation on obligation, signature on signature, document on document, in order to do, what? To lend something to the Pact of Paris which the authors of the Pact of Paris do not think it needs, and have declared that they will not add in their own case. This policy of logic makes no appeal to them. The President said, in connection with the naval negotiations which were conducted by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister when he was in America, that no American Government would take binding obligations in advance, and that they trusted to the moral forces which were called into existence to give the support that was necessary to the Pact. If you assume that people signed that Treaty in good faith, the Americans are right—the moral forces behind it will be sufficient. If you assume that they signed it in bad faith the signature of another and more complicated document will not give it the strength which in that case it can never obtain. It seems to me that in the search for logic here, as in some other steps taken by the present Government, there is the triumph of the Latin mind and of a policy which the whole of Anglo-Saxon political experience, internal, inter-Imperial, and external, shows to be a bad guide in practical affairs, and very much inferior to the greater elasticity and the greater adaptability which our own system affords.

Let me remind the House again that this document deals in its second Chapter with justiciable disputes. Those are all disputes in which a right can be pleaded, a right derived either from general international law or from any special treaty. They cover any dispute which turns on the existence of a fact which, if it were established, would create that right, and they cover the amount of reparations which ought to be paid for any wrong committed. We do not need a new document to deal with those cases. We already adhere to the Optional Clause. What more does this do? What difference does it make? The right hon. Gentleman says there is no material difference, but there are differences. Each Power may sign either of these documents, or both these documents, or neither of these documents. Each Power, as it signs either of these documents, may attach reservations to them. Is there no danger of confusion arising when you sign two documents covering exactly the same ground, framed in slightly different language, even though not meant to make any material alteration, and to which any of the parties may have attached different reservations?

What is to happen if you have signed both the Optional Clause and, as is proposed, the General Act? If we are dealing with another party which has signed them, under which are we to proceed? If the reservations of the other party are different in the one document from those which they have made to the second document, who decides which of those two documents is to be the decisive one? Is not the whole result to do over again what you have done already, and is there any reason whatever for demanding a fresh signature and exposing yourself thereby to these complications and possible difficulties and dangers? That is all that I propose to say about that particular chapter.

What remains when you have dealt with all these justiciable disputes There remain the cases in which there is no claim by one party that the other is acting illegally, no dispute about a fact which has established a right. Every case to which a rule of law of any kind can be applied, whether derived, as I say, from general law or from particular custom, is covered by what we have already done. What then remain over? Only those cases in which one party claims, not that the other has violated or withheld any right to which he was entitled, or anything of that kind, but in which one party, admitting that the other party has right on his side, says that he ought to have right on his side, and goes to the tribunal, not to find out where the right lies, but, knowing that the right lies with the other man, in order to deprive the other man of what the rule of law gives him. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General is, I believe, going to speak in this Debate. If in any particular I am wrong, I would wish him to correct me, because it seems to me of vital importance—


Before the right hon. Gentleman passes away from the justiciable—


I am not passing away.


I thought the right hon. Gentleman was passing from that point. May I ask him whether he alleges that there is no rule of law applicable to disputes arising at sea?


I am addressing a rather difficult argument to the House and, as our purpose is the same, I must be allowed to conduct my argument in my own way. I shall come back to the point raised by the hon. Member in the course of my speech. What we are dealing with now are cases in which a party concedes that he is under a legal obligation but alleges that he never ought to have been put under that obligation, or that circumstances have arisen which ought to absolve him from fulfilling it. Are these to be matters for decision by an Arbitral Tribunal. An Arbitral Tribunal, after all, is a form of judicial court. It can only decide by rules of law. You send a private citizen to the court to establish his right. If he thinks he is aggrieved by the decision of the court, he can then appeal to the highest tribunal, but when the law has been stated and the facts are determined, the tribunal cannot look beyond the law. If the law discloses a grave injustice, you go not to the court but to the legislature for redress and in conferring these powers on the Arbitral Tribunal you are entrusting to a court of law powers which ought to belong to Parliament.

Translate that into terms of present day international affairs. You are sending to a tribunal of the same character as the Permanent Court, but of less authority, of accidental establishment, with no jurisprudence built up by its own decisions, the very class of case which ought to go to the Council of the League, which the Council is there to determine, which it has dealt with with marked success and which it is fitted to deal with better than the Arbitral Tribunal which is without its elasticity or its variety of procedure. This leads me to ask the Attorney-General when he replies to fill a gap left in the interesting speech of the Foreign Secretary. What are the cases which he conceives as being referred, not being questions of law, to this Arbitral Tribunal Are they territorial questions? Does it mean that our position in Egypt could be referred to such a tribunal if it was disputed by any nation which was a member of the League, which, I understand, is a necessary condition of the General Act. If challenged by any nation which is a member of the League, would our position in Egypt, the validity or otherwise Of the Declaration of 1922, be automatically and compulsorily referred to this tribunal? If so, upon *hat principles would they be asked to settle?

There are questions in controversy between nations which are the subject of acute differences, if one may judge from the speeches of Ministers in some foreign countries, connected with mandated territories. Is that a class of question which the Government intend to be submitted to this tribunal? Suppose they say, "We recognise that you have a mandate in Palestine, or East Africa, or West Africa, or that South Africa has a mandate in South West Africa, but you ought not to have. We do not dispute the fact that you have, we do not say that your title is bad, but we say that you ought not to have that mandate; we ought to have it." Is that a question which you are going to refer to this tribunal? If so, by what rule are they going to settle, upon what principles are they going to decide? What do you lay down for their guidance? Do the Government mean that in our case questions of that kind are to be submitted to the new tribunal they propose to set up? Does the Foreign Secretary think that other countries will submit their cognate questions to such a tribunal? Does he think in attempting to get such questions referred to such a tribunal he is serving the cause of peace or of good understanding among the nations of the world, or that he is fortifying the Council and the League?

This brings me to ask two further questions upon which I must ask for the attention of the Attorney-General. What interpretation do His Majesty's Government put upon the words in their reservations: situations, or facts prior to the said accession. Does that mean that no facts existing at the time of our accession, or the accession of any other party, can be brought before the tribunal and, if so, when you send legal disputes to the Permanent Court of International Justice at The Hague, what is there left over for these tribunals? Then there is a question which I must ask with special reference to Article 28. What rule is this tribunal going to apply? Article 28 says: If nothing is laid down in the special agreement or no special agreement has been made, the Tribunal shall apply the rules in regard to the substance of the dispute enumerated in Article 38 of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice. In so far as there exists no such rule applicable to the dispute, the Tribunal shall decide ex aequo et bono." What are the rules enumerated in Article 38 of the Statute? They are: International convention, international custom, the general principles of law recognised by civilised nations, judicial decisions, and the teachings of publicists. What is the meaning of "rules applicable to disputes" which, ex hypothesi, are not disputes about a point of law. Disputes about points of law are referred to the International Court. These are disputes where the law is not in question, where someone says "the law ought not to be what it is, the rights ought not to be what they are; we want them changed." What is the meaning of this application of rules of law to cases where ex hypothesi no law can apply, and if no law applies what is meant by saying that they are to determine the case ex aequo et bono. You are dealing with the most difficult and the most dangerous class of international disputes, the case where the legal right is undoubtedly on the side of such and such a person and where someone else feels that the law is wrong and ought to be changed, that the law has created an intolerable state of things and that there ought to be an alteration. It is a dispute which must of necessity in its essence be a political dispute. If it was a legal dispute it would go to the Court of International Justice. It must be a case in which there is no dispute about the law or in which the political issues entirely dominate the legal aspects of the case.

For what does the Council of the League or the Covenant of the League exist if the Council is not to deal with exactly that class of case? Take that away and you tear the Covenant to shreds, you destroy Article 11, you destroy Article 15, and make meaningless Article 19. That is what is meant by the Amendment. You diminish the authority of the Council of the League and diminish it precisely at the point where the Council's authority is most important, where it has shown that it can act as a conciliator without attempting to dic- tate. The most outstanding feature of the development of the League since it was formed is that steadily, as the League has strengthened and grown in experience by dealing with case after case, the Sanction Clauses of the League have receded into the background and the conciliatory clauses, its conciliatory action, of which you now propose to deprive it, have come to the front, have made the League's work and its reputation and given it the authority it now possesses; and which we want to confirm.

It is said that there are questions to which the law gives no answer. If it is a question merely of deciding a right the law always gives an answer. It decides that you have the right or that you have not; it decides whether you can enforce something by legal process or whether you cannot. It is a mistake to suppose that the law gives no answer. The law decides what the rights are, it does not decide what they ought to be, and that is what the framers of the Covenant had in mind. They had in mind the cases to which the law does not apply, and they say that those are the cases above all others, which the Council is fitted to decide, which it has shown its fitness to decide. They are the cases with which such tribunals as are here established have no prospect of dealing with an authority comparable to that of the Council of the League.

I must at this point call the attention of the House to the multiple complications for which provision is made in the concluding chapter on general provisions. This document bears the stamp of the Latin craving for logic in political affairs in almost every line and clause. What is going to happen in the constitution of the tribunal? If we have a dispute with somebody else, if a third party is interested, and perhaps a fourth, fifth and sixth party, what do we get? Provision is made for the assumption that certain parties are acting together. In that case, they jointly name one judge. But suppose that they choose to act separately; they then, I take it, each get a judge and the constitution of the tribunal can be packed with one interest, provided there are a sufficient number of States involved on that side. So complicated are these provisions, and so uncertain is it that agree- ment will be reached, that it is actually provided that, in default of agreement, each party shall put five names into a hat, and out of the 10 five shall be drawn, and these shall be the judges.

Is it reasonable to expect that in a case where admittedly our opponent, a nation with which we differ, does not pretend that we are not within our rights, but calls upon us not to exercise our admitted rights, we are to go to five judges chosen by lot to decide whether this nation is to remain in possession of its admitted rights or is to have those rights taken away? Remember that these tribunals, being separate tribunals in the case of every two countries concerned, have no series of cases to try; they will meet very rarely; they have no jurisprudence of their own; they have no experience; they have none of the many courses which are open to the League, and which it applies diversely, sometimes naming a rapporteur to act as intermediary, sometimes naming a committee to undertake the same task, sometimes asking an advisory opinion from the Court of International Justice, and sometimes sending out a commission to ascertain the facts on the spot and to advise them. The new tribunal has none of this elasticity or of this competence or of the experience which, in the case of the Council of the League, accumulates from year to year, and almost from session to session. It consists of five people who have never acted together before, who are perhaps unknown to one another until they meet as a tribunal, without any rules to guide them in the most difficult and most dangerous of all kinds of disputes—to settle as best they may, ex aequo et bono, whether a nation is to be deprived of its admitted rights or not.

Really, I do not believe that the Government, or the nations with which they acted at Geneva, realised what it was that they were doing; if any of these nations did, it was because they saw in this obscure, entangled agreement a new seal set on things as they are, a provision which may make the beati possidentes more blessed than before, and which renders nugatory and ineffective the powers of the council, not only under Article 19, but under Articles 11 and 15, to interest themselves in any dispute and to call before them parties to any dispute which threatens or tends to threaten the peace of the world. An hon. Gentlemen opposite said that the powers of the council were all reserved. I have studied this document with all the care that I could. I have read some very interesting comments upon it appearing in the Press, and an interesting article by Professor Brierley in the British Year Book of International Law. When I first read the document, I thought that I understood it. When I read these comments, I came to the conclusion that my original reading was not compatible with the interpretation of these high authorities, nor were their interpretations quite reconcilable the one with the other. The fact of the matter is that the document is exceedingly obscure, and if we put our hands to it, we shall probably never know what we have signed, until some day we shall have to go to the Permanent Court of Justice and ask them to state what we did when we undertook these obligations.

Is it the intention of the Government, and is it their understanding, that if one of these tribunals has given a decision which is not accepted by both parties, the council shall intervene and revise the judgment of the tribunal? Or is it their intention that the dispute shall go to the council first, and that if the council fails to take a decision, or, in words which are more ominous still, which are the words of the document, if it "fails to effect a settlement," or if one of the parties refuses to accept its decision, then, is it their understanding that in that case the matter goes from the council to the tribunal? Are these questions, which are of such difficulty and of such high political import, striking so deeply into the roots of national life on the one side or the other, that the council with all its means to make a settlement, with all its political training and acquired experience and precedents, has been unable to settle to go to five men taken almost at hazard, with none of that information or experience or corporate interest in continuous work? Are they to be given the power to reverse, it may be the council's decision, or, if the council has failed to take a decision, to impose a decision where the council thought it wiser to leave time to work and to continue to use its mediatory influences?

I do not see how in face of the arguments that I have made anybody can believe that it is possible to introduce this new compulsory procedure without striking at the very roots of the council's influence and power, without withdrawing from them, in advance or in the end, the settlement of those questions which they are specially competent to settle; and I do not see how the council can continue to exert the growing authority which it has been accumulating when you are thus depriving it of its effective power in the most critical class of dispute.

5.0 p.m.

I want to speak to the second part of my Amendment. You have already provided for all disputes which can be settled by a rule of law. You now propose to allow a country which pleads no rule of law, no legal right, to take any of its neighbours before a tribunal on any question which it chooses to raise. Can you do anything more calculated to invite vexatious litigation between nations, to encourage a Valdemaras in a wholly unreasonable action. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate the full force of the illustration I have given—a Valdemaras. It is just what he would delight in. He will argue with the council as long as the council will listen. He will raise every kind of claim, and take it to the council or to the five men at his option. You will get no nearer a solution, but you will encourage the litigious, that figure which, in our own Courts, is checked by a Master in Chancery or a Judge in Chambers, who strikes out the claim as frivolous. There is no Master in Chancery or Judge in Chambers in this international procedure. Every vexatious and frivolous claim can be brought before one of these tribunals, and a nation can be forced there to answer it, when no reasonable person would entertain the claim for a moment, and when no doubt eventually, even the tribunal of five—for I must assume they are reasonable, even if inexperienced, men—will refuse to give it any satisfaction. Can you conceive a procedure more calculated to invite trouble, better devised to provoke disputes and to create differences where none exist?

These are the reasons for which I move the Amendment which stands in my name. There has been a tendency in these dis- cussions to compare international law with municipal, to say that the nations of the world ought to follow the course which individuals have taken and be governed by the same rules of conduct. How often have we heard it said that we have abolished the duel, that a man does not now right his own wrongs by the strength of his own right arm but goes to the courts; and we have provided that nations shall do the same? But we do not say to a man who has gone to the courts and found that he has not a leg to stand upon that he can then go to a tribunal of five, chosen haphazard, to pass under review the judgment of the court. Would hon. Gentlemen opposite accept this obligation to settle by arbitration, with binding force, every dispute in which they are engaged in their own sphere? I believe some such experiment has been made in the industrial sphere in Australia, and, as far as I know anything about it, the results have not been encouraging.

If there is one thing on which hon. Members opposite are, and always have been, firm, it is that in their industrial disputes they will in no circumstances undertake a general obligation in advance to arbitrate questions which may arise between themselves and employers. What are you doing here? You are taking for the nation a risk that you will not take in your own affairs. You are submitting the higher, the far larger and more important, interests of the nation to a procedure which you absolutely refuse to apply to your own minor, narrower and Less vital interests. [Interruption.] They may be vital to you, granted; but the interests of any class in the nation are less vital than the interests of the nation as a whole. You will not do that with what you think are your own vital interests. How dare you do it with the vital interests of the nation?

It seems to me that in the search for theoretical perfection the Government are ignoring the limitations which practical experience places on the utility of this system of compulsory arbitration. They adopt a procedure which is calculated to encourage disputes and to multiply frivolous and vexatious claims. They expose the highest interests of the nation to a procedure the risks of which we will not take in our own local affairs; and they take from the League and confer upon a tribunal of inferior experience, and inferior authority, the very class of cases for which the League was established, for which its procedure and elasticity and the variety of its means and methods particularly suit it, in which it has won its greatest triumphs, and by which it has secured the great measure of authority it now enjoys.


Before I endeavour to give the House reasons why it should not support the Amendment which has just been moved, I would ask leave to offer some general observations on the main question embodied in the Resolution proposed by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. However important may be many of the other matters which have engaged, or will engage, our attention during the course of this Parliament, there is none which has been, or is likely ultimately to be, of greater moment than the business before the House to-day. The Great War was the most momentous event of our generation, affecting the lives of our people far more closely and gravely than any question involved in the controversies of our domestic politics. Just as the War was the greatest event of our time, so the measures to prevent a recurrence of such a war are the very central issue of the politics of the modern world. In order to secure measures to prevent another war, it is not enough to engage in amiable platitudes and vague generalities. We must adopt specific means for the prevention of war, specific means of alternative settlement. This General Act is the method which the League of Nations itself proposes for preventing other wars. But it cannot succeed if Great Britain and the British Empire hold aloof from it. That is why I say that our decision, for or against the Motion of the Government, touches the very central issue of modern world politics.

If all hon. Members will not be impressed by that fact, there are four men in this House to whom it must specially appeal. There are now in this House only four survivors of the Cabinet which was in power in July and August, 1914, and upon which fell the terrible responsibility of deciding for or against the entry of this country into the Great War. We did our duty, as we understood it, without flinching, but those of us who passed through that experience must feel, from their innermost being, that it is their essential duty to support every practical and legitimate means—and support it actively and with enthusiasm—of preventing a recurrence of such a catastrophe. That war was described as a war to end war, and many appeals were made here and elsewhere for great sacrifices with that supreme object. Those sacrifices were made in this country and in other countries, and the 14 points of President Wilson, with the plea for self-determination of nations, aroused great enthusiasm among all the enlightened and progressive forces of the world. But afterwards, when the War was over, there was a sense of disillusion. There seemed to be a collapse of those generous ideals which had been so sincerely entertained. It was found that there was still oppression of racial minorities; disarmament conferences were held and failed; armaments increased, and it seemed as though the tragic competition of armaments was about to be resumed. There spread, amongst many of the younger generation particularly, a feeling of pessimism and cynicism that all those high hopes were being disappointed; and that coloured the whole outlook of many among the younger generation.

I think that disillusionment was not warranted. On the whole, the outcome of the War was undoubtedly to extend very greatly the area of national liberty. The three empires which had been an incubus upon Europe, with all that they stood for, disappeared. The League of Nations itself was founded—undoubtedly the greatest event in the modern history of mankind; and within the last year or two there have been great advances. The Pact of Paris has received general assent; the Naval Conference of London was sucessful; and I would ask leave to join in the congratulations offered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and to the First Lord of the Admiralty, and to their colleagues in other countries, for the large extension which has now been effected in naval disarmament plans. Also, the Optional Clause was signed last year. All these are great steps in advance. The Preparatory Commission of the League of Nations has done its work, and the great Disarmament Conference itself is to be held before long. This Act now comes before us for our sanction, and if it is agreed, as I believe it will be agreed, in this country and many other countries, it will again be a great step in advance, and the world may be able to face its future problems with renewed hope.

There is no doubt about the response which the younger generation in this country and in other countries would make to the appeal of the Foreign Secretary. Lord D'Abernon recently published an admirable lecture on foreign policy, but in the course of it he suggested that consideration might, perhaps, be given to the institution here of the Japanese system of the Council of the Elder Statesmen. I would far rather see a "Council of the Younger Statesmen"; if such a council were to meet, it would give whole-hearted approval to the General Act and all that it implies. The issue is really a very simple one. Let us not lose ourselves in refinements and technicalities, such as those which have been brought before us by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. Diplomatists render most useful services, and international lawyers, I suppose, are indispensable in their right place; but all history shows that if the broad lines of policy are left to diplomatists and to lawyers the world will not progress. It is more important that they should be decided by the common sense of ordinary people, and the people in all countries have but one desire—they wish to live their lives in peace. I believe that the establishment of the League of Nations and the appearance of a proposition such as this General Act, are the result of the advent of democracy. This could never have come about without democracy. It could never have been achieved in the 18th century, with the Constitutions which then existed. I have seen in France one of the old cannon of the French monarchy, and it had stamped on it the famous motto that was on the artillery of the French Kings "Ultima ratio regum"—the last argument of Kings. Fortunately the cannon is not the last argument of peoples, and it is a Motion such as this which vindicates the influence of democracy in the conduct of world affairs.

