§ [1ST ALL0TTED DAY.]
§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]
§ CIVIL ESTIMATES AND ESTIMATES FOR REVENUE DEPARTMENTS, 1933 (VOTE ON ACCOUNT).
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £156,423,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charges for the following Civil and Revenue Departments (including Pensions, Education, Insurance, and other Grants, and Exchequer Contributions to Local Revenues) for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1934, namely:—
|Ministry of Labour||31,000,000|
|House of Lords Offices||26,000|
|House of Commons.||110,000|
|Expenses under the Representation of the People Acts||100,000|
|Treasury and Subordinate Departments||135,000|
|Privy Council Office.||3,500|
|Civil Service Commission.||8,000|
|Exchequer and Audit Department||51,000|
|National Debt Office||500|
|National Savings Committee||26,500|
|Public Record Office||12,500|
|Public Works Loan Commission||10|
|Repayments to the Local Loans Fund||35,000|
|Royal Commissions, etc.||31,810|
|Diplomatic and Consular Services||650,000|
|League of Nations.||80,000|
|Irish Free State Services.||1,159,000|
|Colonial and Middle Eastern Services||270,000|
|Colonial Development Fund, etc||150,000|
|Imperial War Graves Commission||70,009|
|Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum||21,500|
|Police, England and Wales||5,141,000|
|Prisons, England and Wales.||550,000|
|Approved Schools, etc., England and Wales||105,450|
|Supreme Court of Judicature, etc.||10|
|Miscellaneous Legal Expenses||45,000|
|Approved Schools, etc.||15,800|
|Scottish Land Court.||3,300|
|Law Charges and Courts of Law||14,200|
|Register House, Edinburgh.||10|
|Northern Ireland Services||5,000|
|Supreme Court of Judicature, Northern Ireland||15,300|
|Land Purchase Commission, Northern Ireland||1,195,000|
|Board of Education||15,500,000|
|British Museum (Natural History)||40,000|
|Imperial War Museum||3,800|
|National Portrait Gallery||2,600|
|Scientific Investigation, etc.||85,000|
|Universities and Colleges, Great Britain||975,000|
|Ministry of Health||6,000,000|
|Board of Control||61,000|
|National Insurance Audit Department||54,000|
|Friendly Societies Registry||15,000|
|Old Age Pensions||15,000,000|
|Widows', Orphans', and Old Age Contributory Pensions||4,000,000|
|Grants in respect of Employment Schemes||1,400,000|
|Depart of Health||1,150,000|
|General Board of Control||5,700|
|Board of Trade||95,000|
|Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade||10|
|Mercantile Marine Services||130,000|
|Department of Overseas Trade||120,000|
|Mines Department of the Board of Trade||68,000|
|Office of the Commissioners of Crown Lands||11,000|
|Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries||820,000|
|Beet Sugar Subsidy, Great Britain||50,000|
|Surveys of Great Britain||60,000|
|Ministry of Transport||50,000|
|Department of Scientific and Industrial Research||180,000|
|State Management Districts||10|
|Department of Agriculture||140,000|
|Art and Science Buildings, Great Britain||78,000|
|Houses of Parliament Buildings||38,000|
|Labour and Health Buildings, Great Britain||198,000|
|Miscellaneous Legal Buildings, Great Britain||55,000|
|Office of Works and Public Buildings||190,000|
|Public Buildings, Great Britain||355,000|
|Public Buildings, Overseas||35,000|
|Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens||59,000|
|Rates on Government Property||1,000,000|
|Stationery and Printing||725,000|
|Works and Buildings in Ireland||18,000|
|Merchant Seamen's War Pensions||107,000|
|Ministry of Pensions||17,000,000|
|Royal Irish Constabulary Pensions, etc.||785,000|
|Superannuation and Retired Allowances||730,000|
|Exchequer Contributions to Local Revenues, England and Wales||15,500,000|
|Exchequer Contributions to Local Revenues, Scotland||2,000,000|
|Total for Civil Estimates||£130,673,000|
|Customs and Excise||1,900,000|
|Total for Recenue Departments||£25,750,000|
|Total for Civil Estimates and Estimates for Revenue Departments||£156,423,000 "|
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I beg to move, "That Item Class II, Vote 1 (Foreign Office), be reduced by £100."
I should have preferred that it should have been possible for the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary or someone else on behalf of the Government to make a statement on this subject first. I understand, though, that it is according to the rules of discussion in Committee of Supply that anyone who wishes to move a reduction should start. We put this Amendment down, as I think the Government are well aware, in order to get a complete statement from the Government on the situation in the Far East and the decision of the League of Nations last week in reference thereto. Had the statement been made first, it might have been possible for me and my friends not to trouble the Committee for quite so long as we shall be obliged to do now, because, if the Foreign Secretary had introduced the subject, he would have given the Committee, I take it, the full history of the matter down to the present day.
I should like to say at the outset, speaking for myself and my friends in this matter, that we are neither pro-Japanese nor pro-Chinese and that we have as much regard for the Japanese people as we have for the Chinese people. We may, and do, profoundly disagree with and dissent from the policy of the Japanese Government, but that does not alter our feelings of friendship and regard for the Japanese people, and we would like that to be quite clear. Neither in anything that I may say to-day do I stand at this Box as a self-righteous representative of either the working people who sent me here or of our nation as a whole. I say that, because the representative of Japan last Thursday or Friday stated, when the decision was arrived at against his country, "Let the nation that is without sin cast the first 35 stone." If these events had happened previously to the Great War, before the coming of the League of Nations, it would have been a little difficult for any of the great Powers to have answered that question properly or with any justice, but the coming into being of the Covenant of the League has, at least on paper, altered the relationships of the Governments of the world. We are supposed now to have forsaken the old paths of Imperialism, war, and domination, and all of us to have pledged ourselves to other methods and means of settling our differences. That, it seems to me, rather vitiates the argument of the Japanese representative, though I am bound to say that I think, offhand, he may have had, thinking of the past, some justification for his statement.
As to this discussion, whatever other hon. and right hon. Members may feel about it, we feel that the world is facing probably one of the most serious crises since 1914, and, because we think that, we are of opinion that the Foreign Secretary, or whoever speaks for the Government, should tell us clearly and as emphatically as possible any obligations, if there are any, that we are under to any Government in certain eventualities, and make it quite clear that in this matter we are not actuated, as some people are insinuating that we ought to be, by motives of opposition to the spread of Communism either in China or anywhere else in Asia. In our view, it has nothing to do with the rest of the world whether China, or Japan, goes Communist or not. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh !"] I will repeat that. In our view, it is a matter for the Chinese people, and no one else, and to the idea that we should interfere or stand aloof because, as is claimed by the Japanese Government (she stands for the preservation of order in Asia, especially in that part of Asia, and should therefore be allowed a free hand), we object altogether, and to anything that would give countenance to that policy. We maintain that that is altogether in defiance both of the Covenant of the League and of the Nine-Power Treaty.
I should like also to say that both the Chinese Government and the Japanese Government are on an equal footing so far as recognition by the great Governments of the world is concerned. Both of those States are recognised as 36 Sovereign States. The right hon. Gentleman, answering questions last week, gave an answer on the question over what portions of China effective control was exercised by the Government at Nanking. Yes, but the Committee should remember that the Ambassadors of the Nanking Government are accepted here, at the Court of St. James, and at Tokio, and elsewhere throughout the world, that they are both recognised by the League of Nations, and that both sat, until last Friday, as colleagues on the Supreme Council of the League. Therefore, it seems to me that there cannot be any real sense or reason in arguing whether or not there is a central Government in China. It is recognised universally throughout the world that there is.
The next point that I should like to make is that both these nations signed the Covenant of the League, that Japan signed the Nine-Power Treaty guaranteeing the integrity of Chinese territory, and that both signed the Kellogg Pact. This is what the Japanese Government signed in regard to China:The contracting Powers, other than China, agree to respect the sovereignty. independence, and territorial and administrative integrity of China.Clause 4 of Article 1 reads—and I call the attention of hon. Members who rather questioned my statement a moment or two ago to this:To refrain from taking advantage of conditions in China in order to seek special rights or privileges which would abridge the rights of subjects or citizens of friendly States, and from countenancing action injurious to the security of such States. The contracting Powers agree not to enter into any treaty, agreement, arrangement, or understanding, either with one another, or, individually or collectively, with any Power or Powers, which would infringe or impair the principles stated in Article 1.The first of those principles is that all the nine Powers acknowledge the sovereignty of the Chinese Government, and the independence of the territorial and administrative integrity of China. I call the attention of the Committee to another fact which is worth remembering in these discussions. Both China and Japan have been under a certain amount of foreign control, but Japan, as is well known, has freed herself entirely of any control in her ports or within her territory. A foreigner living in Japan has to live under the rules of the Japanese 37 nation. That, however, is not true of China, which has not yet gained the same freedom; but we must bear in mind that ever since the Sun Yat Sen revolution which, established the Chinese Republic, the successive Governments have down to the present moment persistently striven by negotiation to free the Chinese treaty ports and to establish a China free of all alien interfence or domination. It is necessary to keep this in mind while we are discussing the dispute between Japan and China, because so far her efforts have failed, and the struggle that is taking place in reference to Manchuria is part of her general struggle for national freedom.
It is said and argued in the Press, and it may be argued here to-day, that so far war has not been declared between these two nations. I am not a legal jurist, national or international, and I do not intend to argue whether a state of war exists or not between these two nations. It is sufficient for ordinary people to know that since the dispute commenced Japanese troops, armed and equipped with all the devilish, machinery of modern warfare, have blasted their way across Manchuria. No one can deny that, and if that is not war, ordinary people would like to know when there is war and when there is not. As an incident in the campaign, there has been a pretty wholesale slaughter and destruction to Chinese villages and townships hundreds of miles away from Manchuria, and no one can declare that in those circumstances during the last 17 months war has not been waged between Japan and China, or rather waged by Japan on China. Further than that, at the present moment the Japanese forces are struggling to push their way into another great province. Common people do not understand the language of jurists who claim that war does not exist unless a form of words has first been used by one side or another, hut there is an old English saying that actions speak louder than words, and we think that in this case there is no necessity for words to tell us that there is war. The actual happenings prove that a war is on.
For 17 months this matter has been discussed, and last week the League of Nations decided that Japan is the aggressor and that her conduct is not consistent with the obligations imposed 38 on her by her membership of the League or by the treaty which she has signed with regard to China and war. It is something to be thankful for that at long last a decision has been reached. Speaking for my friends, and remembering the line that we have taken from the beginning, I think that it is almost criminal that the decision was not arrived at earlier. Just consider what the position is. The long delay has enabled the Japanese Government to consolidate their conquests in Manchuria and to get a jumping off place further into China. We ought to have had some more speedy method. of dealing with the matter. If the League is to be effective in future, she must move more speedily or, as a consequence of delay, a war may be over long before the League comes to a decision. [Laughter.] There is nothing to laugh at in that. Some people may think that Great Britain signed the Covenant of the League and did not mean it. I think that we did mean it. If we did not mean that we were going to use this means of stopping war or of preventing war, I do not know why we signed the Covenant, and I do not understand people thinking it a matter of joking that a war should be concluded before the League took action. I should have thought it something for very serious consideration. That is what I am trying to press on the Government and on the League of Nations. Let us consider what the League of Nations has decided. Part of what I am about to say is based on the records of the League and on the Lytton Commission. We are told that on 19th September in consequence of an incident near Mukden—the explosion of a bomb or the removal of a railway sleeper—the Japaneseput into operation with swiftness and precision…a carefully prepared plan to meet the case of possible hostilities between themselves and the Chinese.…The Chinese…had no plan of attacking the Japanese troops or of endangering the lives or property of Japanese nationals at this particular time or place.According to the Lytton Commission, an explosion did take place, butthe damage, if any, to the railroad did not in fact prevent the punctual arrival of the south-bound train and was not in itself sufficient to justify military action. The military operations of the Japanese troops during this night…cannot be regarded as measures of legitimate self-defence.39 I undertake to say that there has been no stronger condemnation of the action of any Government in almost any circumstances than those words of the' Lytton Report. What happened afterwards is set out in the language of the President of the Assembly in presenting the report of the Special Committee of the Assembly on the 21st February. This is what he said:Since 21st September, 1931, first the Council and then the Assembly endeavoured to settle the dispute with the agreement of the parties, in accordance with the Articles of the Covenant "—articles which were signed by the Japanese Government—in virtue of which the matter has been referred to them. For exactly 17 months the efforts at conciliation have been pursued. At the outset of the dispute, the Council had received the assurance that the withdrawal of the Japanese troops in the zone of the South Manchurian Railway, which had already been begun, would be pursued as rapidly as possible in proportion as the safety of the lives and property of Japanese nationals was effectively secured, and that Japan hoped to carry out this intention in full as speedily as possible.What is the position to-day, after that assurance from Japan? These are not my words:To-day the three Eastern Provinces are occupied, Japanese troops have crossed the Great Wall, and it is announced that operations are being prepared to occupy the Province of Jehol.Since then the bogus Government of Manchukuo have sent an ultimatum to China, and, as we are told in the Press, military operations are in full blast. Perhaps my knowledge of modern history is limited, but I should think there has been no more cynical, blatant disregard of solemn obligations than has been displayed by the Japanese Government in this respect. The Assembly of the League of Nations have made this declaration:Without excluding the possibility that on the night of 18th September, 1931, the Japanese officers on the spot may have believed that they were acting in self-defence, the Assembly cannot regard as measures of self-defence the military operations carried out on that night by Japanese troops at Mukden and other places in Manchuria. Nor can the military measures of Japan as a whole, developed in the course of the dispute, be regarded as measures of self-defence.40 After observing that in Manchuria there are many factors without an exact parallel in other parts of the world, the Assembly declare:It is indisputable that without any declaration of war a large part of Chinese territory "—Remember, the League have declared that Manchuria is Chinese territory—has been forcibly seized and occupied by Japanese troops, and that in consequence of these operations it has been separated from and declared independent of the rest of China. While at the origin of the state of tension that existed before 18th September, 1931, certain responsibilities would appear to lie on one side and the other, no question of Chinese responsibility can arise for the development of events since that date.Even after several months had elapsed since the incident at Mukden, our Government had not apparently made up their minds one way or the other on the subject, because in another place Lord Hailsham declared:His Majesty's Government prefer not to express any opinion or come to any decision as to the responsibility for the situation which has arisen until they had heard the contentions of both sides and have investigated the evidence which has been laid before them by one side or the other.We consider that was a most extraordinary view to take.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir J. Simon)
Was that before Lord Lytton's Committee gave its report?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Yes, it was during a discussion raised by Lord Ponsonby. As an ordinary person I should have imagined that the invasion of another country across a great stretch of the sea was an act of war and did not need much investigation as to whether it was right or wrong. [Laughter.] I would say to those who laugh at me that if a, similar thing had happened in this country we should have considered it to be war, and bloody war at that. In any ease, we on these benches expressed our point of view at the time. The fact that war was being waged was self evident from the moment the Japanese Government set their troops in action on 18th September, 1931, and I repeat that it is a misuse of words to say anything else. and if the League of Nations is to be accepted by the peoples of the world as a defence against war, and is to be effective in dealing with these disputes, 41 its rules must be modified and it must have power to act with the same swiftness and precision as the Japanese army acted under the orders of their Government. Had this been possible eighteen months ago, the world might have been spared the events developing before our eyes, and the awful prospects which unfold before the mind of even the most unimaginative of us—the international scene in the world.
Lord Cecil, who is looked upon as an authority in these matters, has declared that a war, small or large, in any part of the world, must ultimately affect the whole world, and it is from that point of view that I am speaking this afternoon. Although I have called attention to the statement of Lord Hailsham, I do not want to pursue that point except to make it clear that we who sit here have, right from the start, urged that some action should be taken, because we realised the terrible consequences which might ensue if this dispute went on and the war between these two countries continued. As I have already said the League of Nations, and our Government as members of the League, have tried patient negotiations, but at the last moment the Japanese have just flouted every single and collective appeal which has been made to them. We do not consider that there can be any inherent right in any nation to invade the territory of another nation simply because it may consider that its economic interests demand such action. We here want to say that quite definitely. Whatever may have been the case before the Great War, since the signing of the Covenant there cannot be any justification for any such claim as that.
When the Great War was launched we were told that it was a struggle to uphold treaty rights and treaty obligations and was for "a scrap of paper." Japan joined in that war. Millions of men enlisted to fight for a scrap of paper. One of the German Ministers was accused of urging that "necessity knows no law" as a justification for the invasion of Belgium. I believe that has been in the minds of statesmen many times in the history of the world. We all believe—I speak for those who sit here—that when the Covenant of the League was signed, that doctrine was abolished, at least from among civilised nations. Because that is the case, we are not concerned that 42 people can prove that Japan has business, commercial, monetary or other interests in Manchuria. Those considerations do not enter into the matter, because they do not give her any right cynically to outrage her obligations and not to honour her pledged word. She has chosen war.
War is something that usually spreads, especially when it concerns countries like China and Japan. It is very difficult to localise. In 1931, when my colleagues and myself spoke from here, other hon. Members who took part in the Debate spoke as though the hostilities were not of much importance to ourselves or to the world in general because they would be localised, and in a few months everything would have settled down. Nothing of the kind has happened. The Japanese are now fighting in another province of China, in Jehol. I have been looking at the map. I would ask everybody here to follow the good advice of the late Lord Salisbury and to look at big maps, and if hon. Members do so they will see what an enormous territory is involved, and what the frontiers of this territory really embrace. Jehol is in inner Mongolia. What hon. Members can tell where inner Mongolia ends and outer Mongolia begins? Perhaps some expert will stand up and tell us that. Outer Mongolia is within the sphere of Russian influence. The frontiers of Manchukuo are North China, outer Mongolia and Russia. The maritime province of East Siberia separates Manchuria and the Japanese Islands and spreads to the frontier of Korea. In the four years from 1918 to 1922, the military forces of Japan occupied this province, and made an abortive attempt to separate it from Russia.
To-day Mr. Matsuoka, who was the Japanese Minister at Geneva, has stated that in Japan there are two trends of thought. One regards the Soviet Union as a menace to Japan and thinks that Japan should strike at the Soviet Union before the potential menace fully materialises. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear !"] I hear hon. Members cheering. That reminds me of what two hon. Members said to me a few days ago. They said that it would be a good thing if Russia and Japan could be occupied with one another in the Far East, as that would make it easier to deal with Communism in Europe. That is about the maddest theory that has ever been put 43 forward. I should not have mentioned it but for the cheers of a couple of hon. Members below the Gangway. The other opinion, says the Japanese Minister, is that the matters at issue between the two countries could be peacefully settled by means of diplomacy, and the Japanese Minister believes that. Who, in this Committee, will refuse to consider the grave possibility of a preventive war between Japan and Russia? Lord Lytton, to whom the Committee will, perhaps, listen more respectfully than to me, in a speech that he made in Paris last week is stated to have expressed the opinion that Japan's military policy is producing the very danger it fears, and that it is heading straight for war against both China and Russia that will bring these two countries together, and apparently it is the military who are in control in Tokio. Does anyone think that a war between Japan on the one hand and two great nations of 600,000,000 people on the other—or even the danger of such a war —is something that we ought to treat with humour and to think would be for for the good of the world? Yet I have been told by Members of this House that that would be a very good thing, because it would help to destroy the menace of Communism. The Japanese Government, in a statement published in the Press to-day, claim that what they are doing is heading back the forces of Communism in Asia. It is a very mad world when such a thing could be possible, or even could be contemplated.
There is another matter upon which I would like the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to give any information that he can to the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) made a remarkable speech in this House during one of our discussions, I think it was upon Disarmament, in which he called attention to the Peace Treaties and to the great dangers of war in Central Europe. Men are already saying that this expected war between Russia and Japan will be an excellent opportunity of dealing with many of the problems mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman when he spoke. This all sounds very fantastic, but when I remember the secret treaties, made before and during the Great War, it does not sound so fantastic to me. It is now proposed, and spoken of in the 44 Press by statesmen, that Poland and Germany might come to an arrangement about the Polish Corridor whereby that might be given back to Germany and Poland be given compensation in places far away from one another, in the Ukraine and in Latvia and Lithuania. When men talk that way, and at the same time talk of the good of war in Asia for the purpose of heading back Communism in Russia and stopping its spread elsewhere, it does not seem very fantastic that those who hate the Soviet Union should have in their minds a policy of this kind.
Neither this country nor any other will escape, if the dogs of war are once again let loose. War is a cancerous growth. It is also like fire; it spreads very badly once it starts. I hope that no hon. Member will imagine that if the situation develops in China we shall be able to contract it and to keep it just there. The Japanese have said that they do not intend to go any further than this particular province—yes, always provided that the Chinese will settle down comfortably and accept an accomplished fact. But who imagines that they will do so, and does anyone here think that if because of Chinese opposition the Japanese Government think it necessary to occupy Tientsin, Peking and other places in China, it will stop there? It cannot possibly stop there. If, on the other side, Russia is brought in, it is quite certain, in my judgment, that the war monsters in Europe will break loose, and we shall have again a position like that of 1914.
What is to be done? It is for the Government to tell us what they propose to do. I speak under the disadvantage of not knowing what their proposals are, with the single exception of the public statements in the Press of what the Under-Secretary has proposed at Geneva. Our position in this matter is quite simple. We are very glad indeed that at long last the League of Nations has unanimously, and, as far as we know, with the approval of the American Government, come to certain definite conclusions. They have declared who is the aggressor, and therefore all the sanctions, all the obligations of the Covenant ought, in our judgment, to be carried through. There is an obligation not only upon Japan to 45 honour its word, but upon those who signed the Covenant to honour their word. The Covenant lays down certain things to be done. I know it is the fashion to say that if these are carried out, the Japanese Government may run amok in the Pacific, and all kinds of terrible things may happen. I think it is a pity that those who signed the Covenant did not think of this kind of thing when they signed it, because it is very terrible if, after all the hopes and aspirations raised by the League of Nations, we are now to be told that it is useless, and cannot do anything at all.
I hope that if that is the view of the House they will say so, and will retire from the League of Nations and be done with it. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot say that this is an instrument to prevent war or to deal with the aggressor, and then tell us that it is useless, that it cannot be used. The Attorney-General, I think, is contradicting me, but I would like to say to him that for 17 months the Japanese Government has defied the League of Nations, or, rather, has violated its pledged word according to the Covenant. Now the League has come to its decision, and we ask that the Government should let the Japanese Government and the Japanese people understand that we intend neither directly nor indirectly to give her the least help in carrying out her purposes against China. It is said that armies fight on their bellies, and, in modern days, all Governments need credit and finance. We agree, as a general principle, that all the Governments connected with the League of Nations should act together, but I want to point out again, that if this matter of stopping arms, ammunition and credits is going to be the subject of committees and commissions, and interminable delay, the Japanese may be in Peking, and the whole of that part of the world be in a blaze before we come to any decision. We want a decision come to, as I said at the beginning, as rapidly as the Japanese are able to move with their forces. We must keep in mind—at the risk of boring the Committee I repeat it—that the Japanese Government have said that they do not want to go any further if there is no opposition to them; that is, they want to be allowed to go further unless the Chinese people accept the accomplished fact.
46 I have said already that the invasion of North China has started, and no one can tell where it will end. The Assembly of the League of Nations remains in Session, and a sub-committee has been requested to follow the development of events. While the grass is growing it is said that the horse is starving, and while we are talking, and while the League of Nations is talking, the Japanese armies can blast their way through China. Men and women by the ten thousand are being slain. History will never forget what happened outside Shanghai. It will be remembered for all time. I must say that I am very oppressed and depressed by the sort of attitude of mind some people have towards war even in these days. Is not a Chinese man or woman as valuable as we are ourselves? Is it matter for a joke that 10,000 of them are destroyed? What becomes of all the talk about the comradeship of nations, the brotherhood of nations and all the rest of it 7 On behalf of my friends, I want to press on the Government that we want action to be taken now. [An HON. MEMBER: "What action"] If the hon. Member will have patience, I will tell him. We want our Government to say at once, that no arms and no ammunition shall be exported from this country. They have got plenty of power to do it without any Act of Parliament at all.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Speaking from an entirely different point of view from the right hon. Gentleman, and only for myself as a pacifist, I should not send them to either side, but my friends take the view, and it is the view I am putting to the Government—I am speaking for them at the moment—my friends on this matter do not hold the entirely pacific view I happen to hold myself, and, therefore, I am asking for a complete embargo against the aggressor.
