Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £124,278, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1934, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ 11.5 a.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir John Simon)
I received a message when I was at Geneva that it would be the wish of the Opposition that I should open this debate and I very willingly comply, and at the same time express my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for being good enough to agree that the discussion should be put off from the day that was origiNaily indicated until to-day. I cannot be expected, when the Foreign Office Vote is put down, as it very naturally is at short intervals, to take the whole burden of the discussion at the beginning on my shoulders, but I quite understand that the Committee would wish to have a short statement as to recent events in connection with the Disarmament Conference, and as I have just returned from Geneva, no doubt I am the proper person to give hon. Members such account as I can. It was I think only on the 9th May last that there was a discussion on foreign affairs, but important events have occurred in the interval, and I am not at all sorry to have the opportunity of stating here to the House of Commons what has been passing during the last few days. I may remind the Committee that the British Draft Convention was submitted to the Disarmament Conference by the Prime Minister as long ago as 16th March last, and hon. Members will be aware that it is printed as a White Paper, the reference No, being Cmd. 4279. No doubt those who are 1440 specially interested in this subject—and who is not?—have taken advantage of the opportunity of studying the document.
The central feature of the new British proposal was that it presented to the Disarmament Conference a complete and co-ordinated scheme in the form of a Convention. It did not shirk any of the difficulties, and indeed went so far as to formulate some suggested figures. That was a very bold move. It was very likely indeed to result in a good deal of criticism, but it was the only effective way to secure that the Conference lost no more time but really faced the full extent of the most complicated problem which is before it. That draft Convention undoubtedly has been the governing feature of the discussions at Geneva ever Since. Dr. Benes, the distinguished statesman who acts as rapporteur of the Disarmament Conference, at the end of the preliminary discussion about the British draft, moved a Resolution recommending that it should be taken thenceforward as the basis of the discussion, and it was naturally gratifying to the British Government, and I think it is gratifying to all of us, that that Resolution made before the General Commission of the Conference was accepted with complete unanimity. However, that is only a Resolution. More important than that is what has happened Since.
A very large number of Governments and States have Since that time made a specific declaration that they accept this British Draft Convention not only as the basis of the discussion but on the scheme, the model into which they are prepared to help to fit final details. That, of course, is not to say that there are not criticisms, they grow in great profusion at Geneva, and indeed they grow on this subject anywhere once one passes from the vaguest generalities and considers the really complicated nature of the concrete problem. But it is a very great satisfaction to us all that the intervening two months have shown that this British draft was the practical basis upon which discussion could proceed. We have now had the most gratifying and helpful declarations first of all, I think, from Italy, subsequently from France and from America, and, I may add, recently from Germany, recognising that it is along the lines of this draft that progress is most likely to be made.
1441 The draft, the Committee will remember, divides itself into several Parts and quite deliberately the first Part is headed "Security," whereas the second part deals with disarmament in the strict and narrower sense, that is to say, with the modifications and reductions that ought to be made in effectives and in weapons of war. When the draft came to be discussed in committee, as it were, the American representative, Mr. Norman Davis, explained that for the moment the United States was not ready to deal with Part I, the part dealing with security, and it was in view of what Mr. Davis then said that the discussion of Part I was adjourned, and we went on at once to Part II. It was inevitable, but it was, I think, perhaps in some ways a little unfortunate, because I am profoundly convInced that until we can satisfy certain great States that we have got inside our scheme something which may fairly go by the name of "security" we shall never persuade them to join in an effective degree of disarmament. It became evident very shortly afterwards why Mr. Norman Davis asked for the adjournment of the discussion of Part I. It was because President Roosevelt had in mind himself to make a solemn declaration, and it was only on 16th May that President Roosevelt'e message was issued to the world. 16th May, as the Prime Minister rightly said when he was speaking the same evening, should by that fact become almost an "historic date."
I would remind the Committee that the President's message itself indicated that in the deliberate judgment of the Government of the United States this British plan was the method by which we should proceed. President Roosevelt declared that, of three steps to be taken, the first step to take at once is "the first definite step towards this objective as broadly outlined in the Macdonald plan." When Mr. Norman Davis spoke the other day at Geneva—I was there—he elaborated that and made it objective and definite in a way which I regard as extremely hopeful and satisfactory. Then, if I may take the events of the last few days, we have had undoubtedly some very instructive and some very important events. There have been sudden variations in the weather at Geneva, sometimes it has been cloudy and sometimes it has been fairer, but I want to remind the Committee of the substance 1442 of what has happened. On Monday last the leading American representative, Mr. Norman Davis, made a speech in the General Commission in the course of which he explained more in detail the attitude which the United States was prepared to take in respect of the first Part of the British plan. I do not believe that hon. Members will think that I am wasting time if I venture on a short exposition of the situation.
The simplest way in which to regard the general subject of security is to say that it has been conceived of as capable of being expressed by the image of three concentric circles. The smallest circle of all, the tightest and the closest circle, is one into which this country does not seek to enter; but it may very well be that arrangements may be made between some of the Continental countries of Europe, among themselves, for the purpose more expressly of securing pacts of non-aggression and mutual support as between themselves. That innermost circle is essentially a Continental matter. It is provided for in Article 6 of the British draft which says:Special regional agreements made by certain of the High Contracting Parties for providing information intended to facilitate decisions to be given under article 5, and for co-ordinating action to be taken by these parties as a result of such decisions are contained in annexes X and Y.A great deal of work has been done in the last few weeks by some of the leading Continental statesmen at Geneva to work out what I call this innermost circle. That has been done. Then there is an intermediate circle, a larger one, which will include all States who are members of the League. It would therefore represent the obligations which fall upon every member of the League—the obligations of the Covenant and the obligations of the Kellogg Pact and we have, of course, the very important obligations of the Pact of Locarno. But it was conceived that there might also be an outermost circle, which would include the whole world, and that essentially depended upon what America was prepared to do. That is what has very often been referred to as the consultative pact.
How has that matter developed on the other side of the Atlantic? It is a very interesting story. The Briand-Kellogg Pact signed by over 60 nations in 1927 1443 is a pact according to which the signatory States repudiate war as an instrument of national policy, and declare that disputes between those who sign it should be settled by pacific means. For some time past thoughtful people have been analysing the Kellogg Pact for the purpose of seeing whether it had not got a bEarlng upon the old law of neutrality, and whether there was not implied, in the very structure of the Kellogg Pact, a certain new conception as to the position which a State should assume which had signed the Kellogg Pact and which was, as it were, looking on in the event of a conflict breaking out between two of the other signatories of the Pact. In order to follow that point, which is one that I can put quite shortly and simply and without being too technical, it is necessary to remind the Committee, and to remind myself, what the old law of neutrality essentially was.
The first fundamental principle of the law of neutrality, as it existed before 1914, was an obligation on the neutral state to show complete impartiality as between the two contesting Powers. The neutral State according to that law must treat both contending parties alike. It must show no favour as between them. Whatever measures the neutral State takes against one belligerent—refusing it supplies, or what not—that neutral State must take equally against the other belligerent in like circumstances. Whatever privilege it allows to one of the belligerents it must, according to the old law of neutrality, also allow to the other. Therefore the very essence of the pre-war doctrine of neutrality was impartiality—not to endeavour to compare the merits of one with the other, but to treat both belligerents exactly the same. It was only because a neutral State acted in that way that the neutral State and its subjects were entitled to claim the privileges of neutrality if they came into contact with either of the belligerents. Assuming that the neutral State behaved properly according to the old law, then the neutral State had the right to insist that neither of the belligerents should interfere with the sea-borne commerce of its nationals. Put into a simple illustration, the United States, under the old law of neutrality, had the right to insist, if it was neutral, that neither of the belligerents or contestants should interfere with the sea- 1444 borne commerce of American citizens, though that commerce was going to the other belligerent State; except, of course, in very well known cases—in case of there being an effective blockade, or, again, in a case in which the commerce in question consisted of contraband of war. Broadly speaking—there were many complications that I do not propose to detain the Committee about—that was the conception of neutrality as it has been developed.