We approach in this act the end of a long and gradual process, the process of the establishment and enthronement of the principles of arbitration as a substitute for war. I well remember, as a young man, in the year 1893 sitting under the Gallery here which was then open to visitors and listening to a Debate on a Motion moved by Mr. Cremer, a great friend of peace, advocating a general and permanent treaty of international arbitration between this country and the United States. Unexpectedly Mr. Gladstone, who was then Prime Minister and 83 years of age, rose from the bench opposite and delivered a wonderful oration. I read that speech again only a few days ago, but the cold words of the print give no conception of the glow of his oratory, the nobility of his diction and the splendour of his delivery. There he stood and urged from the depths of his heart that this country should adopt this means of arbitration, and particularly with the sister democracy of the United 'States, and he expressed the hope that some day the nations of Europe would be wise enough to form some permanent organisation for the settlement of disputes by means other than war.

We have had to wait for nearly 40 years before the movement has reached its present position. Gladstone was the man who 20 years before that had the responsibility for proposing arbitration in the Alabama case, which was really the first beginning of this movement that is now reaching its climax. In 1907, there was an attempt made to arrive at a general treaty of arbitration at The Hague Conference. The Government of which I was a Member was anxious that the movement should succeed, but our efforts were made futile by the opposition of Germany, under the control of the Kaiser, which prevented any extensive achievements at that time. In those days people were apt to think that all matters which affected the honour or vital interests of any country must be excluded in any case from any treaties for arbitration. That limitation has now been quietly dropped. No one now suggests that any such limitation is necessary; and such a limitation would make all arbitration treaties futile and useless.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham asks us to reject this treaty, and he does so for the sake of the League of Nations. He is more loyal to the League than the League is itself. This General Act was passed unanimously by the Assembly of the League in 1928, and, as the Foreign Secretary has already stated, it was accompanied by a resolution strongly urging the various Powers and Governments to accept it. The International Federation of the League of Nations Societies has passed unanimously a resolution in support of this Act. Our own League of Nations Union in this country, through its General Council, has passed a resolution in support of the principle of this Act, and our Dominions urge us to accept it, as well as the Government of India. Against all this, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham offers his advice and his protest. While the right hon. Gentleman was speaking of the Optional Clause as a valuable means of referring a dispute to the tribunal at The Hague, I could not refrain from remembering that his own Government repeatedly and definitely refused to accept the Optional Clause.


I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but if he accuses me of inconsistency I think he is mistaken. I did not say that I approved the Optional Clause. I pointed out that, whether right or wrong, we had already accepted it, and it is now in operation. What we are concerned with now are political disputes.


My point is that the right hon. Gentleman still thinks that the Optional Clause is objectionable and wrong. After what the right hon. Gentleman has just stated, how are we to accept him as a champion of the League? An Amendment comes from him to reject this proposal, and he is against, not only this General Act of Arbitration, but also the Optional Clause, which was signed by the present Government with an almost unanimous public opinion in this country behind them. Their view has been endorsed by the great majority of the nations of the world.

This Commission does not supersede the Covenant; it only supplements it. It does not take away from the Council of the League any matters which the Government might wish to refer to that Council. The Council is part of the machinery for conciliation. The Commission proposed in this Act is an alternative means of conciliatory procedure.

The Council is not indeed mentioned as part of this procedure, and that course was taken for this reason. States which are not members of the League are invited to sign this General Act, if they so wish. States which are not members of the League would not be likely to sign the Act if it invoked the machinery of the League, and that was the reason why no reference was made to the Council as an alternative means of conciliatory procedure. The Assembly declared in the resolution which it passed that this Act was intended in no way to restrict either the functions or the duties of the Council of the League. The White Paper shows quite clearly and specifically that the Government reserves its right in all suitable cases not to invoke the arbitration procedure, but to go direct to the Council. I think that disposes of the major part of the right hon. Gentleman's argument when he said that this Act would deprive the Council of the League of matters which properly belonged to it and would send to arbitral courts measures which ought properly to be decided by a Parliament.

As we all know, the decisions of the Council of the League require unanimity, excluding the particular parties to the dispute. Suppose that unanimity is not achieved. That is a problem with which we have to deal, and that is the position with which this Act has to cope. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said nothing, as far as I remember, on that point, and he assumes that in every case the Council of the League will be able to come to a decision—[Interruption.] If not, what is the position? There are no fewer than five methods of dealing with the particular problems that may arise. The first is the ordinary method of diplomacy. That is not enough, for it is a method which, as we all know, and the history of the world has proved to the loss of mankind, has often failed. If the dispute happens to be a juridical one, the question may be taken to the court at The Hague. That also is not enough, because the dispute may not be juridical, but political. Then it may be taken to the Council of the League, and the Council has to give an opinion and is allowed one year during which to arrive at a decision. There may be certain circumstances under which that period may be prolonged. Again, the Council of the League may not be unanimous. It is possible that one Power, which may be a Power in close friendship or alliance with one of the parties, may exercise the right of veto. Then no decision could be given, and, although the general consensus of opinion might he very strongly in favour of one of the parties, the result would not be a settlement. The matter cannot be allowed to lie there. This Act fills the gap and suggests methods of conciliation or else direct arbitration by a tribunal.

The right hon. Gentleman said that we should not adopt these methods in private disputes, but even in private disputes very similar methods are adopted. In private affairs, the parties would endeavour to settle matters by direct communication between themselves and, if they failed, then they might go to law. There is often, however, an alternative of referring disputes to commercial arbitration. It is quite true that the trade unionists are not prepared to accept compulsory arbitration and to submit their interests in all cases to arbitration, but it should be remembered that they have in the background, if the worst comes to the worst, the right to strike, which is equivalent to the right to war. In international affairs we have renounced the right to war, and therefore we must adopt some other measures in place of it. Does the right hon. Gentleman who opposes this Act suggest that in this sphere of human relations there is to be no power of decision in any quarter? In the last resort, does he say that we are to declare that we have renounced in all cases the right to war, and that we have done so by the Pact which we have signed, but that in the event of continued disagreement there is to be no means to provide a settlement and that the disagreement must continue? Is that a tolerable state of things in which the world is to leave outstanding questions, allowing them to go unsettled with no facilities for a decision? To say that there is in any sphere of human relations no final authority, is to admit anarchy.

The right hon. Gentleman does not conform to the popular conception of an anarchist—far from it; but, in declaring that he will not submit in certain matters to any constituted authority, he is really accepting the underlying philosophy, in this narrow field, of the anarchist. While, however, those foolish revolutionaries, while their movement continued, will here and there have killed one or two unfortunate victims, this anarchy, if it were allowed to continue, would kill its millions and its tens of millions. The right hon. Gentleman says that this Act, if passed and accepted, would encourage international disputes—would invite them. Why? Because it provides means for settling them! We have a great deal of litigation here. A great deal of money is spent in law costs on cases between litigants. Should we say that, in order to avoid those disputes and to stop that expenditure, we should abolish our law courts? That would be as wise as to say that we should not establish a tribunal for fear lest parties should have recourse to it. The right hon. Gentleman leaves us, as I have suggested, with no alternative. [Interruption.] If the Council is not unanimous, what then?


As in the case of the Hungarian Optants, the Council in such a case never lets the matter go out of its hands.


What could be better? Why should they not continue to do so? We do not take any powers away from them—none at all—but we give a possible alternative in the event of failure. That is all, and there is no more than that; and the Government have very wisely made it quite clear in their Annex—[Interruption.] Article (2) of their Annex states: That His Majesty reserves the right in relation to the disputes mentioned in Article 17 of the General Act to require that the procedure described in Chapter 11 of the said Act shall be suspended in respect of any dispute which has been submitted to and is under consideration by the Council of the League of Nations"— [Interruption.] I think I am right in saying that other disputes can also be referred to the Council.




It further provides: That in the case of such a dispute the procedure described in Chapter III of the General Act shall not be applied unless the Council has failed to effect a settlement of the dispute within twelve months from the date on which it was first submitted to the Council, or, in a case where the procedure described in Chapter I has been adopted without producing an agreement between the parties, within six months from the termination of the work of the Conciliation Commission. The Council may extend either of the above periods by a decision of all its members other than the parties to the dispute.


The right hon. Gentleman has just been pointing out that in certain cases the Council may not be unanimous, and in that case cannot take a decision. But in a case in which a friend or ally of a party to the dispute deliberately prevents the Council from taking a decision by casting one vote against all the other members of the Council, I should say that the moral force of the decision of the majority would in that case decide the question in fact. At any rate, that argument implies keeping the thing in the Council's hands. If the one who dissents sees that the Council is likely to decide in favour of the party which is not his friend, he will take the matter out of the Council's hands to the tribunal of five, who may be chosen by lot.


They would not be chosen by lot as a general rule; there is no proposal to that effect. I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman that any such eventuality is likely to arise If the Council is seized of the matter, it will use its very best endeavours to secure a settlement, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that in the vast majority of cases it will succeed in doing so; and, by the settlement of various cases in the future, it will enormously strengthen its own position. No one can take the case away from the Council, thinking that the full Council may be against it, until the Council relinquishes it or a period of a year has elapsed, and it is only in the very last resort that an arbitral reference can be made. I still adhere to that statement. No doubt the Attorney-General, if he speaks in the Debate, will deal with the legal and technical aspects of the matter; but it is essential, in view of the fact that circumstances may arise in which the Council does fail to achieve a settlement, that there should be some procedure in the last resort in order to prevent a complete breakdown.

There is one consideration which I do not think the right hon. Gentleman brought forward, and which might be raised as a criticism against the General Act. That is that it might tend to crystallise too much the existing conditions of the world, and that it would tend to make the status quo absolute for all time. I submit, however, that that is not so, but that there still remain all the present methods by which questions which have been decided by previous treaties can be brought forward if there is a consensus of opinion in favour of any change. The Treaty of Versailles itself made provision for its own revision if the Assembly of the League of Nations thought proper to raise the matter, and under Article 19 of the Covenant that can be done. This Act leaves the existing provision in that regard unchanged. It does not close that door, neither does it open a new door. The right hon. Gentle man said that any party could bring any question they chose to raise before an arbitral tribunal, and that it might reopen all sorts of questions with regard to mandates and so forth. I submit—the Attorney-General will correct me if I am wrong—that that is not so. It is quite clearly stated here that: Disputes arising prior to the accession of His Majesty to the said General Act or relating to situations or facts prior to the said accession are excluded, and, therefore, that part of the right hon. Gentleman's argument does not apply. It would not have been possible, I think, to have secured the general assent of all the Powers to any new Act which did open a door for the revision of existing treaties, and rendered any part of the existing status quo liable to be reconsidered and, perhaps, changed according to the arbitrament of three independent arbitrators.

If we accepted the right hon. Gentleman's advice, if this Amendment were carried, and if this General Act were rejected by the House of Commons to-day, what would be the consequences? In the first place, as I have endeavoured to argue, the international machinery would be left patently incomplete. We have agreed in the Pact of Paris that never shall disputes be decided except by pacific means. You may disagree, but you must not fight. But disagreement cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely. You cannot subsist on negations. You must provide positive means for the settlement in the last resort of every kind of dispute. If this Act were rejected by the House of Commons to-day, that gap would be left. If this Act were rejected by the House of Commons, what would be the feelings in our Dominions? Those great peace-loving democracies would be amazed that the Imperial Government here at Westminster should take such a course. If it were rejected, what would be the reaction in the other countries of Europe and the rest of the world? They would be encouraged to think that Great Britain had some sinister purposes which she was ashamed to confess, objects which she would never permit herself to place before an independent tribunal; and the result would be to strengthen the reactionary and militarist forces in other parts of the world.

This Act is valid only for the next three years, until 1934. It then has to be renewed. If this country meanwhile had refused to accede to it, possibly some countries which have already announced their accession might withdraw it, while, as the Foreign Secretary said in his opening observations, if this Act were rejected by the House of Commons, how gravely would be prejudiced the atmosphere in which the Disarmament Conference would meet next year. It would meet, not in an atmosphere of general good will, but in an atmosphere of mutual suspicion. There are risks in arbitration, of course, but, so far as you refuse the risks of arbitration, you accept the risks of war. The fields of the two are mutually exclusive. So far as you enlarge the one, you contract the other; so far as you contract the one, you enlarge the other; and I, for my part, shall never accept the doctrine that it is patriotism to prepare for war, but not patriotism to prepare for peace.

This Act will not sacrifice any of our legitimate interests. The right hon. Gentleman said that others would bring their complaints against us, and take us into this Court or into that Court. If our interests are legitimate, why should the Courts not give their verdict in our favour? Has there ever been a case in the history of arbitration where subsequent public opinion held that the verdict was wrong? If our cause is in the right, we may be assured that it will be upheld. This is not a Measure only to enable others to bring us to arbitration; it is a Measure that will enable us to bring others to arbitration in a right cause. Hitherto this country, in days gone by, has had to send its Fleet to the Dardanelles, to Lisbon, to Venezuela, or wherever it may have been, in order, by the exercise of force, to compel the adjudication of matters that were in dispute. That is not a policy which we should wish to adopt. That is not a policy conducive to the peace of the world. It is a policy which compels us to maintain greater armaments than we would wish to maintain. This Act will be an advantage to our own people as well as to others.

Our decision to-day will affect directly and indirectly, now and in the future, all the peoples of the world. There is not a peasant ploughing his land in the Balkans, there is not a mechanic in Germany or France, there is not a weaver in Lancashire, or a miner in Scotland, or a clerk in London, who will not be affected through his life, through his home, through his children, by the decision of the House of Commons this afternoon. The people of this generation will live in history as those who passed through the Great War. The best legacy that we can leave to our posterity is the inheritance of a peaceful world. This Act will help to secure it, and that is why we give it our most cordial support.


I feel that it is not inappropriate for a newly-elected woman Member of this House, in addressing the House of Commons for the first time, to speak upon a subject of such vital importance to the women of the world as that which is before the House to-night. I am sure that I shall make a good many mistakes owing to nervousness and inexperience, but I hope that these will be pardoned. What I want the House to believe is that my voice is enlarged and enhanced by the feelings and aspirations of thousands of women outside this House. Women, especially, have a passionate anxiety that the Foreign Secretary should succeed in that path which he has carved out for this nation, the path which will lead to a day when the world shall know war no more. The reason why the women of this nation realise so well that that is necessary Is that they see to-day growing up a generation which does not know the meaning of war, because it has never seen war—a generation of young men and young women who, if they are brought in the future to the verge of that cataclysm which we had to face in 1914, will face it as we faced it in those days, believing that it will give them the tang of a high adventure, believing that it will give them the opportunity of a supreme sacrifice. They will not see the horror, because they have never known it, and, like us in 1914, they will plunge over the brink. We, the women of the nation, desire to see such safeguards as shall protect that pathetic innocence and that pathetic inexperience.

I do not desire to plunge into those technicalities which are contained in the White Paper, and which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) has been giving to the House this afternoon. As I listened to the right hon. Gentleman, I could not help feeling that his own obscurantism had made everything obscure which ought to be plain and simple. I cannot help feeling that to plain men and women everywhere, both in this House and outside it, these technicalities are not the main issue that we have to face. I want to emphasise what is to me, and what must be to all sincere people, the very simple issue with which we are faced, the simple issue which is the logical sequence of all that has been accepted by this House in the past. That is the issue as to whether in the future we shall end our disputes by war, or whether we shall submit them to arbitration. There has not been a war since the dawn of history which could not have been settled by arbitration had there been such an instrument as this General Act as part of that international machinery. Wars in the past into which this nation and other nations have been plunged by the ruling classes, by Emperors and Kings, by great industrialists and capitalists and by the military caste, could have been settled, had such an instrument existed, without bloodshed and warfare.

Something has been said about frivolous disputes. I will ask hon. Members to turn their minds back to 1914. I can think of no dispute which seemed more frivolous than that which brought us to the brink of the Great War. It originated in a village brawl in the Balkans in which a Serbian student slew another man, an Austrian Arch-Duke. The dispute ought to have been settled as any criminal dispute might be settled. In 1914 there was no League of Nations, no Pact of Paris and no Optional Clause. There was no such instrument as that which we are discussing to-day. The result was that, instead of a peaceful settlement, 10,000,000 men had to die, vast tracks of fair land were despoiled by war, countless treasure was poured out wastefully, millions of women had to break their hearts, and the schools of this and other nations were filled with children for a decade who in their nervous and physical bodies bore the marks of their mothers' agony. The clock of civilisation was set back and we in our time understand, as no other people can possibly understand, the scarred face of the economic and social life of our day. As I listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham I could not understand his timidity in face of the wonderful prospect that lies before us of peace and the possibility of peace. I do not even now understand the hesitation and the timidity of hon. Members opposite. The facts that I have stated with regard to the Great War are facts within the personal experience of all but a very small handful in this House. They have passed through that time and are passing now through a time which is the direct consequence of that War. About what do they hesitate? About what are they so timid?

The right hon. Gentleman poured scorn upon logic. It were a good thing if a little more logic were exercised by the opposite benches in the conduct of affairs. The acceptance of the General Act is a new link in that chain of logical conse- quences which this country has been forging by the tremendous sincerity of the Foreign Secretary. The Pact of Paris is of no use unless the machinery for carrying out those principles is present. The principles of the Pact of Paris are the same principles that underlie the General Act. The General Act applies the machinery for putting those principles into operation. The Optional Clause was a further step in that logical consequence, but it did not go all the way. Now the General Act gives us the opportunity for taking every kind of dispute to arbitration. I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman would put in its place. To me, every word that he has said has been the right to go to war. I can see nothing else whatever in that word-spinning to which we listened for so long. It was a tremendous disappointment to me to listen to that speech. I had felt that here at last was one place where we might join hands with hon. Members opposite, here at last was something which rose above the ruck of party politics, and that they might have had, as it were, their ear to the ground and understood what was the feeling and the sentiment outside this House.

Very often one hears from the platforms of the Conservative party such sentiments as that our patriotism is involved in this question. It is involved in this question. Patriotism of the highest kind is that patriotism which has been displayed by the Foreign Secretary when he raised the moral worth and the moral standard of the country, as he has done among the comity of nations, to such a, height. I congratulate him, as he has been congratulated from all sides of the House, upon the splendid prestige to which he has raised this country by his work at Geneva and in the recent conversations which he and the First Lord of the Admiralty have held in Rome and Paris. The women of the world thank him for that. They stand behind him in it, and they encourage him to go on with the work that he has done so well.

When I first came into the House, the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) very kindly gave me a word of advice. I understand she gives it to everyone. I am sure it was well meant. She asked me to put my principles above my party. I have no intention at this or at any other time of entering into competition with the Noble Lady in the exercise of those seductive arts in which her supremacy stands unchallenged, but, if there is one question where I feel we might all together rise above the ruck of party politics, because it transcends all party, it is this great and vital question of peace. We are legislating to-night in a very definite sense for posterity. A denial by hon. Members opposite of those great principles which underlie the General Act is a denial of the hopes and aspirations of tens of thousands of men and women outside the House, and a betrayal in a very definite sense of generations yet unborn. I beg that hon. Members opposite will at this moment show a little of that moral courage that was shown by Lord Irwin in his handling of the Indian situation. I beg that they will not stoop to follow a mere party lead. I have never known a party leader so unhappy in his presentation of a case as was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham to-day. I beg that hon. Members will exercise their own judgment, that they will realise that outside the House their sisters and their friends have stood upon the same platform with myself and other women Members of the House in pleading the cause of peace and arbitration, and that, when they go into the Lobby, they will vote for peace, not just for this generation but for the future of mankind.


I thank you very much, Sir, for the opportunity you have given me of expressing my appreciation of the maiden speech which we have just heard, a speech expressed with great lucidity and in terms with which we all on both sides entirely sympathise. The question is now not whether we are for peace and for insuring peace conditions for the world. I do not think on reflection even the hon. Lady has any cause to doubt that. All we have occasion to discuss to-day is what is at present opportune and most likely to secure those conditions. We are asked to approve the commitment of the country to obligations of which I feel certain the public at large have only the very shadowiest conception. I have given to General Act considerable study, although I had no intention of speaking upon it until a very short time ago. I have read it through many times and discussed it several times, and on a very large number of points it leaves me in a state of nebulous doubt. I really rise to urge that our adherence to this Act should not be signified until we have had far larger opportunities of studying it in detail and until Members have had an oppportunity of putting it before their constituents, of whom I will maintain that not one in 5,000 has the least idea of what the country is about to be committed to. The public was to some extent familiarised with the Optional Clause by the very assiduous propaganda that was carried on at meetings all over the country in advocacy of a very important step towards the peaceful settlement of justiciable disputes. Even so, I do not think a very large number of the public who were won over to its support had any idea of all the commitments and implications which our adherence to it implies.