§ Captain STRICKLAND
May I ask whether in this embargo the right hon. Gentleman would include the import of arms from America into Japan, and whether he would be prepared to send a British Fleet against America to prevent that importation?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The American nation and the American Government will, I am quite sure, do what they think right. 47 [Interruption.] The hon. Member for one of the Lancashire Divisions seems to think that that was an extraordinary statement.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
It is very difficult, on a subject like this, to deal with a running fire of commentary by hon. and right hon. Members. Returning to the statement I made, I really cannot see that there is anything extraordinary about it. It was that the people of the United States and the United States Government would make their own decision in this matter, and I have no doubt that they will make it on right lines. I do not think that they will want to import arms into Japan, any more than I hope our Government will, but I am asking this afternoon, quite definitely, that the Government shall prohibit the export of arms to Japan. I am asking that they shall use the power which the Order-in-Council passed in May, 1931, gives them of holding up the export licences. It will not need any Act of Parliament. They have power at the moment either to grant the licence or to withhold it. We also ask that there shall be an embargo on finance and credit. We believe that if these two things were done, then neither Japan nor any other Government could carry on a war. It is said, "Why should we do this alone?" It is said by some people, "Well, if you do it, the Japanese, contrary to your belief, will have power to continue fighting against the Chinese, or, alternatively, if we do not export arms, other nations will, and if we do not allow our factories to work for the supply of these weapons of destruction, other nations will garner a very rich harvest."
I have heard that argument a good many times, but I should like to put it to the House that it is a very unworthy argument indeed, and one for which we, at least, ought not to stand. If a thing is right, it is right; if a thing is wrong, it is wrong. Here is Japan brought to the bar of the greatest court in the world, and found guilty, not by people 48 without experience, but by the statesmen of the world, and we ask that, instead of our Government waiting, they should take action now, and say that from this country no arms of any kind should go—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
If the hon. Gentleman cannot define "arms, ammunition and war equipment," the War Office, the Air Ministry and the Naval authorities can easily advise the Government. It does not need a layman like me to advise them. They have plenty of experience—[An HON. MEMBER: "Cotton"]—everything of contraband. We want the export from this country prohibited of everything that will aid and abet Japan in its cruel, cynical war on China, and its outraging of its obligations to the League of Nations and the world. I hope I have spoken quite clearly. We ask for that for the sole purpose of freeing our nation from any responsibility in the matter. I have only this to say in conclusion. There are in this country many good people who have much of their money invested in armament firms and firms that supply the kind of things that are needed to carry on a war. I should like to see the bishops and the clergy and the statesmen who hold those shares take action and call meetings of the various companies and stop the manufacture of these things for the time being. It is said that these people invest their money for self-defence, for the defence of our country, and so on. Here is an opportunity of testing their bona fides.
I should also like to say that I take my stand on the doctrines laid down by the Lord President of the Council in the powerful speech that he delivered on Disarmament only a very few weeks ago. He appealed to the young men and the young women of the land, and it is often said about this House that old men like myself and others stand in the way of the young men. Very well; here is a chance for the young men to exert themselves; here is an opportunity for the young men who do not want to be landed into another Armageddon to come forward and take their stand and try to put an end to the danger of this terrible catastrophe that may overtake the world —another world war.
49 I want to remind hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, though again it will probably be only a matter for humour with them, that 10,000,000 men were sacrificed in the last Great War, and that, in our own country, literally millions were bruised and battered and destroyed. We old men survived because we were not called upon to go, but the youth who ought now to be carrying on in this country were decimated and destroyed, and they were destroyed because people put expediency first. I sat on those benches in the years from 1910 to 1912, when all the discussions used to take place about our engagements with the French in case of war, and I heard the statement of Sir Edward Grey, now Lord Grey of Fallodon, in regard to our assertions as to what would happen if certain things continued. In the end we were proved right, and the Government of the day and its advisers were proved wrong. The Great War came. To-day, I believe, the world is living under the shadow of an even greater catastrophe; I believe that events in the Far East may lead to more widespread devastation; and it is because I believe that that I stand here to-day and ask that this Committee should call upon the Government to act on its own behalf and on behalf of the British people, and say that, while Japan holds on her path of Imperialist crushing of a nation weaker than herself, we will have no part or lot with her at all, but will just stand outside it.
I would also like our Government to make one more effort with the Japanese Government to bring them to reason. Imperialism has been of no use for this nation, and of no use to the world. You can see the wreckage that it has caused all over the world to-day. The Japanese Government and the Japanese nation have come into the whirlpool of commercial expansion later than others, but they have come in at a time when the great Imperialist nations of the world are all trembling to ruin, and it is because I believe that that I think our Government should make even another appeal to the Japanese people and the Japanese Government to hold their hands, and, instead of pursuing the way of force and slaughter and domination, to try to come to an understanding with the people of China. I do not believe that that is impossible. I believe that, if the Japanese Government would give up their, so to 50 speak, forcible will, and come to reason, they could come to an understanding with the Chinese nation that would be satisfactory to them and satisfactory to China.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Sir J. SIMON
It will, I think, be for the convenience of the Committee if I follow the right hon. Gentleman at once, and before the end of the Debate, if necessary, some further statement can still be made from the Government Bench. I would like to begin by saying that I find myself in entire agreement with the right hon. Gentleman in respect of something that he said at the beginning of his speech, and in respect of something that he said just at the end. I think we shall all be in agreement with him in both the sentiments to which I refer. He said in his first sentence that, in taking part in the Debate, he and his friends dealt with the subject on the basis that he wished this country to be and to remain the good friend both of China and of Japan. I am grateful to him for having stated that so clearly. It is the basis upon which we all ought to proceed, and I am sure that nothing that anybody will say in any part of this Committee will be designed for one moment to suggest the opposite. I also agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said in his concluding sentences. He said that, after all the many efforts that had been made, he still wanted to appeal and to do anything that he could to induce the parties to this unhappy conflict to meet together and reach a mode of conciliation. That is everybody's desire, and that is the justification for the time that has been occupied at Geneva on the effort to conciliate. I am very glad indeed that the right hon. Gentleman, in his peroration, should have admitted that it was a worthy object, and even now should be pursued.
The course of the British Government in this matter has been perfectly clear, perfectly consistent, and perfectly straightforward from beginning to end, and I was a little sorry not to hear from the right hon. Gentleman an admission that he now recognised how mistaken all those critics were who were suggesting or insinuating some months ago that the British Government was not prepared to stand by the Lytton Report. The truth is that from the very beginning, quite openly, and in speaking both to the Chinese and to the Japanese repre- 51 sentatives privately, I have made plain what has been throughout the position of the British Government. It is that this is a matter which by every possible means ought to be brought to an end by conciliation; but, if conciliation failed, or failed for the time being, there was no view of this contest which could possibly be put in rivalry or in contrast with the view that has been expressed by the report of the Lytton Commission. A great many people some months ago were insinuating doubt and suggesting that when the time came we should not stand by our word, or that I in the meantime was endeavouring to pursue some other course. Never. From beginning to end, without the slightest change of attitude, we have said that conciliation is the first task. It is the provision of Article 15 of the Covenant that you should endeavour to conciliate. Let us do it by every manner of means. But, should conciliation unhappily fail, then the view that must be taken of this matter is the view that is unanimously taken by the League's own Commission, the Commission presided over by Lord Lytton. The right hon. Gentleman at one moment seemed to me not to have read the Lytton Report as closely as I feel sure he must have done. He was explaining his view that we were here in the presence of nothing more than a simple, uncomplicated transgression over the frontier of one country of the armies of a foreign State. May I ask his attention to a paragraph in the Lytton Report? I will read it to the Committee. It is at page 126:It must be apparent to every reader of the preceding chapters that the issues involved in this conflict are not as simple as they are often represented to be. They are on the contrary exceedingly complicated, and only an intimate knowledge of all the facts, as well as of their historical background, should entitle anyone to express a definite opinion upon them. This is not a case in which one country has declared war on another country without previously exhausting the opportunities for conciliation provided in the Covenant of the League of Nations. Neither is it a simple case of the violation of the frontier of one country by the armed forces of a neighbouring country, because in Manchuria there are many features without an exact parallel in other parts of the world.The right hon. Gentleman is quite entitled to say, and as a matter of fact I agree with him, that it is to the last 52 degree regrettable that, as month has followed month, the situation has become more and more aggravated, and that this advance of Japanese troops is not in accordance with the Covenant of the League. I agree with him entirely, but he is not entitled to say that we were faced in the first instance with one of those simple issues which any sensible man could dispose of.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not want to misinterpret what I said or what I meant. The simple point that I made was that the Japanese Government, instead of referring the dispute to the League, simply invaded and has carried on an invasion of the territory, and herself has determined by force to do just what she thinks is right.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will find that on this point we are necessarily at issue. I must be allowed to speak within the recollection of the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman's point was that there has been a highly regrettable delay on the part of the Government of this country, and, in particular, he quoted Lord Hailsham in another place to confirm it. The reason I interposed to ask him what was the date of the quotation was that it appeared as the result of that inquiry that Lord Hailsham's statement was made before the Lytton Commission had ever reported. If there is a difference between us, I am well content that it should be thus defined. It is right for people to form a conclusion, after having appointed a Commission to find out the facts, by examining what the Commission said, and I do not think it would be in the least degree in accordance with the traditions of this country or of fair international dealing that, after first requiring that a Commission should be appointed, over which a fellow subject of our own was appointed to preside, the British Government should make a pronouncement when the Commission itself had not yet reported. But the Commission has now reported. It is a perfectly simple and straightforward document. It it a unanimous report by members drawn from five different countries including one from the United States. It is the report of a Commission appointed by the League of Nations itself and all the experience at Geneva goes to show that, if you 53 appoint a Commission, adequately staffed, it goes to the spot, gets its information on the spot and then presents a unanimous report, it would be an extremely strong order if the League of Nations did not pay due attention to what the report says. I have never varied from that view from one moment to another since the report has been made.
What does the report say? Let me at once agree with the right hon. Gentleman on what is the main point, that there is no doubt at all that the methods that have been followed by Japan in this con- troversy and the actions that she has taken are not in accordance with the pro- visions of the Covenant of the League. To use a common expression, Japan has taken the law into her own hands, and it is beyond any possibility of doubt or dispute that the Covenant of the League lays down that you should not take the law into your own hands, but shall use the machinery which the League provides. I hope I have stated that with as much bluntness and plainness as to satisfy everyone. I have no doubt about it at all. But you do a grave injustice if you stop there and do not admit that the case of Japan was one which involved many complications, that she has in fact had very severe trials to put up with, that she has been dealing with a neighbour who has been extremely difficult to deal with and that her situation, apparently her lawful situation in Manchuria, is something quite exceptional in the history of the world. Consequently, in the first instance the action of the Japanese army does not in the least resemble the invasion by a foreign force of some other country, because Japan in fact has exceptional rights over strips of territory there.
You must also, if you are going to be fair, admit, as I said at Geneva, that the Lytton Report is not a one-sided document. It endeavours to produce a balanced judgment, and I notice that very epithet "a balanced statement" comes in the unanimous report which has now been adopted by the League itself. I have got into terrible hot water because I pointed out at Geneva that this document contains a balanced judgment. It says it is quite true that the antiforeignism of China and the lengths to which she and her people have carried the boycott created a situation of the greatest possible difficulty. If you want a simple proof of it it is to be found in the fact 54 that, although the Lytton Commission makes the strong recommendation which it makes and which the British Government adopt and support, it also says it would not be satisfactory to go back and to restore the status quoas it was before 18th September, 1931.
I believe I have stated without any sort of bias or prejudice what is the substance of this report. I have never doubted for a moment that it was a report which should be adopted by the League, and, when I say adopted, I mean not only the eight chapters which are a historical statement, but the recommendations that are found in it. That is what the League of Nations has done. The Committee will be well advised to observe that Lord Lytton and his colleagues, studying this thing so closely, have not made recommendations for sanctions or vehement action or compulsion in any form at all. What they have done is to recommend a series of methods of approach between one side and the other, and they have urged that we of the League of Nations should do everything we can in order to promote that approach. I was a little astonished when I heard the right hon. Gentleman, with his well-known record from a point of view which we greatly respect, saying in effect that in his view, unless the League of Nations was to proceed by methods of sanction and compulsion, he did not see what was the good of our belonging to the League of Nations at all. I should have thought he was the last man in the world to belittle the moral effect of the judgment of the world. I take the view that the fact that 42 nations have pronounced a unanimous judgment, in which they have adopted the report of a perfectly fair commission, is a fact and an event in the history of the world. Gentlemen of the right hon. Gentleman's opinions and persuasion ought to be the first to rejoice over it. I altogether repudiate the idea that, when the League of Nations has adopted that unanimous view, it has not itself done a great thing. I am very glad that the Government of this country has from first to last taken its full share in getting that done. I wish to express my obligations to the Under-Secretary who with great skill and to our complete satisfaction, has seen to it that the British Government took its proper stand and played its proper par0t.
55 Now the right hon. Gentleman asks what are we going to do—a perfectly proper and a very important question to ask. In particular, he has referred to the question I am now going to deal with, namely, what could or could not be done in the matter of the continued supply of arms to the Far East. Even if nothing was done, I should regard the unanimous declaration of the League as a great fact and a real contribution on the long view to world peace. I should regard it as wholly unfair to Japan if we did not recognise that her circumstances and her trials were undoubtedly exceptional, and I should regard it as wholly unfair to China, and not being a faithful member of the League if we did not say that, after all, the Covenant of the League does not authorise people to take the law into their own hands, and that Japan has not acted in the way that the Covenant of the League suggested.
In those circumstances, it is perfectly natural that a demand should arise which calls for action which would prevent the sustaining, the fostering, the fomenting of the conflict by the supply of arms. I do not think I should be in the least representing the feelings of the vast mass of my fellow-countrymen if I were to speak of that sentiment and attitude in any way but in the way of sincere respect and understanding and sympathy. It would be a great satisfaction to many of us, especially in view of the efforts that we have made and are making to promote disarmament and spread the basis of peace, if we could feel that our own country was taking no part in supplying the means of carrying on the conflict, or if we could secure international action to produce that result more effectively. That is a sentiment which is a deep and sincere sentiment not in the least confined to cranks and queer people. It is the view of many man who does not otherwise think very deeply of this class of issue. It is a horrible thing in their view that profit should be made out of the supply of the means of provoking fighting which is neither necessary nor just. The Government have started with that very clearly before our minds.
Now I am going to analyse the situation and then I will answer the right hon. Gentleman's question. A very little consideration and reflection leads in 56 evitably to this view that, if this kind of thing is going to be effectively and finally stopped, it can only be stopped by international agreement. I do not ask anyone to approve that sentiment as an easy means of relieving our own conscience. I state it as a fact, and it is a very obvious fact. As a matter of fact, we have had a little experience of this. Some years ago an effort was made to stop the supply of arms to China at a time when civil war was rampant. Very great international efforts were made, but it is a very moot point whether we really succeeded in stopping arms going in. In this country we certainiy stopped the supply, but with one or two other exceptions I doubt whether it would be said that armaments from other countries in the world ceased to go in. The thing has to be done internationally if it is to be really effective. President Hoover said in Congress the other day that the efforts of a single nation to stop the armaments traffic was bound to be futile. As a matter of fact, in this country we are provided with rather better machinery for the purpose of stopping the arms traffic than most countries, I think than any other, because we have an armaments Order-in-Council which means that when arms and ammunition according to a prescribed list are going to be exported from any port in the United Kingdom they will only be passed by the Customs if a licence is produced which authorises that particular traffic to proceed, and, therefore, we must face the fact that we in this country whether for good or for evil have a machine in our hands which could be used. Most other countries, I am informed, are not in that position, and, with regard to the United States, I understand the position really is that the executive has no power to stop it. I am very glad to see that a message was sent to Congress suggesting that they might legislate so as to confer power on the President, but they have not at present done so.
It is perfectly plain, therefore, that, if you are going to do this thing effectively it can only be done by international agreement. The British Government lost no time in trying to find out what could be done in that direction and as soon as ever it became plain that the report of the Committee of Nineteen would he adopted by the League, but that un 57 happily Japan would not accept it we made inquiries. We communicated with some half-dozen of the principal arms-producing countries in the world. As a matter of fact, before you can get a system of international control you will have to do more than that, because there are countries which sell arms and do not produce them. There are all sorts of roundabout ways in which the thing may happen. Those inquiries have not yet been answered; and in no case have they been answered finally. But I will say this, that we have been very active in making those inquiries.
In the discussions at Geneva the representative of the United Kingdom Government was instructed to raise this matter before a committee which is called the Advisory Committee. I believe that to-day or to-morrow it is likely to come under consideration there. Therefore, I would like to say to the Committee in regard to the first point, realising, as everybody must, that the only effective method of stopping the thing is International agreement, we have ourselves been as energetic and active about it as any Government could possibly be. That does not exhaust the matter. As the right hon. Gentleman said, one thing is to do your best to secure the effective International control of arms to the Far East. If you do that, you should be active in making inquiries of other countries, which is what we have done; but at the very best it will take a little time, not only to get a decision, but to get enough information to know whether a decision is possible.
We therefore have by no means overlooked the other question which the right hon. Gentleman put across the Table just now. The question is: Is there any action which can be taken by this country by itself? On that' I have two propositions to put to the Committee. The first is, that when you have passed from the sort of action which the League of Nations, or which a. great International Conference, including America, might take to the sort of action which an individual country might take, you manifestly are moving into a very different atmosphere, and, for practical and conclusive reasons, very different considerations apply. I therefore lay down this proposition from which we shall not budge. It is impracticable for 58 a single country like ourselves acting alone to differentiate between one combatant and another. I do not think the Committee would require that I should develop the reasons, some of which will occur to any man of ordinary sense and prudence.
§ Sir J. SIMON
For the benefit of the hon. Member, I will certainly develop one at once. It would be the height of absurdity for a cargo designed to go to the port of "X" at a time when we have decreed that in no circumstances it shall go to the port of "Y," to find itself in the China Seas and in danger of being interfered with, because the authority of "Y" have plenty of powers in those seas and "X" have no power. I think that I am myself enough of a pacifist to take this view, that, however we handle this matter, I do not intend my own country to get into trouble about it. I have made the first of my two propositions purely for the purpose of clearing the mind of the hon. Member. I think that what I have said will satisfy the Members of the Committee of this: First of all, that international consideration as quickly as possible is, no doubt, the best process and the one most likely to lead to effective results, and, secondly, that if there was to be any action by a single nation like ourselves, it could not be differentially distinguished between "X" and "Y." The choice, therefore, is between Departments here day by day granting positive licences to exporters whether the cargo is going to be consigned to China or Japan, and refusing licences for either one or the other.
We have done everything in our power to hasten international consideration of the subject, and, pending that consideration, as from now we believe that any efforts and any sacrifices are worth making which will reduce the risk of widening the field of conflict or of prolonging the bloodshed. We believe that the general sense of the country at this time would be opposed to a decision which, by freely admitting the dispatch of arms—and it involves a positive authority from a Government Department—would undoubtedly help to foment the struggle and increase the slaughter. Contracts which have been 59 already made—existing contracts already entered into—must be respected or you may get demands for compensation and have all sorts of injustices done. But subject to this we have decided that as from to-day, and pending the opportunity of international consultation and decision such as I hope for, the Government will not authorise the issue of licences for export to either China or Japan of any article mentioned in the Arms Export Prohibition Order, 1931.
I am perfectly well aware—no doubt if I said so you would point it out to me at once—that that decision will not in itself prevent the supply of arms to the Far East from other sources—certainly not. Some people may say that it may even stimulate it. Yet, it will be the first time, Mr. Chairman, as far as I know, in which any neutral Government, certainly any neutral Government which manufactures arms, has taken positive action of this kind in reference to a distant conflict with which we do not mean in any circumstances to concern ourselves. But we ask for the approval of the House for a bold decision which involves the country in no controversy with either party and which, we believe, will commend itself to the better judgment of the country.
Let me say a single word in conclusion. The right hon. Gentleman when he began, said that in his view these recent developments in the Far East were bringing about a situation fit to be compared with the fearful situation of 1914 to 1918. The Government have good reason to know, and I have had good reason to know for many months, how anxious is the task of so handling this matter as not to involve these frightful circumstances. There is one great difference between 1914 and now, and it is this: in no circumstances will this Government authorise this country to be a party to the struggle.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
The Committee have listened with very close attention to the important statement made by the Foreign Secretary on a matter which is one, not only of very grave moment to this country but to the whole world. In the first place, I should like to express my concurrence with what has been said both by the right hon. Gentleman and by the Leader of the 60 Opposition as to the general attitude in which the House of Commons and, I believe, the country at large approaches this dispute. It is not in the least an attitude of enmity or hostility to Japan. For years we were proud to be the allies of Japan. We were the first country to give her a helping hand when she came out from her isolation into the full comity of nations. This country has a profound respect for the ancient civilisation of Japan, for her high culture, her art and her literature, and has an admiration for her modern efficiency. We should be fully as ready to side for Japan as to side against her, and, if in this matter public opinion is running strongly against the action of the Japanese Government, it is solely upon the merits of the case.
It is recognised fully that the wrongs, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, are not all on one side. The Lytton Commission, which was a wholly impartial body, fully recognised that fact. They appreciated the Japanese standpoint as well as the Chinese. They did not recommend merely a return to the status quo.On the contrary, they proposed large changes, having regard to the special interests of Japan. The most significant feature in the whole of this matter is the complete unanimity which has been obtained for international action along certain lines. The Lytton Commission, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, was completely unanimous, like the Simon Commission, and, I may add, the Samuel Commission. It contained, be it remembered, not only a British chairman but also members drawn from America, France, Germany and Italy, all of them bringing impartial minds to bear and all reaching to the same conclusion without even a single note of dissension. The Committee of Nineteen, containing representatives of that number of nations, was, again, absolutely unanimous, and when the matter came before the Assembly of the League more than 40 nations declared unanimously their opinions. Since then a most important event has occurred. It is announced in the Press to-day that the Government of the United States, in general terms, adheres to the decision of the League of Nations. It is a contrast compared with what used to happen in the past. My right hon. Friend sitting behind me can well remember the discussions on matters, 61 not of the Far East but the Near East, when what was called the Concert of Europe always struck a discordant note, each Power playing its own instrument in its own way, and unanimity was never obtainable.
It is a most remarkable fact that to-day we have complete unanimity on the part of all authorities who have brought their minds to bear on the problem, and I think that the thanks of this House, and of the country, are due to the members of the League of Nations, the members of the Lytton Commission, and the members of the committee led by Monsieur Hymans, its distinguished Chairman, who by great care and tact have succeeded in securing a unanimous guidance for the world. It has proved how widespread is the recognition now that it is essential that there should be a world order, and that the League of Nations should be effectively its initiator and its guardian. When the Japanese say to us, as their delegate said when quitting the Assembly two days ago: "Look at history. All you European Powers have in the past scrambled for territory, how can you cast the stone at us?", the answer, clearly, is, that although it is true that there is substance in it, looking at past history, the modern world has turned to different courses. The very fact that the League of Nations exists to prevent the great scramble of imperialist Powers from engaging in aggression shows that we have turned to other lines.
With regard especially to China, all the Powers concerned at the Washington Conference, including Japan, solemnly resolved that they would not take advantage of the disunion and weakness of China to promote their own separate interests. The British Government restored to China the Port of Wei-hai-Wei and the surrounding territory as earnest of our Sincerity in the matter. If the old international morality had prevailed, with modern armaments, China would have been dismembered long ago. There is no reason why all the great Powers should pass a self-denying ordinance and say that they would not for their own selfish interests intervene in China, in order that one among their number, without rivalry or competition, should take advantage of that self-denying ordinance in order herself alone to promote her own interests, to the detriment of China.
62 There is one further consideration which, I am sure, the House will have in mind with respect to the supply of arms and with respect to the levying of any embargo upon imports and exports. This matter should be considered in no degree from the point of view of national trade. If we forgo the right to supply arms to Japan, we should have no regard to the fact that that involves the sacrifice of orders, profits and employment to many of our manufacturers and workmen. It will be a sacrifice, but the matter should not be considered on that plane. That cannot be the predominant motive. Similarly, if the question arises now or in the future of joining in any embargo on imports into Japan, or exports from Japan, that would have the opposite effect of being an advantage to our trade in many particulars, but that consideration also should be quite sincerely dismissed from our minds. If such action should ever come forward for consideration, whether it be right or wrong, expedient or inexpedient, it should be considered solely from the standpoint of whether it is legitimate or necessary in order to secure the observance of the judgment of the League of Nations.
