HC Deb 13 July 1932 vol 268 cc1374-7

Before the House proceeds to the next point, I ask leave to intervene for a few moments to announce an outcome of the Lausanne Conference—an outcome which is now taking shape and which, I think, will be received with general satisfaction. Those hon. Members who were good enough to listen to my speech last night, may perhaps remember that I concluded by saying that at Lausanne we tried to get the countries of Europe to look forward instead of behind and that we wanted to secure that the whole problem of Europe was dealt with in the spirit of candour and mutual assistance which had prevailed at Lausanne. We have been attempting in the last few days to formulate the expression of this new political spirit which was illustrated at Lausanne and which will be so valuable if it can be preserved in future.

Let me be quite clear that what we have in mind is no part of the Lausanne Agreement. It should not he in any way confused with it. It is not a supplementary agreement. Indeed, it is not a substantive agreement at all, but it is an invitation to adopt candid and open relations and discussions to which we hope all the leading European Powers will respond. The French and the British Governments have taken the lead in the matter, but, as will be seen from the announcement which I will now read, what we are endeavouring to promote is a European accord as to the manner in which future difficulties should be discussed. I will read the announcement: In the declaration which forms part of the final Act of the Lausanne Conference the signatory Powers express the hope that the task there accomplished will be followed by fresh achievements. They affirm that further success will be more readily won if nations will rally to a new effort in the cause of peace, which can only be complete if it is applied both in the economic and political sphere. In the same document the signatory Powers declare their intention to make every effort to resolve the problems which exist at the present moment or may arise subsequently in the spirit which has inspired the Lausanne Agreement. In that spirit His Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom and the French Government decided themselves to give the lead in making an immediate and mutual contribution to that end on the following lines: As the House will see there follow four paragraphs. The first, second and third carry out what I have described, and the fourth is a special matter. 1. In accordance with the spirit of the Covenant of the League of Nations they intend to exchange views with one another with complete candour concerning, and to keep each other mutually informed of, any questions coming to their notice similar in origin to that now so happily settled at Lausanne which may affect the European regime. It is their hope that other Governments will join them in adopting this procedure.' Then the second paragraph is this: They intend to work together and with other delegations at Geneva to find a solution of the disarmament question— I ask the attention to these words: which will be beneficial and equitable for all the Powers concerned. The third paragraph is: They will co-operate with each other and other interested Governments in the careful and practical preparation of the World Economic Conference. The House will notice that in each of those three paragraphs the invitation is general. Fourthly, and lastly, there is a paragraph concerning France and ourselves. Pending the negotiation at a later date of a new commercial treaty between their two countries they will avoid any action of the nature of discrimination by the one country against the interests of the other. I just add this, and then I do not desire further to trespass on the time of the House, as there is still other business to do. This is, of course, in no sense and at no point, apart from the fourth paragraph, a special or exclusive declaration. I would like particularly to make that clear on the subject of Disarmament. I need only recall what I said about Disarmament last night in relation to President Hoover's proposals. We have already announced our own intention to co-operate with the United States in the work of Disarmament at Geneva, and, as I said on behalf of the Government last night, I am going back there now to help the working out of the principles of the Hoover proposals. As regards inviting other European Powers, I have already to-day had the opportunity of seeing the representatives in this country of Germany, Italy and Belgium, and in each case I have handed them a copy of this announcement and have extended to their Governments an invitation to associate themselves with the declaration.

The final paragraph deals with our commercial relations with France, and the avoidance of discrimination pending the discussion of a commercial treaty between France and ourselves; but the other three paragraphs, as is made clear in each case by the language used, are a proposal to the other principal countries in Europe to declare their adhesion to the rule that we will endeavour to promote political appeasement in Europe by open and friendly discussion on all points of difference, by seeking a solution at the Disarmament Conference which shall be beneficial and equitable to all, and by co-operating in preparation for the all important World Economic Conference which is to take place in the autumn and in connection with which we hope to have the advantage also of American assistance.


I do not intend to detain the House except to say, first, that I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving me a copy of his statement, so that I might have some little time to consider it. The House will not expect me, and it would be quite wrong for me, to attempt to discuss it now, but I may be permitted to say that in so far as it is proposed to carry out further discussion on questions that are of vital importance to Europe and the world with complete openness and candour, we give the proposal our most whole-hearted support. There cannot be anybody in the world who would stand for anything other than that. As to the Disarmament Conference, I should like to say, when the right hon. Gentleman states that they intend to work together with the other delegations in order to find a solution of the Disarmament question which will be beneficial and equitable, that I think everybody must support, that too. If people try to find an equitable settlement, they will find the right one.

As to the World Economic Conference, I am certain that only by perfectly open, frank and candid discussion of world economic problems by representatives of the world, can we hope to find any solution. I am very glad that the fourth paragraph is there, and I hope that, as a result of it, and of all the other efforts that the Government may be, making in this direction, the League of Nations may become a real league of nations within which, in future, every question will be brought to discussion and settlement, without the dread either of economic or of any other form of warfare.

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