6.0 p.m.

The General Act goes a great deal further. It invites us, when all the resources available that are provided by the Covenant of the League of Nations have been exhausted, in all and every circumstance to abandon the claim of the nation to take such steps as it may consider necessary for the maintenance of right and justice. I am not going to argue against the general principles of the General Act, but I maintain that it has not received sufficient consideration in all its implications to justify us in taking the lead among the great nations by adhering to it as a stimulant for other nations to follow our example. The General Act of 1928 provides for an appeal in international disputes, when the Council of the League of Nations has failed to effect a settlement, from a body of very great authority and practical experience to a board of five arbitrators, who may really be regarded as a board of three, because two out of the five will represent the parties interested, and may be regarded as special pleaders. It is open to these three, as they will have, as a general rule, to decide the issue by the application of legal rules, to take an entirely different view from that which has been taken by the Council, and to decide the issue on different principles from those which the Council has taken into consideration. Failing any such legal rule applying to the case, the Board has to decide ex aequo et bono, which means, I presume, that whatever may be accepted as right and just by a majority of the three arbitrators will stand, and their decision will no longer be advisory, as is a decision given by the Council, but will become obligatory.

In cases of this kind I always endeavour to try to find some concrete case to which to apply the principle and to see how it will work. It is possible that the case which occurs to me may be open to the answer that it is not applicable at all, but it seems to me that in looking for an example, I may take the case of Egypt and the Suez Canal. The Treaty of Alliance with Egypt, which has been several times drafted and redrafted, has never been signed. Therefore, there is nothing determined by former international Treaty Acts. It is conceivable, therefore, that the decision which is outlined in that Treaty, by which we were to be given a position enabling us to safeguard Imperial communications through the Canal, may be called into question by some other nation. If this is so, the ultimate decision may be referred to these arbitrators, possibly chosen haphazard—we will say three jurists from the Republics of Ultra-marina, Colorado Madeveo and Gargantuopolis—who will decide whether or not we have a right to safeguard our Imperial communications through the Suez Canal. I do not know whether that is intended by those who support the immediate adherence to the General Act. That is one of the points—and there are many others—which require very serious reflection before we rush in to be among the first of the great nations to signify our adherence.

I quite appreciate that the General Act cannot be dissociated from the idea of disarmament, inasmuch as it proposes to institute a new form of procedure which is to replace what has hitherto been, in the last resort, the final court of decision, and that is, the menace of arbitrament by force. I should like to see the consideration of our adherence to the General Act postponed until we have ascertained the results of the Disarmament Conference. I think that the two go together. When we have been satisfied by the result of the Dis- armament Conference, I shall be quite ready to adhere to some form, if not even to this form, as indicated in the General Act, but it appears to me that the Disarmament Conference and its decisions will really be the acid test of the sincerity of the nations who adhere to the General Act.

I will expand that for a moment. One of the reasons given in the Memorandum for our immediate adherence to the General Act is the idea that the more nations accustom themselves to the idea of arbitration and conciliation the brighter will be the prospects of securing an adequate measure of disarmament when the conference meets next year. The argument sounds plausible, but unfortunately, to my mind, the hope of securing that adequate measure of disarmament has already been largely discounted in advance by the adoption of the principle to which we appear to have adhered, that is only practicable to limit the forces of any nation actually serving in peace time. No regard is to be paid to second-line troops and reserves and the ultimate war strength of a country. As the greatest nations of the Continent, by reducing to a minimum the period of active service with the peace time army, and by various other methods of camouflaging military training, are passing practically the whole manhood of the nation through the education to arms, I am afraid that the figures which will be submitted and discussed at the Disarmament Conference will only have for their effect the reduction to relative military impotence of those countries which do not maintain obligatory military service by conscription. The Government will no doubt justify their plea for immediate adherence to the General Act by appealing to the reservations they have made. I admit that those reservations cover very considerable ground. I think it may often be argued that in view of those reservations we are committed to very little indeed, but if that be so, I see no reason for our precipitancy in adhering to an instrument which in that case would be meaningless, and, perhaps, not altogether very sincere.


The maiden speech of the hon. Member for East Islington (Mrs. Manning) ought not, I think, to pass by without a word of congratulation being expressed from these benches equally with the benches opposite. Those of us who know the record of the hon. Member know how for many years she has served in the cause of peace, and we are delighted, not only that her first words in this House should have been uttered in the cause of peace, but that she should have uttered them with the sincerity and ability which characterised her speech. I am sure that Members of all parties in this House will not merely congratulate her upon that speech, but will desire many occasions when she will have an opportunity of addressing us.

After the speeches which have already been delivered, and particularly the speech from the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), it is not necessary to make many comments upon the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) who moved the Amendment. What impressed me about the terms of the Amendment was that the language of peace should have been used to destroy an instrument for peace, and that the Conservative party whose Members are so frequently complaining in this House of the expenditure of this nation upon the instrument of the League of Nations, should be using the League of Nations to destroy an instrument of peace which the League of Nations itself has created. When the right hon. Gentleman suggests that the General Act and its adoption would lead to the creation of frivolous disputes, I would put this point to the right hon. Gentleman that it is infinitely better that we should have some means by which grievances, even if they are of a slight and imaginary character, shall find an expression, than that the expression of those grievances should be repressed, occasioning disputes and antagonisms. I believe that one of the values of the instrument which we are creating to-day is, that it will give an opportunity for nations with grievances which are rankling among their populations, to give expression, by the method of arbitration, to those grievances, rather than kindle by degrees the mental atmosphere which is likely to lead to war.

I would also like to express, on behalf of those who are on these benches, our very hearty congratulations to the Foreign Secretary upon the introduction of this Motion to-day, and upon the general service which he has rendered to peace. There may be disagreement on these benches regarding much of the domestic programme of the Government, but regarding its contribution to the cause of international peace there can be no disagreement at all. We are the first to express in the sincerest and heartiest way possible our appreciation of the action of the Government in introducing this Motion this afternoon. Of particular significance in this Motion is the fact that it not merely represents the desire of His Majesty's Government, but also represents the desire of the Dominions. If there has been any criticism of the proceedings of the Imperial Conference, the fact that that Imperial Conference should result in such a large measure of agreement upon the proposal which is now before us, is in itself a justification of the method in which the problems of that Conference were handled.

But while we express that view with all sincerity, it will be a mistake if this House imagines that the new instrument of peace which we are discussing this afternoon will meet the requirements which were voiced by the right hon. Member for Darwen when he said that it is essential we should build up a machinery of arbitration which will cover every dispute which is likely to arise. If any criticism is to be offered to the Motion which is now before the House, it lies rather in the direction of the reservations to the method of arbitration. I would remind the representatives of the Government that in this matter the Labour party in its annual conference has given a very clear lead. At its conference of 1928, it carried with unanimity and enthusiasm a resolution calling upon the Government to sign the General Act without any reservations which would weaken the obligation to settle all disputes by pacific means. If we carefully examine the reservations in the Memorandum we shall see that many immediate causes of war and many ultimate dangers of war are definitely excluded from the arbitration. Let us take, first, the Clause which lays down that: Disputes arising prior to the accession of His Majesty to the said General Act or relating to situations or facts prior to the said accession. shall be excluded from the scope of this arbitration. When we look at Europe, most of the dangers of war lie in situations or facts which already exist, and unless the method of arbitration applies to these situations and facts there is very grave danger that disputes will arise and the method of arbitration will not be applied. Our neighbour, France, when it ratified the General Act specifically excluded matters which arise from the Peace Treaties. If I interpret this Clause aright, in ratifying the signature to the General Act to-day we shall also exclude matters which arise from the Peace Treaties. There are many of us who believe that until the Peace Treaties are revised the poison of war will remain in the mind of Europe. It is true that the Assembly of the League of Nations has the power to consider such revision, but I attended the meeting of the Assembly of the League two years ago when the representatives of China appealed for some revision of the Peace Treaties, and the very meagre support which was given to the Chinese representation on that occasion shows how unlikely is the revision of the Peace Treaties within the necessary time to remove the rankling causes of dispute.

It may easily be the case that in so far as two of the principal matters are concerned the conditions of Europe may develop to the point where there may be danger of war arising out of circumstances or facts prior to the accession of this country to the General Act. There is, in the first place, the problem of reparation. Those who know the mentality of Germany, those who know the increasing impatience of Germany with the humiliations which were imposed upon Germany by the Peace Treaty, know that out of that situation at any moment there may arise in Europe, suddenly and without warning, the possibilities of dispute and conflict which might lead to war. If the General Act of Arbitration is not applied to a situation of that kind it will not apply to a situation which might easily be the cause of war in Europe. Again, there is the situation in the Balkans, which might easily at any time lead to war. Readjustments of territory in the Balkans is almost essential if there is to be a guarantee of peace there. Here, again, these reservations to the General Act would mean, because that is a situation or fact prior to the accession of this country, that the arbitration which is proposed under the General Act would not apply to that situation.

If we turn to the third reservation, and we take a rather longer view of this problem, the arbitration proposed under the General Act will not meet the grave danger of war. In the long run, I should say that the greatest danger of war in the world is the relationship of the coloured people and the white people, and unless we can find a method by which that relationship can be changed, by means of co-operation rather than by domination and revolt, there is very grave danger of a future war in the world. In this Clause the Government specifically withhold from arbitration under the General Act any dispute which arises out of the British Empire between the coloured peoples and the British people. I would suggest in the case of India, where there is a very sensitive feeling regarding her rights as an independent nation, that if India is to remain with the British Commonwealth of Nations she should have the right to appeal for arbitration under the kind of system that we are building up under this Act in the event of any dispute between India and the British Government, equally with the Governments of other nations.

There is also in relation to this Clause one aspect to which we shall have to give increasing consideration. The Dominions are independent members of the League of Nations. If they are independent members of the League of Nations there may easily grow up within the League of Nations itself a requirement that when this country enters into an obligation such as that of the General Act, that obligation shall apply to Great Britain in its relations to the Dominions as well as to Great Britain in its relations to foreign nations. If the Dominions and Great Britain are to be excluded from this process of arbitration, will the Government be prepared, when it goes to the Disarmament Conference, to regard the armaments of the British Government and the Dominions as one unit? If we are to be regarded as one unit for the purpose of arbitration we ought also to be regarded as one unit for the purpose of amendments.

When I turn to the next reservation, I find that it rules out those questions which by international law are solely within the domestic jurisdiction of States. I find on turning to the proceedings of the Imperial Conference that specific reference was made to one question which, again, may ultimately be the cause of dispute between the nations of the world. That question is immigration. We look to the future of the world and we see the movements of races and peoples following new economic factors in the world and we see the movements of different countries to exclude certain races and certain populations. We see in this question of immigration a grave danger of dispute between nations, and I would urge that the question of immigration ought definitely to be brought within the scope of any international system of arbitration, if that system of arbitration is going to be equal to the problems of the world.

The next reservation which, in many respects, may prove to be the most serious, provides that "disputes with any party to the General Act who is not a member of the League of Nations" do not come within the general scope of the General Act as signed by the British Government. That will exclude two great nations, Russia and America. In the case of America relations, happily, are infinitely better to-day than they were two years ago, but the economic rivalry which still continues between America and this country provides a position of affairs which, unless there is very great care used, great imagination and the application of remedies to bring about some kind of world economic co-operation, may easily lead to conflict in the future. It is enormously important that in any scheme of arbitration which is set up there should not be not merely the open door to America but an actual invitation to America to come with that system. That is all the more important because America is outside the scope of the League of Nations, and because the intervention of the Council of the League of Nations would be very ill-advised. In these circumstances there is need to provide an opportunity for arbitration between this country and America through the extra machinery which is set up by the General Act.

In the case of Russia, I believe the matter is of even greater importance. Many of us who have sat on these benches at Question Time have observed the attitude of right hon. and hon. Members opposite towards Russia, and we have felt that in that mentality there is all the mentality of war. Those who have read the speech which the Leader of the Opposition delivered at Newton Abbot the other day will appreciate all the more the danger to the peace of Europe and to the relationships of Britain and Russia if the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues should become responsible for the government of this country. There was a perfectly clear indication in that speech that if they became responsible for the government of this country they would encourage an economic boycott of Russia, and they would destroy the treaty which now exists between this country and Russia. For these reasons, it is very important that we should not close the door to Russia but that that door should be opened wide, and that an invitation should be given to Russia to come within that system.

It is very important to set up this machinery of arbitration so that when disputes occur the method of reason may be used for their settlement. Still more important is it to remove the causes of disputes in the world. When we face that problem we see the problem of creating a world political order, a world economic order, where there will be freedom for all peoples, where there will be fellowship between all peoples, and where the resources of the world will be used for the whole world; where we shall begin to develop co-operation and coordination. In congratulating the Government upon the introduction of this Motion, and whilst regretting the reservations, I would appeal to them to proceed still more earnestly to the still greater task of creating that international order where the disputes which now lead to war will be removed because a new system of society will have been constructed.


The hon. Member who has just spoken began his speech by congratulating the Government not only on the introduction of this particular Motion but generally upon the way in which they have pursued the cause of peace. In so far as many of those actions are concerned, I think we would all of us agree with him. Although he said that he was delighted the Government were introducing the Resolution of Accession to the General Act, in the remainder of his speech he proceeded, most devastatingly, to criticise a part of the General Act which the Government are asking the House to accept. We all realise that the particular point to which the hon. Member devoted most of his remarks, namely, the reservations, do rather amount to the crux of the whole position. The hon. Gentleman said quite truly that if you are going to reserve all questions which are in existence, or all facts or situations which are in existence, before the accession to this Act, then you are going to rule out the whole of the great range of questions arising out of the settlement of Versailles, and I think that all of us would agree that if there are dangers of war in Europe to-day or situations which may lead to war, those are the kinds of situations with which this particular Act is specifically prohibited from dealing.

It seems to me rather, shall I say, dishonest—if that is not using too strong a word—for the Government to come down to the House and ask this country to take this very grave step, when they know that the particular disputes which can be affected by that step are negligibly small in their character. The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) who made a very eloquent speech a few moments ago rather led me to think that he was in favour of submitting all disputes between nations to some final, definite and precise court of arbitration in the last resort. Surely with his very logical mind he must see and realise that this particular instrument, to which we are asked to accede to-day, leaves very little to arbitration at all. I very much wonder whether the people of this country know exactly what the House of Commons proposes to do this afternoon. The proceedings of the League of Nations, both at the Council and the Assembly, are not exactly the kind of things that get very great prominence in the popular Press. I do not think that I should be going too far if I said that there is not one man in 10,000 in this country to-day who really knows what the intentions of the Government are With regard to the acces- sion to this General Act. Nor do people know what the provisions of the Act are.

I saw in the "Times" this morning a leading article and some correspondence about this particular matter, but until it was given a certain amount of prominence I do not think that the people of the country as a whole had any idea that it was the intention of the Government at this particular time to propose this particular Motion, or indeed, had any idea as to what the General Act was, what it meant, or what was the situation with which it was intended to deal. Of course everyone admits on this side of the House that the most solemn duty of any Government at the present time is to attempt, above all else, to keep peace in Europe. I agree most whole-heartedly with what the right hon. Member for Darwen said just now, when he was talking about those very tense and tragic moments just before the outbreak of war, and when he recalled that many had thought that the War was fought in order to end war. I know that all of those who took part in that War do most strongly feel that a repetition of such a war in the world would be an unutterable calamity.

It is common ground in all parts of the House that for the sake of the future of humanity it is essential to pursue a course which leads to peace rather than to war. But where we differ from the Government of the day is that we believe that this particular policy will not tend to improve the prospects of peace. So much has been done in the cause of peace, so much really excellent and useful work since the War ended. We have had, first of all, the Covenant of the League itself; then the Locarno Treaties and the entry of Germany into the League of Nations; then the Pact of Paris. All of that has been aimed at keeping the peace of the world, and in all those steps taken by the Government of this country, the people of this country have acquiesced. But the two points with regard to which there has been a difference of opinion are the accession of this country to the Optional Clause, and now the accession of this country to this particular General Act.

One would have hoped that all these efforts for peace could have been carried with unanimity, and I think it is a very great pity that the Government should have brought forward this particular suggestion at this particular time, knowing, as they must know, that it was not likely to meet with the approval of Members on this side of the House. We have heard a good deal about the disputes which are excepted from the General Act, and, as I said earlier, it seems to me that the great majority of disputes are excepted. If the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is to reply, I hope that he will tell the House something of which I have not yet heard any explanation in the Debate. Can he give the House any instance of a dispute which would come within the purview of this General Act? What kind of dispute would come within its purview it is very difficult to imagine.

Would a question like the difficulty that arose in China a few years ago, when our Nationals were being subjected to great difficulty and danger in Shanghai, and when we and other nations thought it necessary to send troops to deal with that situation—would have come within the purview of the Act? In the future, supposing that China and this country had both accepted this General Act, does it mean that a situation of that kind would have been and must have been referred to the arbitrators appointed under this Act? Or would there be any other way of dealing with an international difficulty of that character? The only kind of dispute which would, as I foresee, clearly fall within this Act, would be the kind of thing that happened, for example, in the Russo-Japanese War, when Admiral Rod-jevensky, who was in command of the Russian fleet, fired upon a British trawling fleet in the North Sea and sank a large number of trawlers. That, of course, immediately raised a great cry of horror in this country, and for a few days or weeks it resulted in an international situation of some complexity and danger. If that sort of thing were to happen again, I take it that it is the kind of situation which is intended to be covered by this General Act, and arbitration, because it would be a situation which arose immediately and not out of any set of facts existing before, and it would not be a situation strictly of a legal character.

Some sudden action arising between nations, which gives rise to great feeling on both sides and may lead to war or difficulties and complications, is presumably the kind of thing that would have to be referred to this arbitration procedure. It seems to me that there are great difficulties in referring to the kind of tribunal here contemplated any question which really raises the multitude in the different countries that are concerned in the dispute. There are things today upon which great masses of people feel very strongly and have deep emotions. Yet it is supposed that things of that sort are to be dealt with by a tribunal in which, I think any fair-minded person would say, it is not very likely that the disputants could have very much confidence in dealing with a matter of that kind. It has been pointed out that the tribunal, under Article 28, has to decide the questions before it under legal rules. But what is to happen, as the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) pointed out very cogently in his speech, if either party to the arbitration considers the award to be thoroughly unjust and wrong? How are you going to deal with that case?

I agree entirely with those who have said, with great force, that the present procedure, under which disputes of this kind are dealt with by the council of the League of Nations, a body of statesmen of experience sitting continuously, is infinitely more likely to lead to peaceful settlements than the setting up of a rigid arbitration court which could not and would not command the confidence of the nations of the world on any issue of the kind contemplated. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen has pointed out that, since the War, many situations, of the kind which used to lead to war in the old days, have ceased to have effect. He has pointed out that some of the greatest military Empires of other times have now ceased to exist, and that democracies are far less likely to go to war than autocracies. On the whole, I think that we can all agree with that view, and that in so far as some of the great warlike personal rulers of Europe no longer exist, the chances are that wars promoted for personal ambition or for family causes, as many great wars in Europe originated in the past, are less likely to-day. It is also true that in modern warfare it is a question of great numbers of people, of whole nations, being engaged in war and definitely affected by war. Nevertheless, do not let us forget that, although, as a result of the Great War, many of the danger spots in Europe have ceased to have the effect which they formerly had, there are still matters which remain unsettled. Europe is still, unfortunately, an armed camp. We all hope sincerely that the coming Disarmament Conference will be a success, but I cannot see that the method proposed under the General Act is going to be what the Government hope, and I cannot see how the substitution of rigidity in dealing with international disputes, for the flexibility which exists today, can possibly do anything but harm. It will lead to a far worse position than that which we are in at this moment.