These are the general considerations which form the background for any conclusions which we may reach with respect to the urgent question of an embargo upon the export of arms either to Japan alone or to both countries. I am convinced that the thoughts predominant in the minds of the people of this country at this moment are these: The fact that the Chinese should have been unjustifiably attacked, is very bad; that we and other Powers are unable immediately and effectively to intervene and protect them is worse; but that they should be continuously attacked with the aid of guns, tanks, aeroplanes, 'shells and bombs, which British people shall have made and sold for that purpose, would be quite intolerable. If it should prove to be the case that the Chinese are able to raise a gallant defence of their territory, and if ship after ship were to leave our ports containing cargoes of munitions of war to enable the Japanese to bear down that defence, I believe the conscience of the British nation would revolt against that and that public opinion would not endure it. That should be the predominant consideration, and our policy in all these matters must conform with that view.
63 Having said that, I agree with what the Leader of the Opposition and the Foreign Secretary declared that, obviously, the right course to pursue is by international action; the duty does not lie on this country alone or upon any other country alone. The duty of such intervention as may be necessary rests upon all equally. I am sure the whole of the Committee will have heard with satisfaction the Foreign Secretary's declaration that already the British Government have taken the initiative in bringing this matter before the League of Nations and asking for a very early decision. We trust that the matter will be quickly discussed by the League and that they will be able to arrive at a decision with the same unanimity as in these other matters, and that they will receive the endorsement, the concurrence and the co-operation of both the United States and Russia.
The Foreign Secretary has made a clear declaration of the course which the Government intend to take with regard to the immediate situation. He has pointed out the difficulties of taking individual action on the part of this country, if that action were to discriminate between Japan and China. At the same time the fact has to be realised that in stopping the import of arms to both China and Japan the practical effect will be injurious to Chinese interests, because China depends upon the purchase of arms from foreign countries far more than does Japan. Consequently, if both countries were isolated from the world in the matter of arms it would be an enormous advantage to the Japanese attack, which is fed by her great arsenals, and a great disadvantage to the Chinese defence, which has to be supplied largely from foreign sources. If this were the case and were seen to be the case after a lapse of some months, if, unhappily, the hostilities were to continue so long, it might be that in any future eventuality countries would realise that they might, if put on their own self-defence against an aggressive Power, acting in defiance of the Covenant of the League of Nations, be cut off from supplies, and that it would be to their interest to meet the case beforehand by establishing their own arsenals. Therefore it might be that action of this kind, taken with the best of intentions by this 64 country, individually, or conceivably by the League collectively, would result in giving an impetus to the establishment of more arsenals, State arsenals, in many countries where they do not now exist and where they would be a centre of militarist influence.
On the other hand, it is a fact that the imposition of an embargo upon the supply of arms to Japan alone, whether by this country or by the League, will create a new situation, certainly new in international law. The old rule of neutrality doubtfully applies in the present situation. There are three differences between the situation now and what it would have been before the Great War in the matter of the supply of what is regarded as contraband of war by neutral nations. In the first place, the whole conception of neutrality must be altered by the fact of the existence of the League and the declaration of a judgment by the League. Can there be a legal neutrality when there has been a formal declaration of a judgment internationally against one of the parties to the dispute? Can the old conception of neutrality hold, particularly in this matter of the supply of arms? Mr. Stimson has very clearly declared to the contrary. The Secretary of State of the United States in a formal document, a memorandum officially communicated to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives of Congress, has said, in a case where the League has passed judgment that one of two parties is the aggressor.If the League or any other comprehensive group of important States mutually arrived at such a verdict the participation of the United States in a general arms embargo would be not merely practical and sound but practically necessary to preserve our national dignity and standing as a peaceful nation.This declaration, coming from that source, is of profound importance in this connection. It shows that Mr. Stimson is taking a different view from that which would have been taken before the War in regard to the matter of neutrality.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
Yes. It was made a few days ago. Secondly, we have now in the Far East a state of warfare though not a state of war. The Pact of Paris has in this situation not succeeded in preventing war from being waged but 65 only in preventing war from being declared. What is the outcome from the standpoint of international law? Are we to regard the situation as being one in which war de factoexists, or one in which the ordinary rules of commerce in times of peace are still to apply? Thirdly, there is this difference between the present situation and that which existed before the War, that we have the Order-in-Council, to which the Foreign Secretary has made reference, which imposes upon the Government the duty of granting or of withholding licences for particular consignments of arms to be sent from particular ports in this country to particular ports abroad. That means that to-day the Government have to take specific action one way or the other by granting or withholding from this country or to that country the supply of arms. Previously, the supply of arms was a matter for private enterprise, and the contractor took his own risk and acted on his own authority. Now, there is and must be direct Government intervention. Consequently, the action of the Government becomes a matter of international law and international policy, and it has to be considered from that point of view.
All these circumstances make the situation an entirely new one and, for the first time, very grave decisions have to be taken by individual countries and the League of Nations. The difficulties that may arise from individual action to the detriment of an individual Power has been indicated by the Foreign Secretary, but that is not a reason for taking no action; it is a very strong reason for urgently desiring joint action, for if the whole world take the necessary steps simultaneously the situation will be quite different from that which might occur if only one nation takes action alone. We have the duty to participate with other Powers in the establishment of world order, but there is no obligation to make the British Navy the sole policeman of the world. Those who believe most strongly in collective action should be unwilling to anticipate it by individual action. The right hon. Gentleman has said that, for the time being and pending an international decision, the Government are withholding any further licences for the export of arms to the Far East, with the exception of those that are sent in accordance with running contracts. I think the Committee would like to have 66 at some stage information as to what those running contracts are and how long they are likely to continue. If it means that Japan will be entitled to secure for a period of months, or it may be years, very large quantities of arms from manufacturers in this country, the conscience of the nation would revolt against it, and it would be urged that some steps should be taken to terminate the obligation under those contracts. I trust that this temporary arrangement will be only for a very brief period, for it would work to the detriment of China rather than that of Japan.
Lastly, I am convinced that the Committee and the country would desire that in other directions, apart from the supply of arms, Great Britain should withhold aid and assistance of every kind from Japan, who have been declared to be the aggressor in this matter, particularly, as the Leader of the Opposition suggested, in respect of loans and credits. Japan will find herself subject to very severe economic strain. There has already been a great increase in her national expenditure and a great decline in her revenue. There was a deficit in her Budget of this year of £90,000,000. Her currency has fallen to nearly half its value and there has been consequently a rapid rise in domestic prices. Meanwhile, she has undertaken the task of maintaining order and good government throughout the vast territory of Manchukuo, in which it is estimated that there are at the present time no fewer than 200,000 so-called bandits, who overrun the country.
It may be that economic forces, combined with the moral pressure of world opinion, will after no long interval bring Japan to a more reasonable state of mind. That is what I am sure all her wellwishers, and there are many in this country, will most earnestly desire. For generations Japan kept herself in isolation from the world, and in that isolation developed her own distinguished and distinctive civilisation. Then she came into the full stream of international life, cultural, industrial, commercial, political. Now, for the moment perhaps let us hope, she has withdrawn again into a, position of moral isolation; she is alone at this moment in the whole world. The Japanese are a proud, a sensitive and a great, people and they cannot be insensible to the opinion of the world. It 67 is in no spirit of enmity but rather in a spirit of true and abiding friendship that humanity says to Japan: "You are on the wrong path; aggressive militarism by anyone, anywhere, is an injury to us all everywhere; and if you wish to recover the respect of mankind you should change your course." That should be the message to Japan in these days from all the Parliaments of mankind, and first from this Parliament, the oldest and not the least illustrious of them all.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
May I be allowed to ask the Foreign Secretary whether he is able to state to the House the actual proposal as to an embargo which the Under-Secretary is recommending to the Committee that is to be set up?
§ Sir J. SIMON
I cannot make a precise statement on that subject at the moment. The matter, as I have said, has been the subject of some communications to a number of Governments. I am a long way from Geneva, and Geneva is a long way from here, and I must await a report from the Under-Secretary as to the state of feeling he finds there. If the object is to arrange some international action it is. better to consult with one another without prejudice rather than for one country to try to dictate to the rest.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Sir AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Like other hon. Members I awaited the discussion to-day with great interest and with some anxiety as to what might be the declaration made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Nobody who recalls the previous speeches I have made in our discussions on this Far Eastern trouble will accuse me of being actuated other than by motives of sincere respect for the great island Empire of the East and a real friendship for her people. When these troubles began in Manchuria the facts were obscure, and, having regard to the long continued and severe provocation which the Japanese had suffered at the hands of China, my sympathies were wholly with Japan, and I found it difficult to keep a balanced judgment, which it was right and proper we should maintain, until the facts were more clearly known. Gradually as the situation has developed my sympathy with Japan and Japanese policy has 68 diminished, and we have reached a stage at which, in the light of the report of the Lytton Commission and the discussions at Geneva, it seems to me that it is impossible to contend that the action of Japan in Manchuria is compatible with the obligations she undertook when she signed the Covenant, is reconcilable with the terms of the Pact of Paris, to which her signature is also attached, or does not directly contradict and disavow the obligations of the Nine Powers Treaty. I think that Japan has been hurried, rashly and unwisely, into an adventure, the end of which may be far distant and the expenditure of which in blood and treasure may be far greater than her people now foresee.
I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary make some answer to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, that if the League could not stop this war at once, or stop these warlike operations at once, or did not at once enforce sanctions against the party which was found to be in the wrong, the League was a failure and those of us who were prepared to leave it at that had better move that this country should leave the League. I cannot really believe that on reflection the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) holds those views. Although the success of the League is very imperfect, although its first decision has been long delayed in the effort for conciliation, and even though the results of that decision may be delayed still longer, I cannot think that the verdict of the assembled world united at Geneva will count for nothing in the settlement of these issues when that settlement comes. There is no nation in the world to-day, however strong, however mighty, however powerful its arms, that can afford to neglect the judgments at Geneva. I have a shrewd suspicion that in Japan, as elsewhere, as these judgments and their meaning come to be known, they will exercise a decisive effect on the ultimate settlement of the questions in dispute.
Those of us who pin some part of our faith to the League of Nations have naturally been asking ourselves the question which the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley put to my right hon. Friend: what is to follow upon the decision of the League? There was one sentence used by the right hon. Gentleman 69 in which once again, I think, he failed to convey his real meaning. I hope he will look it up in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and I think he will find that it may be necessary to make some correction. If the words of the right hon. Gentleman. are taken literally, he is an advocate of the most bellicose policy, amounting to a blockade by this nation, even if we stand alone, of commerce with Japan. I know that men who are passionately devoted to peace are apt to feel more bellicose than anyone else, but surely the right hon. Gentleman does not contemplate the possibility of thrusting this country into this struggle, and thrusting it in with no international mandate and as no part of any common international action. I am quite certain that in no quarter of the House would a policy of that kind meet with wholehearted support, and I am also quite certain that opinion outside would not support a Government which acted so unwisely and so rashly.
The country, I believe, will applaud the statement of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. His Majesty's Government do not mean this country to be actively involved in this dispute. Having regard to the fact that the export of arms from this country is no longer a matter simply of letting be, but requires an active act by the Government, His Majesty's Government are right to say that arms shall not go to a nation which has been found in default by its refusal to accept the award, the decision, the advice, or whatever you like to call it, unanimously given by the League of Nations. And reluctant as I am to agree, I say it quite frankly, I do agree that, acting for the present alone and without international agreement, it follows that if we do not supply arms to one party we must not supply arms to the other. I rejoice that my right hon. Friend has moved, I think he said as soon as it became clear, that the decision of the Assembly would be unanimous—I do not think I should wrong him if I guessed that he had moved even earlier—in order to obtain international action in this matter. I hope he will press for international action, and press for it not only at Geneva but with other Governments, great Governments, which have been cooperating with the League in this matter and co-operating also in the Disarmament Conference.
70 Can any nation which has signed the Covenant feel that it is in accordance with the spirit of that Covenant that it should by a trade in arms lend aid and comfort to some other nation which is in default in the observation of the obligations it has undertaken? Can any nation which has signed the Pact of Paris say that it is compatible with the meaning and spirit of that Pact, that when a nation dishonours its signature to it and acts in defiance of it, the other signatories to the Pact should supply it with the arms with which to continue its wrongdoing? I think we can make a strong appeal to our fellow-signatories of the Covenant, and, what is equally important, to our fellow-signatories of the Pact of Paris or the Kellogg Pact, who do not happen to be members of the League of Nations, to accept the consequences which follow from those two insta[...]ces, and to join us in an international agreement to give effect to it. I attach the more importance to that because it is quite evident, as my right hon. Friend has just said, that a mere refusal to supply arms to both parties may in many cases do great injustice.
Indeed, if I may I would treat this subject not as merely being a feature of the Sino-Japanese dispute, but as a great question of world policy at this moment, with examples arising not merely in the Far East, but in South America, where similar questions arise and similar decisions may have to be taken by the League and by other nations not concerned in the League. Again I venture to emphasise the point that I am not now discussing the Sino-Japanese difficulties; I am discussing a broad question in general terms, and not in reference to any two particular countries, whether they be countries of the Far East or of South America. It must be evident that if one country, A, is meditating war against another country, B, in defiance of its engagements under the Pact of Paris or Kellogg Pact, it will not take overt action until it has secured what it thinks is a sufficient armament to carry through the campaign which it sees in front of it. It is the nation which is not preparing for war, which is contemplating no act of aggression on its neighbours but desires only to live in peace with them and all the world, which is the one that is likely to be found short, and if the only 71 rule that the world can come to is that, where there is a struggle between two nations in defiance of those engagements, neither shall draw supplies of arms from any part of the world, very imperfect justice will be done.
I think the adoption of a rule that, where the League had been appealed to, a unanimous decision given and concurred in by the great Powers not represented directly in the League, no arms should go from any of them to the country which refuses to accept that decision, would ultimately be the right one, though for the time being the compromise adopted by His Majesty's Government seems to me the only wise, and indeed the only safe course. The Government do not need my incentive because they have already acted, but I beg them to press these considerations on the other Powers concerned, whilst they continue, as my right hon. Friend throughout these anxious months has continued, to try yet to bring together the two parties in the Far East, and to cause them to compose their differences and accept a solution which will be honourable and satisfactory to both.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I think the whole Committee will join with me in expressing thanks to the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken on the very valuable contribution he has made to our discussion. The right hon. Gentleman knows that I rarely find myself able to congratulate him upon the sentiments that he expresses, and it is a, pleasure therefore to do so to-day. I was not only impressed by what the right hon. Gentleman said concerning the problem that now arises for our consideration, but I was deeply impressed by his observations on the problems that are consequential to this present dispute, especially the very big and increasingly pressing problem as to what arrangements the League of Nations could undertake in order to safeguard the interests of nations while they are loyal to their membership of the League. But I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman along that very interesting line of inquiry, because primarily that is a matter for the League itself to discuss. I would, however, like to say something upon the first part of the Foreign Secretary's speech.
72 When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking he was subjected, a little unfairly at times, I thought, to interruption by supporters of the Government. It was not an unfair deduction to make that some of the interrupters desired to imply more or less their whole-hearted approval of Japan's attitude in this crisis. It seemed to me not unfair to assume also that they regarded their attitude as in consonance with the attitude of their own party in the last few years. In point of fact every single political party in this House is definitely committed upon the question as to whether Japan or China has the right of exercising suzerainty over the area called Manchuria. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) when he was Foreign Secretary in the year 1928 made that clear on two occasions. On 13th July, 1928, he answered a question addressed to him by Mr. Malone, and used these very clear and precise words:His Majesty's Government regard Manchuria as being part of China. They do not recognise Japan as having any special interests in that territory other than those conferred by Treaty and those referred to in Baron Shidehara's statement at the Plenary Session of the Washington Conference on 4th February, 1922."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 13th July, 1928; col. 2637, Vol. 219.]The same Member, Mr. Malone, referred to the problem again by an interruption of a. speech made by the right hon. Gentleman on 30th July, 1928, and I will read the passage from the OFFICIAL REPORT:
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
We do not recognise Manchuria as anything but a part of China. We recognise that Japan has great interests in Manchuria, which has a great Japanese population, and may well have a certain anxiety as to the protection of those persons. But our interest is a united China under one Government, which can take obligations and keep obligations, and with which we can negotiate a friendly settlement and maintain friendly relations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1928; col. 1835, Vol. 220.]
The right hon. Gentleman made it clear what was the attitude of his Government at that time. The then leader of the Liberal party, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), followed the Foreign Secretary's pronouncement by saying this:I was very delighted to hear the declaration which my right hon. Friend made 73 in regard to Manchuria. It is very difficult to say anything in this House which looks like a criticism of a friendly Power, but it is quite incomprehensible to me why a friendly Power like Japan has taken certain steps with regard to Shantung and Manchuria. They have refused, I understand, to recognise the flag in Manchuria. I hope that that does not mean that there is going to be a practical annexation of that vast territory by Japan."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1928; col. 1845, Vol. 220.]I have taken the trouble to read those passages in order to make it clear that every single political party in this House, long before the present crisis arose, was committed to the proposition that Manchuria was part and parcel of China. Not only is that true, but I am indebted to a correspondent of the "Times" for making it clear that Japan itself is committed to it. The correspondent recalled a report from the French Minister in Tokio, to M. Delcassé, the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Paris, on 8th February, 1904, in relation to the interests which the then Tsarist Russia was supposed to conceive as being hers in Manchuria. Here is the relevant passage:Japan desired that Russia should recognise Manchuria as an integral part of China. Provided that such a declaration was forthcoming Japan was prepared to allow Russia complete liberty of action in that Province.So that not only are political parties in this House committed, but Japan herself by diplomatic documents and declarations has admitted that she regarded Manchuria as part of Chinese territory. We are to-day meeting a situation in which that position has been formally endorsed by international documents, and I find it hard to understand the change of attitude which has been disclosed in the Committee this afternoon by the hon. Members who interrupted my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition so frequently during his speech. The hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) seemed to indicate that that was his view, and I am sure that it is the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), because in a speech which he made in London on last Friday week he said that he desired to say a kindly word for Japan. He said:I hope that we shall try in England to understand a little of the position of Japan, an ancient State with the highest State sense of national honour.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Well, where is the honour? Has not Japan 74 committed herself to a long series of international agreements? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham recalled quite properly to the Committee the fact that Japan signed the Treaty of Versailles, containing the Covenant of the League of Nations, the Kellogg Pact, the Nine-Power Treaty, and a, long series of similar commitments. To these agreements Japan attached her signature, presumably with the full intention of honouring them both in the spirit and in the letter. How can we regard a nation as being an honourable nation unless she carries out those commitments which she has promised to carry out? But I would make one other observation on this point. This House of Commons, and certainly those of us who study public documents as they are made available, have no right to express extraordinary surprise concerning the action taken by Japan in Manchuria in recent days. I do not know whether hon. Members have heard of the famous memorandum presented, so it is alleged, to the Japanese Emperor by General Tanaka. Whether that document is authentic or otherwise I of course cannot say.
§ Sir J. SIMON
To my knowledge the authenticity of that document has in fact been challenged by the Japanese Government. I say no more than that.
§ Mr. JONES
I merely refer to it because it was said to have been presented in the year 1927 and the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham as Foreign Secretary to which I have already referred was delivered some 12 months later. Whether the document was authentic or not I would like hon. Members to observe its proposals and to note how extraordinarily close to the proposals in that alleged document have been the developments in Manchuria and that part of the world. Whoever conceived the document, whether it was General Tanaka or not, this is quite certain—that the author of that docu 75 ment anticipated with extraordinary clarity, the development of events in Manchuria and Mongolia. It is therefore, shall we say, a striking coincidence that fact has been so closely associated with alleged fiction.
We come to-night to discuss our own attitude in regard to this business, and I am bound to say again that one is entirely in accord with the deserved tributes of admiration which have been paid to Lord Lytton and his fellow members of the Commission for a document which, whatever may happen as a consequence of it, will undoubtedly remain one of the great documents of history. The "Times" newspaper referred to it as a document worthy of the closest study, and the League's Draft Report issued unanimously by the Committee of Nineteen is based largely, indeed almost entirely, on considerations arising from the Lytton Report. I think it was quite right to describe that Report as it has been described as a temperate, just and well-considered document. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who I am sorry has been obliged to leave the Committee—I do not make any complain at all upon that score—seemed to invite the Commitee to take the view that he had taken a consistent attitude throughout in regard to this problem. I do not know what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been doing in private, but I do know what he has been doing in public, and I recall to the Committee the simple fact that when the Foreign Secretary spoke at Geneva on the Lytton Report the greater part of his speech was devoted, not to an examination of Japan's activities, but to an examination of Chinese demerits. So satisfactory was the speech of the Foreign Secretary to the Japanese delegate at Geneva that that gentleman said that the British Foreign Secretary had stated the Japanese case more completely in three-quarters of an hour than he had been able to do in eight days.
§ Mr. JONES
On the receipt of the report. After the right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke at Geneva the Japanese delegate declared that the British Foreign Secretary had stated more succinctly the 76 case of Japan in three-quarters of an hour than he had been able to do in eight days. I do not know if that is what is called facing both ways. I do not know if that is what is called giving a fair and just presentation of the contents of the Lytton report. The Lytton report is a balanced document and I very much question if the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech at Geneva was a balanced summary of what is contained in the report. Indeed, it was very open to the observation that it was largely a pro-Japanese summary of it. I do not doubt that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right in pointing to certain difficulties which have confronted Japanese statesmen in this matter. We are told that they have been very worried and harassed by brigandage which arose in Manchuria. But there are brigands all over the place.
§ Mr. JONES
Yes, there are some in London and some in Chicago and a few in Germany judging from every-day information. But are we to assume that the Chinese have had no provocation Let it be recalled that when China declared herself associated with the other Powers on the Allied side in the late War, China was presented by Japan—her colleague in the War—with 21 points and called upon to sign. Is it surprising therefore that the Chinese people have entertained some measure of resentment. Granted that there has been provocation on one side, can we forget that there has been provocation on the other side as well? The Chinese people are as much entitled to the sympathy of the House of Commons as are the Japanese statesmen on their side. I dare say that the boycott embarked upon by the Chinese people was very aggravating to the Japanese, but are not we here embarking upon a rather respectable form of boycott when we issue posters calling upon people to buy British goods? That is just another way of saying, "Do not buy foreign goods."
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
Surely the hon. Gentleman does no good to the cause which he wishes to advocate by comparing an appeal to people to buy 77 your own home-made produce, with an appeal to boycott the goods and the people of a particular nation.
§ Mr. JONES
I think that proposition is very much open to doubt. I know that the right hon. Gentleman is an authority on these matters, but I venture with great respect to challenge the soundness of that proposition. However, there it is. We are faced with this situation which could in my judgment have been largely avoided if Britain had exercised in these international councils her enormous influence, and had declared herself much more unequivocally than she has done in the last 18 months. The vacillation and temporising of which the Foreign Secretary has been guilty remind me of those words in Revelations:—I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou, wert cold or hot.So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,"—and then follows the condemnation which is no doubt in the minds of hon. Members. I am bound to make it quite clear that, in my judgment, the right hon. Gentleman has been guilty of failing to rise to the level of his responsibility in this matter. If he had spoken and given a lead at Geneva with much more definiteness than in fact has been the case, I think we could have avoided a very large portion of the trouble with which we are now confronted. What, however, is to be done? I rejoice that the Government has declared the action that it proposes to take. I am, of course, an unrepentant pacifist, and I would have been very glad indeed to see armaments of all sorts withheld long ago, but I do not suppose that I can presume to accuse the present Government of being a pacifist Government. I am, therefore, glad to see that today it has decided, pending further agreement between ourselves and other nations with a view to international action, that an embargo shall be placed upon armaments made in this 78 country for exportation to Japan and to China.
I wonder if I may remind the Committee of figures that are nearly staggering in their immensity. I understand that a well-known armament firm is and has been receiving increasing orders for the last two or three months. On the 6th December, 1932, 1,000,000 Mauser cartridges were ordered; on the 14th, another 1,000,000 Mauser cartridges were ordered; on the 21st, 20,000,000; on the 6th January, 20,000; and on the 10th January, 15,000,000. Clearly there has been a very considerable measure of activity in this direction long before this problem of an embargo arose in the way in which it has arisen. I understand that in a certain factory recently an amusing incident, something like this, took place. I gather that in one part of the factory they are preparing armaments for Japan and in another part armaments for China, and by an unfortunate chance the Japanese and Chinese representatives arrived at the same factory at the same time, and an unfortunate official pushed both of them into the same room. While they were there they began to discuss what they were being charged for their armaments, and very amicably they came to the conclusion that they would present a joint ultimatum to the firm to reduce the price. It would be better to get some figures as to the armaments that have already been ordered, but I wonder if we could get clear and precise information from the Government tonight as to the extent of time covered by the existing contracts. That is important, as my hon. Friend pointed out. It may very well be that Japan has got contracts over a very long period of time.
