HC Deb 07 July 1932 vol 268 cc624-5

May I ask the Lord President of the Council whether he is in a position to make a statement with reference to Disarmament?


I make no apology to the House for the length of the statement. I think it is only fitting that a statement showing this country's Disarmament policy should be made in the first instance in this House. It will be made in Geneva probably at about the time that I have finished speaking. After I have finished, copies of the statement will be obtainable in the Vote Office. I may also add that, as will be announced later in answer to a question on business, I hope very much the Prime Minister will be in his place on Tuesday when a Debate will take place on the proceedings at Lausanne and at Geneva.

"The Disarmament Conference has reached a stage when we must review the present position of our discussions and cooperate without loss of time in reaching and registering practical conclusions. The Government of the United Kingdom most cordially welcome President Hoover's declaration as a contribution to this end. We welcome it alike because it calls for a really substantial measure of disarmament and because it seeks to apply the two principles of quantitative and of qualitative limitation. As President Hoover says, Reduction should be carried out not only by broad general cuts in armaments, but by increasing the comparative power of defence through decreases in the power of the attack.' We desire to associate ourselves with these conceptions and to contribute all that we can to secure their practical application. The United Kingdom Cabinet has considered President Hoover's Declaration in this spirit and what I am about to say on certain practical points is said with a deep desire to promote co-operation and agreement.

Success at Geneva depends upon general agreement; and the American delegation has made it plain that President Hoover's proposals are put forward as a contribution to an agreed general programme. The United Kingdom Government have already advanced wide suggestions of their own. These, while they differ in some important respects as to method or measure, are inspired by the same purpose, and a comparison will show that already there is a substantial area of common ground.

Without interrupting or anticipating detailed discussions which must take place with the other delegations represented at Geneva, it is convenient at this moment to set out in broad outline the main characteristics of the United Kingdom proposals. They in their turn should be regarded, as I have said, not as a declaration of isolated action, but as a contribution to general agreement.

2. First, the Government of the United Kingdom desire to put on record their agreement with President Hoover on the further principle that the three problems of Military, Naval and Air Disarmament are inter-connected. International agreement cannot be attained without an adequate contribution from all three sources. Inasmuch as Britain, like the United States, finds her strongest arm in the Navy, the contribution which concerns her most is to be found in this sphere, in which, as is well known, contributions to disarmament on the largest scale have already been made in advance of the General Disarmament Conference. Nevertheless, the Government of the United Kingdom now offer a further contribution as part of a general world settlement.

3. It is now proposed to set out under the necessary heads of land, sea and air the manner in which the Government of the United Kingdom would suggest that these principles could be applied.