There is one other point on which I would like to question the Under-Secretary. I think, for the sake of the country generally, he ought to make clear what is to be the procedure as regards accession to the General Act. I believe the position to be that the Government can adhere to it of their own volition, simply by saying that this country accepts it, but that they are bringing it before the House of Commons as a kind of extra safeguard. Before they ratify it or accede to it, they wish to know that they have, at any rate, a majority of the House of Commons behind them. Thus there is no question of accession to this Act being dependant in any way on the vote which will be given to-night, and I suppose there is no question of any Resolution being necessary in the other House.


May I answer that question at once? There is no question of any procedure being taken in the other House.


And, I believe, there was really no necessity to take it in this House?


No necessity beyond the undertaking which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave at the beginning of this Parliament, that he would always lay before the House of Commons any matters of this sort in the field of foreign policy, so as to get the support of this House in any action which he might take.


That is the position which I understood to exist. At any rate there is no doubt now that the vote which will be taken this evening on this proposition will not give the Government the unanimous opinion of this country, because, definitely, there is going to be a considerable section of this House against them. That section, though they want to pursue peace just as much as do the Government, believe most earnestly that the step now proposed will lead to difficulties and dangers rather than to the advancement of that real peace which all men of good will and all persons of real patriotic intention believe to be the best thing for this country and the world.


One wonders what some hon. Members opposite would have said had the Government agreed to commit this country to the instrument under discussion without having first brought it before the House of Commons. This General Act has to-night been subjected to two groups of criticism, one being that it commits this country to nothing in particular, and the other that it commits this country indefinitely to a very great deal. Four points have emerged from this discussion, which should tend to reassure some, at least, of those who have not followed all the juridical niceties. First, this Act has the approval of the Assembly of the League of Nations and is an instrument of the League. Second, reservations which this country has made to it are certainly sweeping enough. Third, it is not retroactive, and fourth, its period of validity is for about three years only, which means that its effect could then be remedied in either direction. That is to say, it could conceivably be enlarged or restricted in any of the various details which formed so large a part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain).

It is possible that there may have been some legalistic validity in some of the right hon. Gentleman's points. It is of course a convention of this House that one side is entirely wrong and the other side entirely right. I do not subscribe to that convention. I think we can admit some validity on points of detail in a statement such as the right hon. Gentleman's, but nevertheless, judge that, on balance, certain other considerations entirely outweigh those considerations of detail. It seems to me, it is to those outweighing considerations to which we should attach importance to-night. Supposing that this General Act is not subscribed to by this country, that this country does not give a lead to its adoption. Nevertheless, it is certain that treaties of arbitration will become necessary as a result of the general subscription to the Pact of Paris. That will result in a series of bilateral treaties which, if they cover the world, will run into thousands of separate treaties. Those thousands of treaties will differ in their terms, creating confusion and complication, far greater than any which could be created by a single Act of this kind. The practical advantages, the mechanical advantages, of having some General Act like this, instead of a series of bilateral treaties is surely an overpowering consideration.

There is another more vital consideration. In subscribing to a General Act of the League of Nations, one is recognising an international order, and contributing to its organisation; but, if you proceed on the lines of having a series of bilateral treaties, you are, in a sense, perpetuating that anarchy to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) alluded. The advantage, in principle, of the approach which the Government have made to this matter is that, by subscription to a General Act, you add one stone more to the temple of an organised mankind. You recognise collectivity and international order, whereas, in die other case, in proceeding by a series of partial treaties, you do not necessarily recognise international order. It is precisely this effect of adding to the prestige and power of international order that is important from the point of view of this country.

It is not enough merely to say that we do not intend to go to war. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham asked why any Act of this kind followed logically from the signature of the Pact of Paris. He pointed out that the United States obviously did not regard the signature of an instrument of this kind as having been logically implied in the Pact of Paris. He went on to point out that the United States was not a member of the League and he rather dogmatically prophesied that the United, States would not become a member of the League—in which case it was not a very good exemplar to cite of a tendency to international organisation. I am not so dogmatic as the right hon. Gentleman, but, having passed 10 years of my life in the United States, I am not at all sure that it is by any means certain that the United States will not increasingly engage in international cooperation which will ultimately result in virtual membership of the League of Nations. The United States is not a single entity of thought, of tendencies, of impulses. There are powerful forces in favour of increased co-operation with the international organisations and with the League.

7.0 p.m.

It is important to follow the signature of the Pact of Paris by an instrument of this kind, because the mere undertaking not to go to war, enormously important as it is, does not carry us very far. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham said that it would be preferable, or implied that it would be preferable, to trust to the moral force, the good faith of men. The fact is that wars do not arise because of bad faith. Wars are not entered into by men or nations who believe themselves to be wrong. Wars are not the result of a conflict between two nations, one of whom believes itself to be wrong; wars are the result of a conflict between two nations, both of whom believe themselves to be entirely right. We know that the implied reservation of the Pact of Paris is that national armaments remain for purposes of defence. Those armaments really remain as a means of enabling the nation to be its own judge of what shall constitute legitimate defence. Defence is not merely the defence of national territory. The United States itself, more isolated perhaps from the older civilisation than the rest, believing in its isolation, believing that it can be largely apart from the world, has in its short history been involved in several foreign wars and been dragged into these international disputes and would certainly claim, and probably rightly, that those wars were defensive. Yet they involved conflicts all over the world.

The principle that we have to drive home in the international field is the principle of third party judgment, to which we must be committed beforehand. This pre-commitment is indispensable if the Pact of Paris is to fulfil its promise. It is no good saying, when we come to the particular point at issue, that we will judge what is fair and we will keep our hands free. If that is implied in the policy pursued in a country like this, it will condemn the Disarmament Conference of a year hence to failure beforehand, because, only to the extent to which we are committed beforehand, before the dispute arises, to the principle of third party judgment, can other nations feel that they have some assurance, other than their own strength, of a means of protecting their rights. If other nations feel that there is not this pre-commitment, they will say, "Well, after all, we have nothing but our own strength to depend upon for the protection of our rights, and what we believe to be really a sound principle of defence." They will say that, their rivals will say the same, and the Disarmament Conference will fail.

The principle of commitment to third party judgment is an integral part of the success of any Disarmament Conference, indeed any dependable international organisation. And the building up of an international organisation surely has for us an importance that it has for no other State whatsoever, because we, more than any other nation, live by an international economy. The danger for us is the growth of an economic nationalism, which is itself the child of political nationalism. Only to the degree to which we are able to strengthen the principle of international institutions and international authority will it be possible for us to be sure that the processes by which our people are fed will go on with any sort of security. There are a great many people in this House and in this country who feel sure that our shield in our foreign trade, our security at sea, is our navy and our naval armaments. Surely we have had a demonstration that naval power is not enough to render secure our economic life.

Take a single case. Our trade is the victim of a maldistribution of gold. If that problem is to be solved, it will be solved internationally. It will be solved by carrying the principles of international agreement far beyond mere matters of banking practice. It will have to extend into matters of economics, as well as finance, if we are to have a better distribution of gold. You are not going to solve that problem by any sort of naval or military power. Your naval power might be anything you please but you would still be helpless to give your trade and commerce and industry the protection which is necessary. The protection there can only come by the habit of international co-operation, the principle of international authority, the principle of proceeding not first with A and then with B and then with C and then with D, but with A, B, C and D organised into an international community. That is the principle which differentiates this Pact from other methods of approaching the problem of international arbitration. It is that consideration which outweighs any juridical point that has been raised in the earlier part of the discussion.

I was rather struck by the fact that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham saw in that document the cloven hoof of Latin logic. He implied that it was not our method to proceed by logic, that we have built up our constitutional structure bit by bit, haphazard, by rule of thumb. That is very true and we have made a success of it in some measure, but, unfortunately, we are not dealing with a British world. We are dealing with an international world, and we have to face the Latin mind and some of the difficulties of the Latin mind. They do not take the view that dislike of logic, dislike of system, dislike of knowing where you are, dislike of knowing just how you propose to proceed beforehand, is an evidence of wisdom; we do. I was rather struck by a remark made to me once by a foreigner in Geneva, who had been listening on one occasion to this rather British declamation of ours on behalf of the plain man and his dislike of logic. He said to me, "Really I think you British regard your stupidity as a gift of God. It may be, but it is a gift that should not be abused." We cannot ask mankind to accept our habit of rule of thumb, of muddling through. We are dealing with a world which is not entirely British, and we have to take into account some of their misgivings. We cannot ask them always to wait and see, and to rest assured that we will deal fairly when the time comes; will, in fact, be judge of our own cause. We must firmly establish the principle of third-party judgment through the medium of international authority. Things cannot go on haphazard, as they are. We cannot expect international institutions to grow like a tree, as our Constitution has grow. These institutions must be made by conscious building. They are the product, not of nature, but of civilisation, and this is just one more step, one more contribution which we have to make to the institutions of civilisation.


The speech to which we have just listened is a complete answer to the suggestion that there is an overplus of the gift of stupidity in the British mind. There is probably no Member in the House who has given greater or more sincere study to the great international questions with which we are dealing to-night. With regard to the point as to the Anglo-Saxon mind and the Latin mind, there was a sentence by a Latin speaker at Paris last week, referring to this very subject, which admirably sums the position up. M. Briand said that the Pact of Paris was incomplete. While it suppressed the battlefield, it did not set up the judge. That, after all, is the main question with which we are dealing to-night, the setting up of the judge.

I do not share the view that those who criticise and strongly criticise the proposals before the House of Commons to-night are in the least degree influenced by motives which are not as worthy as the motives of those who support them. There is a fairly large and general feeling of dubiety with regard to some of the provisions. It is a service to the country that the Foreign Secretary has made a practice—in this case nothing could be more useful—of submitting all these proposals, although they are well within the ambit of the powers of the Executive, to free Debate on the Floor of the House. Many misconceptions will thus be swept away. Although he has had many compliments, still, as a very old friend of his, he will permit me to add my appreciation of the wonderful work which he has accomplished with his colleagues not only last week but ever since he took the high office which he at present holds. I go a little further and say this: One of the great contributions which this Government has made during its two years of office has been to the betterment of international affairs.

There is a good deal of doubt about some provisions here in this proposal. I thought a most complete answer was given to most of those points by the very remarkable speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). There was, however, one slight mistake that my right hon. Friend made, which I may perhaps be allowed to correct. He spoke, in a very moving passage, of the four members of the Cabinet who made the decision to enter the Great War. There were five. My right hon. Friend had forgotten our right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill).

The point which impresses me very strongly, with regard to the General Act which is before us, is that it is the result of a long process of most careful consideration by the bodies best able to judge, and I find, on looking at the Resolutions adopted on 26th September by the General Assembly in 1928, that naturally they were most careful to preserve all the powers of the League itself. In that very eloquent style in which they frame all their instruments, in, r will not say ponderous, but pleasing sequence, after being firmly convinced of one point, considering another, noting another, and recognising something else, they take note of the fact, in paragraph 5, of the great number of particular international conventions which provide for obligatory conciliation, arbitration, and judicial settlement. They were impressed by the number of these individual settlements, and they proceeded thereafter to declare that the undertakings which they desired to see developed are not to he interpreted as restricting the duty of the League of Nations to take at any time whatever action may be deemed wise and effectual to safeguard the peace of the world, nor as impeding its intervention in virtue of Articles 15 and 17 of the Covenant, where a dispute cannot be submitted to arbitral or judicial procedure, or cannot he settled by such procedure, or where the conciliation proceedings have failed. They have taken the most meticulous care to safeguard the operation of the Council of the League of Nations itself, and, if hon. Members take the trouble to look at those Articles, they will see that the second sentence, which is the relevant sentence, in Article 15 says: Any party to the dispute may effect such submission"— that is, to the Council of the League— by giving notice of the existence of the dispute to the Secretary-General, who will make all necessary arrangements for a full investigation and consideration thereof. The point which I wish to make perfectly clear is that these bodies, which are thoroughly competent to judge, have specially safeguarded the operation of the Council of the League of Nations. Therefore, I do not think there was any need at all, although there is ample case for inquiry, for the overwhelming anxiety of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) in the speech which he delivered. The case which he put was very useful. I agree that it is useful to put the case as strongly as he did, to see the utmost limits of opposition which can be offered to this Act, although it is an opposition offered with the same objective that we have. I agree with what he said, when he opened his speech, that he desired to reach the same objective as we did, but still, anybody listening to that speech would have imagined that the Council of the League of Nations was going to be completely bereft of the main part of its functions, when in truth and in fact the whole objective of this General Act is to fill up the gaps, to leave the Council to discharge its main functions and in that way to develop them.

This General Act has its faults. What Act of Parliament or what act conceived by any human beings is not full of imperfections? It is only by trying and experimenting that you find out what they are, and of course this Act is as capable of remedy and improvement as is any other executive act of the League of Nations or of this Parliament. There the proposal stands—unequal, I do not say inequitable, full of difficulties, but which, with the right will behind it, can be made a vast and beneficent instrument for the betterment of mankind. The spirit in which these things is considered is all-important, and I am positive that if this Amendment were carried, which really means the rejection of the General Act by the House of Commons, representing the people of this country, it would create dismay throughout the civilised world. Critical we may be, but the issue is a very grave one, and I believe, myself, that after giving full consideration to the whole of this question in all its bearings, this House will never have come to a more useful and more beneficent decision than if, as I hope it does, it says "Aye" to the request of the Government.


The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean), who has just spoken, has based most of his arguments in support of the General Act on the assumption that it would not damage the power and authority of the Council of the League, and both he and his right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) were at some pains to prove that point. The right hon. Member for Darwen, in fact, laid down three broad propositions. The first was that the General Act meant the enthronement of arbitration; the second was that the Council of the League was not an apt body to act as arbitrator, because it had to decide unanimously; and his third was that broad lines of policy should not be left to lawyers. Of those three, I agree with the last, but I should like to point out to him—and I think f shall win him on this point—that the very danger which he wishes to avoid he is running into headlong by setting up a legal body as a court of appeal from the decisions of the Council.

I want to say a word about the attack which he made on my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). He mocked at him for using platitudes and generalities, and he told him he had indulged in refinements and technicalities. I wonder if, when he uttered those phrases, he recalled what my right hon. Friend had done. I wonder if he remembered the state of Europe when my right hon. Friend took office, how he found a Europe in a state of chaos, and how, when he left office in 1929, you could look out on a world in which peace was re-established. I do not think that all his work was entirely confined to platitudes and generalities, and I do not think that refinements and technicalities would have done what my right hon. Friend did.

To come to the General Act, let us take the comparative value of this Act and the Council of the League. Which will keep the peace of the world best? Under Chapter 1 of the General Act you have the conciliation procedure. Conciliation commissions are set up, either general or special, but, whatever they are, I do not see how they possess any advantage over the Council. They are untried, they have no experience, they have no corporate responsibility, and their names are unknown to the public. Secondly, they have no organisation, and above all, they have no secretariat. No one who has followed the work of the League of Nations can fail to appreciate the enormous part in that labour that is played by the secretariat. It organises a case, it makes sure that all relevant facts are properly before the Council, and it must be a very great drawback to any body which seeks to arbitrate difficult questions if it possesses no secretariat and no organisation.

My next point is one with which I think the Foreign Secretary will agree. The Conciliation Commissions have no popular Assembly to criticise them, and the Council have, and that is a very valuable factor which the Council possess but which is not possessed by the Commissions. The work of those Commissions is not deciding facts or settling points of law; it is a balancing of interests, not the determination of rights. Who is best calculated to balance comparative interests in international disputes—the Council, which has handled these disputes for a long time past and possesses all the advantages which I have enumerated, or a Commission? Take the Treaty of Versailles. Two sorts of questions arise under that Treaty. First of all, What does a clause or a word in the Treaty mean? That is a legal question that can quite rightly go to a legal tribunal, and would go now to the International Court. But the questions that we are dealing with in this General Act are of a different kind.

Take one that may come up for modification in the lifetime of some of us sitting here—the Eastern frontiers of Germany. Which would be the best body to decide a complicated question of that sort? There you are not talking about rights but about modifications, and you have to change existing rights, for the good of the world and the advancement of humanity. Which is the best body? Can any hon. Member sitting here think that five gentlemen, unknown, who may in the last resort be chosen by lot—or three of them may be—are the proper body to settle an immensely difficult question of this sort, and yet a question that must be settled if the world is to be kept on the rails of peace? So much for conciliation.

When I come to arbitration I submit that the case is much stronger. Conciliation is not compulsory and, therefore, need not be accepted by the parties. Arbitration is. It is governed chiefly by Article 28, which has already been read to the House. Let me point out its bearings. First, the Arbitral Tribunal shall apply certain rules of law which are defined in Article 38 of the Statutes of the Permanent Court of International Justice, and in so far as there exists no rule applicable to the dispute the tribunal are to decide it ex aequo et bono. You apply legal rules to a non-legal dispute. All the rules in Article 38 are rules if international law—the interpretation of a convention, the establishment of international custom, general principles of law, and judicial decisions, all dealing with questions relating to law. Where you want to supersede law you have to settle whether legal rules apply or not. A State which knows that its legal position is strong will keep the discussion as long as it can on legalities and endeavour to get a decision on the legal bearing of the case and so strengthen its position against a modification of rights. You put that State in a, very strong position.

Take the case of Poland and Germany. Before an arbitrator Germany would say that the eastern frontier should be rectified, and it is quite certain that Poland would try and keep the court on legalities, and, having got a decision that the legal rights were quite plain and in favour of Poland, it would be very difficult for Germany to obtain a modification even though it was in the general interests of Europe that that modification should be made. Speaking generally, Article 38 helps States to maintain the status quo. Now we come to the last sentence: In so far as there exists no such rule applicable to the dispute the tribunal shall decide ex aequo et bono." This was interpreted in the discussion at Geneva by M. Politis, the Greek delegate, to mean the action of a friendly mediator. Now you are introducing this dilemma. You have to keep the sanctity of bargains, you cannot have each tribunal in turn deciding legal rules without getting chaos in international law. You must keep the sanctity of bargains and treaties, and yet at the same time you must allow for those changes which the world needs. How can you say that a scratch tribunal, picked up I do not know where, is to change the principles of international law upon which the peace of the world depends? You should not do it, and it is entirely wrong; but you may be compelled to say that, although international right is on one side of the question, still we have to modify that right because the progress of civilisation is being blocked. Who ought to do that? Does the right hon. Member for Darwen really think that immense questions of this sort, pregnant with enormous difficulties and upon which a decision will have far-reaching consequences, are better left to a tribunal of this kind or to a well-established body like the Council of the League. You must allow for change and yet you cannot throw the whole of international law into the melting pot.

I should not attempt to prove anything to the Attorney-General, and I could not inform him of anything, but he knows that there is a legal rule which does apply in every case, and that what that last sentence means is not that no law exists, but that what you want to establish is a different principle which is not an authorised legal principle. I agree you have to do it, but you cannot do it except under the gravest consideration and by a very experienced and responsible body. We may have to modify a treaty; we may want to restrain an act which, though lawful, is oppressive. We may want to change many of the frontiers laid down in the Treaty of Versailles, but if we do for goodness sake let the work be done by a tribunal that has done the work before, and, on the whole, with enormous success.

This is an inherent difficulty in all attempts to arbitrate political disputes. Political disputes should go to a political body, and the right hon. Member for Darwen is setting up the theory that lawyers by applying the law can act as a court of appeal from Governments. This is impossible except in very limited cases. Under the last reservation in the White Paper the council need only have 12 months to consider a case of this sort. Twelve months is a long time in some of our lives, but it is a short time in the life of the world and in international disputes, and after 12 months has gone by any single member of the council can compel the dispute being taken away from the council and given to the Arbitral Tribunal. There must be an appeal of some sort. Does the right hon. Member for Darwen want an appeal from the council of the League to this body? You do not want an appeal on law, you want an appeal to change legal rights; and yet you are appealing to the law again. You come to the council of the League first, and then you go to your lawyers and expect them to produce the result you want. Leave legal disputes to a legal tribunal; when you want to change the law or alter the legal right of some nation, do not come to the lawyers to do it.


What about the council?


It seems to me that in this matter the right hon. Gentleman is proceeding on three assumptions underlying the General Act, and they are all wrong. The first is that all disputes can be settled. I do not think they can. The second is that all disputes ought to be settled at once; you should get a settlement while you wait. Time very often heals, and a settlement is much easier obtained after one or three years have gone by. It must not be forgotten also that when the right hon. Gentleman says that you must have a settlement at once he is living in the pre-War world. The alternative now is no longer war. When the alternative was war then perhaps you had to rush your settlement through, otherwise the armies crossed the frontiers. Now, if words mean anything, war is ruled out, and, therefore, the alternative is no longer war. There is time in the affairs of nations when you should do these things, but nothing is so dangerous as trying to do the right thing too soon. It has caused more trouble than anything in the world.