§ Mr. JONES
I am making no sort of allegation at all; I am asking a fair question. It may very well be that Japan may have effected long-term contracts; on the other hand, it may very well be that China may have effected long-term contracts—I do not know—but we are informed, we have private information, that there are long-term contracts. Beyond that, there is this point, that a financially powerful nation like Japan may be able to effect agreements over a 79 longer period than a comparatively weak nation like China, and therefore an embargo placed from to-night, without regard to the length of contracts, might clearly inure to the detriment of China and to the special advantage of Japan. I would, therefore, like to have some further information upon that point.
I like my colleagues on this side and, I believe, in all parts of the House, would like to feel that this terrible crisis may not be unduly prolonged. It is our common desire, I am sure, that this matter should be speedily brought to an end, and I am sufficiently sound a believer in and faithful and loyal a supporter of the League of Nations to hope and anticipate that if the League rises to that task, the League may yet be able to effect some reconciling influence in regard to this difficulty, for, as my right hon. Friend quite properly warned the Committee and the country, no one can set a limit with assurance to this present war. Who knows but that possibly Russia might be embroiled, that other parts of the world might be embroiled, that an "incident" or an accident might bring nations far and near on to the present scene of difficulty? It is, therefore, not only in the interests of Japan and China, but in the interest of the whole world, that this area of warfare should be speedily circumscribed, and in so far as the Government takes the initiative—and we beg of it to keep the initiative going in this matter—in reconciling these warring nations, I am quite sure the Government can rely upon our whole-hearted support.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. AMERY
I wish I knew where we really stand to-day. I listened with the greatest care to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and I gathered from it that while he considered that Japan has been subjected to grave provocation, yet she has very definitely broken the rules of the League of Nations and has been condemned by the report of the League; that, in fact, her action has been that of an aggressor according to the technical rules which govern the League of Nations. He was, therefore, consulting with the other nations, and more particularly with those nations which are manufacturers of armaments, with a view to seeing what action 80 can be taken—presumably against Japan. Obviously, the League of Nations is not going to be invited to take action to prevent the injured party, the victim of aggression, defending itself. Therefore, the presumption must be that what the other nations are being asked to do with us is to apply some sort of measure of restriction upon munitions that will aim at preventing Japan carrying out her policy in Manchuria. He declared very definitely that in this matter you could only act internationally.
Why we should be a party to such action, I will not for the moment inquire, but at any rate, having laid down that principle, the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to say that we are going to act individually after all, and to act, not in accordance with any decision of the League of Nations, not in accordance with the policy which is presumably being put forward internationally, but on an entirely different and indeed contradictory policy, namely, that of refusing to supply munitions to both sides. So far as I understand the situation, in view of Japan's immense superiority in armament factories, that is a step aimed against China rather than against Japan. Indeed, the whole policy of refusing supplies of armaments to belligerents is one of very great doubt. It may mean that the party that has equipped itself most completely before aggression is to enjoy the full advantage of its aggressive preparations and that the party that has relied on the good faith of others is to be left helpless.
After all, where should we have been in the Great War if the United States of America had pursued towards us the policy which we are now apparently going to pursue towards China and Japan? It may well be that it may prove a wholly ineffective piece of action. Who can say that China is not going to draw munitions from Russia, or that it is impossible to send munitions to Bangkok for the needs of Siamese merchants? The thing is very likely to break down in practice. But apart from that, it seems to me entirely inconsistent action and to be justified, not on the merits of the case, but, quite frankly, on the ground of what my right hon. Friend called prudence, but, as I would say, cowardice. If we do consider Japan to be wrong in this matter, and if we do consider that action should be taken against her, then, if we take any 81 single-handed action, it should, as far as lies in our power, be action directed against Japan.
But when it comes to that, I confess that I see no reason whatever why, either in act, or in word, or in sympathy, we should go individually, or internationally, against Japan in this matter. Japan has got a very powerful case based upon fundamental realities. Consider what Japan spent in blood and treasure to defend Manchuria against Russian annexation. Consider the extent to which her labours in Manchuria made that country much the most prosperous part of that loose congeries which is called China for the purpose of not paying a subscription to the League of Nations. Consider how that very prosperity has increased the flow of Chinese population into Manchuria. When you look at the fact that Japan needs markets and that it is imperative for her, in the world in which she lives, that there should be some sort of peace and order, then who is there among us to cast the first stone and to say that Japan ought not to have acted with the object of creating peace and order in Manchuria and defending herself against the continual aggression of vigorous Chinese nationalism? Our whole policy in India, our whole policy in Egypt, stand condemned if we condemn Japan. Even now it is worth while reminding the Committee that the operations actually taking place do not arise from Japan's invasion of Manchuria or Japan's invasion of JeJhol, but from the decision of Chang-hsue-liang and of the Chinese authorities south of the Great Wall to send armies across the Wall to reconquer Jehol from Japanese control. At any rate, it seems to me that Japan has an arguable case based on those essentials which go far deeper than the verbiage of the Covenant of the League of Nations.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why Japan did not put her case to the League of Nations?
§ Mr. AMERY
She put her case in her own way. I am not concerned with that, but with what is the right course of action for this country to take. When it comes to that, I am told that Japan must be wrong, that the Lytton Commission was unanimous, and that the League of Nations has unanimously decided, only Siam abstaining, that she is wrong. That 82 is so, but both of these bodies started from the principles of the Covenant of the League of Nations—those principles which regard all States as absolutely equal, each with an absolutely inviolable unity without any regard to the circumstances, principles which are utterly unreal and not applicable to the circumstances of an ever-moving and changing world. With regard to this unanimity and the moral force that lies behind it, I noticed a very interesting point about the opening speeches. The opening speech was from the representative of Venezuela which has great responsibilities in this matter and is naturally only too glad that we should throw ourselves into the breach. One of the first speeches after that was from Lithuania. It was a long speech entirely devoted to drawing attention to the case of Vilna. Vilna was seized by the Poles some years ago, and it was a far more flagrant case of violation of the principles of the League of Nations than anything that Japan has done, and it was a case in which the League of Nations took good care not to interfere.
I do not believe that you can settle these great problems on the principles upon which the Covenant of the League is, based. Had those principles been applied in the past the Turkish Empire would still have to be maintained intact. India, whatever the chaos might be, as long as there was some decrepit representative of the Mogul surviving there owing his subscription to Geneva, would remain intact. The work of regeneration that has been done in Egypt or in Morocco would have been ruled out. My right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) said, "These things belong to a wicked past and the world has now entered upon a new era." But the realities of the world have not changed; they have not been changed by the Covenant of the League of Nations, and they will continue long after the Covenant has disappeared. The realities of the world depend upon the necessities of government, of order and of development, and wherever nations internally or externally are incapable of fulfilling those functions, they will go down against other nations whose need for peace and for development demands that there shall be order. You may have a bloody war with hundreds of thousands of troops on both sides between the dif- 83 ferent provinces of China, but because China is technically a single member of the League of Nations no one concerns themselves with that problem, nobody asks who is right and wrong. Arms are supplied equally to both sides. But because in this Manchurian question—Manchuria, after all, for many years was a practically independent State—the Japanese, who have long established rights in that country, take more vigorous action, it at once becomes a matter for formal condemnation by the League. I do not know that that matters except that you do not preserve peace by ignoring realities.
The worship of unrealities to which this country, above all countries, has been giving itself at Geneva since the War is not going to conduce to the peace of the world. Look at this particular issue. I believe that had it not been for the League of Nations, Japan and China might long ago have come to some reasonable accommodation in Manchuria, and Japan would have been contented to ask for a good deal less than she is going to ask and going to get to-day. I venture to say that if China is plunged into a disastrous war with Japan, it is largely due to her misplaced reliance upon the League of Nations. The League of Nations has offered a chair for China to sit upon and has then pulled it away. That is a situation which we have encouraged by our worship of unrealities at Geneva. There are a good many other unrealities in this connection. Here we are in a situation which, at any rate, approaches serious war. Is Japan likely to disarm in the near future? Is her willingness to disarm, even when she has dealt with China, going to be increased by the kind of attitude that the European nations and the United States have shown to her over this business? On the contrary, she is likely to retain her armaments more effectively than ever. She is not going to do without the air force on which she is relying to-day to such a great extent.
Yet, side by side with these realities, we go playing about at Geneva with a proposal for the abolition of all air forces and the internationalisation and civil control of aviation—a proposal which, I think, is as dishonest as it is silly. It is silly because it cannot pos- 84 sibly be carried out. Japan alone will prevent it. It is dishonest because I do not believe that the great majority of the Cabinet would have encouraged such a proposal being put forward unless they felt pretty certain that it would be rejected. The whole plea I wish to make this afternoon is for honesty in foreign politics, for facing the realities of the situation in the world, for recognising the traditions, the interests, the spirit of other nations, and not to be led from one false step to another by the inexorable logic of nonsense in accordance with a hastily concocted legalistic framework which does not correspond with the facts of the world. I have felt very 10th to intervene in order to express a point of view that I know is not very often expressed in this House. I am afraid that there is a good deal of conscious or unconscious hypocrisy when we talk about the League of Nations, about disarmament and about peace. I have endured it for a good long time. At any rate, I have freed my soul this afternoon.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Mr. MABANE
I have listened with considerable interest to what fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery). Some of the things which he said about the Far East are certainly true. I agree with a good many of them, but he has drawn false conclusions from some good facts. May I refer to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition? As I listened to him I was reminded of those many sentimental people who endeavour to persuade us to adopt a policy that would lead us to war and then pass resolutions affirming that they would take no part in such a war if it arose. That is an approach to this problem with which I cannot agree. My approach is different. It is what I hope may be called a practical approach, and it is conditioned by the belief that on no account whatever should we be led into war and that, so far as it lies within our power, no other people shall be engaged in war either. My approach may be called a personal approach. I am not yet at an age when I can sit comfortably in an armchair and decree wars for other people to fight. I hope that I and other people who took part in the last War will never reach that mentality. If I see the Government or the Foreign Secretary engaged in a policy which is likely to embroil us 85 in war, then, willy-nilly, the matter becomes personal for me, and I think of the day when I must again don my Sam Brown. I hope that I am not a coward, but I do not glory in war, and five years of war in one life is enough for me. My guiding principle therefore is that on no account should we be engaged in this dispute.
Judged by the standard I see considerable merit in the policy of the Government. It has been subjected to fierce condemnation. The Foreign Secretary has been condemned in no measured terms. It is not for me to judge his merits. It is for me, however, to consider the alternative to the policy which has been pursued. Throughout, the difficulties of the League of Nations have been immeasurably increased by reason of the fact that the United States are not members of the League. I believe that if the United States had been members, this trouble might very well have been settled within three weeks. I have been at some pains to follow the negotiations, and it has seemed to me that on many occasions the League of Nations has been prevented from pursuing a course of swift and decisive action because, having made a certain resolve, the United States have had to be consulted. A period has elapsed, possibly three weeks, and that period has allowed Japan to drive a wedge between the League and the United States. At the end of the period, the situation has altered and Japan has perhaps drawn another red-herring across the trail and the preliminary resolution becomes of no avail in the new circumstances.
There is, again, such a thing as responsibility. The Committee must agree that in these deliberations at Geneva no nation has had to take part with such a sense of responsibility as this country. San Salvador may be very bold in its attitude towards Japan, but there will not be a burden on San Salvador in any menaces in which it may indulge. There are those who say that we ought to have been the boldest in advocating a policy which was hostile, menacing and threatening to Japan. Those people who hold that at an early stage we should have presented Japan with something like an ultimatum, and that we should have endeavoured to secure the assent of the League to the enforcement of the sanctions in Article 16, are quite wrong. I am sometimes dis- 86 tressed and annoyed because pacifists condemn me for dissenting from their view. I return the charge and I find a very simple dilemma to present to people who take that view. It is this. Would they be prepared, both as regards themselves and their friends, to go out to the Far East and fight a war to maintain a decision of the League of Nations taken on these lines at a very early stage of the proceedings? If they would not, their demands at Geneva dissipate into the thin air of the Swiss mountains.
Sometimes I am told, too, that decisive threatening action at an early stage would have compelled the withdrawal of Japan from Manchuria—that this young empire of the East would have crumpled up and departed from the main land of Manchuria. I do not think that anyone with any knowledge of Japan could possibly have assumed that that is true.
Three years ago I spent a little time in China and Japan endeavouring to study this particular problem. I think that the present trouble was then quite easy to foresee. I found Japan quite a different country from that which my imagination had drawn for me. I found the Japanese bold, fearless, vigorous and convinced of their own destiny. I found that, in the midst of all the modernity, the spirit of old Japan remained—the spirit of the Samurai. I found emperor worship, and the wonderful loyalty which it engenders to be a strong influence in Japanese life. In the instructions given to the Japanese teachers by the Japanese Board of Education there was a definite direction that they should teach the children that the Emperor was of divine origin, not as a matter of legend, but as a matter of belief, and that they were to remember at all times that the Japanese Constitution was peerless throughout the world. While I was there the chief delegate returned from the Naval Conference in London and was presented with a ceremonial dagger in order to commit hara-kiri as the only thing left for him after consenting to the restriction of the Japanese Navy. On the train in which I was travelling in Japan r distinguished Japanese naval officer, as a protest against the findings of the London Naval Conference, committed hara-kiri, somewhat untidily, in his sleeping berth. I am in no doubt that an early application of the sanctions in Article 16 87 of the Covenant of the League would have involved us at once in a war in the East.
It is not for me to elaborate the difficulties and dangers of such a war. My intense desire to avoid it is sufficient to convince me that the policy of the Government has been a great deal wiser than many people will allow. It would be a reversal of reason if we were to engage in a war to please the pacifists. But what I have said must not be taken to mean that I condone the action of Japan in Manchuria. I regard the intrusion of Japan into Manchuria as blatant Imperialism, at a time when Imperialism should be dead. I regard it as part of a determined policy to establish a vast Empire of the East, stretching from Java to Japan, of which Japan shall be the head. The immediate motive is one of commercial gain. Anyone who knows the present state of Japan knows that her financial condition is at present, and has been for some time, appalling. Japan is virtually bankrupt. The exigencies of finance have combined with martial ardour to start this campaign of conquest. There, in Manchuria, are the very resources which Japan requires. There is the iron and there is the coal. In Jehol there are vast undeveloped mineral resources. There is nickel. They are the things which Japan needs in order to make herself self-sufficing. The bait is tempting, and the urge to take the bait is overwhelming, especially as in Manchuria and in Jehol there is negligible opposition.
I protest against the notion that China. is a nation or even a State. China was, within certain limits, a unit under the old Empress, but since her day it has been quite false to regard China, as anything approaching a, national unit. I believe that one of the major causes of the present trouble is the sentimental desire of many people to regard any familiar name on the map as a State. It is the principle of self-determination reduced to absurdity. But for the desire to regard the League of Nations as complete, China would never have been admitted to membership. I do not think China fulfils the qualification of a member State. There is there no Government capable of maintaining order throughout the length and breadth of the 88 land, though I think I am correct in saying that is a necessary qualification for membership of the League. Perhaps it would have been better for the League to take China under its wing and develop it in accordance with the wishes and desires of the League.
There is no government in China. The sphere of influence of the Nanking Government is extremely limited. The Leader of the Opposition told us that the Ambassadors of the Nanking Government were accepted. They are accepted, because there are no others, and partly also as the result of that general sentimental feeling about China to which I referred a moment ago. Not so long ago we were talking about civil war in China. There was no civil war in China; there were merely a few bandit chiefs roaming about the country and carrying on until either they got their throats cut or acquired sufficient wealth to go to America to settle down. Before I went to China I wondered how their soldiers were paid. They were paid, I found, by the quite simple method of looting. I think it is true to say that in recent years civil war has been the most profitable form of industrial enterprise in China.
Equally I believe that there is not at the present time and there will not be any war in the Far East between the Chinese and the Japanese. It is not true to call it a war at all. There is nothing in the sense in which we in the West understand armies to prevent the occupation of Jehol by the Japanese. The only war which threatens in the Far East, so far as I can see, is a war that might be the result of the attitude taken up by certain Western Powers. Whether the Japanese can keep the annexed Provinces is a different matter; whether they can convert the primitive agricultural Manchurian to the modern and mechanical is another problem. But I think we ought to face the reality that at the present moment there is only one thing that could compel the Japanese to get out of Manchuria immediately, and that would be the armed intervention of Western Powers. Are we prepared to face that situation? Personally, I most definitely am not.
But though Japan may not be forced to come out of Manchuria immediately, there is possibly a, chance that Japan may be forced to come out of Manchuria 89 by a quite different method and perhaps as a result of exercising a little more patience—and here I differ very violently from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook—and that is by the intervention or by the action of the League of Nations, by the application ultimately of the provisions of Article 16, by the application of the economic sanctions. For my part I regard the discussion on the embargo on arms and a general economic boycott as one and the same thing. That is why I desired the Leader of the Opposition to define what he meant by "armaments." In my view there is no one thing which can be sent from one country to another which to-day cannot properly be regarded as material for war in one form or another. Therefore, if we are discussing an embargo on armaments we are really discussing a complete economic boycott. The day may come when that will be the course of action to adopt, but the difficulties are not commonly comprehended. Before there can be an economic boycott there must be legislation. We cannot wave a magic wand, say "Abracadabra," and imagine that the economic boycott is forthwith established. Shall we adopt that legislation? I say most certainly that if the occasion arises, and if the League of Nations is with us, the answer ought to be, "Yes," for in my view the League has reached the point in its history when it must be logical or die.
The Japanese stand condemned by the League. At the end of the world War we set out to devise means whereby the world could be made safe for democracy, as the phrase then ran. The means devised were the economic boycott. Now, or in the near future, will be the chance to discover whether Article 16 works or not. If it works, then I think the world can look forward with some assurance to a period of peace; if it does not work, so far as I can see the world must despair. I would make but one condition, and that is that if we do consider the application of economic sanctions it is imperative that the United States of America should be with us. It would be impossible for us to attempt to apply sanctions without the adherence of the United States; but with the United States and all the other Member States of the League in concert we could set out to apply economic sanctions with some hope.
90 So far I have supported the policy of the Government in this matter, because I have seen the care which has been taken and the logic of the case. I believe that notwithstanding many criticisms directed against the Government and against the Foreign Secretary the country has realised the difficulties of the Government. It has now formed the conclusion that the time has come when the Government, having pursued its policy with care and caution, must depart from that policy of caution and embark on a new policy of boldness and resolve.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
One of the difficulties of all speakers in this Debate is that at the end of their speeches the policy which they wish to have carried out remains as wrapt in mystery as it was when they began. I liked the speech of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane), but what does he want the Foreign Secretary to do? Perhaps I may be forgiven for speaking in this Debate, because I have a great many friends in China and Japan, and know both of those countries and Manchuria well. I would begin by saying that when I left Manchuria I had firmly fixed in my mind two facts which are as firmly fixed in the minds of all inhabitants of that country. The first is fear of the Japanese, because they are, perhaps, the best fighters in the world, and the second is the certainty that whoever rules in Manchuria the Chinese will go on multiplying and, like the China which, century after century, has absorbed her conquerors, will absorb the Japanese. A change of government makes no difference to a nation which has existed for 4,000 years, and has remained, almost pathetically, exactly as it was 4,000 years ago. The people of China and of Japan are delightful people. I had the privilege of knowing Sun Yat Sen, and I suppose I am one of the few persons in this country who believed in his doctrines. I had Japanese friends in my boyhood, I know the country and I love the people.
The Chinese have been treated for more than 20 years to something every bit as terrible as the 30 Years' War proved itself in Europe. A succession of war lords, sheer bandits, have tyrannised over the peasantry, robbed them, murdered them, and then killed each other. The Govern- 91 ment of China is not only no real Government but it is a terror to every Chinaman. As for the Government of Japan, it has a certain resemblance to the present Government of Germany. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) was right. The Government of Japan is a good, sound Conservative Government, with a thick stick always in its hand, and power behind it. If I were a Chinaman, I do not think that I should want to be governed by the Japanese, who have been pretty brutal in Korea and to anybody with Liberal opinions, which they label Socialist, in their own country. I do not think that they will be ideal governors of China, but I am not prepared to go to war with them. I do not think that any of my hon. Friends on these benches are prepared to do so. The British Government, either through the League of Nations or in some other way, should try to moderate the form of government imposed upon these helpless Chinese.
The real fact has not been faced by anybody. We are bothering about Jehol; surely the Committee must realise that it may be Peking to-morrow. There will be no Chinese in Jehol by the end of the week. The Japanese army is a machine which may go on. I have long since thought that the best fate that could happen to the Chinese people would be that they should surrender their autonomy to the League of Nations, to us, or to America, so that they should have somebody to enforce government upon them, and thereby deprive the Japanese of the perpetual excuses for going on and on, as we did in India. The only hope for the Chinese people is in the assistance that people who really wish them well, and have no desire to get anything out of their country, can give them. Goodness knows, we do not want to add to our Empire. Events have proved it over and over again. I would not mind assuming a responsibility, sometime when they ask for it in their own way, for protecting that magnificent people from an alien terror and from centuries of struggle against their new lords, and to give, them the chance of establishing a civilized government which would maintain power and could maintain the doctrines of Sun Yat Sen.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Major HILLS
The speech that we have just heard from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) was in excellent contrast to some that preceded it. I should have thought that anyone who spoke in this Debate would do so with a sense of responsibility. We are faced with war between two nations, towards each of which we have the friendliest feelings of very long standing, each of which is in possession of an ancient and a high civilisation and is certain to play a great part in the world's future; yet so many speeches in this Debate have regarded this conflict as a football match where you cheer one side or the other. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) cheered on the Chinese and abused the Japanese. If he had wanted to prove that the Japanese were in the wrong and had broken treaties, he wasted his time. After the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, there is no dispute. The world has made up its mind, and this country has made up its mind.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
There is a dispute. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) contraverted the whole position.
§ Major HILLS
I am coming to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) in a minute. If the hon. Member for Caerphilly tried to show that the Japanese received no provocation and that this was an ordinary case of one country invading the other wrongfully, he has against him the facts of the case, and the Lytton Report. I am always afraid of the pacifists—they are so bellicose. The enthusiasm for fight which exists in all of us will leak out, even in the pacifist. Whereas other people fight only under great provocation and in what they think are reasonable causes, the pacifist always seems to fight in the wrong cause and to use his force in the wrong place. Any talk of enforcing sanctions against the Japanese would involve this country in war. I welcome the speech of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and, above all, his last sentence, in which he said that under no conditions shall we be involved 93 in war. So much for the hon. Member for Caerphilly.
I come now to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook. I approach him very humbly as one of those conscious or unconscious hypocrites who believe in the League of Nations. I listened to him with very great respect. He used the word "realities" very often, and he pleaded for realities. Are treaties no realities? There is the Kellogg Pact and above the Nine-Power Pact. Are they not realities? They were signed by Japan. I should have thought that they were substantial realities. I should like to know what my right hon. Friend's realities are. He says that when Japan acts she pursues real politics.
§ Major HILLS
I am within the recollection of the House. My right hon. Friend's argument was "Leave Japan alone to do what she wants." Is not that the case? He suggested that force is the only thing that counts. Then he went on, rather strangely, to plead for honest foreign politics. Honest foreign politics which would start breaking every treaty that has ever been made. Japan has not broken her word once, but three times, and that has been found as a fact by 42 countries. I prefer to err with 42 countries supporting what my right hon. Friend calls "organised nonsense" rather than to be right with my right hon. Friend, even plus Siam. So much for that.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyne said, quite rightly, that we left our constructive proposals to the end of our speeches. I support the Government. I support them entirely. I support them in imposing an embargo now, and I support them in not confining the embargo to Japan. I support them in the attitude—if I understood the Foreign Secretary aright—that for us it may not be possible to discriminate between the aggressor and the Power that is the victim of aggression. Mr. Stimson has said in quite unambiguous words that the old idea of neutrality is gone. He said:There is a general feeling amongst writers upon international law that the rule of impartiality in supplying arms, if it ever was generally accepted, is subject to 94 criticism. There never was a right in the belligerent to buy arms.He said in a previous part of that statement that if any comprehensive group of important States like the League of Nations mutually arrived at a verdict of embargo, the United States would accept it. We shall have to decide very shortly whether we arc to go on refusing arms to both sides. At present, the Foreign Secretary is entirely right. He must consider that there is some remnant of the old law of neutrality left and that any other course might be construed as a. breach of neutrality. I do not, however, think that it is the right thing for a, country to do. I regard it as almost. certain that the United States intend to, support the embargo, and, from what Mr. Stimson has said, I believe that they intend to support also the supply of arms to the innocent Power and the refusal of arms to the aggressor. That can only be done internationally. It has already gone a long way, for the United States Senate has given the President the same power that we have under the Order in Council of 1931, to place an embargo by withholding licence if the export of arms would promote or encourage the employment of force, and after securing the support of such other Governments as he may deem necessary. That has not yet passed the House of Representatives, but I believe that it will pass, and so we are already a long way towards a general embargo. I believe we shall get the embargo, because the feeling is so strong. If you get the fact of 42 to one, even although that one is Siam plus my right hon. Friend, it does pretty clearly show that the feeling of the world is moving.