The question was, is not the signing of the Kellogg Pact going to make a difference? Can it any longer be said, merely because a signatory State remains neutral, that it has got to stand perfectly indifferent between two parties, showing no different view to one than it shows to the other? First of all—I believe that it was in an unofficial address—a former Secretary of State of the United States, Mr. Stimson, developed this thesis elaborately, and a very great deal of interest was taken in the thesis. What is so significant and important is that, within this last week at Geneva, with the full authority of the United States Government, their leading representative, Mr. Norman Davis, has indicated that, so far as America is concerned, she is prepared to assert that the law of neutrality is capable of being thus modified and that in certain given circumstances she will be prepared to have it modified. I will read if I may, to the Committee the actual words that have been used at Geneva only last Monday. After declaring that the United States welcome the British plan as "a real measure of disarmament," which they "accept whole-heartedly as a definite, and excellent step towards the ultimate objective" and after declaring that the United States are "prepared to give their full support to the adoption of the British plan," Mr. Norman Davies went on in this way—and is is very interesting to follow his words—In addition I wish to make it clear that we are ready not only to do our part towards the substantive reduction of armaments, but, if this is effected by general international agreement, we are also prepared to contribute in other ways to the organisation of peace.he mentioned three different points—in particular we are willing to consult with other States, in case of a threat to peace, with a view to averting conflict.1445 I do not think that that declaration has ever been made in formal terms by the United States before. Mr. Norman Davis then said:Further than that, in the event that the States in conference determine that a State has been guilty of a breach of the peace in violation of its international obligations, and take measures against the violator, then, if we concur in the judgment rendered as to the responsibility of the guilty parties, we"—that is the United States—will refrain from any action tending to defeat such collective effort which the States may thus make to restore peace.It is of the first importance that we should not exaggerate or distort this declaration by one atom, and it is the very last thing that I will allow myself deliberately to do; but let me explain what I understand that to mean. First, of course, the Committee will see that the United States insists that it must preserve its own independent judgment as to who is right and who is wrong in connection with a dispute. I think there are very good and sufficient reasons which would be put forward for that view by America. Not only is it entirely part and parcel of their historic tradition, but their actual situation in the world is so far removed from some of our immediate troubles that it is very natural, and certainly we have no ground whatever to complain, that the United States should declare, while she comes forward and makes this new contribution, that it will depend upon her own judgment of the situation, after that judgment has been analysed; but, as soon as she does take the view that, in some conflict of the future, A is the wrongdoer and B is the oppressed, observe the extremely important effect which will follow on the application of the old classical doctrine of neutrality. If in that event, for example, the aggrieved State and those who act with the aggrieved State take steps to endeavour to prevent sustenance and succour going to the wrongdoer, this declaration, as it seems to me, amounts to this, and is meant to amount to this, that, in that event, if the judgment of the Executive of the United States agrees with the view of those in consultation, then:We will refrain from any action tending to defeat such collective effort which the States may thus make to restore peace.In other words, the idea of standing with folded arms, a mere spectator from afar, 1446 of the stRuggles between two other States, one of which is the aggressor and has acted wrongly, and the other of which is the sufferer—that is in terms abandoned and this new doctrine substituted.
I think it right that we here in the House of Commons should know the real importance of that contribution. I do not know whether it would interest the Committee to be reminded—they may or may not know—that what I have described as the classical doctrine of neutrality is not, as a matter of fact, as old as many people suppose. Every healthy and sensible system of law is always expanding and altering, and, if you go back to the beginnings of what was called international law, you will not find that this was any portion of the doctrine. I got out of the House of Commons Library this morning a famous book, which I am afraid has not very often been consulted —Grotius' "De Jure Belli ac Pacis," written in the 17th century by a very eminent Dutchman; and when I turn to the Third Book and the 17th chapter, which I may perhaps be permitted to say is entitled "De his qui in bello medii sunt", which deals with the situation of neutrals—I think they were then called"neuters"—when war was going on, the only propositions which you will find in Grotius are these two: First, that a neutral should do nothing which may strengthen the belligerent whose cause is unjust; and, secondly, that, in a war in which it is doubtful which cause is just, the neutral should treat both belligerents alike. I am not quite sure that it will be a satisfaction to our American cousins, who are always in the van of progress, to be told that their latest view of the modification of the law of neutrality appears to be a return to the first proposition of Hugo Grotius in the 17th century.
That declaration having been made by Mr. Norman Davis last Monday, I had the duty, as being more or less in charge of the British draft Convention, to suggest what I thought would be the necessary modifications in Part I. I describe myself as being in charge of the Convention, but the Committee will appreciate that it is a particularly uncomfortable task. It is like that of a Minister in charge of a Bill, without any assured Majority, without any Whips, and to a large extent taking part in an 1447 Assembly where no one can be quite sure what subject is going to be discussed by the next speaker. But, in view of what had been declared by the United States, it was manifest that our Security Chapter needed a certain change. We had drawn it on the basis that the signatories to the draft Convention, who, of course, I hope, will include the United States, would all he prepared to agree, when they signed the Convention, that, in the event of a breach, or a threat of breach, of the Kellogg Pact, then a Conference between the high contracting parties should take place. That would be the meaning of the Consultative Pact in its fullest sense.
Of course, the United States made it plain that they could not do that. They were not prepared to agree beforehand as to what they would do in a given case when it arose. They indicated that in point of fact they would be prepared to consult, but they were not prepared to go to the whole length which Part I provided. Therefore, I did my best, with the very skilled assistance which I am glad to say the British Government has at Geneva—and no Government there is better served than we are by our experts and officials—and I managed between night and morning to produce a new draft, which appeared in some of the newspapers to-day or yesterday, and which I hoped would meet the new situation. The idea was this: Since we could not get everyone to sign the promise that they would confirm and accept the decision of the conference, we must at least make provision by which a conference might be invited. There are two kinds of States to confer—we are dealing with my outermost circle. There are States who are members of the League, and States who are non-members of the League. We must try and treat both sets equally, and, therefore, we provide, under our new draft, that, in the event of breach, or threat of breach, an invitation, a proposal for immediate consultation, may be issued either by the organs of the League to non-members or by a non-member of the League to the League. We are not able to go on and say in the draft that that invitation will be accepted, but we have very good reason to know, in view of the declaration which has just been made by the United States, that the United States at any rate, in 1448 any proper case, would be prepared to enter into consultation. We then go on to define the object of the consultation in these words—there are three cases to consider—It shall be the object of such consultation, first, in the event of a threat of a breach of the Pact, to exchange views for the purpose of preserving the peace and adverting a conflict; second, in the event of a breach of the Pact, to use good offices for the restoration of peace; third in the event that it proves impossible to restore the peace, then to determine which party or parties to the dispute are to be held responsible.Then there is a saving Clause to say that nothing we are doing in the least alters the obligations which already rest on the shoulders of the members of the League.
I put forward that Clause with some fear and trembling, believing that it fell in with the Declarations that had been made on behalf of the United States, and I was very happy indeed to find that when I sat down the American representative asked to speak. He said that he believed that this draft had fulfilled the purpose, and he explained in detail the way in which the United States hoped, if all went well, to be able to associate itself with this part of the Treaty. They proposed to associate themselves by a unilateral declaration. They had constitutional difficulties about doing it in any other way. I do not understand that they intend to sign Part I. Although they sign all the other Parts when they sign the Convention, they proposed to say with reference to Part I: "We attach at the time of signature a unilateral declaration to the following effect," and Mr. Davis read to us the Declaration. I think the Committee would wish me to read it. It is not very long and it will get it on the records of the House. He said that the sort of Declaration which his Government would, if all went well, be prepared to attach in respect of this first part of the Draft Convention would run in these terms:In the event that a decision is taken by a Conference of the Powers in consultation in determining the aggressor with which, on the basis of its independent judgment the Government of the United States agreed, the Government of the United States will undertake to refrain from any action and to withhold protection from its citizens if engaged in activities which would tend 1449 to defeat the collective effort which the States in consultation might have decided upon against the aggressor.There are still Members of the House who have an undying memory at very close quarters of the sort of difficulties that faced us and faced the Allies in the first two years of the War. When Sir Edward Grey was discharging the office that I now have the honour to hold, hardly a week passed in which a complication did not present itself owing to the fact that the strict law of neutrality undoubtedly put the United States and its citizens in a position to take objection and to raise complaints perfectly within the law. I cannot say how much I think we should value this effort which is being made now by the American Government, and by the President, to co-operate with us all in what is a piece of world work, to abandon a tradition which the American people have most jealously guarded, while of course circumscribing most strictly and clearly the limits to which they undertake to go, but at the same time which makes a fundamental change, as it seems to me, in the prospects of American influence being effectively exerted, if unhappily hereafter we are faced with a conflict where one side, in the judgment of the American people in common with ourselves, is the party which should not be entitled to be sustained but should be put under the pressure which neutrals may exert.