One of our well-known journals was trying to rectify the frontiers between Hungary and Rumania. There may be a case for rectification, but anybody who supports the theory that the Treaty of Versailles is to be broken in Eastern Europe is only asking for trouble. The third underlying assumption is, that the General Act v i 11 give security and therefore disarmament. I wonder! I say that it is no question for the lawyer or the draftsman. We have had the lawyers at work. We have had the Protocol of Geneva and the Treaty of Mutual Assistance, and there is not one which is now accepted by public opinion because the draftsmen of those documents were set to do an impossible task. I had something to do with one of them, and I know that it was an impossible task. It cannot be done by drafting. It can be done by reference to a body with the powers of the Council of the League. When the right hon. Member for Darwen challenges me on the powers of the Council, I say quite deliberately that in the present state of the world I want their advice. I want to rely on their advice, more than I rely on compulsion. I would not go as far as absolute compulsion yet. The draftsmen of the Covenant of the League of Nations expressly excluded final compulsion. That left the very real danger that war was an alternative, but now that war is ruled out, you do not want the final body to be a compelling body, but to be a body which will give very powerful advice which no country can lightly disregard, and which in the past has not been disregarded even in very difficult questions where the particular interests of the countries concerned were gravely at stake.

All these ad hoc committees are relics of pre-war conditions. Now that we have the Pact of Paris, we should not overlay it. It says in one Article what this document says in 47 that, for the future, the countries that sign it shall not settle their disputes except by pacific means, and when the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Bradford (Sir N. Angell) complained that we ought to give way to the other body of opinion, what he called the Latin mind, and that as we are part of an international organisation, we must yield to the Continental point of view, I join issue with him. I believe that we have the right end of the stick in this case, and that the best plan is to leave the general principle absolutely as firm as a rock, but to leave the particular application as fluid as possible. Thereby, we can secure the peace of the world, but, if you pass your General Acts, they may be nugatory, or they may be mischievous, but you will not have taken a single step towards peace or disarmament.


I feel compelled to defend the Motion of the Foreign Secretary on the grounds which he advanced. If I had the time, I should like to defend it against all comers, but I have not heard one argument from any quarter of the House against the General Act which seems to me to have any validity at all. An hon. Member who spoke from the Conservative benches said that it was dangerous to arbitrate disputes in which national passions might be aroused. Those, above all, are the disputes on which it is important to arbitrate, in order that the nation may not be impelled by national passion to refuse any concession to the other side, but in order that the factor of national honour may be impelled to accept its legal duty. If my hon. Friend the Member for East Leyton (Mr. Brockway) gave more study to the reservations which we have made, he would agree that they do not, in fact, depart from the pledges which the Labour party gave, and that they do not weaken our obligation to submit disputes to international arbitration. They cannot be held to exclude matters which arise out of the Peace Treaties. As for the revision of the Treaty, I will come to that later in connection with the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain).


Do I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that our reservations do not exclude the Peace Treaties in case we were engaged in arbitration under this General Act?


In my view, that is the case. I am speaking only for myself, but I should have thought that that was beyond question.


The first reservation covers that.


But only if new facts arise concerning the application of the Peace Treaties. I should have thought that was beyond question. With regard to what the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) said about settlement too soon and too often, I should have thought that there was a far greater danger in not having settlement at all. The danger of deadlock is likely to prove in future far more serious than that, and, while there may be a certain danger in trying to do the right thing too soon, there is much greater danger in not trying to do the right thing at all. I want to deal principally with what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. It seems to us on these benches that he made plainer than he has ever done before that he objects to the principle, the practice, and even the conception of international arbitration in almost all its forms. He made a great variety of criticism which goes to the very root of the matter. He said, as other hon. Members opposite have said, that arbitral tribunals are chosen from who knows where, that they are scratch bodies which cannot have any authority, that they are composed of person of second-rate ability, and so on. We have had very many arbitrations in the past, and there have been hundreds of tribunals of this kind. They have not been second-rate bodies, but bodies of great authority. Since the War we have had arbitral tribunals of this kind, and they have been composed for the most part of members of the Permanent Court of International Justice, including the President of that Court.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke of what he called the Valdemaras Clause, and he argued that since Mr. Valdemaras knows that he has an appeal to arbitration, he will, when he is appearing before the Council, be encouraged to be intransigent and will refuse to give way and accept the decision which the Council may make. That appeared to me to be false on two grounds. What is the function of the Council? It is not to make a decision. Look at the terms of the Covenant. Their function is to effect a settlement by agreement, and, if the Council are unable to secure a settlement, they make a unanimous report, which is a recommendation and not a de- cision in any true meaning of the word. The party which objects to that recommendation is not obliged to accept it as a decision. On the contrary, he is perfectly free to refuse it. Therefore, if there is any right of appeal, it works in exactly the opposite way from what the right hon. Gentleman says, because the party which refuses the recommendation is free to sit still and do nothing, and, if there is no arbitration, the other party has no right to do anything at all. Under this system, however, if any party should refuse such a recommendation, the other party will have a right to go to arbitration, having been refused justice before the Council; or rather, having been unable to get the justice which the Council desired to give it, it can go to the arbitral tribunal.

Everybody knows that these tribunals, consisting of men of ability and sense, will in 99 cases out of 100, confirm the decision which the Council has made. In the practical example which was given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham—the case of Mr. Valdemaras—he got his argument wrong. It is an interesting fact that, in spite of the nine years which have been spent by the Council in trying to persuade Mr. Valdemaras to come to reason, they have not yet succeeded, but, if there had been an appeal to arbitration, who knows that they might not long ago have succeeded? Mr. Valdemaras might have remembered the fact that the law is very doubtful and probably against him. Therefore, on that argument, the right hon. Gentleman made no case against this proposal.

The right hon. Gentleman asked what the Foreign Secretary was to leave the Council to do. He said that they were taking away the most important functions, and asked what would be its position and authority in the world. I would reply without hesitation that the less the Council has to do with international disputes the better for the Council and the League. The Council is a political body; they ought not to deal with disputes if they can be dealt with by another means. It may be that, if there be a threat to the peace of the world and a danger of international disorder, it will fall to the Council to maintain the peace and to maintain international law, and it has full powers under the Covenant to do so. But surely it is better, if these matters can be removed from the political arena to the arena of an impartial judicial tribunal that they should be so removed.

He also criticised the General Act on the ground that it substitutes a new procedure for the procedure of the Council. It has already been shown that it substitutes nothing in the sense that it takes away no powers which the Council now possess. It does something which may be of value. In fact, it does two things—it lays down a preliminary procedure of international conciliation, and in the last resort a procedure of compulsory arbitration when the Council have failed to effect a settlement which it has tried to make. As to the conciliation of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke, I do not think that it is very important, and I would gladly abandon it altogether. In fact, it was put in with the assistance of the late Conservative Government, who used to go to Geneva and say year after year with monotonous reiteration, "Why do you not apply to the rest of the world the provisions of Locarno?" These clauses about conciliation are lifted bodily from the Treaty of Locarno and put in the General Act.

With regard to the second part, obligatory arbitration in "non-justiciable" disputes, we come to something very much more serious and to something of great value which is added by the General Act to the system which the Covenant sets up. That has been attacked on various grounds. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment told us that the international lawyers are against it. I have seen the writings of which he spoke. They are mostly written by my own learned friends, but I say with great respect to them that international lawyers are not quite unanimous in being against the General Act. What a tragic thing it would be, if after 40 years and all the efforts by international lawyers and statesmen to secure compulsory arbitration, we are to be told by international lawyers of to-day that it was disastrous to international peace. In fact, the General Act was drawn up by international lawyers of great eminence who were perhaps more versed in practical international affairs even than those who criticise it to-day.

A great deal of the writing which has been done on this subject, and practically the whole of the arguments which have been put forward by the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment, are based upon a confusion of thought. It is assumed that the word "dispute" covers two things of a slightly different nature, that it applies to claims made by states which can be called litigation proper, that is, for obligations and rights on the basis of existing law, or claims for a settlement ex aequo et bono on the basis of existing fact; and that in the second place, it also applies to claims for modification of rights for a change of treaties, for legislation and for a variation of the law. Of course, it is possible to say that international disputes will arise in connection with all these things, but it is not possible to use the same word for these two very different phenomena. The second is wholly irrelevant to arbitration, and above all to this General Act. This confusion of thought has led to two attacks against the system of arbitration for non-judicial disputes which are of a contradictory kind. Both have been made this afternoon.

The first is that the arbitral tribunal to be set up under Chapter III must act on the basis of existing law, and that therefore they must maintain the status quo and cannot change frontiers; they must increase the rigidity of international law—that was the word of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon—and that therefore they will dam up the forces of change and will be disastrous to the cause of peace. The opposite argument has been used this afternoon, that under this power of compulsory arbitration these tribunals will alter the status quo and will vary legal rights, and that that too will be very dangerous.

8.0 p.m.

I ask hon. Gentlemen who have used this argument to consider two points. In the first place, surely a State which is asking for a variation of its legal rights, which wants a treaty reviewed, which wants a modification of the legal situation as it exists, will not go to a judicial or a quasi-judicial tribunal to get it. It is a contradiction in terms to think that it will. It would be absurd if it did. In the second place, I want them to observe that even if a State did de- cide to go to such a tribunal it would, under the treaties in force, have to go not to one of these ad hoc tribunals in Chapter III but, instead, to the Permanent Court of International Justice, under the terms of the Optional Clause; because such disputes, being related to the existing law, to existing treaties which are perfectly clear and undisputed in their reading, must be justiciable, and therefore would have to be dealt with by the Permanent Court. Therefore, I conclude from these observations, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will perhaps by now agree with me, that their contention is wholly irrelevant to our present discussion, and that if this power of compulsory arbitration does anything to stereotype the status quo that has already been done by the Optional Clause, so that the General Act will make no difference whatever in that respect.

The right hon. Member for West Birmingham put forward, as I have said, this attack against the procedure of compulsory arbitration—that the arbitral tribunals will change the existing law. I wish to submit that that is a complete fallacy, and that it vitiates practically the whole of the arguments which he used. I say that such an arbitral tribunal cannot do any such thing. These disputes are justiciable, must be decided on the basis of the existing law and will go to the Permanent Court; and nobody would suggest that there would be an appeal from the Permanent Court to one of these ad hoc tribunals, a thing which is inconceivable. In the second place, the proposition stands declared in round terms by the authors of the General Act themselves. In the preamble to the Resolution by which, in the Assembly of 1928, they accepted the General Act, they said that they noted that respect for rights established by treaty or resulting from international law is obligatory upon international tribunals and they recognise that the rights of the several States cannot be modified except with their consent. Surely that proves to demonstrate that nobody ever dreamt that ad hoc arbitral tribunals would vary the existing state of the law. It would be perfectly disastrous if an arbitral tribunal set about tearing up the existing rules of international law. Where should we end? In a state of absolute disaster.

Let me turn to the contradictory argument which has also been used from the other side, and which was at least hinted at, if not developed at any great length, by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, namely, that we stereotype the status quo and that that is a very dangerous thing. It may be a dangerous thing to stereotype the status quo too rigidly, but I do not agree that that is a conclusive argument against the existing system of compulsory arbitration. What is the primary function of any system of judicial tribunal? It is not to secure a change or a modification of existing law, but to secure the execution of the existing law and the observance of existing rights. It was precisely that that was most needed by the system of international law when the League of Nations was established. What caused the injustice before the War was not that there was not the possibility of legal change but that there was not security for existing legal rights. They were subject to attack by war, they were not applied by tribunals which assured the holders of those rights that justice would be done, though the primary and incomparably the most important function of any legal system is to secure the application of rights, and to that end obligatory jurisdiction and compulsory arbitration is designed.

Side by side with compulsory arbitration there does exist the means of legislating for a change of law. There is Article 11 and there is Article 19, the system of making general conventions—rudimentary, if you like, but very real. I would say to the hon. Member for Leyton East, if he were here, that the Chinese never asked for and were refused a revision of treaties. On the contrary, they asked for an interpretation of Article 19, they received it and they were highly satisfied with the result which they obtained. In the third place, I would say that it is far more likely that that legislative instrument of Article 19 and the other articles will work satisfactorily if we have a system of compulsory arbitration by which existing rights can be secured, and if we can get rid of the fear that by force or the refusal to accept justice existing rights will not be observed States will be readier to accept modifications of those rights to which otherwise they would not agree.

Finally on that I would say that every defect of the existing system of legislative change in international law only strengthens the case for developing by all the means in our power the procedure of compulsory arbitration which we have.

That brings me to the last and one of the most important criticisms which the right hon. Member for West Birmingham put forward, and that is that there is going to be no function for those arbitral tribunals to perform; that, in fact, there is not such a thing as a non-justiciable dispute—that the dispute will either go to the Permanent Court or else it will be dealt with by the Council, because it must be either a, claim for the application of law, that is, justiciable, or a claim for the modification of law, and therefore legislative, and not to be undertaken by an arbitral tribunal. In answer to the question of the right hon. Gentleman, "What sort of cases will be dealt with by this arbitral tribunal?" I would say that there may be three classes. In the first place, there are cases in what has been called the "twilight zone" between justiciable and political disputes, a zone where there is no existing clear law, but where it is desired that the matter shall be dealt with by a quasi-judicial process on the basis of the existing facts. As an example I will mention the Mosul dispute between ourselves and Turkey, where there was no law to say where the frontier should be, and yet where it was very desirable that the frontier should be fixed by an arbitral decision, and not by the political intriguing of the Council. Another case of the same kind was the dispute between Bolivia and Paraguay, in which there was actually a danger of war—war began—because of no frontier existing. Again, there is a clear case of dispute within that "twilight zone."

I would say, therefore, that we cannot at this stage of development of international law say that these ad hoc tribunals will not have very useful functions to perform in two other ways, and firstly, by developing international law on the basis ex aequo et bono, as English international law at a certain stage of its development was expanded and improved. Why did English courts in those far off days do a great deal ex aequo et bono? Because they were trying to build up a system of law and not a system of war and that is precisely what the League of Nations is trying to do in international relations at the present time. In the third place as I think the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) has said it may very well be that on the basis of existing contracts there may be a great deal that these tribunals can do of the same kind that is to-day done in English law by commercial arbitrators. I would say one other thing with regard to this point. Whether or not there were any case which could be dealt with by these ad hoc tribunals it would nevertheless, in the existing political conditions of the day, be a good thing to accept the General Act. The acceptance of the General Act will enthrone the idea of justice among the peoples of the world. At present the doctrine of non-justiciable disputes reigns supreme, and it is believed that in any dispute which is political the nations of the world have more or less the right to do what they like, that they can refuse the dictates of the law, that they can ride roughshod over their obligations or the interests of other nations. It is of the greatest importance that that false conception of political disputes should be brought to an end, and I believe it will be brought to an end by the acceptance of this General Act.

I have been very much struck by the fact that in this matter of international arbitration the Conservative party seem to be obsessed by doubts and hesitations and fears. There are doubts about international law; they seem still to hold what has been called by a writer "the superstition of the incompetence of international law." They need not worry; they need not any longer think of international law in pre-War terms, when it was unwritten, when it had no tribunals, when it had no institutions to support it. To-day, international law is strong in a very different way from its strength of the days before the War in that there are many parts of it—and the most important—written, with tribunals to apply it, and with political institutions to lend it support. I have been struck, also, by the fact that the Conservative party have no faith in what I think the Foreign Sec- retary called the sense of justice which dominates mankind. It sometimes seems to us on these benches that they have more faith in guns than they have in the idea of justice. In our view, guns are losing their power in the civilised world in which we live. Look east or west, and it is plain that military force is more and more losing its significance and power, while the moral forces of the world are gaining power, and among those moral forces the love of justice is the first and the greatest. I hope, therefore, the Government will cleave to their present policy, and will rest all that they do on these moral forces, and so will keep for our country that leadership among the enlightened nations of the world which we now so rightly hold.

Captain EDEN

The hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Noel Baker) in his concluding sentences charged us on this side of the House with a belief in guns. I do not know upon what he founds that charge but making due allowance for the eloquence of the moment I am bound to tell him that it has no justification whatever in fact. On this side of the House we believe no more in guns than hon. Members opposite, and we strongly resent such charges. I think it has been evident from the start that this Debate is taking place under very unusual circumstances. I listened with great care to the speech of the Foreign Secretary and although it was a great pleasure to listen to him he said very little about the document which we are discussing. I know that the right hon. Gentleman made out a strong sentimental case for furthering the work of the Disarmament Conference but we are all anxious to do that. I was rather hoping to hear from the right hon. Gentleman some explanation of the Act which we have been asked to approve.


I explained to the House that the reason for that was that the whole thing was fully explained in the White Paper.

Captain EDEN

I think we have all read the White Paper, but there are some matters which the White Paper does not explain. I will deal with them in a moment. I want now to say a word or two about the general debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), who is an eloquent supporter of the Foreign Secretary, was just as careful to avoid the details as the Foreign Secretary was. He said that he did not wish to leave these matters for the lawyers to decide, and asked what would the world think if we did not approve of this Act to-night. I object to a pistol being held at the head of the House saying that we have to approve this Act or else there will be terrible consequences in relation to a totally different matter altogether. What we have to do to-night is to examine this question on its particular merits and either approve of it or disapprove of it quite irrespective of the immediate consequences which might ensue. I will illustrate the confusion that now exists. I thought it quite clear that the Peace Treaties would be excluded from any possibility of being referred to arbitration as an outcome of this General Act. No doubt the Foreign Secretary has seen the very significant letters in the "Times" relating to the Peace Treaties. They took the same view. Now the hon. Member for Coventry has taken a different view and has said that it would be possible again to raise the question of the boundaries.


I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member, but what I said was that questions of existing law could not be referred to arbitral tribunals for change. That does not mean that questions arising out of the Peace Treaties in general cannot go to arbitration, for there must be many instances arising, as they continually arise, out of the enormous number of matters dealt with in the Peace Treaties as to which there are difficulties of interpretation and application from time to time which do go, can go and ought to go to arbitration.

Captain EDEN

I am very glad to hear that explanation, and evidently the hon. Member is of opinion that this Act would make it possible for any Power to raise any matter of substance in connection with the Peace Treaties and bring them up for arbitration.


I apologise for again interrupting the hon. and gallant Member, but I would like to point out that the greater part of my argument was devoted to showing that such changes of boundary could not and ought not to be effected by means of arbitration but by legislative process, which is something quite different.

Captain EDEN

I am glad to have given the hon. Member a chance to clear this matter up, and I am glad to find that on that point we are entirely in agreement and that we jointly disagree with the argument which was put forward on this point earlier in the Debate by the hon. Member for East Leyton (Mr. Brockway). That shows the extreme difficulty of closely examining these matters. It may be that same form of revision of Peace Treaties will ultimately be necessary, but there could be nothing worse than for one Power to drag another Power before a court of arbitration with that object, and I am pleased to think that we are in agreement upon that point.

I would like to refer briefly to one or two points in the White Paper which I think are rather important. If I may say so, the logic which the right hon. Gentleman appealed to in respect of the Optional Clause does not apply here. We are here on wider, vaguer and more delicate ground. Machinery already exists for the settlement of political disputes. The council does it, and does it very well. These are already capable of solution "by pacific means." The White Paper is wrong in suggesting that there was no means of doing this before. That is why I think that this particular instrument is infinitely less wise than the Optional Clause, for which a case could be made that at least it could be applied to disputes of a certain limited character which were justiciable, whereas this Act is to be applied to disputes which Are political, and perhaps of the most complex character that can arise between nations, and which are not such as, in my judgment, are capable of being settled by a body which has no law to guide it in its judgment. This White Paper emphasises the value of bilateral treaties. I quite agree, and I should have thought, from my recollection of the desire of the Assembly in 1928, that what this document was intended to be was simply a form which might be used for bilateral treaties between nations anxious to negotiate such treaties. As a pattern for that purpose, no particular exception can be taken to this document as it stands to-day, but to use this as a pattern for an agreement between two countries is a vastly different thing from asking any country to accept it and put it into force for the settlement of any non-justiciable dispute which may arise.