I believe that we shall see the embargo, and then we shall have to consider very carefully whether we should not take it further—supply arms to the innocent party and refuse them to the aggressor. I do not express any opinion on that. It is a matter which the Government have to consider very carefully. I listened with almost entire agreement to the speech of my right hon. Friend opposite—an agreement I often feel in spite of the fact that we sit on opposite sides of the House. If all this trouble had occurred 100 or 200 years ago, Great Britain would have gone in and run China to the immense advantage of the Chinese, and China would have been stronger and more of an entity. What 95 we have to do is to try and get some body of opinion in China, with the necessary force behind it, to bring the country into unity, and give some chance for its success.
It may, perhaps, turn out that foreign aggression will do what internal quarrels have not done. It may be the case that the fact that China is attacked, and her unity threatened, may cause the Chinese to come together. My right hon. Friend shakes his head. He knows China, and I do not. Short of some general decision, like giving a mandate for China either to this country or the United States—a condition which seems to me practically impossible at the moment—I do not see any real hope for China. I do most earnestly think that the Government have acted entirely rightly in this matter, and I believe that they have got the future in thought as well as the present. We cannot settle the future; the future is in the hands of fate. I cannot believe that a great country like China will break up into small parts and be in perpetual chaos. People who know China well tell me that there is one feeling predominant in all China—North, South, East and West—and that is the sense of the unity of China. I believe that in the end that feeling will prevail.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. NUNN
I hope it may not be out of place for a modest back bencher to express agreement with the statement of the Foreign Secretary, as far as it goes. I feel that the resolve of the Government to keep out of entanglements in this matter of warfare in the Far East, and its resolve, at the present moment, not to allow arms to be exported from the country to either party are entirely right. I am not quite so happy when I look forward to the possibility of there being discrimination later on as to which of the contesting parties shall be allowed to receive arms. My feeling on that point is due to the fact that I do not think, whatever has happened in Geneva, whatever opinions have been expressed in this House this afternoon, that anybody really knows the true state of affairs in China and Manchukuo.
This is an extremely difficult question. It is true that the League of Nations has considered it, but, first of all, the League of Nations is hardly constituted 96 as a court. It has not that truly judicial atmosphere. Its members may, perhaps, be filled with a burning and ardent desire to further the cause of world peace, but, at the same time, they are representatives of nations, representatives of certain national interests and national attitudes of mind. I do not think that you get a really judicial atmosphere at Geneva such as you would get in a court trying a great criminal or civil case. The judgment of the League of Nations, which we are bound to accept because we are tied to the League of Nations, is not necessarily absolutely right. It is based upon the Lytton report, and, although based on the Lytton report, it definitely places the blame for what has happened upon Japan. Now the Lytton report is pretty definite in drawing attention to the fact that there are many shortcomings on the part of China. If I may draw attention to it, there is one statement in the report which mentions the provocative attitude of the Chinese leaders both in Manchuria and in China in pursuing an increasingly nationalistic policy directed against the interests and rights acquired by Russia and Japan. It draws attention to that provocative attitude, and I think that provocative attitude did exist.
It is not unknown surely to Members of this House that for many years China has deliberately interfered with rights acquired quite properly and legally by Japan in Manchuria. Year by year she has built up her railways in direct antagonism to the railways which, after all, developed Manchuria and encouraged the immense Chinese immigration into Manchuria. The Chinese went to the length of building a rival port to Dairen with the deliberate intention of taking the traffic from the Japanese railways. I am no advocate of Japan. Hon. Members opposed to me made up their minds months ago that Japan was wrong. They smile, of course, now, because they think I am another Tory advocate of Japan. I am merely trying to face the facts, and the facts are that Japan has a great deal to be said for her before we pass judgment. Do we know, for instance, that there was no other movement behind the foundation of Manchukuo than the appearance of the Japanese forces? It was suggested in the report that the independence movement had not been heard of until the influence of the 97 Japanese troops was felt there. That is strictly not true.
We have to go back a little before we find out what was happening. We know of the big revolution of 1912 when Yuan Shih Kai was made first President. I am not referring to the interregnum of Sun Yat Sen. At that time the Imperial Family were not thrown off the throne. The President was appointed by Royal Edict. Yuan Shih Kai was a type of politician Members of this House might hardly accept as possible. We are so accustomed to Members who are so single-minded that we can hardly realise that in China there may have been a politician who was not single-minded, and who might even have been playing a double game. It appears to me that Yuan Shih Kai was a man bred in the old Imperialism. Undoubtedly, when he took office he did so in order to avoid what, to him, was a worse thing happening, and so that he might carry out his own idea of later on putting back the Imperial Family. I think there is little doubt about that. He died with his scheme unfulfilled, and I would draw attention to the fact that before he died he had actually made a movement towards establishing himself on the Royal throne, obviously with the intention of once again making the Chinese accustomed to a Royal occupant of the highest executive seat in the country.
When Yuan Shih Kai first became President there was a very solemn agreement —it is well we should think of a few agreements made by China—which was made by the Government of China with the young Emperor now known as Pu Yi. It stipulated that he should be given the right to maintain his residence in the Imperial Palace of Peking and have an annual subsidy. That agreement was honoured for a certain time. The independence movement might have been—it certainly was—known in 1919, and I think our Foreign Office may contain something about it. It was known that there was a definite monarchist movement. It was directed towards reestablishing the Imperial Throne. That is quite well known in spite of the fact that the Lytton Report says that the movement started only when Japanese troops went into Manchuria. In 1924 something happened. In that year General Feng Yu-sieng brought about a coup d'etat in Peking to establish a new 98 Government, and since that time there never has been a Parliament in China. The so-called Christian general turned it out, and there never has been one since.
Those who echo the Lytton Report say the people of Manchuria were not consulted; the people of China were not consulted about what was happening in China. That new Government was set up, and one of the first things was that the agreement with the Emperor was torn up and his life was in danger. Before anything serious could happen Chang Tso-lin drove out Feng Yu-sieng from Peking. It is quite well known, beyond any question of doubt, that Chang Tso-lin had then repented of his republicanism, so much so that it is true an intermediary was asked to go to various foreign legations and get the agreement with the little Emperor reinstated. He actually approached the British, Dutch, Chinese and Japanese authorities. Before, however, anything could be done, Chang Tso-lin was driven out by Feng Yu-sieng, and once again the new Government was set up. The young Emperor was imprisoned. He escaped with the greatest difficulty to a hospital, from thence to the Japanese Legation, and from thence to Tientsin. From that time the solemn agreement with the young Emperor has not been kept. It is all very well to talk about agreements on the part of Japan, but what about agreements on the part of China?
After that, the idea of establishing the young Emperor on the throne of China in Peking was given up, and the ideas of the monarchists turned towards the ancient home of the Emperor's race, to Manchuria. It is said that Manchuria is an integral part of China, but it would be much more true to say that since the 1640's—I think 1644 is the actual year—China has been an integral part of Manchuria, and it was not to be wondered at that, when the monarchists began to gather their strength together, they looked towards Manchuria as the place where they should re-establish their Royal family in the midst of its own home surroundings. It seems to me extraordinary that, in a House which probably has more regard for liberty than any other Parliament in the world, and has certainly done more in helping to further the cause of liberty, some consideration 99 should not be given to these people, who may, for all that we know, have been desiring to set up their own free Government in Manchuria.
I see that some hon. Members smile, but may I inform them of what happened at the investiture of the present Chief Executive of Manchuria? The ordinary investiture ceremony took place in the light of day. It was a more or less Europeanised ceremony. But, after it was over, seven leading members of the Manchukuo community and one leading Chinese general went into a private room and performed the old ceremony of the Kow-tow—the generation-old ceremony which has not been performed in China itself since the revolution of 1911. That is a very significant fact. Ceremonies do not play much part in Western life, but they play a very large part indeed in Oriental life, if I may be allowed to speak from my own experience. Another significant fact is that the title of the Chief Executive of Manchukuo means simply "One who holds the Government." It does not contain any word meaning "President." It is not the same term, for instance, as is used in connection with the President of China. It is entirely a provisional title, and it does seem to indicate that, when that Government was set up, it was set up with the intention within a few months, possibly a year, of establishing Mr. Pu Yi once again as Emperor on the throne of his old home.
I imagine that, had there been nothing more than the setting up of Manchukuo with the aid of the Japanese—certainly it could not have been done without their aid, and undoubtedly they took the opportunity of re-establishing something like law and order in that territory—the League of Nations would have had an easy task; but there has been this invasion of Jehol. Some hon. Members have spoken this afternoon as if Jehol was a province of China, but I would remind them that it is north of the Great Wall of China, and it is more an integral part of Manchuria than of China. The fact that General Chang Hsueh Liang is anxious to retain it is easily explained, because he draws the pay for his army from the opium revenue of Jehol, which is something like 2,000,000 taels a month. One can understand, therefore, his anxiety not to be driven out.
100 As I have said, I think it is extremely likely that, had there been no invasion of Jehol, the League of Nations would have had an easy task, and we should not be faced to-day with the very difficult question of whether or not we should encourage those who say that there should be discrimination with regard to the matter of the arms embargo. For myself, I think that there ought not to be any such discrimination. I am entirely in favour of an embargo, but I think that, if there is to be an embargo, it is not for us, on the evidence that we have before us at present, to say that that embargo shall be against one country only. We are taking a very grave decision. I think that the embargo should remain against both countries until we are absolutely certain, on more evidence than has been placed before us, that Japan has had no justification whatsoever for what she has done.
I should not like it to be thought that I am in any way antagonistic to China, or that I am standing here purely as an advocate of Japan. Anyone who knows anything about the Chinese, who has worked with them and has had close contact with them, knows what a wonderful people they are—wonderful in character, with all their drawbacks, and most wonderful of all in energy and industry. Anyone who knows them desires that they should have a history which, if different from their great past history, shall at least be as great. Although in what I have said I may seem rather to have sided with Japan, that is because I believe that the only hope for China lies in some realisation of the realities of this case, in getting this war stopped, and in getting Japan and China for once together on friendly terms. In my opinion, the only way in which that can be done is by the League of Nations delegating to three Powers, America, France and this country—who, after all, are the only Powers that have any great interests in or have had any great contact with China—the business of settling this dispute. To my mind it is a, thousand pities that ever this matter came into the light of publicity. It is a thousand pities that ever it was discussed at Geneva. If the League of Nations had at the very start delegated the work to these three Powers, we might have been here to-day, not facing what may be a terrible disaster in the Far 101 East, but congratulating ourselves that once again China had been set on the road towards that prosperity to which she is entitled.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. COCKS
The hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Nunn) has given us a very interesting disquisition on modern Chinese history. I might, perhaps, be able to supplement it in certain particulars, and to put rather the other side of the picture which lie has painted in such a fascinating way. I do not propose to do so, because I think that the whole question of the grievances of China against Japan, or of Japan against China, which occurred before September, 1931, is really irrelevant to the purpose of this Debate, since all those things have now been adjudicated upon. They have been judged by the Lytton Commission, and the Report of the Lytton Commission has been accepted by the League of Nations and by the British representative on the League. It seems to me, therefore, that to go behind the Lytton Commission and to discuss the grievances which one country has against another and which have been investigated by the Commission, would merely be to confuse counsel in this Committee. For example, the hon. Member for Whitehaven referred to one grievance which he said the Japanese had against the Chinese. He said that the Chinese in Manchuria had started a port in rivalry with their railway line. But the point is that Japan never at any time brought that grievance before the League of Nations, as she was entitled to do.
§ Mr. NUNN
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but may I point out, in order to balance that fact, that China never brought before the League of Nations the fact that the Russians had swallowed up Eastern Turkestan, and that for the last four or five years Mongolia has been entirely under Russian influence?
§ Mr. COCKS
That seems to me to have nothing to do with the question. If China had a grievance regarding Turkestan, she has neither submitted it nor acted upon it. The point is that, in the particular case of Manchuria, Japan said that she had certain grievances against China, but, instead of bringing 102 them before the League of Nations during the last few years, and asking that the League should adjudicate, she has waited until the moment suited her and then has taken the law into her own hands, as the Foreign Secretary said. Surely, that is the short answer to the hon. Member's argument. In the discussions which took place at the League in the autumn before last, on the question of the interpretation of the different Treaties affecting the position in Manchuria, Japan refused definitely to allow those Treaties to be examined by the League, although China offered more than once to put all the Treaties forward for examination by the League, and said that she would accept the interpretation placed upon them by the Court at The Hague. Whatever grievances Japan might have had—and I do not deny that she may have had grievances—she has put herself out of court by not taking advantage of the international organisation of which she was a member, and not merely a member, but an original member, and a member of the Council. She has ignored the League of Nations all through, and she has only herself to blame, therefore, now that the verdict of the League has gone against her in regard to her actions in the past two years. As I have said, to go behind the report of the Lytton Commission, which has now been accepted by the League, is to darken and confuse counsel.
I want to address myself to three points which I think are of the utmost gravity, and which are relevant to this Debate, The first is the position of the present situation in the Far East so far as it, affects the security of the British Empire. I hope that the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) will not accuse me of being a bellicose pacifist if I say that I think it is our duty, as a British House of Commons, to consider the situation from that point of view as well as from others. The second point that I want to mention is as to the way in which this position affects the general situation in Asia; and, thirdly, I want to say something about how this situation affects the sanctity of international obligations, as bound up with the maintenance of justice, of security and of peace throughout the world.
In the first place, those Members, including the right hon. Gentleman the 103 Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), and to some extent the hon. Member who has just spoken, who have come to the House to find excuses for Japan, have forgotten that both the United States and ourselves are suffering from a very great grievance in the fact that Japan has broken the Washington Treaty, sometimes called the Nine Power Treaty, of 1922. That Treaty was drawn up expressly to prevent such a situation occurring as has occurred now. It was a Treaty of self-denial. By it the Powers who signed it—and the principal Powers affected are, of course, Japan, ourselves and America—agreed that they would not take advantage of the condition of China, which they admitted at that time was not a country remarkable for ordered Government and was going through great difficulties. On the contrary, they would respect its Sovereignty, its integrity and its independence. It was a solemn Agreement signed by these three Powers and six others. On condition that Japan signed that Treaty, America and England agreed to hand over to Japan naval and military supremacy in the Far East, which it did not at that time possess.
Because we trusted the Japanese word to keep the Treaty, it was agreed that we would not fortify any position East of Singapore and that the United States would not fortify any position West of Honolulu. Because we trusted the Japanese word we have left Hongkong undefended and America has left the Phillipines undefended and also the Island of Guam, where she was going to build a naval station in the Pacific. Because we trusted the word of Japan that she would only use her forces in accordance with international obligations—the Nine Power Treaty, the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Pact of Paris —we have left our long coastline of Australia absolutely unprotected and we have handed over absolute naval and military supremacy to Japan, but only on condition that she would not use that supremacy except when allowed to by the obligations that she had signed. That was the obligation that Japan gave and that was what she got in return from America and from Britain, and she has taken advantage of that for 10 years to build up her military power, to accumulate oil and munitions and to prepare 104 for the conflict which the militarist party were determined to undertake. She has taken advantage of the terms of that Treaty. She obtained her naval supremacy by these means and, when the hour arrived, she struck. She broke her word. Her international obligations have been torn apart, the boasted honour of the Samurai is lying in the dust. When that Treaty was signed, the American delegation reported upon it to the President. This is what their report said:It terminated the Anglo-Japanese alliance and substituted friendly conference in place of war…from any controversies that might arise in the region of the Pacific…limitation and reduction would not have been possible without the new relations established.…The new relations established could not…inspire confidence…without a specific understanding as to the relations of the Powers to China.Now that the Treaty has been broken, we know from America that it is certain that the whole question of the naval position and of military fortifications in the Pacific will have to be reopened instead of being closed as they were 10 years ago. That is a very serious prospect for all lovers of peace and of international order.
What is the effect of the present position in the Far East going to have upon the whole of the Continent and the people of Asia? If Japan is able to flout the League of Nations and the whole world, and, having done that, is to proceed to the military conquest of Manchuria and Jehol, what is the effect of that going to be upon the millions of people throughout Asia? They will see an Asiatic Power taking the lead in China and perhaps formulating, as we hear from Tokio some are contemplating, a Monroe doctrine for the Far East. If Japan obtains Jehol, she will be in a position to dominate the whole of Northern China. If she seizes Jehol, she will hold the mountains overlooking the Northern Chinese plain and Peking and Tientsin, in fact the whole of that Northern Province, will be within her grasp.
When we are considering these points with the gravity that the position deserves and in fact insists upon, we must consider what are the views and what is the policy of the Japanese Imperialists and militarists who are behind it. In doing that I should like to associate myself with the Leader of the Opposition when he said that we who think in this direc- 105 tion have no enmity at all to the Japanese people. In fact, we Western nations owe them a debt for accepting the blessings of Western civilisation in the form of guns and armour and battleships and so on in place of the artistic and beautiful life that they lived in past ages. Only 18 months ago General Honjo, the General in command of the Japanese forces in Manchuria, said, according to a report which appeared in a journal circulating in China, that the plan of the Japanese expansionists, with which he was in agreement, was to occupy not only Manchuria but Mongolia—and they are moving in that direction at present—to dominate China, to become the supreme Power on the Pacific and then, with all the mineral wealth that she would have at her command—because Japan is deficient in minerals—she would be able to be the dominant Power in. Asia, she would be able to carry out her great ambition of seizing the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, Australia and Singapore, driving America back beyond Hawaii and England beyond Singapore.
In saying that, he is only repeating in other words the words of the well-known Tanaka memorial. I was reading the other day a book called "Manchuria, the Cockpit of Asia." The author gives extracts from this memorial. In June, 1927, a conference was held in Tokio attended by civil and military officials connected with Manchuria and Mongolia. It has been suggested that it was called to see how the situation created by the Nine Power Conference could be circumvented. The outcome was a memorial presented to the Emperor by Baron Tanaka, who was then Prime Minister of Japan. It said that the restrictions imposed by the Nine Power Treaty reduced Japanese special rights in Manchuria to such an extent that there was no freedom for the nation. It goes on to say:To safeguard ourselves … Japan cannot remove the difficulties in Eastern Asia unless she adopts a policy of blood and iron. In carrying this out, we have to face the United States, which has been turned against us by China's policy.…In the future, if we wish to control China, the primary move is to crush the United States.…But to conquer China we must first take Manchuria and Mongolia. If we conquer China the rest of the Asiatic countries and those of the South Seas will fear us and surrender.…The way to gain actual rights in Manchuria and 106 Mongolia is to use this region as a base and, under the pretence of trade and commerce, penetrate to the rest of China. Armed with the rights already held, we shall seize the resources all over the country. With the latter at our disposal we shall proceed to conquer India, Asia Minor, Central Asia, and even Europe.There is no doubt that this Memorial, which has been in print for some years without being contradicted until quite recently at the League of Nations, when the Chinese Delegate brought it up before one of the meetings, and the Japanese representative professed to scoff at it, represents the views of a large body of Imperialists and militarists in Japan. That, therefore, is a factor which we ought to consider, because it means, if Japan succeeds in her endeavour, if she is not checked by the League or by the world, if she proceeds to dominate China in that way as a result of flouting the League of Nations, she will become the greatest menace that our Empire has ever known, because it will be a menace directed at the very weakest point in our long chain of communications, the Pacific, the point furthest away from the home country, directed against our possession of British Columbia, Australia, New Zealand and Oceania. Imagine the effect upon the millions, in India and other Asiatic countries of such action succeeding ! I say that with the utmost gravity. These are things that we ought to ponder over and over again.
The third point that I want to mention is the effect of the present position upon the whole structure of international peace and security. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is at Geneva, and the Foreign Secretary paid a very well-deserved compliment to his work. But he is over there working for disarmament. Recently there he was meeting the French suggestion, which was, that she could not disarm unless she obtained security. It was only behind the shield and rampart of full security that France would agree to disarm. The Under-Secretary of State, in the name of the British Government, said that the British Government was not prepared to extend the obligations she had already taken upon herself, and he went on to say that we already have a certain amount of security; that we have undertaken certain obligations which will give a certain amount of security which he thought 107 would enable the nations to disarm. He mentioned the Locarno Treaty, the Pact of Paris and the Covenant of the League of Nations, and he said we had signed all those and surely they would give such security as would enable some measure of disarmament to take place.
What will France now be able to reply? She may very well say "We understand your interpretation of the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Pact of Paris is that We will consider the question for many months and will finally inflict upon the power which is the aggressor the moral condemnaton of the world,' but as for the Power which is disarmed or weak we will refuse to give her any means to defend herself." That is the effect of the statement we have heard to-night. It would be the effect if it were the final statement the Foreign Secretary was to make on this subject. I hope that it is not. That would enable France to reply "Your basis of security is nothing. If that is all the League of Nations or the Pact of Paris means, we are going to continue the policy of defending ourselves, and building up armaments. We find international sanctions are useless to prevent an invasion and so shall go on and on in he way we have done in the past building up our Army, Navy and Air Force and refusing to reduce our forces by a single ship or aeroplane or submarine." That is what France will say—and I think will ay with justice—if the last word of the League of Nations is what we have heard to-night. It is a curious thing when one talks about the Pact of Paris to remember that the Prime Minister of Japan came over here two years ago—not the present Prime Minister but the Prime Minister at that time Mr. Hamaguchi—and that when he signed the Naval Treaty said:It was clear that any breach of the Kellogg Pact must rally all against the aggressor, and whether other Powers offered active help or not, it was hardly conceivable that they would allow the pledge-breaker to interfere with their trade or enjoy the other privileges of a lawful belligerent.He went back to Japan and was assassinated by the Japanese militarists, as so many statesmen have been assassinated in Japan in the last few years. We know that the present Government in Japan has been carried into power because more moderate statesmen 108 have been murdered in the most brutal way. It is no good closing our eyes to that fact. We have heard this evening about Mr. Stimson and what he was prepared to do about an embargo on arms. This is the point in the statement of Mr. Stimson which I commend to the Committee. He said:Much of the old conception that neutrality is a possibility has gone in the modern world if large nations are involved in war.It was a statement which was carefully thought out by him because he made, as the Foreign Secretary knows, a very important statement to the same effect a year ago, that absolute neutrality in the modern world is impossible. It is all very well for the Foreign Secretary to say here that no consideration whatever will allow this country to be dragged into the present war. How does he know? How does he know that war may not develop? It is impossible for nations nowadays to go back into a state of splendid isolation. If you take up that attitude your work of building up a system of pooled security has disappeared and you must go hack to the old alliances and balances of power of the old days which, sooner or later, will end in war. I am not at all satisfied with the declaration that we must simply put an embargo upon arms to China and Japan. Japan has been declared the aggressor and is well supplied with ammunition and guns. China we know does not manufacture her own ammunition, and therefore to put an embargo on arms sent both to China and to Japan is in fact to help Japan, the aggressor and the nation condemned by the League. I do not forget the difficulties of one country acting alone placing an embargo only upon the arms sent to one of the two countries. I realise that Japan has the command of the seas in the East which we formerly had, which has been given to her by the Nine-Power Treaty which she has broken, and owing to that fact she is in a position to intercept ships filled with arms. That might lead to conflict and to war. I understand that difficulty.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman, but he said that he was not, satisfied with the idea, of the decision by this country that we should stop arms to both sides, and I gathered that his view was that we ought to send arms to one side and not to the other. If he thinks so, does he realise what the consequences will mean? respectfully ask him, Is that what he recommends?