There is one feature about this Declaration of the American Government which is of particular interest to us. Our American cousins, different as they are in many respects, at the same time share a great deal of our mental make-up as to the way in which they approach the problems which Geneva has before it. There are, indeed, two schools of thought. There are two ways of looking at all these things. It is a pity that there should be, perhaps, but there are; and broadly speaking, you may say that the way in which America looks at this problem, when she insists that she must be the judge of the circumstances at the time when those circumstances are known, is, if I may say so without offence to our American friends, a very characteristically British way of looking at it. In contrast with that you have another way, which is commoner on the Continent than here, which believes that altogether in advance 1450 of a situation you can by the use of the most precise and elaborate definition, in cold blood and in cold print, describe the exact conditions to which you are able to pledge yourself and which, when they occur, will lead you to take a particular course of action. If anyone looks at to-day's papers, certainly the "Times", they will see that very observation made in another connection by a most accomplished gentleman of great knowledge of League matters M. Politis. My colleague the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)—I must be allowed once again to say how warmly I value his skill and knowledge—took on himself the burden which otherwise I should have discharged yesterday of dealing with very elaborate proposals for defining the "aggressor." It is thoroughly characteristic of the Continental mind, and by no means a reproach to it, that they look at all these things with the belief that you can write it all down in advance and it will come right on the night. It is exactly the same difference that explains why we in this country have developed a common law, whereas the continental system consists of a most elaborate code. It is exactly the same thing which explains why political economy in these islands, as developed by people like Adam Smith and David Ricardo—if one is permitted to mention such people in modern times —was really a development of actual experience which was ultimately written down in the form of results. There is another form of political economy which begins with a series of general propositions and deduces everything from those propositions with the precision and confidence of a proposition of Euclid—whether it ends by saying "which was to be demonstrated" or "which is absurd." It is that same distinction that exists in deciding how a country is going to deal with a future case, the imaginary case of an aggressor, and Mr. Eden, I thought, most ably explained some of the difficulties which would face us if we really adopted in advance the prescribed tests and how, especially in the doubtful case, or the marginal case—which is the case where there is something to be said on both sides—we might land ourselves in the most awful confusion. M. Politis in this connection made the observation 1451 that he recognised that there is a Continental way of analysing things, and there is the British way which finds some difficulty in adopting the Continental method. I think myself that the Americans in this most important new contribution, when they put these limitations upon their promise, are not, as a matter of fact, declaring something which should disappoint us, because to my mind they are showing an essentially sound quality with which we ourselves should sympathise. And, just as I should be very slow to see any Government in this country pledge this country, in some circumstances in the future which I cannot precisely define, to enter into some new commitment which, for all I know, might come home to roost when the whole public judgment would be against it, in the same way the Americans say, "Trust us to face this situation, and after we have consulted together; if we come to the conclusion, as we very likely may, that we agree with the rest of you, we give you our word that we are not going to stand by the strict letter of the law of neutrality. You shall have not only our good will and our blessing, but you shall have our promise that we will withhold from our own citizens, if they are tempted to exercise strict neutral rights, the protection which would otherwise be theirs."
Although there is a great deal that is disappointing about Geneva from time to time, I really think we may claim that real progress has been made in this matter.
There are at the same time extremely disturbing signals about. It is absolutely no good to pretend that this is ideal weather in which to bring our British Convention into port, and I do not think that it would be wise or necessary to make specific reference to particular declarations by particular statesmen in particular countries which are known to us all. There have been some statements made, and articles written recently which, beyond any doubt, raise the greatest concern in the minds of the peaceloving people of this country; and what is so serious is that the motive which is behind those declarations may very likely in itself be a reasonable and a fair motive of expressing to the whole world the determination of a great people that it must have fair justice 1452 dealt out to it at Geneva, while everybody else gets similar justice. For that reason I was so very happy that the British Government some time ago led the way in a consultation which resulted in the declaration as to recognizing "equality of status in the regime of security."
We all of us, I am convInced, are very glad to see the statesmanlike and moderate tone which Herr Hitler adopted the other day when he made his famous declaration. It would be foolish not to recognise that in these matters words are not the same thing as deeds. I attach quite as much value to another incident in the last three or four days when the German representative at Geneva got up in his place and withdrew on behalf of the German government an Amendment which had been standing on the paper, I think, for many weeks, and which, if it had been persisted in, as I said afterwards, would, I think, have had a shattering effect upon the prospects of the Disarmament Convention. The British Plan in Part II urges that there should be a standardisation of continental armies.
That is to say, that you cannot hope to get a reasonable system of comparison unless you get something like a similar system of recruitment in different countries. No doubt there will be some differences, and those are realised. That is really one of the essential features of the British plan, and one of the things to which the French attach great importance. For some time the Germans entirely refused to acknowledge that that was possible, and I am glad to say that they have now withdrawn their objection as expressed by that Amendment, and the matter, therefore, enters into the range of discussion and negotiation.
I have kept the House longer than I meant, and I apologise, but I have been trying to let them see what had really been happening at Geneva. I would only say in conclusion that it would indeed be foolish to delude ourselves with the hope that we are on the eve of some definite and final agreement. Nobody who has not been concerned closely in these problems can have any conception of their inevitable complications. But I think that the House will wish me to say, what I Sincerely feel, that I believe there is a very good spirit in the effort which is now 1453 being made to go through the British Plan Article by Article—and I must say that in this matter Mr. Henderson sets a high example—he is prepared to work morning, noon and night, and he ultimately produced quite a shock in the General Commission two days ago when he said that, as far as he could see, there was no reason to adjourn for Whitsun week.
Perhaps just as I sit down I might endeavour to put in three or four sentences what I conceive to be some of the heads of British policy in relation to Disarmament, and I have five propositions here which I shall be bold enough to put before the Committee.
First, I would say we must warmly welcome and respond to President Roosevelt's striking message, addressed to the heads of every State participating, whether in the Disarmament Conference or the Economic Conference, that the world should seek practical results at Geneva through concerted action; that we should join together in limiting the power of offensive attack by qualitative reduction; a proposition which, I might remind the Committee, we put forward ourselves and argued long ago—and that we should collaborate in pressing forward the general adoption of the British Draft Convention.
Secondly, it is right to add that Britain has already effected immense reductions, and we cannot go further without general agreement, but we have shown in our draft Convention, which so many States have now accepted as the basis of the future Treaty, how considerable is the step towards further disarmament which could be taken now as a first stage, provided—and this is quite essential—that the other nations of the world join in the Agreement and perform their promises.
Thirdly, I think it is appropriate to say that we recognise—the British Government recognise it and, I am sure, the British people do—the validity of the concern for the future which lies behind the demand of certain States for what is called "security." Part I of the British Plan deals with that topic, and the contribution just made to it by the American Government which I have described to the Committee, together with the recasting of Part I, which has been accepted on first reading by the full 1454 General Commission unanimously, together with adequate and practical provision for supervision through the Permanent Disarmament Commission, will go far to mitigate that anxiety.
Fourthly, I advance this proposition. Britain expresses her readiness, alongside the United States, to join in this outer consultation—this consultation of the world—with a view to promoting security. We have already assumed the obligations of the Covenant, and we have assumed the obligations of the Pact of Locarno. The obligations which Britain has entered into we shall strive to perform, but our friends on the Continent well understand—and it cannot be too clearly understood—that it is no part of the policy of Great Britain to assume further and additional obligations of this character. We take our existing responsibilities too seriously to be willing in a light-hearted and speculative fashion to enlarge them.
Lastly, we assert that international disarmament depends on policy. To repeat the common phrase, excessive armaments are a symptom, and the only way to remove the symptom is to remove the disease. It is therefore a necessary condition of achieving effective disarmament that European relations should improve, that confidence should be restored, and that co-operation should take the place of intense rivalry and suspicion. And I will say on behalf of the British Government, and having regard to the part that I am called upon to play as representative at Geneva, I say it from the bottom of my heart and with great Sincerity of feeling, that we will devote ourselves with all our might to pursue those ends and to bring about those results.