I would draw the attention of the House to the type of criticism which is directed against us, as though we on this side were hostile to arbitration as such. Nothing of the kind. The Foreign Secretary knows very well, of course, that during the life of the late Government, to mention only one case, the question of the Mosul frontier was submitted to arbitration, and actually the finding, though it was very much in our favour, was only used as a means to obtain a final treaty of friendship and agreement with Turkey. I think, therefore, that it would be unjust if any attempt were made to pretend that our opposition to this Act is in any way due to a general opposition to arbitration. The right hon. Gentleman, however, in his Latin search for logic, as has from time to time been pointed out earlier to-day, for exceeds in enthusiasm the country which was first responsible for the Pact of Paris. I think that the present Government must find it very convenient that the Pact of Paris is now called by that name, and is no longer called the Kellogg Pact. If it were still called the Kellogg Pact, it would be a constant reminder to the Government that, in the view of the man by whose name it was originally called, there was no need to add these various storeys to the structure, but that, it was reasonably complete in itself; and the assertion that the Optional Clause was a logical consequence of the acceptance of the Pact of Paris is not one which, I think, the right hon. Gentleman would be able to persuade the American Government was fully justified.

Coming to the question of international disputes, the White Paper says: International disputes cannot settle themselves. That is a very high-sounding phrase, but, in point of fact, international disputes, like private correspondence, can very often settle themselves, given time and patience. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not always!"] I do not say that they always can, but there are certain letters that will answer themselves—not one from the Chancellor of the Exchequer—given time. There are some, and equally certainly there are disputes which, given time, will settle themselves. If they do not, then there is the resort to the Council, which, up to date, has never failed us on any single occasion.

I should like to refer for a moment to the important question of the position of the Council. It seems to me that the real objection to this Act is that to-day the method for the settlement of political disputes is the action of the Council. That is the best method. The Council can decide on one of several methods; it is not bound to pursue a particular given method at the expense of all others. Take the case of the dispute some two years ago between Poland and Lithuania. That dispute was settled directly by the Council, through its own action in summoning representatives and bringing about a decision there and then. That was one method, but there is another method, to which I would draw the attention of the House, because it is characteristic of what may very easily happen in the future. That is the method which was followed in the case of the difference which lingered for a long time between Hungary and Rumania. The House may perhaps remember that that difference took, altogether, well over two years to settle. The Council thought fit to refer it to a small committee, of which my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) was rapporteur. The negotiations dragged out for a very long time, over two years, and there was a great deal of bitterness and soreness of feeling at one time, and some brilliant and vigorous advocacy, both from the Hungarian and from the Rumanian representatives. I would ask the House to consider what would have happened supposing that, instead of its being possible for that dispute to be, if you like, dragged out over that long period, it had had to be submitted at the end of a year to a court of arbitration chosen out of the hat, of which we have heard to-day. Does the House really think that it would have been possible or likely that an immediate solution would have been obtained? I am absolutely certain—


The time can be extended.

Captain EDEN

Are we to understand that the Council can take an unlimited time to settle these disputes, without referring them to arbitration?


If the Council is unanimous.

Captain EDEN

This point was not raised by me, but by the right hon. Gentleman, and I should like to ask him this further question. Suppose that one of the parties proposes to go to arbitration, does not that mean that arbitration takes place apart from the Council?


No; that is provided for in the last sentence of Annex 2.

Captain EDEN

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The only point that I was anxious to make is that this was a typical case where the length of time that was available—I do not know whether the council would have been equally wise, no one can say what they would have done, if this other course had been open to them—was a very definite element in coming to a solution. As to that I do not think there can be any doubt at all, and, seeing that in not one single case on a political issue which the Council has yet had to consider has it failed to solve it, I think that the view of the hon. Member for Coventry that the Council must not consider questions of this sort is somewhat strange. What is the Council there for, if not to consider questions of political differences arising between nations, and to smooth the path when it is rough? Are they only to consider questions like the opium traffic or the white slave traffic? Personally, I set a great deal of store by the political influence of the Council, and I think that this House will make a great mistake if it endeavours to stop the Council from carrying out work of the first political significance which it is doing at present. I cannot help feeling that, if any question of real importance arises for settlement in international affairs, it will be far better settled by the Council, with the authority that has been steadily accumulating behind it, than by some strange hybrid body with no political tradition behind it, with no experience to guide it, with no law to interpret, which has been set up for the time being for that one particular purpose.

I think that anyone who has watched the course of League affairs in recent years would say that perhaps the most encouraging feature was the growth of the authority of the Council. There may be divergencies of view on political issues in the future, but, if such a political subject came up as threatened the peace of Europe or of the world, the strain of that issue would have to be taken, in the end, by one body; it would be no use referring it to this body or that; and I do not think that that strain could fall on any stronger body than the Council of the League, with the authority which lies behind it. Surely, there is no need for this further authority. The more authorities you create, the more confusion you create with them. You want to secure support in the public mind for the authority which is to settle disputes. The public mind can easily appreciate the existence of a Council representative of the nations of the world as an authority, but, if you are going to create other authorities, whether subsidiary to or above the Council, to which further reference can be made, then you are creating confusion, and you will not have the same support in the public mind as there would be for a decision reached by the Council. Supposing that a dispute on a vital issue leaves the Council and goes to this arbitration authority, there will not be the same respect for this temporary authority, set up for a special purpose, as there would be for a finding of the Council.

If ever it happens that the question of war or peace comes up to be decided, you cannot have too strong a body to decide it, and the strongest body that you can have to work for a peaceful settlement would be the Council of the League, which will be far stronger than any specially created body. It will be wrong to make it possible for there to be any reference away from that body, which in my judgment is the real guardian of peace. You cannot have your legislation, your method, your procedure in these matters too simple. The simpler they are, the greater measure of national support will they receive. I do not think we should be doing wisely to give even part of the present powers which the Council of the League enjoys away to any other authority. It is not necessary to say anything about the experience of Australia and other countries in compulsory arbitration but, surely, when there is no rule to guide you, arbitration ceases to have any direct meaning whatever. I hold the view that the arrangement embodied in this Act is not an English device. It is the result, I agree with my right hon. Friend, of that dangerously logical Latin mind. If it had been the late Foreign Secretary who had produced this proposal, there would have been an exclamation in the Press as to the hypnotic influence of M. Briand's Latin mind over my right hon. Friend. I suppose that charge will not be made against the present Foreign Secretary.


Why not?

Captain EDEN

Because he is, surely, so strong that no one could influence him. But, if it were possible, this document would make me extremely suspicious.

There is one question to which I hope we may have an answer, and that is whether we can be given a simple example of what is a non-justiciable dispute. That question has been asked several times and we have bad no answer. I am asking for a, specific hypothetical case so that we can judge it. I do not think that is unreasonable. I would suggest three that occur to my mind, and I hope I am wrong in each of them. Supposing another country wished to take our foreign rights in Egypt to arbitration, would they be able to do so? Supposing Persia wanted to raise the question of our position in the Persian Gulf, would they be able to take that to arbitration? Supposing that China wished to raise the question of our position at Shanghai, or any situation similar to that of two or three years ago were to arise, could that be taken to arbitration? Those are the only types of example which I think might have been ruled as non-justiciable disputes.

I have tried in vain, more particularly after the one or two interruptions of the Secretary of State, to find any case where this new procedure will do better for us than the procedure that we have already where the Council of the League operates, and has so far operated successfully. I am a great believer in the importance and the value of Articles XI and XV of the Covenant. I do not think you want to override them or to detract from them, I believe this instrument, in which the Foreign Secretary takes so much pride, though he says so little of its details, is a delusive device. It is not going to have the results which he hopes. It is an example of his recently found latinity, I hope he will come back to the Anglo-Saxon tradition, forget that he has ever crossed the Channel and perhaps adopt, as I do, a more practical and a less idealistic point of view in discussing a matter which may vitally affect future Anglo-Saxon relations.


I have listened with a good deal of interest to the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech, and I concluded that he was trying in some way to attack His Majesty's Government. I understood that, in the main, we were discussing the General Act for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, which has not been drawn up by a mere Socialist like the Foreign Secretary, but by the Council of the League of Nations, and also ratified and approved by the Assembly, not in this year 1931 nor in 1930 nor in 1929. We are discussing an instrument which was encouraged at the League of Nations by no less important a gentleman than the late Foreign Secretary, who encouraged that the initiative should be taken in this direction, and in 1928 he was the representative of the Conservative Government which definitely underpinned and accepted the General Act.

I have been much like Alice in Wonderland the whole of the afternoon. The House seems to have been spinning round and nothing will stay afoot. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has, in fact, been firing shots from behind at his own Front Bench for a policy which they have systematically encouraged and to which they have been a party. I miss very much, in this frequent repetition of the logic of the Latin mind, the omission of the fact that it is not only my right hon. Friend who has performed this trick of alliteration, but the whole of the British Empire. It is not merely a partisan Labour Government which has gone down before the charm of the Foreign Secretary of France. It is Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and even India. It will be curious to see how the Press of the British Empire will report on the hon. and gallant Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) to-morrow.

I have been tempted to try to dig out from my entirely non-legal mind one or two answers to the questions that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has put forward, but the more I listened to him and to the late Foreign Secretary the more I became convinced that they are not really interested in having answers to the detailed questions that they put forward. The problem with which we have to deal is one of a rooted objection to the General Act itself. I regret that that is so, because outside this House there are large numbers of men and women, members of all parties, who have for years been advocating the development and the adoption of a system such as we have now presented to us.

May I remind the House of what has been going on for the last four or five years? I can recall the time, a few years ago, when the late Foreign Secretary had control of our foreign policy, when we used to try week after week and month after month to encourage him in the direction of constructive peace development at Geneva. There were three main things that we tried to do for five years. We pressed upon him the desirability of signing the Optional Clause, of pressing forward a system for the pacific settlement of international disputes along the lines of the General Act, and of doing something in the name of the British nation to bring about some measure of general disarmament by mutual agreement. To every one of those three fundamental questions we received for five long years a definite negative. We were stone-walling for five long years, and the late Foreign Secretary has admitted this afternoon that not only is he opposed to the General Act, but even in 1931, after has has been quoting with approval the beneficent results of signing the Optional Clause, he is opposed to the Optional Clause.

We organised demonstrations in 1926 and 1927, and petitions containing thousands of signatures were poured into the Foreign Office. During those five years we could not get the late Foreign Secretary to move in regard to the Optional Clause. Indeed I was almost in despair as to whether he understood what was meant when we used to use the expression, "all-in arbitration" in 1926, 1927 and 1928. He used to adjust his monocle in his inimitable way, and I found it extremely embarrassing, and was often almost driven to despair by the inability to make the slightest headway with regard to those important matters. I hope, therefore, that I shall be forgiven when I say that I experienced to-day—which is a very great day in the history of the Labour Government and of this country—something like what the Germans call Schadenfreude when I listened to the contribution which the late Foreign Secretary had to make.

We have now secured the signature to the Optional Clause. The House has been asked to-night to ratify its adhesion to the General Act. We have really, in the past five years, undergone something in the nature of a revolution in our international relations. The late Foreign Secretary, in the course of his speech this afternoon, said that the United States of America were perfectly content with the Pact of Paris. He emphasised that the United States were not coming into the League of Nations. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Captain Eden) spoke in a similar strain. I object to this kind of gloomy prophecy with regard to another country. The late Foreign Secretary, for the past five years, has been saying that this nation would never sign the Optional Clause, and that it would not ratify the General Act. How does he know what the United States are going to do in the years that lie ahead? The development of opinion in the United States has been in many ways no less remarkable than that which has occurred in Great Britain. Ten years ago the United States would not look at correspondence which came from Geneva. To-day the United States is participating in most of the work of the committees of the League. To-day the United States is an ardent advocate of general disarmament by mutual agreement. Is it true to say that the public opinion of the United States is not concerned with implementing the Kellogg Pact? Who invented the phrase "put teeth into the Kellogg Pact"? It is two years ago since Mr. Hughes put forward the view that it was necessary that the Pact should be implemented. I submit that there is very considerable public opinion in the United States which will regard with the greatest possible sympathy and encouragement the practical constructive conclusions which Great Britain has drawn from the signing of the Kellogg Pact in 1929.

I do not propose to enter into a critical reply to the various detailed points which have been put forward tonight from the other side, but I will content myself with reminding the House of the very important position which we have now established in this country as a result of the instrument which is before the House for consideration to-night. Under the leadership of our Foreign Secretary, we have passed from the signature of the Optional Clause to the moment when we are about to ratify the General Act for the international settlement of all future disputes by pacific means. All this is immediately prior to the first organised attempt to realise some measure of general disarmament by international agreement. When I think of the situation as it was five years ago, with the Optional Clause unsigned, with no constructive machinery to handle the problems beyond what was established in 1919, with the ruins of the Coolidge Naval Conference, when I remember how, stage by stage, these great difficulties have been swept out of the way by constructive international work, I claim that we on this side of the House are entitled to take the point of view that this work, with the signatures, we hope, of many States throughout the world, with the encouragement not simply of Great Britain but of all the Dominions of the British Empire, marks one of those great days which will be remembered in history.

For five years we have been pressing for some measure of disarmament, and the answer we have been receiving all the time has been that the States of the world are not ready for disarmament, because they have not adequate security. These instruments of security have now received a large measure of realisation. We have underpinned with peaceful guarantees the Covenant of 1919, and that is why we are proud to stand behind our Foreign Secretary—not only throughout the wide ranks of our Labour and Socialist movement, but through the League of Nations Union and all the organisations that body represents, and in the name of the women of Great Britain. [HON. MEMBERS: "You cannot speak for them."] On general things I certainly can speak with authority. We give him our God-speed and our good will, and we hope, in the name of these great achievements of the past two years, he will be spared in person and with a powerful Labour Government behind him, to carry to a logical conclusion, not a Latin logic, but the logic of men and women throughout the world, the logic of human lives—to carry that logic to the World Conference for General Disarmament and achieve there, in cooperation with other great leaders of other countries of the world, the next great stage in the building up of the organised peace of humanity.


I desire to associate myself with the congratulations which have been showered upon the head of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and to note that to-day he adds one more to the many excellent things which he has done since he assumed office. My only regret is that the Government keep all these things for export. Why cannot we have some of these same successes and trimuphs for home consumption in this country? I should like to congratulate the Foreign Secretary, too, on being able to come down to this House, and to say that he speaks not only in the name of the British Government, but that he has got into line the whole of the British Empire. In doing that, I think that his record may be compared with that of the late Foreign Secretary who signed the Treaty of Locarno without the consent of a single member of the British Empire; not one of them up to this day has assented to it. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon occupying that enviable position. It is remarkable, therefore, to find that the Conservative party and the late Secretary of State, in taking the action they are taking to-day, are opposing the whole of the British Empire. They are in opposition to the unanimous wish of the British Empire. It is a very strange thing to find the party which in the past has claimed such a monopoly in this respect, standing in such a position to-night.

A good deal has been said about the General Act not being a perfect instrument. I think it will be generally agreed that in many respects and in many of its Clauses it is very far from being the kind of machinery that we should all like to have seen. Whose fault is that? In a certain part of the Empire not long ago there was a spirit of non-co-operation which has, happily, come to an end. It is not the first time that that has occurred in the history of our country. A few years ago, when the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) was responsible for our Foreign Affairs at Geneva, he followed out the policy of non-co-operation. At the time when the General Act was being framed he deliberately isolated himself and abstained from taking part in framing the Measure. Its imperfections are, therefore, very largely due to the fact that the British Government at that time was following out the policy of deliberate non-co-operation. I think that history will show that the turning point in this world peace came at the time of the Optional Clause. This particular Measure that we are discussing to-night only covers a very small gap that has been left over from the Optional Clause.

It may well be that there is no such thing as a non-justiciable dispute. I should be very interested to hear from the Attorney-General if he is able to frame one. It would not surprise me to learn that the number was something like 1 per cent., and that in practice they are not likely to arise. The real value of the Motion to-night is the psychological effect that it is going to have on other countries throughout the world, and the leadership that we are giving. In any case, if the draft is imperfect, as I think it is, it comes to an end in 1934, and if we have in office at that time a Government which is co-operating in these matters at Geneva we may hope to play our part in framing a better General Act to come into operation at that time. This General Act does not in any sense claim to be making new legislation. It does not deal and cannot deal with those many cases of territorial adjustments that we all realise to be absolutely essential in due course if the affairs of the world are to be kept on a peaceful basis. The procedure for dealing with these is clearly marked out in Article 19 of the Covenant of the League, and any Government such as Germany, which I believe has had doubts and hesitations, might quite well sign the General Act without in any way taking away or limiting the rights which they possess under Article 19.

One may hope that as the spirit of conciliation spreads and as the Council of the League develops the time will come when it will be possible, by mutual consent and general agreement to make those territorial changes which we realise must come some time or other. I look forward to the time, ultimately, it may be many years hence, when the Council of the League will be given compulsory powers to settle political disputes, but I realise that the time has not come yet. The right hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir R. Rodd) asked whether we would be prepared to have the position of the Suez Canal submitted to independent arbitration. Why not? We either have certain rights or we have not. Who are we to say that we are going to claim that our right is the only right against the whole rights of the world? I cannot see that there can be any other answer to a question of that kind.

9.0 p.m.

I want to make it perfectly clear how fully authorised the Liberal party are in voting in support of this Motion to-night. Before the last General Election a statement of the policy of the Liberal party was issued for the information of the electorate, and one portion of that statement said: The policy of the Liberal party is to accept and apply the principle of peaceful settlement to all international disputes of every kind by conciliation, arbitration, or reference to the Permanent Court of International Justice. Therefore, in voting for this Motion we are simply voting for the pledged and deliberate policy of this party, and we could not possibly take any other action.

It is a pity that we have not been able on this occasion to take the lead as a nation and to be the first of the great Powers to sign the General Act. We lost our chance over the Optional Clause. Germany got in a long way ahead of the other great Powers. In this case we have only lost the race by a very short head. I believe that it was only a week ago that the French Senate ratified the General Act.


We should have been in first, but for the visit to Rome.


I think the right hon. Gentleman may be well excused for putting it off by a week, in order to secure the great triumph which he had in Rome. Although we cannot give a lead in that way, we can give, and we are giving, a lead to the whole world by the action which the Government are taking in going forward in connection with the Optional Clause, the General Act and preparations for the great Disarmament Conference of next year. The point has been raised as to which comes first, security or disarmament. I think they are concurrent, and that the right hon. Gentleman is only taking one step forward, an essential step, to create that feeling of security which is necessary if we are to carry out a successful Disarmament Conference. Sometimes in this House, and quite recently, we have heard the cry raised that the League of Nations is costing us a tremendous lot of money. Is it realised in this House and in the country that we are spending 1,000 times as much on preparations for war as we are in preparing for peace through our contributions to the League of Nations? Out of every pound that is spent by the State 14 shillings goes either in payment for past wars or in preparation for fresh wars. Only 1s. 6d. goes for education and only one-eighth of a farthing is the contribution to the League of Nations. If we consider these figures we cannot but feel that there is tremendous room for the readjustment of the proportion that is spent as between preparations for peace and war.

As the decades and the centuries go by the historians of the future will regard this age as an age of barbarism, in which people thought that they could settle their international disputes by human slaughter on a vast scale. I give my vote gladly to-night for the General Act, believing that in so erecting another stone of the great edifice of peace we are raising the noblest memorial in our power to all those gallant men who so bravely gave their lives that war should never come again in this world.


A great deal of eloquence and admirable sentiment have been expended in expressing the dislike which right hon. and hon. Members have in all parts of the House, of war in any shape or form. One or two hon. Members opposite have found it necessary, for the purposes of a peroration or for some other purpose of that sort to impute to that part of the Opposition which is not prepared to accede to the General Act, a fondness for war and the weapons of war. Whether the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs thought that aspersions of that kind were necessary to the case that he desired to make, I doubt very much indeed. Perhaps the hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Noel Baker), who was a glaring instance of this kind of eloquence, will learn from the right hon. Gentleman at whose feet he sits that different methods from those are necessary to support this instrument. But the Debate has suddenly taken place in happier circumstances, or perhaps better circumstances, than seemed likely at the first suggestion of this Motion. When the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary was on his beneficent mission to Rome we were informed, I think one Thursday afternoon, that this Debate was to take place on the following Monday, and the right hon. Gentleman's observations on the General Act, we were told, had been printed and had been for a few minutes obtainable in the Vote Office. By a fortunate series of events this Debate has been postponed for a further week, and we have now had not only the value of the right hon. Gentleman's written observations, but of his mature observations on the Floor of the House.