§ Mr. COCKS
The right hon. Gentleman always puts his points so courteously that I have not the slightest objection to the intervention. I was going to go on. I said that I understand the difficulties in the way, and I was going to say "but." We ought, as it has been suggested, to communicate with the Chinese Government and point out the position to them. I do not see why in any case there should be an embargo on any arms sent to her otherwise than by sea. For example, fleets of aeroplanes could go out there and not touch the sea. Aeroplanes could be sent to China which would be very useful in helping her to defend herself against this unjust attack, and they could go in various ways to China without going near the sea. The Secretary for Mines shakes his head. I know that he knows a great deal about things under the earth but I did not know that he is an authority in the clouds. I think that that could be done. Anyhow, a distinction of some sort should be made. I realise how grave is a situation like this, and yet I feel that in making the declaration which the Foreign Secretary has made and leaving it there we are not doing sufficient to defend the nation which has been attacked against the nation which has been condemned. Therefore, we should use every effort to obtain some arrangement between the nations, members of the League and the United States to place certain embargoes on goods going to Japan or bringing pressure in various ways which would put her at a disadvantage.
It is not enough just to keep the ring. For example, on the question of finance all loans should be forbidden to Japan, and she should be given no power to raise money in other countries, that is if agree- 110 ment can be arrived at between all the countries concerned, including the United States. Judging from the letters of Mr. Stimson, America is quite willing cordially to co-operate with the League in certain measures of that sort. There is a question of not sending to her cotton, nitrates and various things used in warlike material. By that I do not mean a blockade of her shores but the prevention of these materials leaving the ports of the nations agreeing for Japan. I think that we ought also to repeat again the declaration already made, that no conquests made by Japan as a result of proceeding with an illegal war will ever be recognised by the League or by America. Let us reflect for a moment upon the obligations into which we have entered. Article XVI says:Should any member of the League resort to war in disregard of its covenants under Article 12…all other members of the League…hereby undertake immediately to subject it to the severance of all trade or financial relations, the prohibition of all intercourse between their nationals and the nationals of the covenant-breaking State.…It may seem very drastic. It may not be wise to put it into operation all at once. But we must not ignore that obligation. It is a serious international obligation and if we ignore it we shall put ourselves in the same position of a lawbreaker as Japan. We must see to it that the obligations of the Article are carried out in the spirit if not in the exact letter of the law. If these international obligations are not carried out—I agree with the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) —I see nothing before the country and the world but disaster.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. R. LAW
I should not have ventured to detain the Committee had it not been for a remark dropped by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) in the course of his speech in reference to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), who I am sorry is not in his place, as I should like to say something about his speech. He said that it was an example of good sound Conservatism. I could not have slept peacefully in my bed to-night if I had not got up and said that so far as I am concerned it seemed to me to be an example 111 of extremely bad, unsound and dangerous Conservatism. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Major Hills) pointed out, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook made a great deal of play in the course of his speech with what he called realities. I have always noticed that when people talk a great deal about realities they do, in fact, give vent to a number of highly controversial statements and renunciations on the theories which they hold. Such it seemed to me was the case in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook. But there was, in particular, one fallacy which he expressed, and that was in his attitude towards this Debate. He seemed to regard the Debate, as has already been said, as a kind of football match in which it was necessary for every Member who spoke to cheer violently one side or the other, and he chose to cheer the Japanese.
But that is not the consideration which principally weighs with Members to-night. We all must have views about the rights or the wrongs of the quarrel in the Far East. I think that most of us feel that the Japanese have put themselves into a very awkward moral position, but, on the other hand, they have been very seriously provoked. What concerns us to-night is really something far more fundamental than that. It is nothing less than this. In the last 20 years there has been gradually growing up in the world a new idea of international relationships, a new idea of the kind of law which should govern the relations of the various civilised States of the world; what the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) described as a new world order and a new conception of neutrality. That new world order, which had been gradually growing up ever since 1914, has been and is being threatened by what is happening in the Far East to-day, and the question that we must first ask ourselves is this: Is the policy which the Government are pursuing likely to help in maintaining that new idea which has been growing up, or is it likely to result in weakening it? It is true that the Government have not taken up arms to maintain the new world order and that they have so far managed to avoid any course which is likely to end up in our having to take up arms on behalf of that world order.
112 The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) pointed out that it was impossible to guarantee that we should not be involved in very serious trouble in the Far East. That is true, and the only thing that, we have a right to demand of the Government is that they should take the course which is least likely to embroil us in trouble in the Far East, and en that point we must admit that they have taken the safest course. In listening to the statement of the Foreign Secretary, it seemed to me that the Government have done more than just play for safety. At this moment the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is at Geneva trying to see what can be done in order to give some kind of reality and force to the decision come to by the League. Throughout the whole trouble the Government and the Foreign Secretary have done everything they could to back up the League. From the point of view as to whether the Government are doing all that is possible to support the new world order, of which the League of Nations, the Kellogg Pact and the Nine Power Treaty are the outward signs, I believe that they are doing everything that they can.
There is one further consideration which must be in our minds, and that is a sentimental consideration, the consideration that war is in itself horrible and dangerous, dangerous not only to the physical bodies of those who participate in it but terribly dangerous to the whole structure of our civilisation. From that consideration there arises a secondary one, that since war has become of such great danger to us, it is indecent in any civilisel country to do anything to encourage wars and, even worse, to make profit out of wars. The statement which the Foreign Secretary made this evening has reassured a great many of us on that point. Whatever power we may have to encourage international action to settle the trouble in the Far East, we can be assured that our own hands are in this particular matter clean. I am sure that the statement made by the Foreign Secretary will be received not only by the Committee but by the country and the world with a feeling of the most profound relief, and I believe that by his statement he has set an example to the world which will be very rapidly followed.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. MANDER
I do not propose to attempt to retry the case that was decided at the Grand Assize at Geneva, with unanimity, only last Friday. Some hon. Members, two hon. Members, I think, have tried to go over the matter again and to suggest that the wrong decision was arrived at. It is a strange world, and it may be that the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and the hon. Member behind me are right, and that the 42 members of the League of Nations were wrong, but I am inclined to think that on the whole the decision arrived at was the right one, that it is a, final and just decision, and that it will stand for all time. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook made a violent attack upon the whole foreign policy of the Government. I want warmly to congratulate the Government on the part they have played in persuading the members of the Assembly of the League to arrive at that historic, dramatic decision a few days ago, a decision which is bound to be a precedent for all time and will have a very great effect for good, whatever happens in this particular dispute, through all the decades mad centuries to come.
I congratulate the Government all the more because I did feel and I still feel that they, in common with the other great Powers, showed on the Council of the League at the beginning of this dispute, before there was any question of the Lytton Commission, lamentable weakness, feebleness and unwillingness to face up to the situation. If they had then shown the same firmness of decision that they have shown to-day, this terrible story might never have been told during the last few months. However, the situation fortunately is a satisfactory one at the moment from the point of view of the. League. It is significant and very interesting that it was the representative of Belgium who took the chair when the decision was arrived at last Friday when the League, for the first time, expressed its opinion as to what it thought of the action of another member in endeavouring to tear up an important treaty as a mere scrap of paper.
The complaint that one has is not against Japan as such, it is not that we fail to recognise the grievances and rights of Japan, but entirely and solely that she 114 has gone the wrong way about trying to get them put in order. If she would only consent to accept the guidance of the League and act in a spirit of co-operation, she would have no better friends in the world than the people of this country and the other members of the League. I am very glad to note what has been said by the Foreign Secretary to-day, that we do not regard the unanimous decision of the Assembly as being the end of the matter. The Japanese, of course, would be delighted if we would take that view, content ourselves with the Resolution, and take no further action. It would suit them entirely, because they would be able to do exactly what they want to do.
The Government feel, quite rightly, that there is a great deal more that can and should be done and they have taken certain measures already. It is necessary for us to take all the steps in the way of economic and moral pressure that we can possibly bring to bear upon Japan during the next few weeks and months, and I am glad to hear that the Government are making an international effort at Geneva, where the Under-Secretary is playing an admirable part, in trying to arrange for simultaneous action on the part of all the nations of the world, I hope not only in regard to armaments but financial support and other methods to which I should like to refer. It will be realised how enormous are the difficulties and the great obstacles that will have to be faced in dealing with a new situation of this kind. There are armament-mongers in this and other countries. I might give one little passing example of the sort of influence that is brought to bear, by recalling the fact, which was disclosed in this House some months ago, that an English armaments firm, Messrs. Vickers, advertised in a German military paper the sale of tanks—armaments which are forbidden to Germany under the Treaty of Versailles. That is an example of the efforts that will be made in opposition to the embargo on the export of arms by armament firms all over the world, who will see a threat to their interests in a development of this kind.
I am sure that the decision announced by the Government in regard to the prohibition and importation of arms must obviously apply not only to the Far East but to the two disputes that are going on in South America, and I would ask the 115 representative of the Government who may reply if he will be good enough to state specifically whether the export of arms will be prohibited equally to Bolivia, Uruguay, Peru and Colombia. We may not have arrived at the stage of a decision by the Assembly on that point, but some indication might be given as to whether we are not equally committed to taking similar action in any other part of the world where a similar situation may arise. Reference has been made to the widespread nature of munitions of war, and I hope the Government, in putting forward their proposals for international consideration, will include such articles as oil, cotton, nitrates and others which are essential to the manufacture of munitions by Japan.
The Foreign Secretary made a historic announcement this afternoon when he said that the Government had decided riot to allow the export of arms to either party. I would say, first of all, before venturing to criticise, that that is in itself a very fine gesture. It was just 100 years ago that we in this country made another great gesture when, regardless of what other countries were doing, we decided that slavery should cease to exist anywhere inside the British Empire. The Foreign Secretary is familiar with the whole of that story, and it is not unfitting that it should be he who to-day should announce another great gesture by the Government of this country. If the decision that has been announced by the Government is to be regarded purely as a temporary emergency decision, there is a great deal to be said for it and we can support it, but if it were to be for a moment considered as a permanent settlement of this question of the export of arms, it would be grossly unfair, it would be intolerably unjust to China, and would be taking the side of the aggressor against the State that had been attacked, for the obvious reason that Japan is in a good position to manufacture armaments and China is not. I hope, and I take it as certain, that the intention of the Government is to regard it as an emergency measure and that they will use all their efforts during the next few days or weeks to come to bring about some general international settlement that will give fair play to the State that has been attacked and not to penalise 116 her, as she would be seriously penalised by permanent action on these lines.
There has been some discussion about the attitude of the pacifists. I do not take up the attitude of the pacifists and say that under no circumstances should force be used. We live in an unruly world and just as we have to employ the police inside the State, so we want something in the nature of a force of international police, an armed force at the present time, to control the people of the world. The only justification, to my mind, for the use of force in the future—I do not suggest it in this case—is the maintenance of the authority of the League of Nations. I can imagine a war for the maintenance of the Covenant of the League against an aggressor to be a perfectly justifiable and proper war, but I do not think that military action of any kind could be used with effect, or should be used, in the particular dispute we are considering at the moment. There are other weapons which are far more effective and far less dangerous. In confining our attention so much to the question of the export of arms we may lose sight of the fact that the military issue may be decided in two or three weeks. Certainly it is not going to take very long, and by the time an embargo on the export of arms could be carried into effect here, or elsewhere, the military issue will be decided. We have to think of the sort of economic pressure we can bring to bear throughout the months, and it may be years to come, and so drive it home to the Japanese Government and people that they must really play the game and that they can only get their wishes carried out effectively, their reasonable wishes, by going the world's way, and not along their own path of naked brutal selfishness.
In this connection, let me call attention to the various things we may do, to the obligations under which we already rest in this matter. Reference has been made to Article XVI, and it is so important that I ask permission of the Committee to read it once more. Article XVI is not, of course, in operation because technically there has been no declaration of war, but at any rate in spirit it is in operation. It says:Should any member of the League resort to war in disregard of its covenants under Articles XII, XIII, or XV, it shall ipso facto be deemed to have committed an act of war 117 against all other members of the League, which hereby undertake immediately to subject it to the severance of all trade or financial relations, the prohibition of all intercourse between their nationals and the nationals of the covenant-breaking State, and the prevention of all financial, commercial or personal intercourse between the nationals of the covenant-breaking State and the nationals of any other State, whether a member of the League or not.This may be considered very far-reaching and undesirable, but it is the law of the world, to which we have put our signature and we cannot depart from it. The Foreign Secretary stated some time ago that the Government adhered to all their obligations under the Covenant, and a few days ago I put to him this question:whether the Government adhere to Annex F of the Locarno Treaty defining our interpretation of the obligations of Article 16 of the Covenant as meaning that each State member of the League is bound to co-operate loyally and effectively in support of the Covenant, and in resistance to any act of aggression to an extent which is compatible with its military situation and takes its geographical position into account?And the Foreign Secretary in reply said:Yes, Sir, they do."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1933; col. 979, Vol. 274.]That makes it perfectly clear that the Government binds itself in honour to carry out the obligations to which we have set our hands. The question now is: What is the most effective way to do these things? Fortunately, the situation is very much easier than it has been on previous occasions because we have the sympathy and practical co-operation of the United States, which is of infinite value and supreme importance, and available now more readily perhaps than would be the case at any time in the future. At the Assembly of the League of Nations in 1921 they gave careful and detailed consideration to the question as to how Article XVI could be put into operation when the necessity arose, and they passed recommendations and resolutions on the subject. On the 4th October, 1921, they decided that a number of steps may be taken. Some of them have been referred to to-day. Lord Lytton, whose services in connection with this matter one cannot praise too highly, has recently expressed the view that there are three things which might be done at the right moment—two of them have already been referred to—the question of the export of arms, the 118 withholding of financial assistance, and, thirdly, the withdrawal of Ambassadors, which has not yet been referred to in this Debate.
It might be thought that a measure of that kind would not be very effective, but those who know the Japanese nation best, and who realise what a proud and sensitive nation they are, take the view that the spectacle of all the Ambassadors and Ministers simultaneously leaving Tokio for their own country would create a profound impression in Japan, and would do more than anything else to make the Japanese people, from whom I believe the truth is now being withheld, realise what is thought of them by the rest of the world and how morally isolated they are from the good will and sympathy of the nations. I hope that international consideration will be given, together with these other matters, to the possibility at the right moment of a dramatic measure of this kind, to play its part along with the other proposals which have been made.
In regard to the question of imports and exports many hon. Members regard exports from foreign countries as being undesirable things and, therefore, there should not be much difficulty in persuading the House that in certain circumstances exports from a defaulting country into this country are undesirable. It certainly may be possible as an economic Sanction to consider the question of refusing access to British or other world markets to goods coming from a country that has been found in default by the unanimous decision of the League of Nations.
These are simple, practical questions, although, obviously, in carrying them out there are enormous difficulties; but they are simple propositions and have been considered by the most authoritative body in the past, the League of Nations, and have been pronounced as being possible and practicable. They are alternatives to military action and are obviously infinitely preferable to anything of that kind. I have no doubt that the Government will give them the most serious consideration.
Let me deal with one more aspect of the matter. It may be that the world will find the task too great. I am wondering whether it is not possible for the International Trade Union movement 119 to consider the practicability, in certain circumstances, if they have the power through their organisations to lay down and carry out a. policy which would make the handling of munitions for a defaulting State impossible, and prevent goods being carried to any destination of that kind. It is a matter that I have no doubt will be considered, and while there are difficulties there too, it certainly is not outside the bounds of possibility and may possibly fit into the picture in some way.
I was reading yesterday in a Sunday newspaper an article that seemed to me strangely to misjudge and misrepresent the position before us to-day. The question was asked in that article, "What has Jehol to do with Southwark or Chao Yong to do with Salford?" I venture to say that it has everything to do with the people of this country. If naked force is to be allowed to triumph in the world once more, then the new planned order of peace that has been erected with such infinite pain and trouble since the War, will lie scattered in the dust, and there will be no hope for the Disarmament Conference, no hope for the World Economic Conference, no hope for a return to prosperity in this country, and no hope for the 3,000,000 of unemployed who are now scattered about our towns and cities. This question affects most vitally every household in the land, whether as citizens or as work-people or as potential soldiers, and I trust that the Government will act with all their courage and determination, knowing that they will be backed by the overwhelming support of public opinion.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General NATION
I dare say it will be wondered why one who has spent the greater part of his life in the service of arms should put his name to the Motion on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. V. Adams). I will quote the words of a very distinguished Field-Marshal who died last week, who saw war in every phase and in many countries, and who on a public platform said more than once that war was "a mug's game." I agree entirely with that sentiment. I must say that until quite recently the declarations in this House regarding the situa- 120 tion in China had rather filled me with anxiety. I was afraid that there was to be too much delay before any action could be taken by our Government. The Government were elected with an enormous majority to carry out two main objects in which this country is particularly interested. One was the reduction of unemployment, and the other was to maintain the peace of the world by disarmament or other means. I shall say nothing about unemployment to-night, but with regard to disarmament I must say that during the time the Government have been in power there has been little or no sign of anything taking place except with regard to our own force. No other nation has disarmed, whilst we are reduced to the point of danger.
We who sit on the back benches here have supported the Government loyally throughout the time we have been in Parliament. Recently we have been getting a little anxious because so little progress has been made on the two subjects to which I have referred. We are hoping that something more practical, something more concrete, will emerge before very long. I am glad to say that the speech to-day of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has completely restored my confidence. If the Debate had ended with that speech I am sure the effect in this country and throughout the world would have been greater than it can be after the raising of the more or less confused issues that have been brought forward by other speakers.
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) took up the attitude he adopted to-day. Although he and I are in the same party it is an attitude to which I cannot subscribe. I cannot conceive that either this House or the people at large would countenance our supporting one side or the other in this Far East conflict. Our position should be that we have nothing to do with this war, that we will not support either side morally or with arms. While our own forces are cut to the bone we could not in any circumstances provide arms for other nations to fight with. I am completely satisfied with what the Government have done, and if I may do so I would humbly wish to congratulate them on the very fine statement made by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to-day.
§ Sir GEORGE GILLETT
I think the Government will not have very much of which to complain in the Debate that has taken place. Unlike the last speaker, I am rather glad that we had the speech of the right hon. Member for Spar0k-brook (Mr. Amery), although personally I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I believe, however, that he has voiced the views of a certain number of men and women whom one meets in daily life and who go about saying, as the right hon. Gentleman practically said, that the days of the League of Nations are more or less numbered. I entirely disagree with the views which the right hon. Gentleman expressed. He seemed rather proud of them as the views of a man who was really looking at the difficulties. He talked in a rather patronising way of the pacifists and, I gathered, the faddists at Geneva and in Downing Street, who believe that the world can be remodelled on anything different from the old lines to which we have become accustomed. I do not look upon the right hon. Gentleman as a realist; I look upon him simply as a pessimist. That is really the view that he expresses. Someone said to me the other day, "Dog has always eaten dog. We have always had war, and we will always have war." That was virtually the sentiment expressed by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook. I think that the real issue was disclosed to this House some months ago in the speech made by the Leader of the House, when he gave us that great address on the danger of aerial warfare. There, it seems to me, is the point of view of the man who has re[...]lised the dangers that beset us if war does not come to and end.
Why I look upon this Debate and the events taking place in the Far East as so important is that in one sense this is one of the first great problems that have faced the League of Nations. Those who have taken any interest in the League cannot have been blind to the fact that sooner or later the League would come to just such an emergency as this, with a country that was badly governed and split up as we have heard China is split up to-day; and, on the other hand, another country with an increasing population, a country desirous of expansion and a country dominated by a very efficient war machine. We 122 have wondered how the League of Nations would face a problem of that kind. Because there have been delays and difficulties many people have said that the League of Nations is no use. But if a system of warfare has been going for thousands of years, and if we are attempting, by means of the League, to begin to mould another system in which war will be replaced untimately by law, then, merely because within barely 20 years the new system is still imperfect, are we to say that the whole thing is a failure and that the attempt might as well be abandoned?
Hundreds of years ago when this country was dominated by nobles who, with their armed retainers, waged war upon one another, a man who was I suppose something of a pacifist, wrote a letter, or an article, or put upon paper in some form his belief that the day would come in this country when there would be order and law. I suppose that he was looked upon as an impracticable dreamer who thought of something which could never possibly come into being. Doubtless people like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook told that man that his idea was impossible. Yet 6000 or 700 years have passed and what that man thought of has long been recognised as the law and the government of this country. It seems to me that it is through a series of difficulties that we shall have to evolve the idea of law working through the government of the League of Nations.
In one sense, many of the problems which we are facing to-day we are facing for the first time and it is very remarkable that we should find 41 nations of the world declaring in favour of one united opinion on this question. It is very fortunate indeed that we have this great united world opinion expressed at a time when the first great test has come and I think we may congratulate those who have had the conduct and control of matters at Geneva. We have heard criticisms of them and they have seemed at times to act slowly but at any rate the conclusion of their work has been to gather this virtually unanimous opinion representing nearly all the nations of the world in favour of one definite view. How we are to impose that opinion on the nations who are waging war is one of the difficulties to be faced. I welcome the statement of the Foreign Secretary in re- 123 gard to the arms embargo. Some of us may think that it would be better if it were directed solely against the country which has had the verdict given against it but we ought not too hastily to jump to such a conclusion.
We have to think out what is the best course to pursue and the assurance that the Government are taking action with the other nations on the lines indicated is one that we may all welcome. There may be other ways in which the opinion of the world can be brought to bear on the Japanese people. There is perhaps much truth in what Japan may say that the pages of our own history are covered with acts similar to those which she is doing in Manchuria to-day. No one who is familiar with the history of the development of our Empire can deny that there is a good deal of truth in it but even if that be so, we hope that the world is moving forward however slowly and that it has moved a stage forward in these matters. We welcome what has taken place at Geneva and the part which our own Government has played in connection with this problem.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. LEWIS
The great War has produced many evil things. It has produced very few good things. Probably many in this Committee would agree that of those very few good things, the League of Nations is one of the best. It may be that the idea of a League of Nations is premature. It may be that the world as a whole, like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), thinks that the time is not yet ripe to substitute the force of argument for the argument of force. Perhaps mankind has yet to pass through other phases before the conception of a council of the nations, of a world state, can be translated into reality. But this I think is clearly true, that if the world cannot evolve a League of Nations or some substitute for it that will work, then the civilisation which has been built up through so many centuries, with such great labour, will be as utterly destroyed as were the civilisations that preceded Greece and Rome. No people more than our own, for the last 300 years, worked to spread the civilisation of Western Europe over the world. No people other than our own have greater responsi- 124 bilities to-day for government in different parts of the world. Therefore, it seems to me that we, above all peoples, should be interested in trying to make work the new and to some extent imperfect machinery of the League of Nations.
It is very reasonable that we should give up a day of the time of the House of Commons to the discussion of this Sino-Japanese dispute, because in many parts of the world to-day it is regarded as a test for the League of Nations—something which will show whether the League is a reality or a sham. Without going into the controversial details of the dispute between China and Japan, and admitting that there are many things to be said for and against either country, two things stand out clearly from the Lytton Report. One is that so far as naval and military operations are concerned, Japan is the aggressor. The other is that the so-called independent State of Manchukuo is a sham. I do not think that either of those two facts has been seriously controverted in the Debate. For those reasons most of us awaited with anxiety and great interest the statement of the Foreign Secretary. We cannot complain that he was not clear and definite. We are to understand that from to-day, with the exception of certain current contracts, there is to be an embargo on the export of arms and ammunition from this country to Japan or to China.
I suppose that to any peaceable individual there is something extremely distasteful, to say the least of it, in the idea of supplying to other people the means to kill and maim each other. Therefore, I suppose that the pronouncement by the Foreign Secretary of our policy in this matter will meet with a very wide measure of approval in the country, but I cannot help wondering whether in fact that decision is not premature, and that for two reasons. In the first place, it seems to me that it very much weakens our position at Geneva. After all, we were in the position that we could go forward to other great nations, themselves able to do a large and profitable trade in armaments of war, and say to them: "We are willing to give up this trade in this dispute. We have our great number of unemployed, we have our financial troubles, but none the less we will forgo this possibility of trade, and we ask you 125 to do the same." We are not now in that position. We can only go to them and say: "We have forgone this trade, and we invite you to do the same." That seems to me to be somewhat the position of which we read in the fable, of the fox which lost its tail in a trap, and then went round and suggested to all the other foxes how much more comfortable they would be if they did away with that encumbrance, the tail.
That seems to me to be the one disadvantage, and the other is this: I do not think it has been seriously argued in this Debate by anyone but that the immediate effect of this embargo will be to the disadvantage, not of Japan, the aggressor, but of China. Quite apart from any question of contracts which may be in existence, as the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) pointed out with great force, in matters of this kind the aggressor always takes the trouble to be well prepared. Surely no one doubts that at this moment, if left entirely to their own resources, the Japanese are in an infinitely stronger position to produce all the munitions of war that they require than are their opponents, the Chinese. Therefore, it seems to me that on those two grounds, on the ground that it weakens our position vis-à-vis other great nations at Geneva which are able, like ourselves, to do a big trade in munitions, and, secondly, that in fact at the moment it hurts not so much Japan as China, the decision which the Foreign Secretary has announced to-day is premature. The only alternative is international action, and that, we understand from the Foreign Secretary, is not discarded, but is being pursued. It is suggested to us, as is, of course, only too true, that action of that kind must be very slow and very difficult, but I think time will show that in a matter of this kind, however slow and however difficult it may be, it is the only satisfactory method.