§ 11.56 a.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
We are all grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having returned, and we are glad that the circumstances at Geneva enabled him to return. I suppose that I ought to congratulate him on the fact that the weather allowed him to return. I do not propose to enter into a discussion of the legal aspects of neutrality. I have just been told that the eminent Dutch international jurist from whom the right hon. Gentleman quoted is known as the first writer on that subject, and he advocated that Christian principles should apply to international law.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
He might very well be. I think it is rather a satire on Christian civilisation that he should have written that 300 years ago and we have not applied those principles yet. But that is by the way. My first reaction to the right hon. Gentleman's speech as one of the common people who, as President Wilson said in opening the Peace Conference, must be satisfied on these matters, is that we are once again being asked to rejoice at something that has been said, and I think very rightly said, by another Government, the American Government. I am one of those simple people who was privileged to hear President Wilson's speech and the other speeches at the opening of the Peace Conference, and I was carried away, probably stupidly carried away, by the speeches I then heard. I was also in the House of Lords when the Disarmament Conference opened, and I was again swept off my feet by the speeches of eminent men from every country in the world. I remember very well the thrill that went through the world when the Kellogg Pact was signed. Most ordinary people, who do not understand, and I frankly do not understand, all the legal implications of law, either international or national, imagined that when the Covenant of the League of Nations was signed, when the Kellogg Pact was signed and when these disarmament declarations were made, that the world was on the highroad to international peace. Years have passed, and now we have heard the declarations of the right hon. Gentleman.
I admit that the statement made by the American representative at Geneva is a great advance, but I cannot get out of my mind the fact that when President Wilson went home it was his own people who turned him down, and the world has suffered ever Since. As I understand this declaration from America, it is that the United States in certain circumstances, if it comes to the conclusion that certain things are right, will take action, but it reserves to itself the right to be the judge. With very great respect, and as a layman, that seems a sort of individualist doctrine which ultimately cannot really apply to international affairs, if we are to have international co-operation. It cannot happen within the jurisprudence 1456 of a nation. The individual must subordinate himself to the law of the community, and action and reaction depend on that. It is pure anarchy if an individual says: "I know better than the State that has set up this court and I put my judgment against it." it seems to me that until the nations of the world are willing to set up a tribunal of jurists to whom all these questions will be referred and to agree to accept its decisions, you cannot have real co-operation.
While I agree Sincerely that the statement of Mr. Norman Davis is an advance on anything the United States Government has yet said, I am also bound to say that the reservation behind it militates very considerably against its-effectiveness. On the question of defining the aggressor, I am as much British as anyone else and in some ways perhaps I am as individualist as many people, but on the question of defining the aggressor, I think the people on the Continent are right. You must have some way of determining, without any question, who is the aggressor, and until you have got that defined all the difficulties that continually arise will continue to arise. All the evidence of events Since the War has proved how necessary that is. The House, and I think perhaps the representatives at Geneva, do not understand the terrible disappointment that there is in the minds of people, old like myself, and especially young people, at the failure oil the Powers to implement the promise of the Covenant of the League of Nations. We all thought that the rule of law was coming in instead of the rule of force.
I understand from today's morning papers that one of the South American disputes has been settled; according to the report peace was signed yesterday at Geneva, but whether that is the case or not the Members of the League of Nations have not themselves kept faith with the Covenant. They have gone to war with one another, and the League, apparently has been unable in some cases to stop them. The thing which ordinary people do not understand is why it is that we should now need new Conventions and new Declarations when the old ones stand on record; why it is that there is no sort of real public opinion in the world, or pressure, which can be brought to bear to prevent what has happened in South America and what has happened between 1457 Japan and China. Japan and China are a long way off, but both these great nations, as well as the South American States, have signed all the Declarations that have been signed up to the present time. And what guarantee have the young people of this country that if the Arms Convention is signed, or any other Declaration is signed, it is going to be of more value than the others which have gone before. That is the question which the right hon. Gentleman and the other statesmen at Geneva have to answer.
President Wilson said that you must satisfy the common people. In this matter people like myself are speaking for the common people. I do not understand the sense of honour of statesmen of any country who, having signed the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Kellogg Pact, break away in the fashion they have. We most profoundly want to maintain the League of Nations. We should like everything, internatioNaily, done through the League of Nations. We want to strengthen it rather than see it weakened in any way. But what people outside want to know, those for whom I am speaking this morning, is what is the present position with regard to China and Japan? It is all very well to say to me, as has been said in this House; do you want Great Britain to go to war in the Far East, or to take this action or the other? It is no use arousing people's enthusiasm for more Treaty signing, pledging people to do certain things, until we have cleared up this flagrant breaking of pledges and the invasion of another nation's territory.
The war against China has gone on until the Japanese are practically at the gates of Pekin. We do not know whether a truce has been signed or not, but that is not the point I am putting. The point I am making is this, that one of the signatories to all the various documents which have been signed down to the present time has flagrantly broken away, torn up the Treaty, treated it as a scrap of paper, and has not merely occupied Manchuria but has marched right into China. The most astonishing statements are made by the Government on the subject. An hon. Friend of mine asked the Secretary of State a question on May 22nd, and it was answered by the Prime Minister. The question was: 1458With reference to the proposals for negotiating a commercial agreement with Japan, whether he will give assurances that this country will not enter into any commitments which might make more difficult the execution of its obligations under Articles X and XVI of the Covenant, or which might prejudice the carrying out of the recommendations of the Assembly Report of 24th February, or be contrary to the pledge contained in that report not to pursue any separate policy in the Sino-Japanese conflict, but to consult with other members of the League and with the United States with a view to concerting a common policy?The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald): I will answer this question in the absence of my right hon. Friend who is at Geneva. Negotiations with the Japanese Government for the conclusion of a new commercial agreement are not at present contemplated, and the remainder of the question does not therefore arise. I should add that the matter has no reference whatever to the political situation of China and Japan.13. Captain P. MAODONALD asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any nations, and, if so, which, have yet given official recognition to the state of Manchukuo; and what is the policy of His Majesty's Government in this connection?The PRIME MINISTER: So far Japan alone has accorded recognition. His Majesty's Government are bound by the Assembly Report of the 24th of February to continue to withhold recognition.Then my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) asked:Whether he will instruct the British Minister to China to suggest an armistic between the Chinese and Japanese forces that would leave the latter during such armistice in possession of the occupied Chinese territory; and whether he has any information to give the House upon the present situation?And this is the answer of the Prime Minister:As regards the first part of the question, the action suggested would be inappropriate unless it corresponded to the wishes of both parties to the dispute. The Japanese and Manchukuo forces, which recently advanced to the Lusn River and then retired, were followed up by the Chinese; they are now again advancing in the same area and also southwards from the Great Wall further West. Their object is said to be to produce conditions which will prevent further attacks from the side of China.My hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly—May we take it that the Japanese forces are at liberty now to occupy the whole of Chinese territory without incurring any prospect of protest from the other Powers at Geneva?1459 The PRIME MINISTER: Certainly not."— [OFFICIAL, REPORT, 22nd May, 1933, col. 744; Vol. 278.]
The Prime Minister said, "Certainly not," but the Japanese forces said "Certainly yes." They just went on. The Japanese contention seems to be that the Chinese have no right to defend their own territory. If they will only just fall back and stand off, and leave the Japanese in possession of what they have illegally taken by brute force, then, of course, the Chinese will be left alone. It is as if a burglar got into your house and said, "You go into the top room while I clear out the place, and you will be safe." It is ludicrous.