The Foreign Secretary told us a few moments ago that he did not insult the intelligence of the House—I believe that was his expression—by making any relevant observations on the details of the General Act, because he had given the House the advantage of a Memorandum upon that subject. His Memorandum was only dated 23rd February. The proposal to have the Debate on 2nd March was only known to the House on 26th February. I rather gathered at that time that the right hon. Gentleman did not attach very much importance to his written observations, when the Debate was to take place in circumstances of such unseemly haste. But, written observations or no observations, it does seem a pity, even from the right hon. Gentleman's own point of view, that he did not condescend to a little fuller discussion, not only of the details, but of the principles of this instrument. More than one hon. Member has said that this is going to be a great day, I forget whether it was a great day in the history of the country or of the Labour party or of the right hon. Gentleman's distinguished career. [HON. MEMBERS: "All three!"] All three—but if it was going to be a great day in his career I should have thought it would have been a greater day if he could have expounded to the House the details and the principles of this great instrument which is going to make his memory so much respected, because I beg to say that there are a great many hon. Members, and not only on this side of the House, who are imperfectly acquainted with the details of this particular proposal.

The legislation of peace is becoming a little complicated. It is difficult for the amateur to be quite sure that he is following what is happening at Geneva and in the councils of the nation. It takes a good deal of careful study and attention week after week to keep pace with what is happening. The Pact had no sooner been signed than the proposal was made to write the Pact into the Covenant. The hon. Member for Coventry knows the difficulties that have attended that task. A committee of 11 jurists were set up. They made certain proposals for writing the Pact into the Covenant. Another committee, in spite of all the eloquence of the hon. Member for Coventry, disagreed with the proposals of the committee of jurists, and so far as I know the task is not yet completed, and a series of draft proposals have been laid before Governments and League of Nations unions and all the rest of them. That merely illustrates the complexity of these legal instruments by which it is hoped by some persons to advance the cause of peace.

Speaking for myself, I do not doubt for a moment the absolute sincerity of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite in believing that this instrument, if acceded to by the Government, would advance the cause of peace. We leave it to hon. Gentlemen opposite to throw doubt on our methods; we will not respond by throwing doubts on their methods. But I beg leave to say that it would have added to the dignity of this occasion, it would have added to the knowledge not only of this House but of the nation upon this very important matter, if the right hon. Gentleman could have brought himself to believe that everybody, even in the House, does not read a Memorandum contained in a White Paper, even if it bears his honoured signature at the end of it. I listened with some attention and hope to the right hon. Gentleman, expecting that there would be an exposition of the principles at any rate of the General Act. But we heard practically nothing. We heard a great deal about the onward march of peace. We heard an accurate narrative of the different stages in the devising of these instruments. But when we came to the General Act itself, those in the House who had not had the advantage of reading the Memorandum were left in the same state of peaceful ignorance as was represented in some of the speeches which have been delivered from the other side.

I heard the speech of the hon. Member for East Islington (Mrs. Manning), and if she were here I would ask her permission to say that I admired its eloquence and its sincerity; but what it had to do with the General Act or the objections of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) I am at a loss to know. I am bound to say that the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) also awakened hopeful emotions in my breast. He had a great deal to say on general principles about the objections to war and the advantages of peace, but he was a little impatient of any examination of the General Act. He told us that international lawyers had their place, and I gathered that it was a very small place in the right hon. Gentleman's estimation. I do not profess to be an international lawyer. But considering that the right hon. Member for Darwen at a later stage made one or two appeals to the Attorney-General to elucidate points in the General Act, I thought it was a little hard that he poured such scorn on the part that lawyers can play in framing these instruments or expounding them. If the Attorney-General is not an international lawyer, at any rate the hon. Member for Coventry is an international lawyer, and it was upon him presumably that the Government were going to depend for elucidation of the General Act. He is the only hon. Gentleman opposite who has even attempted the task. The Secretary of State, on his own confession, did not attempt it, and the hon. Member for East Islington did not attempt it. No one opposite attempted it except the hon. Member for Coventry, who is a member of that class for which the right hon. Member for Darwen has so great a contempt—the international lawyers.


I have no contempt for them.


Apparently, I have stated the right hon. Gentleman's dislike in too strong terms. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the issue was a very simple one. I wish he had told us what the issue was but he did not. The issue is not one between peace and war. The issue is whether or not this legal instrument is well-framed to advance the cause of peace, but the right hon. Gentleman spoke as if it was a question of the renunciation of war. Has he forgotten that the Pact has once and for all repudiated war as an instrument of national policy so that that is not the question which is raised by the General Act? Does he intend to suggest that the issue is willingness to accept the principle of conciliation or arbitration? If he suggests that that is the issue, which he describes as a simple one, I beg leave to differ from him. As far as I know everybody is agreed that once you have ruled out war, as has been done by the Pact of Paris, you are driven to the only alternative which is conciliation or arbitration.

Therefore, what is the simple issue which the right hon. Gentleman propounded? I should like to state once more, in less perfect language than my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham used, what I regard as the issue. I do not believe that you advance the cause of peace by an undue elaboration of the machinery of legal instruments. It seems to me that you do a very ill-service to the cause of peace by casting doubts on the sincerity of nations who have put their hands to such solemn obligations as are contained in the Pact of Paris. Have hon. Members in mind the expressions used in that admirably simple instrument? [Laughter.] An hon. Member opposite laughs and that laugh shows the difference between us. With all the dislike to lawyers which has been expressed, and which I dare say he shares, he prefers a legal instrument to an instrument like the Pact of Paris, which is written so that he who runs may read. The Pact of Paris says that those who have signed it condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies; renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another, and undertake that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts shall never be sought except by peaceful means.


Will the hon. and learned Gentleman read the letters of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) in explanation of that simple language?


If I were to read the letters of my right hon. Friend I should, no doubt, be asked to read the letters of Mr. Kellogg and other eminent international statesmen who have put glosses, perhaps, upon the Paris Pact, which would not be accepted in all parts of the House. But I do not think that the hon. Member can mean that the glosses which this or that person may have put upon a document of this sort, can diminish in any way the value of the deliberate and emphatic reunciation of war as an instrument of national policy. As I have said, anybody who attempts to cast doubt upon the solemnity of value of the Pact of Paris does a great disservice to the cause of peace. The issue, as it seeme to me, is not one of the renunciation of war. That has been renounced. It is not a question of willingness to accept conciliation or arbitration. That has been indicated on more than one occasion, and, on this side of the House, we assent to it whole-heartedly.

The question is whether we can, by an instrument of this sort, increase the chances of peace, or whether we are taking a step leading to a result which we cannot foresee, and which may be very different from the result we all desire to reach. The hon. Member for Coventry, I think, was at issue with the right hon. Gentleman opposite as to the purposes, or the effect of the Act. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham said that his main objection to it was that stated in the Amendment, namely, that it seemed to cast doubt on the authority of the Council of the League and the right hon. Gentleman opposite—I gather in anticipation of my right hon. Friend's speech—said that no diminution was intended of the authority of the council in any disputes likely to lead to rupture. That is not the opinion of the hon. Member for Coventry. He said that the less the council had to do with international disputes the better. That is the issue, and the hon. Member for Coventry has let the cat out of the bag.


I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will also quote the statement of the hon. Member for Coventry that he was speaking only for himself on that point.


I did not suppose that the hon. Member for Coventry, sitting on the back benches opposite, was yet speaking for the Government, but I cannot overlook the fact that he was a member of the delegation of His Majesty's Government. I cannot overlook the fact that he is Parliamentary Private Secretary to the right hon. Gentleman. Nor can I overlook the fact that when an hon. Friend of mine was asking for an illustration of a non-justiciable dispute, the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in an interjection, said that a member of the Government—meaning the hon. Member for Coventry—had given one. It was an inaccurate description, of course, but it was the description which in fact, was given of the hon. Member for Coventry.


Evidently, my interjection was not audible to the hon. and learned Gentleman. I should never have thought of describing my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry as a member of the Government. I am not a prophet.


Let it stay at that. I never supposed that the hon. Member for Coventry was speaking with the authority of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has now thought it necessary to disown him, shows the impression which his own General Act has produced on many of his own supporters, including one of the best-informed of those supporters. Let me repeat it so that we may at least see the issue—which I agree is a simple one. "The less the Council has to do with international disputes the better." The speech of the hon. Member for Coventry was framed to support that thesis and the rest of his arguments do not matter, eloquent, ingenious, learned, well-informed as they were. He was supporting a thesis which I gather is not that of the Foreign Secretary. But I believe that the hon. Member for Coventry was right, not in his opinion that the less the Council had to do with international disputes the better, but in the impression which he has formed that this General Act is designed and intended to remove from the Council a jurisdiction which all of us supposed up to now it was intended to have in international disputes. One of the most gratifying facts of recent years to my mind has been the increasing authority which the Council of the League has attained in the settlement of those disputes which, in the words of the Covenant, are likely to lead to rupture. There was a time when many Conservatives viewed with suspicion the principles underlying the League and its activities. We can all of us cast our minds back to the time when eminent persons wrote letters expressing doubts as to whether the League could ever perform its functions without the creation of some body which would interfere with the sovereignty of the nations. Those doubts have been dispelled. The League has attained a power, influence and authority which, I think, surprises even its best friends.

Here we get a learned, influential and well-informed Member like the hon. Member for Coventry telling us that, in his opinion, this General Act is to be supported because the less the Council has to do with international disputes, the better. The corollary of that is, of course, that the more these permanent commissions have to do with the settlement of international disputes, the better, in his opinion. After that opinion, do not hon. Members who have heard the Debate think we were justified in raising this question? Is it not an issue upon which we ought to take the opinion of the House of Commons as to whether it is the Council that shall have the pre-eminence or these tribunals which are to be set up under this difficult and complicated legal instrument? I have made some calculations, though I am not a mathematician, as to the number of commissions that will have to be established under Chapter I of this General Act. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say there are about 50 Powers whose assent to the General Act is desired. Each Power has to arrange for the appointment of a permanent commission, and I suppose my arithmetic is right when I say it will be necessary to have something like 2,500 separate commissions appointed under Chapter I, to take the place—for the better, in the opinion of the hon. Member for Coventry—of the Council as the great guardian of the peace of the world. I venture to think that is a machinery not for making peace, but trouble.

Let me refer to another argument which the hon. Member for Coventry used. I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for concentrating so much on that speech. If only I had had the advantage of his elucidation of the General Act, it would have been very much more authoritative and useful as a speech for examination, but, in default of the greater, I must choose the less, and therefore I take the hon. Member for Coventry. He told us that these ad hoc tribunals will play the part of the learned judges under English municipal law in creating law. He told us that these tribunals would play the part which commercial arbitrators are playing at the present time in making mercantile law. That is a singular misconception of the duties and the way in which these tribunals will perform, that judges who made law and equity in this country were persons who occupied a position analogous to the position of the permanent court of international justice. They were not persons like those thousands of ad hoc tribunals who are going to decide ex aequo et bono on grounds which may seem fair and just to them, but which, as far as we know, will not proceed on any principle which is capable of being moulded in the current of judicial authority. That is just the difference.

May I say one word about the Permanent Court? On going to the Permanent Court of International Justice, you do get a stream of law. One of the most astonishing facts about the Permanent Court to many of us—who, we do not mind confessing, shared in some distrust or hesitation about the universal reference of justiciable disputes to the Permanent Court—is this, that decision after decision has been given by that Court, contrary to the arguments or the case of almost every European Power, and, without a single objection, those decisions have been accepted as an authoritative exposition of international law by that Court of great authority. That is the way in which we see established the current of judicial authority, but what about these ad hoc tribunals? Where will you get the men who are going to form them, or the cohesion and liaison between the different commissions, pronouncing ex aequo et bono which will make a judicial authority establishing decisions on international law?

I turn with some relief to consider, quite briefly, what we regard as the complete arrangements which we have already made for the settlement of our disputes. I hope that, without wearying the House, I can make it plain what, at any rate, seems to me plain, that we have not left any gaps. We used to speak about gaps in the Covenant. To my mind, there is no single piece of ground which is not covered by the instruments to which we have already set our hand. I have reminded the House that the Pact of Paris has renounced war, and that the signature to the Optional Clause has made obligatory that which, under Article 13 of the Covenant, was left to a certain extent in the region of discretion and volition, that is, there were certain classes of justiciable disputes which, under Article 13, were to be regarded as generally suitable for reference to the International Court. Under the signature to the Optional Clause we now have compulsory reference of those four classes of justiciable disputes which were only indicated in the Covenant as suitable for reference. We were told when the Optional Clause was signed, that provision was made for the disputes which were not really justiciable. The right hon. Gentleman has written another book to which I may refer, the Memorandum contained in the White Paper on the signature to the Optional Clause, and he said: At the end of the formula comes a proviso which enables disputes to be referred to the Council of the League before they are dealt with by the Court. This is to cover disputes which are really political in character though juridical in appearance. That observation as to reference, and the proviso or condition which is appended to His Majesty's signature to the Optional Clause, provides that in certain circumstances the Council of the League of Nations should have seizin of the disputes, and the operation of the International Court should be suspended during that time. That is stated by the right hon. Gentleman to be intended to cover disputes which are really political in character, though juridical in appearance. In other words, I understand it was a provision intended to provide for what we may call non-justiciable disputes. They were only justiciable or juridical in appearance, and therefore you get, even in the assent to the Optional Clause, a reaffirmation of the power and authority of the Council of the League to act as a negotiator or peace-maker in those causes which are not justiciable except in appearance.

I submit, without developing this matter at greater length so as to weary the House, that you have, by the joint operation of the Covenant, with its many arrangements for the operation of the Council as a peacemaker, as guardian of the peace of the world; with the Pact of Paris, which renounces once for all very solemnly resort to war in any circumstances as an instrument of national policy; with the signature of the Optional Clause, which provides for all juridical or justiciable disputes, and, together with the proviso appended by the right hon. Gentleman, provides also with the Covenant for the settlement of non-justiciable disputes—I say you have a well tilled field in which provision is made for every class of dispute that is likely to arise between the nations. You have that great central authority, which has added so much to its authority by the way in which it has worked for the peace of the world, and upon this well tilled field enters this General Act and immediately we get confusion where order formerly reigned. The hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State is good enough perhaps to think that I have exaggerated. In fact, he shows his mirth at that description.


I was showing my mirth on recollecting the violent opposition that we received from the benches opposite when we signed the Optional Clause.


The hon. Gentleman is entitled to pay no attention to the observations I am making, and to engage in the more pleasant recollections derived from some former Debates in this House or elsewhere, but at the moment what. I am trying to explain to the hon. Gentleman, as well as to others opposite, is that the General Act comes into this field, in which everything has been provided for, and makes a state of confusion immediately. Let me try to make good that charge. I find that in the White Paper which has been issued, the right hon. Gentleman has thought it necessary to add a note of exposition, a footnote on page 4 to Chapter II. Chapter II, as I may remind hon. Members who have not the provisions of the General Act in mind, is the part which deals with justiciable disputes. Will it be believed that, according to the right hon. Gentleman's Memorandum: Acceptance of Chapter II has. … the same effect as acceptance of the Optional Clause, subject to (i) the possibility of the parties availing themselves of the two alternative procedures mentioned above, and (ii) a difference of wording, which is not considered to be material, between the definitions of justiciable disputes in the two instrument"? Was there ever anything more confusing than that footnote?


More work for the lawyers!


That is how I complain about the right hon. Gentleman's instrument, and, if he will allow me to say so, it ill becomes him to be guilty of levity about the General Act, and to suggest—


I cannot help it.


If the right hon. Gentleman cannot help it, I think he ought to be pitied rather than blamed.


Get on with it!


I was calling attention to the fact that the footnote which the right hon. Gentleman has thought fit to append to his White Paper has made it plain that Chapter II of the General Act is attempting to cover the same ground as the signature of the Optional Clause, subject to a difference of wording, which the right hon. Gentleman says that he does not consider to be material, between the definitions of justiciable disputes in the two instruments. I will not detain the House with a discussion of the question as to whether or not the difference in wording is material, but I take leave to say that it is most material, and if anybody will turn from the clear and precise definition of justiciable disputes contained in the Optional Clause to the definition of justiciable disputes contained in Article 17 of the General Act, I think they will find that it is a difference of wording most material.

My point is this, that it only tends to complication and confusion when we find that Chapter II of the General Act, and a very important part of the General Act, is covering the same ground as the Optional Clause has already covered, and covering it in language which is different and capable of a different interpretation. The right hon. Gentleman says that that is more work for the lawyers. Let his jibe go down as a record of his opinion of the General Act, if he pleases. It is his own epitaph upon his own instrument, and if he thinks that that is a seemly or sufficient comment upon this part of the General Act, I am not one to quarrel with him.

A question arises that I want to ask the hon. and learned Attorney-General. If he will be good enough to look at Article 17, he will find that its first paragraph speaks of All disputes with regard to which the parties are in conflict as to their respective rights. That is, I understand, the definition in Article 17 of justiciable disputes. Then he will find, in the second paragraph: It is understood that the disputes referred to above include in particular those mentioned in Article 36 of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice. In other words, the Optional Clause. Are there other justiciable disputes intended besides those mentioned in the Optional Clause? If so, perhaps he will be good enough to tell us what they are. But if he has answered that question and he has enlarged the class of justiciable disputes, the next question—one that has been asked repeatedly in this Debate, but never answered or attempted to be answered, even by the hon. Member who is so anxious that I should proceed with my remarks—is, What is the non-justiciable dispute which is intended to be submitted to the processes provided in Chapters I and Ill of this General Act?

The right hon. Member for Darwen was at pains, I think, to tell us that the great majority of disputes would be settled by the methods of conciliation for which the Covenant and the other instruments already make provision. It may be that you can defend this General Act by saying that it will never be required for the purpose for which it is intended, that provision is made so amply by all existing international agreements that it does not matter a bit whether we pass it or not, except as a gesture, as a sort of psychological effect upon the mind of the nations. If that is the defence, it is not the defence which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has made, but if the right hon. Member for Darwen is right, it would almost seem to be the defence which he would make of this General Act. I hope that before the learned Attorney-General sits down, he will tell us quite plainly the answers to these two questions which I put to him: How far does Article 17 enlarge the class of justiciable disputes in the definition contained in the Optional Clause; and, secondly, what are the non-justiciable disputes which are intended to be provided for in Chapters I and III of the General Act? I could if I thought it right detain the House by asking one or two other question, but I think it is necessary to call attention to Article 32, which is of considerable importance. This Article provides that If, in a judicial sentence or arbitral award, it is declared that a judgment. … enjoined by a court of law. … of one of the parties to the dispute, is wholly or in part contrary to international law. … the judicial sentence or arbitral award shall grant the injured party equitable satisfaction. It looks as if that was intended to provide that some decision of our courts or of the Privy Council shall be subject to a review by one of these ad hoc tribunals, ex aequo et bono. How does that square with the reservation which the right hon. Gentleman has made of disputes concerning questions which by international law are solely within the domestic jurisdiction of the State. It is an instance of the confusion of thought which is to be found in many places in this General Act. Finally, I should like to refer to one argument which has been used more than once by hon. Members of both parties who are supporting this instrument. It is said that this Act is an invention and device of the Council of the League, and that, if we are so solicitous for the supremacy of the Council of the League, we should be supporting the instrument. That argument proves too much. If it is so excellent as the device of the Council of the League, why has the right hon. Gentleman found it necessary to ratify it only after making five reservations and adding three provisos? If it is so sacrosanct as having come down from the mountain, what right has he to add his reservations to it? He cannot use that argument in defence of the General Act now that he has hedged it round with all these provisos and reservations, the meaning of the majority of which it is difficult to discover.