There was one passage between the Foreign Secretary and the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) which I did not quite understand, and I do not know whether I heard the Foreign Secretary wrongly, but the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Labour party asked if he could give the House a clear statement as to what proposals were being put forward, on behalf of our Government, at Geneva in 126 this dispute at the moment. As I understood the Foreign Secretary, he replied that, partly because of the distance between here and Geneva, he was not in a position to say. I do not know if I do him an injustice, but I hope that someone speaking for the Government later in the Debate will be able to tell us quite clearly what are the main lines of policy which are at this moment being pursued by our Government in this dispute at Geneva, because surely it is ridiculous to suppose that the Foreign Secretary sits on this Bench here and leaves his Under-Secretary at Geneva to do whatever he likes, regardless of the directions which he has had from the right hon. Gentleman. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman and other responsible Ministers must know, in a matter of this vital importance, what are the main suggestions which we are putting forward to the other Powers with regard to this dispute.
I hope that those suggestions will take something of the form of progressive embargo upon exports to Japan on the part of the various nations which are members of the League, with an invitation to America and to the Soviet to join in; and I hope that if any such proposals are put forward and seriously considered, the position will not be spoiled by making such an embargo apply to both parties. The Foreign Secretary suggested, among other reasons, the serious difficulty that, for example, if we refuse to supply arms to Japan and are willing to supply them to China, Japan might seize a ship going to China with arms. Surely he does not suggest that the only way to get arms to China is to send them by sea. It is true that that is by far the most convenient way to send such things as heavy guns or other heavy munitions, but there is no difficulty whatever in getting smaller arms or munitions into China over land frontiers in many places. The French have such frontiers in Indo-China, the Russians in the North, Siam has frontiers, and we ourselves have such a frontier in Western China. There is nothing impracticable in sending small munitions up the Irrawaddy and over the frontier into China at Bhamo. If the will is there, we can get a great many munitions of war into China without Japan having any chance at all of interfering.
§ Mr. LEWIS
A considerable time, I agree, but it is practicable; it could be done, particularly if the struggle is prolonged. Therefore, I think that, in an embargo of this kind, the position should be left free to the other nations of the world to supply China if they wish. I very much object to the idea that the two countries in this dispute should be lumped together and that any embargo that is applied should be applied to both. It seems to me that we are in the position of saying to China, "We sympathise with you and think the other fellow is in the wrong, but we are not prepared to come and fight for you, and we are not prepared to help you to fight the other man." I agree most thoroughly with the Foreign Secretary when he says that the fact of condemnation by the League is in itself of first-class importance. It produces a certain moral isolation for Japan, but I venture to say that it will prove a great deal more effective if steps are taken to turn that moral isolation into an increasing degree of physical isolation.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I wish to say a word or two in comment on the many statements that have been made with regard to the provocation that Japan has received in the dispute between herself and China. I interposed a remark to the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) as to why Japan had not put her case before the League. It has been stated, and I got it in reply, that Japan has put her case before the League, but as far as I know Japan has put no case before the League, and she never proposed to put her case before the League. The statements which she made were of a rhetorical kind and were made in the League Assembly. I should have thought that putting her case before the League would mean that she was prepared to go to the League and give full information, papers, documents, and so on, in order that the League might come to a right conclusion. I am driven to the conclusion that Japan did not want to put her case to the League and that she preferred to play the game which she has played.
Japan has never needed to look very far for reasons for acts of aggression.
128 The history of Japan is like the history of all imperialistic states; whenever aggression has been intended reasons have not been far to seek for it. I suppose that it would be difficult to find a more peaceful race than the Koreans, and yet Japan found the same reasons for her aggression in Korea that she has found in Manchuria. It was the necessity for protecting Japanese nationals, although I have never been able to understand what protection they needed in Korea. Japan went in with just the same policy that she has pursued in this quarrel with China over Manchuria. Towns were razed to the ground, the old Queen, no doubt a very provocative old lady, was dragged from her palace and beheaded in her own courtyard—all in the defence of some mythical Japanese nationals. Japan found the same causes for her acts of aggression in the Far Eastern Republic in the post-war period. There she agreed with America and ourselves to send a police force of 7,000 or 8,000 men, and after America and ourselves had withdrawn from the Far Eastern Republic, Japan was still there and maintained there an army of 70,000 to 80,000 men, carrying on acts of brutal aggression in all the towns and parts that she occupied. There was murder, bloodshed and rapine wherever they were in possession. The same thing is going on at the present moment.
It has been hinted that Japan may turn round and say: "You have done the same." That is true. All Imperialist nations have taken the same course. We are in the position of the poacher turned gamekeeper. I do not know how we are to bring this thing to an end. I do not think that Japan will be willing to retreat from the position which she has taken up. The only thing that will bring her to her senses is a form of keen economic boycott. The same effects will not be obtained by stopping the supply of munitions. One has only to consider the strength of Japan in air and naval power to see the overwhelming advantage that she has over China in spite of the so-called embargo which is supposed to come into operation now. If the position suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) is anything to go by, if the contracts that now exist are to be carried out and if they are Japanese contracts, it is obvious that we shall go on arming Japan for a 129 very long time to come. But there are no contracts to supply her with money as far as I know and an economic boycott will do more to bring her to her senses than a boycott of arms can possibly do. Her problem would then become an economic one.
The Foreign Secretary might explain to Japan that we have bad some experience of Imperialism; very few nations have had more; and he might explain that, while acts of aggression are fairly easy to commit, particularly when they are committed against weaker nations, they are damnably difficult to get out of. The after effects remain for a long time. The right hon. Gentleman might explain that while we have been Imperialistic in the last 150 years, our Imperialism, although it may have brought some advantage from a commercial point of view, has brought us many difficulties from a political point of view. We have had some difficulties in Ireland. We have a few in India, and they are likely to continue; and if Japan is looking for trouble, Imperialism is the proper way to provide herself with some. We can give her some splendid examples of the troubles that accrue when a nation becomes too greedy. We have 3,000,000 men unemployed after all our Imperialism, after all our expansion, and after winning the War. Japan may win in this case, and we and other people may supply her with munitions, but she may say: "The debts are so huge we cannot pay them; other people have found that out." Our debts were for munitions, and Japan's debts will be for munitions. We cannot pay ours very well, and she will probably find more difficulty in paying them we have as she is in a desparate position. If we can bring an economic boycott, it would lead up to a kind of social revolution on the part of the Japanese people against their militarists, and that would be the best way of bringing the war between China and Japan to a satisfactory conclusion. If the Foreign Secretary would explain these points to Japan and tell them that this is a dangerous policy, that no good can really come out of it, and that nothing but trouble can accrue, she might learn a little sense.
The Government are "sitting pretty" at the present moment, and that is as good a position as they can take up, and the Foreign Secretary says definitely that we are not going into war. I hope 130 that he is correct, but I have my doubts. We can easily drift into war, and I can easily visualise a position in the Far East that would bring repercussions in Central Europe. Everybody who has watched Japanese developments must realise that one of the things that she wants is the maritime province of the Far Eastern Republic. She wants that stretch of sea from Vladivostok to Kikolaievsk and the Island of Sakhalin. If she attempts to get them there may be war with Russia. She wants the whole of the inlets to the main land and the railroad. I think that some kind of encouragement has been given to Japanese ambitions; there have been some hopes in Europe that something might take place there that would bring Japan on to Russia's far flung flank. I believe that there is some reason for that hope. If such a position should develop, I would not be too sure that we should be able to keep out of it, because there might be repercussions in Central Europe that would bring us into a war, and that war would very likely be the end of European civilisation.
It is difficult nowadays to localise war. It was possible at one time to confine it in a small area, but it is not so possible now. Economic interests are so widely spread that capitalist nations find themselves affected at every point, north, south, east and west, and economic interests can only be protected during a state of war by military means. That is the assumption and those are the difficulties that will lead us on from one danger to another. I hope the danger may be averted. I hope the aspirations of the Foreign Secretary may be maintained. I do not want to see this country in war, and I am quite convinced that the safest way to keep us out is to bring this controversy, this horrible business, to a conclusion at the earliest possible moment. It should be our policy to isolate the aggressor as much as possible and make it impossible for this war to be continued.
§ 9.7 p.m.
Mr. VYVYAN ADAMS
So many references have been made to the speech of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) that I hesitate to mention it again. The House has well noted it and will long remember it. It was, indeed, a remarkable speech. At the beginning he exhibited anxiety for the 131 cause of China, and then said, practically in the same breath, "How dare you condemn Japan; she has an arguable case?" It may be an arguable case, but how has Japan chosen to argue? With force, and with force alone. The right hon. Gentleman concluded his speech by frequent references to reality. What exactly does he mean by reality? He reminded me of a sermon I once heard by a distinguished bishop, arguing the same theme of the status quo, in which he ended by saying: "Brethren,"—he was a very democratic bishop—" as long as human nature is human nature, human nature will be human nature still." It is this kind of theory, advanced by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, that human nature, and therefore human behaviour, can never change, which is the obstacle to progress all the time. It may be that human nature does not change, but if human behaviour does not change then, indeed, we are doomed. He attacked the policy of His Majesty's Government, quite irrelevantly, I thought, in this Debate, on the subject of the internationalization of civil aviation, and yet he claimed the whole time to be a realist. Later in this Debate a true realist was sitting on the Treasury Bench, namely, the Lord President of the Council. I would have recommended the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, were he here, to re-read carefully the words of the Lord President of the Council. Let him take to heart those words, which cannot be refuted. "Whatever the man in the street may be told to the contrary, the bomber is always bound to get through." That is the true realism, not the kind of pseudo-realism advanced by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook.
Earlier to-day we had an exhortation from the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) to young men. Perhaps I have been incited by that exhortation. Twice in February of last year, and in March, I put questions on the Paper urging the President of the Board of Trade to withhold licences for the continued exportation of arms and munitions to the Far East. I am going to speak to-day in tones of the most humble congratulation to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on the extremely noble, fine and definitive action he has at last taken, but 132 I have always held the view, heterodox as it may have been at times, that this traffic has been both inexpedient and wrong—inexpedient because it has made it much more easy to wage war and, as the Foreign Secretary has said constantly on the Floor of this House, the best interests of Great Britain are the interests of peace. Again, as the House is well aware, one gets the evil contingency that men enlisted in Yorkshire may very well be despatched by bullets made in Sheffield. I suggest that this traffic in arms is utterly wrong. Of course it is immoral for our armament factories to flourish upon the bloody disputes of foreigners. I apologise if these notions appear somewhat Victorian and Puritanical to the Committee. The other day I heard it suggested that it, was a matter for congratulation that a clothing factory had secured a large order for Japanese uniforms. I cannot believe it is a matter of congratulation, particularly as those uniforms will be worn in a war which is now admittedly an aggressive war against the Chinese, and if I were confronted with the crude and grim alternative of deciding which is the greater evil, the unemployment of our own people or the killing of Orientals, I fear I should unhesitatingly say the greater evil is the killing of Orientals.
To-night we have seen impersonated by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary the spectacle of Great Britain rising at long last to her full height and the full consciousness of her prestige. I am glad that we have taken this unilateral action, because I believe it will result very soon in multilateral action. Surely it is cause for congratulation that we have decided that Great Britain shall not make a single penny piece of profit out of the persistent warfare in the Far East. It is a new departure entirely in foreign policy. I think we shall quickly be followed by other great Powers. America has already declared that se is willing to take the same course, and I believe France will quickly follow us. So long as we allow the notion to get abroad that the "other fellow" in the international sphere is not to be trusted, so long will international behaviour take the lowest possible form. I do not believe that the other great Powers will persist in a policy of moral isolation in this matter.
133 Last Friday the League of Nations in the eyes of all fair-minded men ceased feebly to temporise. It ceased to be ridiculous. The Lytton report is, in the eyes of fair-minded men, a document un-biassed by political prejudice, and if the unanimous verdict of the Assembly of the League of Nations will not satisfy the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, what on earth will satisfy him? I think the Committee are entitled to know from the Foreign Secretary exactly what course may have to be pursued if the sanctions under Article 16 are invoked. For my part, I think that situation will not arise, but we ought to consider the contingency. I suppose there were three courses open to His Majesty's Government. In the first place, there is the possibility of using military force. I doubt very much whether in any circumstances in the present dispute that would be a moral line to take, because I hold the view that it is as hypocritical to seek to repel force by force as for the State to try to correct one murder by committing another.
Hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Wallhead) have suggested the economic blockade. That, also, is a possibility which I would like to put in a very remote position indeed. It is one of the cruellest devices. In enforcing an economic blockade upon japan you would probably inflict upon Japanese women and children, perfectly innocent most of them, ineffable hardship. When I read of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition advocating upon a platform in the country a few days ago this extreme sanction, I wanted to adapt the words of Shylock and to say to him:Hath not a Jap eyes? Hath not a Jap hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?By an economic blockade you would not be poisoning the Japanese soldiers or sailors or the Japanese military party. It is axiomatic that the first people to suffer would be the Japanese women and children. Do not let it be supposed that I am in any sense pro-Japanese, nor indeed am I pro-Chinese. If I may adopt 134 the words of Lord Lytton, I am merely pro-League in this Debate.
How very important it has been, and how vital, and a matter again for congratulation of my right hon. Friend that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has not taken the easy course of inertia. We have, to some extent, taken the third sanction and the third possibility, of not exporting arms to the Far East. It is the least violent sanction, and by taking this course we shall not be making the mistake of seeking to penalise a nation as you would punish an individual. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) delivered a speech which, I should have imagined, was almost impossible at this stage. He said in effect, "Hands off Japan; they are doing the kind of things that our predecessors had done on scores of occasions in our own history." To that school of thought I would say that you cannot extenuate the crimes of other people by condemning yourselves. Is not it a fact that the nations of the world who were signatories to the Covenant of the League of Nations have said that they will not revert to the methods of yesterday? I suggest to this Committee that laisser faire is a pre-war sophistry and a pre-League argument. It cannot be pursued any longer.
I suppose that the irresponsible portion of the Press will gather together again and will republish the antiquated arguments, in order to try to destroy the very fine policy initiated to-day by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I would very respectfully warn him that there are those irresponsible sections of the Press, which will do their best to show there is no immediate profit in pounds, shillings and pence to be gained by the policy that he has initiated. Let us get down to the true realities of the situation, not those submitted to the Committee by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spark-brook. You cannot localise any of these disputes now. The world has contracted too much. Let the Committee reflect for a moment upon what happened in 1914, in the conflict which is closest to our memory. A criminal lunatic at Sarajevo pulled the trigger of his revolver, and in six weeks the whole of Europe was in a conflagration which it took 51 months to extinguish.
135 In a very real sense, the mechanical inventiveness of man has caused us to be our brother's keeper. The Covenant of the League of Nations, to which we are absolutely bound, has seen to that. I would like hon. Members Who may have a lingering regret in regard to the course that has been taken to-day to look ahead for 10 years and to ask themselves: "Shall we not feel at that future time some gratification that Great Britain, in the Sino-Japanese dispute of 1933, put integrity above private gain?" Suppose we had taken the advice that is constantly being pressed upon us by the irresponsible sections of the Press and had calmly proceeded to trade with both sides. It might have been that our industries which are now suffering from partial collapse would have experienced a temporary recovery. The looms might have hummed and the blast furnaces might have glared. For a brief time, they might have enjoyed a period of tremendous activity, but then would have come the day of reckoning. We might well have come to be in the same position as is the United States of America. Although Japan might militarily have won an unqualified victory as we did in the last War, the House does not need to be reminded that war profits no one, not even the quartermaster or the proud paymaster.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Captain McEWEN
I cannot say that I altogether agree with the entirely pacifist outlook of my hon. Friend the Member for West Leeds (Mr. V. Adams), whose able speech we have just heard with great interest, nor can I agree with the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Wallhead) in his suggestion that the Foreign Secretary should approach the Japanese Government and explain to them in a friendly sort of way that if they would only work gradually towards the social revolution, all would be well for them. I would join with my hon. Friend the Member for West Leeds in congratulating the Government very heartily upon their successful handling of what has been, and still is, a very delicate and ticklish problem, and upon the decision, made known to us this afternoon by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs himself, to withhold export licences for arms, pending the consideration by other Powers of international action in this direction.
136 While being nothing of a pacifist myself, I have often felt acutely the difficulty of reconciling the avowed pursuit of peace with the action of supplying the very means of destroying that peace to those who happen to be at the particular moment at each other's throats. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has taken not only a logical step but also a very wise one, which is a somewhat rare combination. I am convinced that a vast body of opinion in this country will heartily approve of the decision that has been made. All the greater was the effect of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, coming immediately after the bellicose words of the Leader of the Opposition, whose attitude was that we should long ago have put into effect Article 16 of the Covenant which lays down that an economic boycott should automatically be applied to an aggressor State. He emphasised the fact that the military party in Tokio were very much in the ascendant, without apparently connecting the significance of those two facts. The fact of the matter is that nothing hut consummate diplomacy, not necessarily confined to the Foreign Office, has, so far, prevented any such action being taken. Had Article 16 been nut into effect there is no doubt at all that it would have been the signal for war.
As the British Empire happens to be the most important State facing the Japanese Empire in the Far East, it would have been against our Far Eastern possessions that the war world have been in the first place directed. It is no good saying that the framers of the Covenant ought to have foreseen this contingency. I would say that this contingency has been foreseen by many for a long time. I would go further and say that it is well known that the conditions of Article 16 are not practicable, and that, in fact, they are unworkable and ought to he revised—it is merely a case now of who will bell the cat. We have heard to-day a lot of talk about realities. Here is a reality, and one towards which every country, signatory of the Covenant of the League of Nations, is not unnaturally unwilling to turn its eyes. I cannot help feeling that it is a matter of considerable congratulation for us all that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends on the Labour benches, have not been in charge 137 and directing foreign affairs during the past 18 months for then, undoubtedly, some at least of these horrors to which he referred with such force in his speech, would be with us to-day.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Mr. PICKERING
Although we have been impatient regarding the action of the Government at Geneva, they have at last achieved something; they have at last come to us with a unanimous committee of 19, and the whole League unanimous. Although a great deal of the Debate has ranged round this question of the embargo, I, personally, do not think it is a matter of such great moment as many people represent it to be. I do not think that, whether we put on an embargo on arms going to Japan, or Japan and China, will matter very much because, so far as military operations are concerned, the issue is not in very grave doubt. I do think, however, that it is well for this country that we are showing we are not out to make any profit from the export of arms. I regard it as a very fine gesture which may impress Japan very much. Apart from that, I do not think we are doing a particularly good service to the cause of China by this embargo, but it may be that it may not make any particular difference to the issue.
What most of us who are pro-League or internationally-minded are concerned about is a means of converting the Japanese people, or Government, to an acceptance of the situation as Europe and the rest of the world have seen it. I do not believe we shall do so as long as the present military clique is in power in Japan. When I speak in protest against the military clique, it is a good deal more difficult for me to do so than for other Members. I know a good many of the people concerned, and some of them know me. I do not like to say anything against the country which gave me so much hospitality. I do feel that the great difficulty we are up against is the present powerful position of militarism in Japan. A short time ago the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) was speaking about the badness of the Japanese Government. During the time I was in Japan the system of government was developing remarkably and then, just when practically 138 for the first time there had been a Government elected on really political principles and in a very constitutional way, within a very short time that Government fell and we found the military clique in power. This is a point which has not been enough emphasised in this Debate. It fell because of the chaotic condition of China.
Despite the Nine-Power Treaty, despite the League of Nations, and even the Lytton Report, China does not exist as a sovereign State. That has been a factor of tremendous importance. We all wish to see China a sovereign State in the strictest sense of the word, and so would Japan, especially Japanese constitutional statesmen. When I arrived in Japan a few years ago, a friend who was in the Government there, and who is one of the present Government, told me most sincerely that the foreign policy of Japan, so far as China was concerned, was to see China peaceful and united, because only then could Japan carry on in the way that all constitutionally-minded Japanese wished Japan to carry on. It is because of the chaotic condition of China that the constitution in Japan has been driven to the wall. By constitutional methods they could do nothing and the militarists have taken advantage of their opportunity. The militarists are in possession and draw great strength from two factors. In the first place, the Japanese are the most patriotic people in the world, and I wonder what would happen if that patriotism was driven too far or Japan was put to shame by the withdrawal of our representative. That patriotism must be taken into consideration, and, secondly, this chaos in China and Manchuria which must be brought to an end.
What is the best we can do? The Lytton Report has made its suggestion. I think a little should be added to that. In the first place, I think we cannot be quite sure that the Lytton Report is correct in dismissing so easily the reality of Manchukuo. I daresay Manchukuo could not exist as an independent State without Japan, but there is evidence that there is a good deal of popular feeling behind it. Let us grant for a moment that the Japanese may be right in insisting that Manchukuo is not a puppet, but a very young reality. Let us also grant that, even according to the Lytton Report, the old regime must not be 139 restored, that Chang Hsueh-liang cannot be allowed to go back again—he almost ruined Manchuria. China cannot take control, because China is not a sovereign State. The Lytton Report practically admits that that is so, and does not suggest that the Nanking Government should take control. Admitting all these factors, let us see if we can grant that Japan may be absolutely sincere in stating that she has no territorial interests. If we admit all these factors—first, that Manchukuo may be a possibility, that there may be something in this so-called puppet State; secondly, that the old regime cannot be restored; and, thirdly, that the Nanking Government cannot take control of Manchuria and restore order there—and also admitting, as I think one must, that the suggestion made in the Lytton Report with regard to an international gendarmerie is a preposterous suggestion, then we have to try to come to some terms with Japan in this way.
In some newspapers I have seen it stated that the Japanese have suggested that there should be a waiting time, that we should give them a chance to prove their worth and the fact that Manchukuo is a reality. They cannot move their armies, and I think the League might at least try to get Japan to accept a permanent commission to study the situation in Manchuria. As things are at the present moment, Manchukuo is really prospering. It is much more orderly than before. Japan has brought law and order where previously there was chaos in Manchuria. Let Japan's sincerity be tested as to whether she is really working behind the scenes all the time, and whether she really means anything when she says that she has no territorial interests. I think that that attempt to solve this very difficult problem ought to be made. If Japan will not accede to our efforts, then, of course, other steps must be taken, but I think we ought at least to provide one more opportunity in order to restore to the comity of the. League of Nations one who was very proud at one time to be an ally of the League.
§ 9.39 p.m.
§ Mr. THORP
I think the Committee ought to consider the position of the League of Nations in regard to the attitude which it is proposed that our Government should take. We are now 140 told that the House of Commons proposes that there should be an embargo upon the export of arms. I apprehend that that embargo will apply both to China and to Japan. In my view, it is very small step from placing an embargo on the export of arms to taking sides in this present unfortunate dispute. I hear the Foreign Secretary say, "Which side?" The answer is, "Either side." We all know that the Japanese, in point of organisation and in point of readiness for war, are infinitely better equipped than the Chinese. Therefore, it follows that the Japanese are more ready to carry on this campaign than the Chinese, and the inevitable result of our saying that there shall be an embargo upon the export of arms is to give an advantage to the Japanese which otherwise they would not possess.
There is another point with regard to this matter which I think ought to be considered. We have heard time after time that, so far as the League of Nations is concerned, whatever the future attitude of the world may be, the present attitude of the world is that the League of Nations should exercise a moral and not a physical force. There are some of us who realise that at the present moment the ultimate sanction must inevitably be a physical one, and that the League of Nations will not be able by physical means to enforce its will upon Powers which disagree with its decisions. If the House of Commons appears to say, in effect, that it will place an embargo upon the export of arms, knowing all the time that that embargo will assist the Japanese and certainly will not assist the Chinese, it simply means that this country is being called upon to enforce the opinions of the League, although not in terms which will carry them into effect.
I suggest that this country, in a dispute of that kind, should carry out the military evolution of taking a pace to the rear with the left foot and a pace to the right with the right, and I think that that would meet the opinion of the country. If it be the fact that the League of Nations has only to express an opinion, and thereupon this country will say, "We will take no part, we will not export arms," the result will be that the country which is inevitably the weaker country will feel that this country is supporting the stronger and better organised country. I think that the House will be 141 well advised to take up the attitude that, so far as we are concerned, we support the League, and we very much deprecate the unfortunate dispute that is pending in the East, but that we decline to adopt a policy which may be taken, and undoubtedly will be taken, as supporting the Japanese as against the Chinese. I suggest that the House should hesitate for a long time before it takes sides, as it will be considered to take sides, in the present unfortunate dispute.