I call attention to this for no other reason than to emphasize the fact that the conduct of Japan, and the conduct of these two South American Republics, vitiate all trust that ordinary people can have in the word of statesmen. They put their names to documents. I cannot help feeling that all this talk that we have had in the newspapers and at Geneva, and that the right hon. Gentleman has had to tell us about this morning in regard to security, all lies in the fact that statesmen do not believe each other; they do not accept each other's word. When ordinary people, like those who live in the district I represent, sign a document, they take it for granted—the average man and woman does—that it implies a solemn obligation on their part. But there is a sort of cynicism among statesman that what is morally wrong may be politically right, and they are not bound by morals at all, but that they are bound by that particular thing which they call national interest. I do not believe that there need be any question about the security of nations if when they make pledges desiring peace and disarmament they all mean the same thing. The difficulty is that each Government interprets what it says in its own fashion, and, until that is cleared up, it is quite certain, in our judgment, that no conventions, whether produced by the British Government or by the American Government, will be of any effect whatsoever.
That brings me to the latest document from the United States. All the newspapers came out with laudatory articles on the splendid message that the Presi- 1460 dent had wirelessed to all the Governments and the peoples of the world. It brought me back to the 14 points of President Wilson, and the terrible ending of all that. Now this President has sent out a great message of hope and good cheer, which I am bound to say has been rather damped by the statement of their reservations and their desire always to fall back on their own judgment as to whether a thing is right or wrong. The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech this morning, said that they cordially agree with the President. He proposed a fourth step, one of his own, after he had supported the British proposal. It was,That all nations should enter into a solemn and definite pact of non-aggression.They have done that two or three times Since the War. There was nothing very new about it.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Yes, it is like a party resolution. He proposedThat all nations should enter into a solemn and definite pact of non-aggression; that they should solemnly re-affirm—That is what really does hurt me. They have got to keep on saying it, because, I suppose, they think we do not believe them. It used to be said that if you say a thing three times, it is all right. I wonder how many times you have got to say this in international affairs. This will probably be the fifth timethat they should solemnly re-affirm the obligations they have assumed to limit and reduce their armaments.I remember the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) saying that conditions changed, and that it was necessary to re-state this sort of agreement. There ought to be no necessity to restate the fundamental principles underlying the document that you sign. If you agree to a pact of non-aggression, that must be a pact of non-aggressi6n. It does seem to me that if I agree not to knock somebody down, it means that I will not knock him down, and that if I have a quarrel with him, I will go to the courts instead. But President Roosevelt saidthat they should solemnly re-affirm the obligations they have assumed to limit and reduce their armaments, and, provided that these obligations are faithfully executed by 1461 all the signatory Powers, individually agree that they will 6end no armed force of whatsoever nature across their frontiers.I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us whether the British Government adhere to that. It would be an excellent thing if we got Britain and America to say that they would not send troops out of their own country any more. I suppose this includes ships, too, and armed forces outside their territories. I should like to know whether the British Government accept that, because it is rather important. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that he wholeheartedly supported President Roosevelt's statement. Then the President went on to sayIf any strong nation refuses to join with genuine Sincerity in these concerted efforts for political and economic peace, the civilised world will know where the responsibility for failure lies.On that, I again ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell me what our Government propose to ask the League of Nations to do in reference to the Sino-Japanese dispute and war. Japan has waged war. I understand that there is some difficulty about defining war. If this business of the Japanese invasion is not war, I should like someone to tell me when war does take place. It may be that legally the right hon. Gentleman will be able to prove that international jurists can tell us that this is not war, but if our country were invaded, say by France in the same fashion, or if the Japanese forces or Japanese troops were to occupy one of the Indian ports, I suppose we should call it war, and because China is weak is no reason why we should call it by any other name.
Then I would ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen if they will kindly tell us what they are going to do now that the Japanese Government has defied the League? The League sent out the Lytton Commission. The Lytton Commission reported. The League has accepted the Report of the Commission and the Japanese Government has, as it were, simply put its fingers to its nose and told you to do just what you please. She is still where she is. It may be a matter for a joke, but ordinary people think that it proves the utter futility of all this Treaty signing and all these solemn obligations. Japan is a first-class Power. She still has her seat on the 1462 Council of the League, although she has resigned, and she will have that seat for some time. Does anyone imagine that you can preserve peace in the Far East and leave Japan out of account? Does anyone dream that we are going to get proper disarmament in the Pacific with Japan defying the whole world? I may be told that nothing can be done, that no action can be taken. Well, tell the world that. Do not let us go on asking the ordinary young man in this country to believe that you are getting rid of war by signing pacts, because you do not do anything of the kind. If Japan is able to tear up a Treaty in this way and to break her word, how is anyone going to blame any other country? How are you going to blame any other country for taking a similar line? Could ordinary people place any reliance in any signature that statesmen may make?
That brings me to another point. We have heard a great deal Since the Hitler Government came into power about the rights and wrongs of the German demands. So far as we are concerned we think that, there again, there is a solemn obligation that all the Powers signed at the time of the Peace Treaty. The German Government were informed that their disarmament would be followed by the disarmament of those who imposed disarmament, on her. That solemn obligation has not been carried out; no attempt has been made to carry it out. We shall do our best to oppose any rearmament of Germany, any increase of armaments at all in Europe. We think that the only line that should be taken is progressively and as quickly as possible to bring down the armaments of everyone else. We feel that the Germans have a definite claim on the other nations, and one that is unanswerable when they Bay, "If we are to be surrounded by armed nations you must not expect us always to remain in the position in which you left us at the signing of the Treaty, especially in view of the fact that you all agreed that ultimately you would all disarm and come down to one level." Therefore, I hope very much that in any Convention the facts will be faced. We must remember, however, that Conventions may be amended. A document is not drawn up to be accepted just as it is put there. We do not want it amended in any sort of way that will increase arma- 1463 ments anywhere in Central Europe. We want armaments brought right down.
That brings me to the last point that I want to make in connection with Geneva. I have already said that we desire that the League shall continue, but that it shall become effective. I believe that it can become effective only if those who are members of the League are conscious of the fact that only by co-operative effort to preserve peace, and in removing out of the way all the difficulties which may lead to disputes between nations, by mutual concessions and mutual consideration for each other, just as we are obliged to make concessions to each other within a nation—only in that way can our aim be achieved. I do not believe that by a disarmament policy which merely lays down the size of a gun or a submarine or a tank, we shall ultimately get peace. It is necessary to have the peace mind and the will to peace. We think that the will to peace depends on out willingness to bring all the nations into relationship.
I know that in mentioning Russia I shall arouse some antagonisms, but I want to say that, so far as we are concerned, we want Japan in the League, and we shall be very sorry indeed if, because of what is happening now, she goes out, for we think that without Japan inside the League, working with the League and accepting all the obligations of the League, the League will not function efficiently; but we also think that it is impossible to have a League of Nations outside of which is the Soviet of Russia. That great nation must be brought in and must be party to any arrangements made for the preservation of peace.
I gave the Secretary for Foreign Affairs notice that I intended to raise this subject. I am not sure whether it is in Order, though I think it is because of the Economic Conference. I wish to ask him what the Government really mean to do about the two embargoes, about the Irish embargo and the Russian embargo. I may be told right off that the Russians know and the Irish know how the thing can be settled. Both sides say the same thing to each other. Is it not time that the Russian business was faced, and the right hon. Gentleman entered into negotiations to settle it once and for all? I cannot imagine that if the right hon. 1464 Gentleman undertook the negotiations the Russian dispute could not be settled. The one side stands for the removal of the embargo, I understand, and our side stands for the release of the prisoners. A very large number of men and women in this country are suffering owing to the present situation and I do not imagine that anyone will gain anything by its prolongation. The same is true in regard to Ireland. I think it is desired that the situation with Ireland should be—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
I am bound to rule as regards Ireland that that is not a matter which is the responsibility of the Foreign Office. In the ease of the Russian embargo the right hon. Gentleman can argue that, if any negotiations take place with regard to its removal, the Foreign Secretary will be responsible, and therefore he is quite in order in raising that point, but the Foreign Secretary cannot answer on behalf of the Dominions Office, which is responsible for Ireland.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
On the last occasion when we discussed the Foreign Office Vote the Economic Conference as well as foreign affairs were discussed generally. I only wanted to say that Ireland will be represented at the Economic Conference, and Ireland's representatives will be meeting the Dominions' Secretary and the representatives of all the other Dominions to discuss a common policy to put before the Economic Conference. Surely, the Government will make one more effort to bring that dispute to an end. In the same way, the Russian Government is to be represented at the Conference which is to endeavour to restore trade and industry throughout the world. Whatever doubts we may have about the possibility of any satisfactory solution of our present difficulties within the framework of international Capttalism, at least all of us, whatever opinions we hold, hope that some good may result and if we are wrong in our view as to the possibilities, and if it is found that something can be done, then so much the better. We shall be very glad. But can anything be done if we are at loggerheads with these two States? What I appeal for is that an effort should be made, if possible before 12th June, to put an end to both embargoes.