We share the aspirations of hon. Members opposite in renouncing war as an instrument of national policy. Many hon. Friends on this side have reason to remember the sordid miseries of the War and just as they bore their sufferings in the War they will continue their exertions in the cause of peace. We are not likely to be deterred from a careful, even a meticulous, examination of this instrument by the taunts of the hon. Member for Coventry that we believe in guns. The hon. Members knows, or should know, that that is as unfounded a taunt as it is unhelpful in the discussion of this General Act. We shall certainly not be deterred by stale slanders like that from an examination of the General Act, because we are firm in our conviction that we are most likely to serve the cause of peace by maintaining the authority of the Council of the League as the greatest and ultimate guardian of the peace of the world.

The ATTORNEY - GENERAL (Sir William Jowitt)

We all welcome back to the House the hon. and learned Member for Fareham (Sir T. Inskip) and we are glad to find that his eloquence and energy have grown no less with the passage of time. It is a little un- fortunate that this Debate should be concluded by the speeches of two lawyers, and for this reason. With the best will in the world lawyers suffer from this defect, that they are quite unable to see the wood for the trees, and in the speech of the hon. and learned Member that common defect of lawyers has been rather sadly noticeable. It may well be that there are points about this instrument which may have been better expressed, it may be that it affords ample ground for lawyers' doubts and quibbles, but we are here dealing with something very much bigger than lawyers' doubts and quibbles. We are dealing with a fundamental issue, with the question as to whether it is not right for this House to take further and more active steps to secure peace just as in the past it took active steps to prepare for war.

The question that I see before the House is this: Are we, or are we not, to give our accession to this General Act? Let us think of the circumstances and time at which we are debating this matter. It is undoubtedly a critical and important time in the history of European diplomacy. Next year there is to be a Disarmament Conference, and everybody hopes that the success which has recently attended the endeavours of the Foreign Secretary will meet him again there at Geneva, but can anyone doubt that the one essential to that success is that he must be able to bring about that spirit and sense of security which has been a hindrance and handicap to the cause of disarmament in the past. Those are the times in which we are discussing this matter. The circumstances are these. This General Act has been approved unanimously by the Assembly of the League of Nations and approved without a dissentient voice by the various members of the British Commonwealth of Nations; and I stress that as a vitally important point. It is important that we should act together in a common diplomacy. It has been approved unanimously by the French Senate and already passed and approved by a considerable number of foreign Powers. The question is whether we shall or shall not give our adherence to this Act.

There were traces in the speech of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) which reminded me clearly of the speech he made when we were debating the Optional Clause. This, I am sure, was at the back of his mind. No sensible person, of course, dreams that the right hon. Gentleman is not a sincere friend of the cause of peace. We know he is; and that he is doing what he thinks right to advance the cause of peace. But the fundamental idea in his mind is that the cause of peace is best maintained and looked after by letting it take care of itself as things are to-day, and not by passing any new pacts or agreements. His argument is that we have the Pact of Paris, by which we have outlawed war, and war being out of the question why rush on and go further, why have this General Act, why, indeed, have the Optional Clause? What is the hurry? He reinforces his observations by a consideration of the attitude adopted by the United States of America. No one doubts the genuine desire of the United States to avoid war, and no one doubts that they meant what they said when they signed the Pact of Paris. They have not taken these steps; why should we? I do not think that I misrepresent the attitude which the right hon. Gentleman has adopted. I want to quote to the House what was said on a recent occasion by President Hoover. He was speaking at the annual conference of the World Alliance for International Friendship through the Churches, and the date of his speech was 11th November, 1930. This is what he said: There has been much discussion as to the desirability of some further extension of the Pact so as to effect a double purpose of assuring methodical development of this machinery of peaceful settlement and to insure at least the mobilisation of world opinion against those who fail when the strain comes. I do not say that some such further step may not some day come about. Such a formula would be stimulative and would appeal to the dramatic sense of the world as a mark in the progress of peace. But less dramatic and possibly even more sure, is the day to day strengthening and buttressing of the Pact by extension from one nation to another of treaties which in times of friction assure resort to the well-tried processes of competent negotiation, of conciliation, and of arbitration. It, therefore, becomes quite obvious that President Hoover is fully alive to the necessity of strengthening and buttressing the Pact by the extension of treaties, whether a series of bilateral treaties as he goes on in his speech to show the United States has entered info, or of multilateral treaties as is involved in the General Act. Therefore, I would suggest that it is wrong to represent to this House that those responsible for the policy of the United States are not fully alive to the necessity of buttressing and strengthening the Pact by a conclusion of further treaties. If the right hon. Gentleman is to model himself on the United States of America, he should remember that, after all, they are the best judges of what they want, and they have not become an adherent of the League of Nations at all. The right hon. Gentleman, on the other hand, rejoices in the fact that we are. He parts company with the United States there. Will he also part company in this respect? Then he says that this represents a triumph of the Latin mind. Even if it does, does that necessarily show that it is wrong and bad? I do not think that it does show a triumph of the Latin mind. I think that it shows the common meeting ground with the Latin mind. After all, if the object of this Pact is to bring about an added feeling of security, to give a greater chance to my right hon. Friend to achieve success at the Disarmament Conference, may we not pray in aid of one of the most important features of this Pact that it will give an added sense of security to the Latin mind?

10.0 p.m.

I will deal with some of the detailed observations that have been made. It is said that Chapter II covers ground which is identical with the Optional Clause. The wording is different. Whereas the Optional Clause sets out a series of matters under four heads which were therein referred to, it is dealt with in language which is borrowed from the Treaty of Locarno, and describes all disputes with regard to which the parties are in conflict as to their respective rights. The hon. and learned Member for Fareham asked whether I thought that the area covered by the two phrases was identical. He perhaps knows that that has been the subject of discussion between jurists. Sir John Fischer Williams has expressed the view that these words are wider in this respect, that although under the Optional Clause the phrase is, the existence of any fact which it establishes would constitute a breach of international obligations, he points out that under the Optional Clause the Court is not entitled to consider facts which, whether established or not, would not bear upon a breach of international obligations. In the very volume to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, in which Professor Brierley's article appears, he will find Sir John Fischer William's article on this point. He is of opinion, therefore, that these new words are wider because they authorise the determination of any facts, whether or not these facts would constitute a breach of international obligations. I do not suppose that in practice the fact that one is wider than another would make much difference, but, in reply to the specific question which I was asked, I give that answer to the hon. and learned Member for Fareham. I do not really think that very much difficulty arises from the fact that the two instances cover the same territory. The House will observe that under Article 29 of the General Act, it is expressly provided that the General Act shall not affect any agreements by which the parties are bound by obligation to resort to judicial settlement. Therefore, where the two instruments both come into play, presumably the Optional Clause is the more important.


Does the hon. and learned Gentleman mean that if we and another party with whom we were in dispute had both signed the Optional Clause and the General Act, the decisive document would be the Optional Clause and not the General Act, and that the other party could not plead the General Act, having signed the Optional Clause?


I do not think that that document would be decisive for this reason. As we have taken steps to make our reservations the same in both, there is no difference in spirit. I am unaware of any possible material difference between the two documents. Therefore, I cannot say that one or the other was decisive, because that answer would clearly cause the impression that there is some difference. The right hon. Gentleman asked for an explanation of what is dealt with in Chapter III. What sort of cases are dealt with in non- justiciable disputes? He asked whether a question as to who ought to have a mandate would come up. Let me try to make that quite plain. You cannot bring a dispute into the frame of a non-justiciable dispute merely by regarding the legal position which makes it non-justiciable. You have, for instance, a boundary between two countries settled and recognised by international law. You cannot say: "I am not going to discuss that on the basis of that boundary; I am going to discuss what the boundary ought to be, and as I am discussing what the boundary ought to be, I say it is a non-justiciable matter." That is not contemplated at all. It is not the scheme of the General Act to treat the whole of the countries of Europe as being clay under the potter's thumb, although I fully agree that the time may come when it is very desirable to consider some of those matters. Let us remember that the Covenant of the League of Nations contains provisions for this; let us remember Article 19, that is, the machinery by which this must be done. It is a complete fallacy to think that this General Act entitles an arbitral court set up in accordance with it to do any such thing as that.


Will the hon. and learned Gentleman tell me, then, that the Act provides that any State may make a special reservation in disputes concerning territorial status?


There may be more or less undefined districts covered by the word "protectorate," or something of that kind, which cannot be clearly said to be subject to any rule of law at all. I am prepared to give some illustrations presently to make that position plain. Therefore I answer the right hon. Gentleman, with regard to the question he asked about Egypt, that there I should certainly say it would he outside the competence of the arbitral tribunal to deal with that matter if only—and there are other reasons—because one of our reservations is the existing facts of the situation. But when I have said that, there are certain matters on which the rule of law comes to an end, in which we get to what the hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Noel Baker) referred to as the "twilight zone." Suppose that there is some territory where there are not defined boundaries at all, possibly some unexplored territory. You may have nation A gradually encroaching upon it from this side, and nation B gradually encroaching on it from the other side. The lines have never come together; there is between them this undefined territory. [Interruption.] I am purposely putting a hypothetical case to illustrate what I mean. Supposing that situation arose, the question where that boundary should be drawn between A and B in this unexplored territory would be a matter which could not be determined by any rule of law but would be capable of being referred to this arbitral board. It would be a nonjusticiable matter and they would decide it ex aequo et bono. Some ridicule, or almost ridicule, has been used with reference to these words ex aequo et bono.

It is said, "How on earth can a court of law, of all people in the world, proceed ex aequo et bono?" The people who make that criticism must have very little knowledge of the history of the law. They think that because the law, through a multiplicity of cases, has become more or less defined, that it was always in that state. Much less than 200 years ago one of our greatest lawyers, perhaps our greatest lawyer, Lord Mansfield, was administering law in this country, and was dealing with a form of action very well known as "money had and received." He said this: This kind of equitable action to recover back money which ought not in justice to be kept is very beneficial and therefore much to be encouraged. It lies for money which the defendant ex aequo et bono ought to refund. In the early days that was the only principle which the courts applied. Gradually, in process of time and from the various decisions given, we got a perfectly clear line of authority, and the matter no longer has to be proceeded with on those grounds; but the whole history of the court of Chancery, of the system of equity in this country, shows that it proceeded as a fundamental principle on doing what was necessary ex aequo et bono; and only in recent times has the law become crystalised and set into certain principles. That is one illustration I give of a nonjusticiable dispute which would be decided on lines ex aequo et bono. Somebody suggested the case of the North Pole. That is not by any means so fantastic. With the advance of flying, he would be a very foolish person who contemplated that rights over the territory of the North Pole might not become very important, and I can well imagine a case, either in the Arctic or Antarctic, where somebody might establish a station for certain purposes. It might well be said that no one could say definitely that this territory belonged either to A or to B, and a dispute might arise as to who ought to have the right of controlling it. That would be a typical instance of a dispute which would be non-justiciable and would have to be decided ex aequo et bono.

Let me give another illustration, because we are dealing here with the future, and if we have any imagination at all we must realise the sort of problems that will arise. Who, 20 years ago, would ever have dreamed of the sort of problems that have arisen with regard to wireless? I am not an expert in international law, and I do not pretend to know how far that matter has been regulated by treaty, but I could quite well imagine a case arising where a country wants to send its wireless programme to some colony or dominion and some intermediate country has set up a wireless station which interrupts and destroys communication. That is exactly the sort of case of which there are no instances under the rules of international law. That problem cannot be solved by applying the rule of international law. What are we to do? The suggestion of the General Act is that that matter shall be referred to arbitration. One must realise that there may be far more important questions involved. What is the alternative? It may be said that the methods of selecting the arbiters are unsatisfactory, that, in certain events, we contemplate the possibility of choosing them by lot; but let us remember that this General Act lasts only till 1934, and the attitude of this country and the Continent of Europe and the world at large will be judged, not by these lawyers' refinements, but by the general question, aye or no, Are we willing to take one step further forward in the cause of peace? As the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) once said, "Are we not willing to run the same risks in peace that we often run in war?"

Then the right hon. Member for West Birmingham put this point. He said: "You are using this arbitral tribunal, appointed in a rather peculiar way, and consisting of people of whom we may have never heard, as though it were a kind of court of appeal from the League Council." Surely that is a complete fallacy. The fallacy is this that whereas the report of the League Council is not a binding document, in the sense that the parties to the dispute are not under an obligation to accept it, the award of the arbitral court is a binding document. This is what would happen in practice. Suppose that you get a State dissatisfied with the League's report—




Decision. It is not really a decision, and I think my first word, "report," is best. He said the State might then go to an appeal. But in practice what happens? The State that is dissatisfied with the League's report—or decision, as you like—in practice does nothing. Let this be observed. Its obligation under the Covenant is this only, that it will not go to war with any other State which carries out the report of the League. What you would get, therefore, is not an appeal by a dissatisfied State but a case put forward by a State who had won hands down before the League, in whose favour the League had given its report or decision, and who wanted to be able to have that report reproduced in the form of an arbitral award so that it could be enforced as a matter of law. That is the fundamental question, and that is why, brushing on one side all these lawyers' points, that represents

the great divide between us. Is it wise or is it not wise to say definitely that you are going to put, as part of your machinery of peace, the obligation to accept arbitration, and to carry out the award of the arbitrator? So far as we are concerned, we regard that as fundamental. We feel that we are taking an important step to-day, a step of importance far beyond the actual criticisms or construction of this document, because we are taking the first step to enshrine arbitration, the first step to make important States which have differed agree to abide by the results of arbitration

I understand the reluctance and the hesitation, and we respect the reluctance and hesitation, of right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite, to try a new scheme. It is a new departure, and it is no good denying it. It is a new departure, and an important departure, and we believe that it is a departure for which the world is ready. If there is a danger of going too fast, there is also a danger, which I believe is an even greater danger, of going too slow, and it would indeed be a lamentable thing if this House did not allow us to accede to this General Act, which I have already said has the whole-hearted good will and the approval of every single member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It is an Act which the people of Europe call for, and it was unanimously passed by the Assembly of the League of Nations. It is an Act which I firmly believe will bring about a better sense of security, and will enable us to get on, at long last, with the work of arbitration.

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

The House divided: Ayes, 231; Noes, 139.

Division No. 186.] AYES. [10.20 p.m.
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Cameron, A. G.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro') Benson, G. Cape, Thomas
Ammon, Charles George Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)
Angell, Sir Norman Bowen, J. W. Charleton, H. C.
Arnott, John Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Chater, Daniel
Aske, Sir Robert Brockway, A. Fenner Church, Major A. G.
Attlee, Clement Richard Bromfield, William Clarke, J. S.
Ayles, Walter Bromley, J. Cluse, W. S.
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bliston) Brothers, M. Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.
Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley) Brown, Ernest (Leith) Cocks, Frederick Seymour
Barnes, Alfred John Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire) Compton, Joseph
Barr, James Burgess, F. G. Cove, William G.
Batey, Joseph Burgin, Dr. E. L. Cripps, Sir Stafford
Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland) Daggar, George
Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central) Calne, Derwent Hall- Dallas, George
Dalton, Hugh Law, Albert (Bolton) Ramsay, T. B. Wilson
Davies, E. C. (Montgomery) Law, A. (Rossendale) Rathbone, Eleanor
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lawrence, Susan Richards, R.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Lawson, John James Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Duncan, Charles Leach, W. Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)
Ede, James Chuter Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.) Romeril, H. G.
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern) Rosbotham, D. S. T.
Edwards, E. (Morpeth) Lees, J. Rowson, Guy
Elmley, Viscount Lewis, T. (Southampton) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Foot, Isaac Lindley, Fred W. Samuel Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Lloyd, C. Ellis Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)
George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn) Logan, David Gilbert Sanders, W. S.
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Longbottom, A. W. Sawyer, G. F.
Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley) Longden, F. Scrymgeour, E.
Gillett, George M. Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Scurr, John
Glassey, A. E. Lunn, William Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Gossling, A. G. Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Sherwood, G. H.
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) McElwee, A. Shield, George William
Gray, Milner McEntee, V. L. Shillaker, J. F.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne) McKinlay, A. Shinwell, E.
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) MacLaren, Andrew Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.) Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.) Simmons, C. J.
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)
Groves, Thomas E. Macpherson, Rt, Hon. James I. Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)
Grundy, Thomas W. McShane, John James Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Hall, F. (York, W.R., Nomtanton) Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton) Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll) Mander, Geoffrey le M. Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Hall, J. H (Whitechapel) Manning, E. L. Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn) Marshall, Fred Smith, Tom (Pontefract)
Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland) Mathers, George Smith, W. R. (Norwich)
Hardle, George D. Matters, L. W. Snell, Harry
Harris, Percy A. Melville, Sir James Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)
Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Messer, Fred Sorensen, R.
Hastings, Dr. Somerville Middleton, G. Stamford, Thomas W.
Haycock, A. W. Millar, J. D. Stephen, Campbell
Hayday, Arthur Mills, J. E. Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley) Milner, Major J. Sullivan, J.
Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.) Montague, Frederick Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)
Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow) Morley, Ralph Thurtle, Ernest
Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield) Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Tillett, Ben
Herriotts, J. Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.) Tinker, John Joseph
Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth) Muff, G. Townend, A. E.
Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Muggeridge, H. T. Viant, S. P.
Hoffman, P. C. Murnin, Hugh Walker, J.
Hopkin, Daniel Nathan, Major H. L. Wallace, H. W.
Hore-Belisha, Leslie Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Watkins, F. C.
Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield) Noel Baker, P. J. Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Hunter, Dr. Joseph Noel-Boxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.) Wellock, Wilfred
Jenkins, Sir William Oldfield, J. R. Welsh, James (Paisley)
Johnston, Thomas Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston) Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)
Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint) Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley) White, H. G.
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon) Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne) Palin, John Henry Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Jones, Moroan (Caerphilly) Paling, Wilfrid Wilson, J. (Oldham)
Jowitt, Sir W. A. (Preston) Perry, S. F. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Kelly, W. T. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)
Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas Picton-Tubervill, Edith Wise, E. F.
Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Pole, Major D. G. Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)
Kinley, J. Potts, John S. Young, R. S. (Islington, North)
Knight, Holford Price, M. P.
Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Pybus, Percy John TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Lathan, G. Quibell, D. J. K. Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Hayes.
Albery, Irving James Brown. Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y) Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Bullock, Captain Malcolm Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Galnsbro)
Astor, Viscountess Butler, R. A. Croom-Johnson, R. P.
Balilie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W. Campbell, E. T. Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley) Carver, Major W. H. Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip
Balniel, Lord Castle Stewart, Earl of Duckworth, G. A. V.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.) Dugdale, Capt. T. L.
Beaumont, M. W. Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J.A. (Birm., W.) Eden, Captain Anthony
Botterton, Sir Henry B. Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston) Edmondson, Major A. J.
Bevan, S. J. (Holborn) Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Elliot, Major Walter E.
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Clydesdale, Marquess of Falle, Sir Bertram G.
Boothby, R. J. G. Cobb, Sir Cyril Ferguson, Sir John
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Colfox, Major William Philip Ford, Sir P. J.
Bracken, B. Colville, Major D. J. Forestier-Walker, Sir L
Braithwalte, Major A. N. Conway, Sir W. Martin Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.
Brass, Captain Sir William Courtauld, Major J. S. Ganzonl, Sir John
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Glyn, Major R. G. C.
Gower, Sir Robert Margesson, Captain H. D. Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Klnc'dine, C.)
Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Marjoribanks, Edward Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Greene, W. P. Crawford Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Smithers, Waldron
Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Gunston, Captain D. W. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Muirhead, A. J. Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge) Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld) Stewart, W. J. (Belfast South)
Hammersley, S. S. O'Connor, T. J. Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry O'Neill, Sir H. Thomson, Sir F.
Hartington, Marquess of Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William Tinne, J. A.
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Penny, Sir George Turton, Robert Hugh
Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J. Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford) Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)
Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Pownall, Sir Assheton Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert
Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Remer, John R. Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.
Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall) Warrender, Sir Victor
Inskip, Sir Thomas Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Iveagh, Countess of Ross, Ronald D. Wells, Sydney R.
Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton) Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A. Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Knox, Sir Alfred Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Lamb, Sir J. Q. Salmon, Major I. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham) Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney) Womersley, W. J.
Llewellin, Major J. J. Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart
Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Long, Major Hon. Eric Savery, S. S. Captain Sir George Bowyer and
Macquisten, F. A. Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome Major the Marquess of Titchfield.
Makins, Brigadier-General E. Simms, Major-General J.

Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to:

Resolved, That this House approves of accession, in respect of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and all parts of the British Empire which are not separate Members of the League of Nations, to Chapters I, II, III, and IV of the General Act for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, subject to the conditions set forth in Annex 2 to Command Paper No. 3803.