§ 9.44 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVID MASON
I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Thorp) that the announcement of the Foreign Secretary in regard to the placing of an embargo on munitions going to both belligerents is a most important pronouncement, and I also agree, after the condemnation of Japan which we have heard from the Leader of the Opposition, from the Foreign Secretary himself, and from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), we have no question to debate as to who is the culprit; but I agree that nothing could be more calculated to help Japan than that pronouncement. The facts have been referred to by many speakers. Japan is well prepared. China is defending her country, and she, the innocent party, is to be penalised by the House of Commons and by the pronouncement of the. Foreign Secretary in his own speech. Contracts have probably been entered into and have to run on. Members on all sides with almost one voice, except the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), have decided that Japan is at fault, and yet we are apparently agreeing to the right hon. Gentleman's pronouncement and placing an embargo on munitions to either belligerent. It was not very easy to understand the right hon. Gentleman. He said the British Government were entering into relations with foreign Powers, while taking this stand themselves, to endeavour to persuade them to agree to our policy. Does that mean that the British Government are endeavouring to persuade all the other great Powers to agree to place an embargo upon munitions going to both belligerents or only munitions going to Japan? Eighteen months ago I put some questions to the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the Covenant. He told me I did not com- 142 prehend the Articles, and he would ex-plain to my deficient intelligence what they were. We went to an adjoining Lobby, and he tried to explain their meaning to me.
§ Mr. MASON
Let me continue the narrative and the Committee can judge for themselves how successful or unsuccessful he was. I suggested to him that his answers in the House indicated that he, representing the British Government, did not intend to do anything, and his reply was Chat I was a bloody-minded pacifist. That was his conception of ordinary Members of the House trying to bring what influence they possessed upon the Government and of what are the obligations contained in the Covenant. So superficial a way of treating a matter of life and death is beneath contempt. Article XVI says:Should any member of the League resort to war in disregard of this Covenant under Articles XII, XIII and XV—Article XII says that members of the League agree that, if there should arise between them any dispute likely to lead to a rupture, they will submit the matter either to arbitration or judicial settlement or inquiry by the Council, and they agree in no case to resort to war until three months after the award of the arbitrator or the judicial decision or the report by the Council. By Article XIII, members of the League agree that, if any dispute arises between them which they recognise to be suitable for arbitration or judicial settlement, and which cannot be settled by diplomacy, they will submit the whole matter to arbitration or to judicial settlement. As Japan disregarded the two previous articles, she ipso facto may be deemed to have committed an act of war against all other members of the League. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) asked whether we were right in prohibiting all trade and intercourse between ourselves and the belligerents. It says here that members of the League undertake immediately to subject belligerents at fault to the severance of all trade or financial relations and to the prohibition of all intercourse between nationals of the Covenant-breaking belligerent and the nationals of any other State, whether a member of the League or not.
143 There we have our action defined by the Covenant and for the Secretary of State or his Under-Secretary at Geneva to go out of his way to proclaim to the world that in no circumstances will we carry out sanctions is a humiliating attitude for the Government to take up. We are not called upon to go to war. These Articles may provide for certain sanctions as a last resort, but there are economic sanctions and financial sanctions, and to state beforehand to a belligerent who is engaged in aggressive action that in no circumstance will you carry out sanctions of this extreme character is to my mind quite uncalled for. Can you blame Japan for her aggressive action? The hon. Member laughs. Does he deny it? Has not our action in the last 18 months conveyed to Japan that we intended to do nothing? Was that a serious policy? Were we called upon to do that? The right hon. Gentleman sneers at my lack of comprehension of diplomacy. I might retaliate that he has a very elementary knowledge of diplomacy. We pay little or no attention to the Covenant although we are members of the League. To tell the other Powers, as the Under-Secretary did at Geneva on Friday, that we do not intend to impose these sanctions is not only humiliating but stupid. It is calculated rather to promote war. I am a peace-loving man. I cannot, perhaps, lay claim to the high eulogy which came from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, but all my life I have been a man of peace. Sometimes I feel that you are more likely to get peace if you take a firm line. If you drift and shilly-shally, and indicate that you do not intend to do anything, can you wonder that Japan has become an aggressor? We have pursued a policy more likely to encourage Japan. We are in the position at the eleventh hour of saying that perhaps the Government may screw up the present House of Commons to go in for economic sanctions.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. Hon. Members have said that he is a belligerant and professes to be a pacifist. I submit that his remarks about what was the use of belonging to the League of Nations and signing the Covenant if you did not intend to give at least lip service of loyalty to the Covenant was 144 misinterpreted by the representative of the Government when he said that it meant that the right hon. Gentleman intended that we should withdraw. If I understood him, it meant nothing of the sort. He was justified in saying that those very serious Covenants to which we had put our signature were treated so lightly because we thought they might be inconvenient and might not suit us and therefore we were not prepared to carry them out. I rejoice that my hon. Friends behind me and many distinguished Members of the Conservative party, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) have taken a higher rather than a lower view of our responsibilities. I hope that the Government will yet be encouraged not to rule out what we may yet be able to do to try and bring this dreadful thing to an end.
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
It has been a very good thing that this matter should be debated so fully in the House to-night, not only perhaps for the House, but for the country and for the world as well. The Debate has been a very interesting one, and, I think, has been striking because of the almost unanimous support for the League of Nations and the action which it has already taken, and also because of the demand which the House has put forward for united action in the future. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) is almost as isolated as Japan —[An HON. MEMBER: "Oh, no!"] He is almost the only militant Imperialist left, and deep calls to deep when he and Japan consider matters together. In view of the time which the Debate has taken we do not propose to divide the Committee to-night upon this Vote. We shall watch with interest and anxiety the development of the actions of the Government and the actions of the League.
There has been a great deal of discussion going back into the history of the disturbance and disquiet in Manchuria, but in view of the unanimous decision of the Assembly of the League of Nations it does not seem to us to be profitable to try, with a, much smaller knowledge, to examine again the whole of the circumstances which led up to the troubles in Manchuria. We must, I think, accept 145 those findings as being the best findings the world can produce. There is no better machinery available, and it is idle for us to try to thresh through it all again. But it is important to notice that the findings of the Assembly of the League of Nations are based upon a series of breaches of faith by Japan. No one who has read the documents can be in any doubt whatever about that. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are wrong !"] The hon. Member may think that they are wrong, but I am not going back behind those findings. It seems to me even a greater authority than the authority of the findings of Lord Lytton's report. It is because of those continued breaches of faith that the League of Nations has come to the conclusion that Japan must be considered as an aggressor State. That declaration, as the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary truly said, is a declaration of very great moral effect. It is a splendid thing that all the nations who are gathered at Geneva should at long last have come to a definite and decisive decision upon this point and have had the courage to declare that decision in no doubtful terms. We certainly wish that the decision had been come to sooner. We think that that might have been done without any undue strain if more determination had been shown to deal rapidly and decisively with the matter.
Do not let us go back now into the regrets of what might have been. Rather let us be pleased at least that at last it has come to a solution. But the trouble is that with that decision having been come to, Japan snaps its fingers at it. The position which now arises is, what are we to do as a sequel to Japan's action upon the League of Nations unanimous report? We believe that it is vital that whatever action is taken should now be taken with extreme rapidity. We realise, of course, the difficulties in getting international agreement upon any matter, but it is, in our view, absolutely essential, if any action is to be effective, that it should be taken at once. The Foreign Secretary rather accused my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition of suggesting that the sanctions were foreshadowed in the Lytton. Report, or that he had suggested that they were recommended by the Lytton Report. Of course, that was not 146 the function of the Lytton Report. The function of the Lytton Report was to give the League a basis upon which they might come to a decision, and it was not until that decision had been come to that any question of sanctions could possibly arise. Now that Japan has refused to accept the proposals which are put forward by the League the position has changed. As Lord Lytton put it himself in an interview two or three days ago:This is the action I would consider desirable following upon the League's condemnation of Japan's action. League members should stop the export of arms and money to Japan.We do not suggest, and never have suggested, that any one single country should butt into the war in the Far East and make that war worse. Several hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have suggested that we are pacifists and that we are more bellicose than the militarists. That arises, I think, from a misunderstanding of what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said. What he was pressing upon the Committee was the necessity for the League to butt in and exercise the powers which it had undertaken, and which the members had undertaken to exercise under the Covenant of the League. The first step, obviously, and the easiest step is an arms embargo, but no one can suppose that by means of an arms embargo alone anything except a moral effect will be brought to bear upon the Sino-Japanese position, because everybody knows that there are large arsenals in the Far East. Money, on the other hand, as Lord Lytton suggests, is probably the more important factor and might have a decisive effect far more rapidly than an embargo upon arms. If only arrangements could be made internationally that all credits should be refused to Japan, that would be a far more decisive and more important factor than the mere embargo upon arms. Nevertheless, the announcement of the Foreign Secretary as to our refusal to license further export of arms from this country to China and Japan is at least a gesture, a very fine gesture, in its way, although it is a great pity that it was not made a year ago, when we were pressing for it to be made.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
Yes, before, and that is the exact point that I want to bring before the Committee. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me in this, that if we are going to put an embargo on both parties, that is a thing suitable to be done before you have decided upon the aggressor. The moment you have decided on the aggressor, and here I agree with the Foreign Secretary, then it is not suitable to put an embargo upon both parties, and we are liable now by taking this action, after the decision of the League of Nations, to lay ourselves open to a misunderstanding on the part of China that by not exporting arms to China we are actively assisting Japan. That is why we think that if action of this type was to be taken, that is, an embargo upon arms to both parties, that was suitable action to be taken before any decision had been arrived at as to which was the guilty party. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is difficult to justify, after the aggressor has been determined by the League, putting an embargo on both sides. We appreciate that there are difficulties when one nation is acting alone—difficulties which the Foreign Secretary mentioned—and therefore, although we think that it would be fairer, after the aggressor has been determined, to take action against Japan alone, yet, in view of the difficulties, we certainly do not oppose the step which the Government are taking as regards this matter.
It will not have any very great effect as regards stopping the war in the Far East but, on the other hand, I think that it may have some effect upon world sentiment, because a lead is a great thing, especially when it is a fine moral lead. Nobody can say that we are going to make anything out of putting an embargo upon the export of arms. We hope, and I suppose the whole Committee hopes, that this gesture by the Government will be rapidly followed by an agreement throughout the world to extend the embargo on arms against Japan. If the Debate has done nothing else of any use I hope that it will make it clear that the embargo against Japan is desired by this Committee, and I am sure that the Committee is speaking on behalf of the vast mass of the people of this country and the vast mass of the people of the world.
148 When it comes to an agreement between the different nations, then I hope the Foreign Secretary will tell us that that agreement will be based upon an embargo against Japan alone. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because Japan has been determined the aggressor. We hope that there will be no question of that embargo being exercised against China as well. It would clearly be inconsistent with the Covenant of the League to do that, if it were international action taken under the terms of the Covenant itself. We hope that the Government will go forward and try to extend the area of embargo as rapidly as possible, and we hope that the mere fact that one particular country will not come in, although perhaps the bulk of the countries will, will not stop international action being taken. If one waits until every single country has consented it might be that one will wait for ever. We believe that the great bulk of the countries will take this action and that the rest will be shamed into doing the same.
A very serious question has been raised by several of the speeches made this evening and, indeed, by the statement of the Foreign Secretary that we will not become involved in this war in any event. Nobody wants to become involved in this war. That is perfectly certain. Nobody with any experience of the last War would ever want to become involved in any war. But does that statement mean —the Committee must face up to it—the abrogation of Article XVI of the Covenant? So long as that Article stands, the implications of our duty and of the duty of every signatory are enormous. Are we merely going to put ourselves into the position of performing what we would call the centuries old ceremony of kow-towing to the bullies of the world, or are we going to say that the theory of sanctions is a real theory and is, indeed, a theory and a practice that was invented for the purpose of assisting in keeping peace, and are we really going to apply it? Probably the Foreign Secretary will not want to answer that question to-night, but sooner or later this House will have to come to a determination as to whether they are to treat Article XVI as a mere scrap of paper.
We believe that it is a fallacy to say that if the sanctions were applied or had been applied earlier, we should eventually have had war. That clearly could not 149 have been the thought of the people who framed the Covenant. It was framed for the purpose of avoiding war. We believe that even countries who may take up a bullying attitude can and must be brought to heel by the exercise of economic sanctions in the last resort, unless you are to say that a person who bluffs sufficiently high can always win the trick. That would indeed be a tragedy. If the Article is a reality then, as in everything else in life, we may have to take risks, and the risk may well be worth the possible price. It is a little unfortunate that any so definite a statement should be made as to our unwillingness to take any risk at all if we really are going to try to put our weight behind Article XVI of the Covenant.
Whatever sanctions the League of Nations decides to put on, we hope they will not neglect every opportunity of using their good offices to settle this dispute. We do not want them to concentrate entirely on the sanctions side, but that they will continue to use their good offices to arrive at some settlement. It must be obvious that sooner or later the question must be settled by agreement. The time will come when Japan and China will have to settle down together side by side, and everything that can be done at this moment to expedite the process of settlement is something which we should encourage. But there can be no settlement so long as Japan is in a position to make China obey her commands, so long as China is not able to settle as between two equal parties. The object of the sanctions is to improve the bargaining position of China so that she may get a fairer and better settlement with Japan; and also to stop some of the ghastly horrors of war. The right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) suggested that the League of Nations might offer its assistance to China in reorganising the government, and there may be a useful function to be fulfilled in giving China assistance, provided that the assistance is not merely a cloak for the mass exploitation of the Chinese by Western capitalists. There would have to be the most careful safeguards, and the safeguards would have to he rigidly enforced.
It is obvious, as the Lytton Report said, that we can never merely go back to the 150 status quo in Manchuria; some means must be devised, and a part of such means is the stabilisation of the Chinese Government. The ultimate solution is one of extreme difficulty, but Lord Lytton, in the magnificent contribution to the world's international problems which he made in the report he wrote, has at least contributed a great deal towards a possible solution. Once China can be released from the fear and pressure of Japanese conquest, there does not seem to be any reason why a settlement should not be arrived at. If this nation and the other nations of the world in this crisis are prepared to stand behind the League of Nations, to honour their signatures, then the Japanese Government will not face the music. The pressure of world public opinion is a very potent force. Its effect is not always immediate, but it is almost impossible for one single isolated country to stand up against the rest of the world when the rest of the world has decided that it is going to act in order to stop aggression which it considers unfair and unjust.
§ 10.20 p.m.
Sir NAIRNE STEWART SANDEMAN
The hon. and learned Member for Bristol, East (Sir S. Cripps) has given me a good text. What are we to do I It is a difficult question to answer. So far as I can see we are going to do nothing but pass pious resolutions. We are not going to do this, and we are not going to do that. At the present moment China is ruled by bandits, and there is nothing that the ordinary Chinamen would like more than to have some sort of settlement by which they would know where they were getting. But we in this country, with our giving the lead to all the world, say that we are going to do nothing whatever to get a settlement in China, that we are not to give munitions to Japan. I frankly am pro-Japanese, entirely pro-Japanese, because I believe that the Japanese will settle the question in Manchuria and settle it very quickly, and the less time that is spent in settling the row in Manchuria the sooner we shall get on to doing trade in China. Frankly I wish we were in closer touch with Japan and were prepared to say that we were going into the Yangtse Valley. I know that that is not possible at the moment, but if we could do that I am certain that it would mean at once peace in China, and the poor 151 Chinese people would know that the next day's livelihood was safe and we could make goods and export them to China.
I listened to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, and I thought it was perfectly wonderful as usual. But he forgot all about the question in which we are all very much interested, and that is the question of Manchuria. I notice that he did not touch upon it at all. The whole House is aware or ought to be aware that Russia jumped in there and annexed all the outer parts, but there was no word then about Russian aggression or the League of Nations, or what we were going to do to prevent Japan fighting against her. Why not? What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Personally I am very glad indeed that Japan has come in without fear and has said what she is going to do. The Japanese at least have a policy. It is to settle one part of the world and they are going to settle Manchuria. Of that I feel perfectly convinced. [An HON. MEMBER: "And set up a National Government."] No, they will not set up a, National Government. They will set up a beneficient autocracy, which is possibly the best form of rule that you can get, as long as the autocrats are in touch with the people and know what the people really want. [Interruption.] The people know what they want, and what they want is real Conservative Government. They have always wanted it and always will want it.
I listened to the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Nunn), and he gave us the history of the matter. He has been in China and knows it very well. He came home. Even the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) will one day come home and his home will be with the Conservative party.
Sir N. STEWART SANDEMAN
What you imbibe in your infancy is bound to come out when your teeth are coming out, and in a few years I believe that the hon. Member for Bridgeton will be a thorough Conservative. The lion. Member for Whitehaven told us the exact position. He knows the country. I must say that he did not draw the picture against Japan. The Lytton Report may have leaned to the side of China to a certain extent. I read the report care- 152 fully. I thought it was rather biased, but it did give us the feeling that Japan was not getting quite a fair deal.
Then the matter came up before the League of Nations. We are all getting rather tired of the League of Nations. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, a great many of us are. I am certain that my hon. Friends above the Gangway on this side are not tired of it but I can tell them that a great many of the people of the country are. [HON. MEMBERS "No."] The Leader of the Opposition is always very nice to me and lets me have my say, and eventually I generally prove to be right. I am certain that the court of the League of Nations was not the sort of judicial court to which the hon. Member for Whitehaven referred. They were bound to be swayed one way or the other by interests and by the feeling. "What is going to pay us best?" We know that that sort of thing goes on and a great many of us do not really trust the League of Nations for what I would call big decisions. The fact that they pronounced in favour of China has no effect upon me whatever.
If I had dared to interrupt the Leader of the Opposition during his speech I would have liked to ask him what explanation he had to offer of what happened in the case of Russia and Mongolia and why he did not make the awful outcry in that case that he has made because Japan has gone into Manchuria to protect her interests there. There are the railways, the treaties—everything that was promised to Japan. China went back upon that. It was not Japan's fault and Japan has had the pluck to assert her rights. As far as cotton goods are concerned, I hate Japan, but I do admire her pluck. She has not been afraid to come out and say, "I am going to do so and so and I do not care what you say to me." Right is might, and very often might is right, and the Japanese are going to carry out there what they have started, and the sooner the thing is finished the better. I do not see why we should not give Japan munitions to help her to finish it, because the sooner it is through the better for China and for everybody in that country.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I do not think the Committee will desire me to reply at length on what has been a varied and interesting 153 Debate, but there are one or two observations which it would be proper to make at what may be the end of our discussion this evening. At the same time I should like to express to the Committee my own thanks and the thanks of the Government for the generally sympathetic way in which the decision they have reached—a difficult decision in a very difficult matter—has been received by the Committee. One observation naturally occurs to the mind of an older Member of the House in reviewing a Debate of this sort which deals with a distant part of the world where many of us have never been. We never have a Debate of this kind in the House of Commons in which it does not turn out that speeches will be contributed it may be from some unlikely quarters, based upon first-hand knowledge of the peoples and places concerned.
One of the very best features of the British House of Commons—striking today as it always is on such occasions—is that when the House of Commons sees that a speaker is talking of that which he knows, he is at once recognised as a, man entitled to a double meed of attention. In the course of this Debate—I am not offering any preference as to opinions; I am merely noting the fact—we have had speeches from hon. Members like my hon. Friend the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Pickering), like my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane), like my hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Nunn), all the more valuable because one felt that they were speaking from actual contact with these very difficult and complicated Oriental conditions, and I must add the altogether delightful, because so picturesque and so characteristic, speech of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). He began by telling us that every speech he had listened to, admirable as it might be, gave no clear indication of what the speaker himself would do if he had occupied a position of responsibility, and I am bound to say that that characteristic was very fully shared by his own.
Then there comes a speech of a slightly different character, for I am not aware that the speaker' has any intimate personal knowledge of the region, the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason), who revealed to the Committee more or less accurately 154 —so far as I recall less rather than more—the contents or alleged contents of a private conversation between myself and himself, as he described it 18 months ago, in the Lobby, in the course of which, if his memory is better than mine, I said that opinions such as his were only entertained by bloody-minded pacifists. I can only point out that if this really occurred 18 months ago, at that time I was not Foreign Secretary, and I suspect that he really had that conversation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Dominions.
§ Mr. D. MASON
If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me, I admit the advantage he has scored about the time, but as he referred in rather scathing terms to a private conversation, the Committee may think we met casually. He must remember, I am sure, that publicly before hon. Members, he asked me to come out with him into the Lobby. It is because of that fact that I referred to the conversation.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Now that the hon. Member has reminded me of the precise circumstances, and especially as it was not as much as 18 months ago, I remember it well. I believed it to be within my powers—and I am rather proud of my powers of exposition—to explain the contents of three Articles of the Covenant of the League to any reasonable man in the Lobby outside. I can only say that, after great patience, in the case of the hon. Gentleman I entirely failed. I recognise, if I may be allowed to say so, very sincerely and most respectfully the consideration and, I think, the public spirit which inspired the very moderate and careful statement that has just been made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). It really would not be desirable that statements should be made at this time of day necessarily, without careful preparation and consideration, on the subject of sanctions. It really would not; it is much too grave a matter. While, of course, it is within the right of any Member of the Committee to raise, as he should with due discretion, this important subject, as far as I am concerned, and as far as the Government are concerned, that is a matter on which we really cannot undertake to make any assertion without the most mature consideration as to time and circumstances. It does not, of 155 course, follow that people who speak most loudly and frequently about the reserve of sanctions are necessarily promoting most effectively the efficiency of the League.He who, in quest of quiet, 'silence' hoots,Is apt to make the hubbub he imputes.I do not, desire that there shall be any hubbub on such a subject. The decision of the Government announced to-day is, as has been admitted on all hands, a very significant step, a very definite step, and a very grave step, one which we could not possibly have reached single-handed speaking for our own country without consultation with others if it involved differential treatment. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that different considerations apply when you are considering what may be the possible interactions. You are bound to await the results of inquiries and consultations, and I think that it would be very imprudent, and I do not think in the end at all useful if one tried to anticipate or define too precisely the result.
I have shown the House and the country, and, I think I may claim, shown the world that this Government and this country really do desire to see what they can do effectively for the purpose of promoting the position of the League and the peace of the world. We do that in the most friendly spirit towards both Japan and China, and we do not think that we are doing it to the prejudice of either; that is to say, if we stop the export of arms to both countries, we are not favouring one more than another. There were many minute facts to consider before that could be asserted with confidence. That is not the purpose nor intention of what we are doing. Our purpose is quite simple and definite. We ranged before our minds what are the possible alternatives. You may say, "I will do nothing," or you may say, "I will wait until I ascertain that there will be universal agreement through all the nations of the world." We have decided that there is perhaps a better course to take than that. It is not possible—and I do not think that this proposition has been challenged in the whole of this Debate—for a single nation, situated as we are in the Far East, on our own motion by ourselves, and without reference to others, to take discrimina 156 tory action. We were faced with the simple alternative—simple to state, easy to realise, but not so very easy to exercise judgment upon.
I hope and believe that the view of the Committee to-night and the view of the country to-morrow will be that, faced with the alternative as between doing nothing and doing the one thing that we could do, we have chosen rightly, for we desire to see that that which can be done shall be done effectively in the hope that we may find international agreement as to what can be done in the future. I have again to tender to the Committee my thanks for their treatment—which is always kind—of me personally, and of the policy of the Government. It is consistent with the view that has been taken in this matter from the beginning, and I hope that the announcement that has been made from this Box to-night will clear away a great many misunderstandings. After all, in all these matters of foreign policy, really and truly, sensible and decent people of all parties want to do the same thing. When there is a difference between us it is not because one of us is trying to do what is evil and another is a pillar of light; it is because, possibly, additional information, further warning, complications not suspected by others are the things which may make the conduct of foreign policy seem slow. I would sooner be slow than expose my country to some risks which one has calmly to face. I believe our decision to-night is one which is going to be supported by the judgment of the country, because, though it may have taken some time to reach it, the decision itself is right.
§ Question, "That Item Class II, Vote I, (Foreign Office) be reduced by £100," put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to he reported upon Thursday; Committee to sit again Tomorrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ Adjourned accordingly at Seventeen Minutes before Eleven o'Clock.