1465 I also wish to ask, on the subject of the Economic Conference, whether the Chancellor is now in a position to give us any information as to the Government's policy in connection therewith. I was taken to task for something which I said on a previous occasion about the raising of commodity prices. At the risk of again being severely rebuked, I propose to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer or whoever is to answer for the Government, whether they will take the Committee into their confidence in this matter and tell us by what means they propose to proceed. President Roosevelt, according to the Press, has published a good many statements and appears to be discussing a good many proposals in relation to the raising of prices. We would like to know from the Government what is their policy in regard to that proposition. We would also like to know what proposals, if any, the Government are going to make on the question of the Gold Standard and currency generally. It is not treating the House of Commons or the country quite fairly to leave this question in the air. It may be that the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers know much better than people like me what is the right thing to do, but as a Member of Parliament I am entitled to know what they have in mind. They must have something in their minds.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I am sure they have, and the reason why we are anxious on this question is that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has now told us that what he did when he dealt with the Gold Standard previously was all wrong, but that he acted on the best advice. It may be that Chancellor of the Exchequer, is going to act on the advice of the same people, and he also may be wrongly advised. We do not want another blunder, and we might as well know the worst now. I seriously ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to tell us also what the Government propose to do about war debts and reparations, because if that question is not settled, the Economic Conference will be a failure. Everybody agrees upon that point. Are the Government going to pay on 15th June? We are entitled to an answer to that question. When I last put it I was told that I was 1466 too previous, but the 15th June will be here in about three weeks. Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer not tell us what is in his mind about this?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
That seems to suggest that on this matter the right hon. Gentleman has not anything in his mind. If so, it is nearly time he had. Pay-day will soon be here. During the last discussion on this subject an hon Member whispered to me, "Do not worry; the Chancellor has it up his sleeve. They are making it out of the Exchange Equalisation Account." I asked "Are they having a flutter then?" That, of course, was only a joke but, seriously, the money has to come from somewhere. It will not rise up out of the sea or drop down from the air. The British taxpayer will have to pay it in one form or another, and we would like to know something about the Government's intention. To hark back to the currency and banking question, I wish to say that on this subject the newspapers may not be telling us all the truth. [HON. MEMBEBS: "Oh !"] Well, they are almost as truthful as some of the diplomats. They are not giving us matters of opinion but some very striking evidences of what is going on in international finance are coming over morning by morning. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman, when they are discussing finance at the Economic Conference, whether we shall be able to put an end to international gambling by high financiers. I am almost breathless at mentioning them. They have always been such a mystery, but, thank God, President Roosevelt is stripping them rather naked now, and we know that they make a bit like the poorest punter on the racecourse, only they make big chunks. But this is a serious matter, and it may be serious for some of them before they are through. I would like to know whether the Government have any policy for putting an end to that sort of business? I would also like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman is quite sure that nothing of the same sort happens in this country.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Sir AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the 1467 Opposition rather unkindly reproached me last night when I intervened in the Debate for something between a quarter-of-an-hour or 20 minutes, for the length of my speech. I will not make the same reproach to him, but I would only say that I bear his reproaches the more easily after having had the pleasure of listening to him to-day. I often differ from the right hon. Gentleman, but I hope I always, when I do differ, differ with good feeling, and it is a pleasure to me when I can agree with him. The right hon. Gentleman said early in his speech that he was thoroughly British, and never did he prove it more truly than in the speech which he has made to-day. The right hon. Gentleman, though he thought that in our international relations we need clarity, definition, and the logic which is associated with the Latin mind, eschewed all those un-British qualities in the speech which he has just delivered. He rambled over a great many subjects, some relative to this Vote and some, if not actually irrelevant, having the most indirect connection with it; but he left me at the end, I confess, not much wiser than I was at the beginning as to the attitude of himself and his party towards the important questions under discussion.
I do not mean to go over all those questions or to attempt to follow him through them all. I want rather to go back to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary at the opening of this debate, surely one of the most remarkable and one of the most encouraging speeches that it has been in the power of any Foreign Secretary to make in this House for many years past. Storm clouds a little time ago hung very black over Europe. They have not all passed away. Little clouds gather on the horizon, rise fast, and may overshadow us again, but for the moment there is a real clEarlng of the atmosphere, and there are gleams of light where a little time ago all was dark. May I pay my tribute, as one who knows something of the difficulties which the Foreign Secretary has had to confront, to the patience, courage, and skill, with which my right hon. Friend has played, by common consent of all parties, the part which we should have desired to see the representative of this country play in the great negotia- 1468 tions and discussions that have been going on at Geneva?.And Since it is the fashion, not merely for the Opposition, as in duty bound, to find fault with the Prime Minister and to criticise him, but Since it is now apparently the fashion for old friends of his to join in that criticism and to give it an acerbity which the Leader of the Opposition carefully avoided, may I be permitted also to pay my tribute to the Prime Minister for the admirable work which he did in his brief visit to Washington?
I do not think that any more important declaration has been made by one of the great Governments of the world than the declaration made, on behalf of the President and Government of the United States, the other day at Geneva by Mr. Norman Davis, and it is the more important because this declaration, though in one sense it is a new fact, if you follow the course of events, is seen to be the gradual evolution of a new tradition or a new principle of policy. When the American Senate and people refused to support the policy of President Wilson at Versailles and refused to assent to the Covenant, they dealt a damaging and what might well have been a fatal blow to the usefuiness of that great international Council which American opinion and American statesmen had played so large a part in creating. It shows alike the need for a League of Nations and the strength of the League of Nations that, in spite of that damaging; blow, the League has worked, with many imperfections, with many checks, is working, and will, I believe, continue to work, not as a guarantee that there shall be no war, but as an immensely effective instrument for the peaceful settlement of disputes and a great deterrent to aggressive desires.
That abstention of America was, as I say, a damaging blow. I do not want to attach too much importance to the sanctions provided by the Covenant. I have never thought the League was on its strongest footing if it was brought in to punish a wrongdoer. I think its most effective work is in preventing the wrong being done, but, still, there are sanctions, and there may be cases in which those sanctions or some of them ought to be enforced. One of the great difficulties is that the particular sanctions which were less than acts of war or less than 1469 acts of physical violence were exactly those which most needed the co-operation of all nations and were most weakened by the abstention of America. The initiative for the Briand-Kellogg Pact came from M. Briand, but the Pact was made what it is by the American Secretary of State; and I recall that Mr. Kellogg himself expounding the Pact—I think that it was at the International Law Society in America—said that it was impossible to conceive that America, having signed this Pact, being in fact—though he did not say so—the real author, would remain indifferent in face of a breach of it.
That is the beginning of the development of the Roosevelt doctrine. It was developed further, as my right hon. Friend said, in the remarkable speech of the late Secretary of State Mr. Stimson, when he called on his countrymen and the rest of the world to examine the doctrine of neutrality in the light of the altered conditions of the new engagements that the world had undertaken. The results of that examination, embodied in the declarations made on behalf of the President by Mr. Norman Davis, give the assurance that if America, after consultation and examination, is satisfied that in a dispute between two nations one is the aggressor and the other is the innocent party, she will not lend aid or comfort to the aggressor, and will withhold protection from her citizens if they do so.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition discounted its effect because the United States reserved to themselves the right to judge and to be convInced. I do not share that view. We have signed—and I had some responsibility for it—the Treaty of Locarno. We have said that, time allowing, we should refer the matter to the Council, and that even if action had already been taken because the events marched so rapidly, we should abide by the ultimate Council decision. We have said that in the Treaty of Locarno. But we have said also that in a specific case, where events did march so rapidly that the whole position might be altered to the disadvantage of the innocent person if immediate action were not taken, we would take that immediate action, but we reserved to ourselves the right to judge whether that particular emergency had arisen or not. I believe that such a reservation is inevitable.
1470 America, in making this reservation, reserved to herself no more power than every other nation with a seat at the Council of the League of Nations has by the Covenant and the constitution of the League and by the rules that govern the Council. It is necessary that that reservation should be made because it is only if the facts are such as to bring conviction home to the Government and so enable them to bring it home to their people, that the action can be taken effectively which it is their desire to do. Does that fact lessen the value of the declaration or the value of our obligations under the Treaty of Locarno? No, not in my opinion, for I would no more doubt the good faith of the American people in this matter than I would doubt our own good faith in fulfilling the obligations of the Treaty of Locarno; and, after all, there is that in our record which shows that this people, when they have voluntarily undertaken an obligation of that kind, will keep it not merely in the letter but in the spirit.
The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to argue that we really cannot be assured of any effective action as long as we do not define who is the aggressor. At no point of his speech did I differ more profoundly from him. He referred to the dispute in the East. I do not want to go into that and to give any answer on my own part to the questions he put, bat is there any doubt in any man's mind about which party is in the wrong? If the League had been unable to find out in that dispute which party was in the wrong, a definition would not have helped them to do it. They have found one party in the wrong—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Our argument on that particular issue has been all through that the League took, I cannot remember how many months, but the Japanese bombarded part of the suburbs of Shanghai, massacred Chinese women and children and occupied a whole provInce of China. When that had been finished, a Commission reported.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I am not on the same point as that to which the right hon. Gentleman is referring. I am now dealing with the question whether it is necessary to have a definition of the aggressor or not in order to make a pact of this character or an affirmation of this character effective. I say it is not. It 1471 may take a little time, but it is not difficult, and the events of the Far East have proved that it is not difficult to recognise the aggressor after the act of aggression, though it may be impossible to define it in advance. I beg the right hon. Gentleman and others who are attracted by this idea of defining the aggressor to be a little careful what they are doing. I know that it is the desire of most Continental States to do it. I know that it is the particular desire of the French Government. But I am not on that account convInced that it is practicable or that it would be wise if it were practicable. The Foreign Secretary alluded to the difference in mentality and habit of mind which separates broadly the Anglo-Saxon from the Continental nations. I do not know whether the Committee will forgive me if I read what is really a very happy description from a book by Senor Salvador de Madariaga, who is now the Spanish Ambassador in Paris and was then, I think, Secretary in the Disarmament Committee of the League of Nations. Speaking of France and England he said:Now France and England are often at loggerheads in Geneva. Not that their interests cannot be made to agree. As national differences go, their differences are more often than not bridgeable in themselves, given a little time and good will. Thus it is not altogether impossible to bring the French and the British delegates to see eye to eye. Only their eyes are so different….He goes on to say:Time and again I have seen the French nonplussed at the illogical and empirical vagueness of the English, and the English shocked and irritated at the unseemly yet unreal clarity of the French.Those of us who have been at Geneva have witnessed ourselves and others in that situation. He proceeds:The whole difficulty comes from the particular region in which the centre of gravity of their respective psychologies is situated, which in the Frenchmen is above, and in the Englishmen, below the neck. The Frenchman thinks with his head, and with nothing but his head; the Englishman thinks—or rather, as he himself says, 'feels somehow'—with everything but his head, and provided he does not allow his head to meddle with it he is generally right.Will the Committee allow me to continue the quotation?The Frenchman, trusting thought, is apt to distrust life, and therefore he endeavours to imprison future life in present 1472 thought by foreseeing every case and regulating every action in advance; while the Englishman, who trusts life but mistrusts thought (his own and still more the. Frenchman's) refuses to foresee, and is content to cross the bridge when he comes to it—even at the risk of having to ford the river on finding there is no bridge at all.That is a description of the two mentalities by an impartial observer, and I quote it for that reason, but does not all our history go to show that our way leads to better results? We have not known violent revolution in this country Since 1689. Why? If Members of the Committee recall the pages of Macaulay, in which he describes the Debates in Parliament leading up to the offer of the Crown to William and Mary, they will remember that Macaulay points out that the Resolution of the two Houses of the Convention Parliament was 'illogical, contradictory in its different phrases, open to the most destructive arguments, but it secured unanimous assent and has preserved peace ever Since. If they had tried to define the conditions with the logic which the right hon. Gentleman likes, they would have had the Houses deeply divided at that time, no agreed settlement, and the dispute might still have been convulsing us to-day.
Statesmen, and even humble people like ourselves, politicians, ought to look ahead, but it would be a great mistake to suppose that Providence has gifted us with a vision that enables us to foretell with certainty the circumstances in which problems will some day present themselves to us. If you are going to define an aggressor and make a rigid definition which must be interpreted according to law, what will be the result? You set up clear warnings and signposts to the party which is contemplating aggression of the particular steps which he must avoid. You show him where the ice is thin, you point out to him that if he goes there he will fall through and be an aggressor. You mark every obstacle and danger in his path, and the result is that he carefully walks round them. While everybody knows that he is the aggressor, he has not offended against any of the tests which you have set up. Surely we had better go more in our English way. We shall know the aggressor when the time comes, and we shall be able to act in that knowledge.
I come back to the statement of my right hon. Friend. When we last dis- 1473 cussed the foreign situation many of us were filled with deep anxieties. I cannot say that they are altogether dispelled to-day. The new movement in Germany, with its domestic manifestations, shocked this House and shocked our people, and I do not know that those domestic manifestations have been much qualified Since that time. I still feel and cannot but feel that the spirit which manifests itself in the proscription of a race within the boundaries of Germany, is a spirit which, if allowed to prevail in foreign affairs, will be a menace to the whole world. We have had Since then some profoundly disquieting utterances from men in high authority in Germany. The last great utterance came from Chancellor Hitler himself. I recognise that if we take those words at their face value, as I would like to do, they indicate a new spirit, and a different and a more hopeful one, for the relations of Germany with the rest of the world, but I am disquieted that there has been no direct repudiation by anyone in authority in Germany of some of the other sayings recently made by colleagues of the Chancellor. If I may take the Chancellor's declaration as a silent withdrawal of the German Foreign Minister's written threat that if certain things do not happen as Germany wished she would re-arm in spite of her Treaty obligations; if I may take it as the repudiation of that terrible speech of Vice-Chancellor von Papen in which he said that warfare was to men what childbEarlng was to women, something without which their lives were not complete, then I welcome it wholeheartedly, and I would go as far as I could to meet the newer and the wiser spirit which Chancellor Hitler's speech seemed to indicate.
But I agree with my right hon. Friend that after all these disturbing incidents we need deeds and not words, and I venture as my last word to say that I hope the Disarmament Conference, and His Majesty's Government in particular, will proceed with a certain caution to the realisation of the goal which they have proclaimed. That goal was equality of status for Germany by stages. I think we ought to insist that that equality can only come by stages, and that Germany must show by acts, by the whole conduct of her policy, that as we go to meet her in disarmament, in physical disarmament, so she comes to meet us and others in 1474 moral disarmament. I agree, of course, with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that there is much to criticise in the constant demand for a repetition and renewal of obligations which nations have already undertaken. It is necessary and it is not useless, because there is not confidence in the good faith of all the parties who have undertaken these things, and because we see, in one part of the world or another, Governments acting in defiance of the pledges that they have already given.
Let me interpose at this moment with an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. He, at times, has used from that Bench, and others have used in other parts of the House, language which feeds that distrust and prevents the necessary assurance of good faith from being felt in any quarter. I will explain myself further. The right hon. Gentleman has used language which suggested that treaties were only binding on the particular governments which signed them and that obligations undertaken by one government would not necessarily be honoured by another. He has, if my memory does not mislead me, justified the conduct of a government which has adopted that as its policy and its principle. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) whom I see on the Front Bench opposite, has openly proclaimed that policy. If it once gets abroad that that principle is accepted by any party in this country, our influence in the world is at an end. No engagement that we undertake is worth more than a few years' purchase and it will be impossible to come to any agreement of a kind that will be permanent, unless it is recognised that when a government ratifies, it ratifies for the nation, and that before it ratifies it should get whatever is the necessary authority in its own nation for that act, so that the act becomes an act of the country which will be scrupulously observed for all time.
It is the adoption by certain governments of the principle that they are not bound by their international engagements, the suggestion that there might be other governments that would, at some future time, take that position, and, above all, the fact that there are in the world governments which have broken their engagements and which have not succeeded in persuading their neigh- 1475 bours that they honestly accept and will conscientiously fulfil the newer engagements they have Since entered into, that prevent us from making progress. Armaments are not a cause of war; they are simply the effect of that unrest and that distrust which produce war. I agree that bloated armaments are a danger, and I agree that excessive armaments burden all our peoples. I desire to see re-armament prevented, and I desire it as strongly as the right hon. Gentleman himself. I desire to see disarmament carried further, but I say that we must go cautiously, and in stages, until we are assured that a new spirit prevails, that international engagements will be kept and that equality is not sought in order that those who could not now challenge peace with any hope of success may be able to challenge it to-morrow.
One word more. I press this point upon the Committee and upon the Government, because we take upon ourselves and upon our country a great responsibility, if we urge other nations to disarm to a lower point than they think necessary for their safety, unless that general sense of security has already been attained. It is all very well to say that we urge but do not guarantee. If your friend has taken your advice and is in danger in consequence, you cannot repudiate the responsibility attaching to the advice which you have given and he has followed.
§ 1.22 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I refrained from trying to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) on his last statement. I am not conscious, either when I sat behind or Since I occupied this position, of ever having made a statement that the Labour party would repudiate treaties signed on behalf of the nation. On one occasion—and at that time I explained my position—both I and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) said, during the Debate on the Ottawa Agreements, that we would take the earliest opportunity of cancelling them—that was if we could do so. The Agreements were signed for five years. That was one reason why we objected and we said that we should ask the electors to give us power to reverse that policy. On the question of treaties 1476 signed between nations, I should be quite false to the Labour party if I stood here and said, on their behalf, that we claimed the right to tear treaties up if we came into power because we had disagreed with them when we were in opposition. We should negotiate the change of treaties, but I am quite sure that we should not follow the example of some other people and tear them up.
§ 1.24 p.m.
§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) has delivered a speech to which we have listened, and which will be read, with the deepest interest. One result of the speech in accordance with the delightful quotation which he gave, was that it made me feel that the British policy at Geneva is the right one. At the commencement of his remarks he praised the Foreign Secretary for the devoted work that he was doing at Geneva in promoting the object which the Government have in view of getting the British Draft Convention worked upon as the basis for making real progress. I should like, if I may, on behalf of the party who sit on these benches, to endorse those remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, because it is undoubted, and everyone has recognised, that both the Foreign Secretary and his Under-Secretary have done most remarkable work. One result of it is obvious to the whole world, and that is that this British draft Convention has been definitely accepted as the basis on which nations are now working, hoping to make some progress.
It is true that, after 15 years now Since the Treaty of Versailles, there is a terrible feeling of disappointment and despair at the small amount of progress that we have been able to make. The conditions in the world have changed with remarkable rapidity during that period; in fact, the changes, social, economic and political, have been kaleidoscopic. Feelings left by the War are, I am afraid, still there; feelings have been embittered by attempts to exact War debts and reparations; there are the discontents arising from the Treaty of Versailles; and the result, unfortunately, is that we see that the condition of the world has deteriorated in the last 15 years.
1477 At the time of the Treaty of Versailles, there was one hope that was definitely seen for improving the position, and that hope lay in the word "Disarmament." By the Treaty, Germany was disarmed, as a preliminary to the rest of the world disarming. It is a terrible comment on the work of the last 15 years that Germany alone is a nation disarmed to-day; and Germany is claiming to re-arm so that she may be on a parity with the rest of the world. I believe it was M. Herriot who said recently at Geneva that the verb "to disarm" was an irregular verb; it was conjugated without any first person, and had only a future tense. That is a witty and a caustic saying, but I am afraid it represents very largely what we have seen taking place during all these years, in spite of the work that has been going on at Geneva with a view to securing something real in the nature of disarmament. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham has said, and as others have said, what we are looking for now is not mere words; we want some actual practical results.
At this point I should like very definitely to say that, when it comes to a question of Germany claiming parity, that parity should in my view be obtained, not by Germany arming up to the line at which the nations of Europe are armed to-day, but by the nations of Europe arming down until they reach a parity which may be arrived at with security for the whole world. It is a necessity that the technical part of disarmament must be examined by experts. The man in. the street does not understand fine differences drawn between what are defensive and what are offensive weapons, and it is all the same to him whether he is killed by a gun of 155 centimetres or by one of 150 centimetres; he does not understand how reserves are to be reckoned, or how the numbers of actives are to be reckoned. These are all details of great perplexity and difficulty, and, as the Foreign Secretary said in opening the Debate, they are matters that have to be dealt with when you get away from the vague generalities.
It is, however, unfortunate that, when you get the experts representing different nations dealing with these questions, it seems very difficult to get any further 1478 forward. So many complexities and difficulties are raised that, if the matter is left to the experts, I believe no solution will be found. The trouble is that, all the time a solution is being looked for by the experts, there is underlying still the sense of want of security; there is distrust between the nations. I believe that, once we can get away from the sense of distrust and the feeling of want of security, then, and then only, shall we see some step forward. Therefore it is that we have to bend our energies and our statesmen must look in every direction to see what line they can follow which will best remove that sense of distrust. I should like here to take the opportunity of endorsing what has already been said as to the enormous value of the new departure of America. I do not think that the value of the action which America has taken can be over-stated. We all remember how, in the deadlock of trench warfare during the War, there seemed to be no way out until the moral and material weight of America was thrown into the field, and I rather wonder now whether we may not see the same result in the struggle for peace, and whether, if America clearly makes up her mind to throw herself into this deadlock into which we have now got, we shall not see some resolution of it.
The attitude that Germany, unfortunately, adopted recently, had the most disastrous results. France, who was beginning to look at things in what the Englishman is inclined to call a more reasonable light, immediately took fright again. This country, which had growing feelings of amity and friendship towards Germany, was horrified at what took place, and drew back. We have had the speech of the Chancellor, which has indicated to the world that the attitude of Germany is not to be what we feared it might be, and we can only hope that the speech of the Chancellor does really indicate what the attitude of the German nation is to be, and that that speech will be translated into effect, and will not merely remain in high phrases.
One result of the action of Germany was to impel France again to cast her eyes in the direction in which she has cast them more than once, namely, towards the creation of what might be called a super-State, of making the League 1479 of Nations a powerful State with a reserve of international arms at Geneva. I say at once that ideas like that are perfectly hopeless if put into practice. Nothing would do more to smash the League than the putting into practice of ideas of that nature. The whole force and power of the League is a moral force, a power of persuasion, the power of public opinion. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said just now, to attempt to enforce sanctions would be to do something which would not strengthen the League. The strength of the League lies in preventing damage being done, not in punishing it after it is done. Therefore, I hope that eyes will not be cast, either by France or by any other nation, in the direction of giving to the League of Nations an armed force to enable it to carry out sanctions against an aggressor.
Action that is taken with respect to an aggressor must be taken by agreement between nations in accordance with covenants into which they have entered, and, to my mind, without any chance of contradiction, as time goes on—and, after all, the League of Nations has not been in existence for very many years—and as the influence of the League increases, it will be found more and more that its power will lie in the expression that it is able immediately and promptly to give to public opinion. Public opinion is a great force which cannot be lightly set aside, especially in these days of wireless, broadcasting, and telegraphing information which goes all over the world, and within a few hours of some action being taken the world can make its voice heard and its intention understood. In these conditions to-day I think we shall see the power of the League increasing more and more by its moral force and its expression of public opinion. I deprecate in the strongest terms any policy which would lead to giving an armed power to the League in order to enable it to exact sanctions against an aggressive nation.
The main point to which I wish to refer is another aspect of disarmament which I do not think, perhaps, has been fully appreciated yet. I believe that before the World Economic Conference there lies an opportunity of creating a new atmosphere and a sense of confidence between nations, instead of distrust, which may 1480 be of enormous advantage in furthering the work of the Disarmament Conference. We cannot deny that the nations have taken action in following out policies of self-sufficiency which have been destructive of the trade of the world and which have led us very largely into our present state of depression. In fact, there has been a sort of economic war going on, and you cannot really get any material disarmament while there is economic war. We Liberals are often twitted with holding to our old philosophy of Free Trade. I should like to take this opportunity of reminding the Committee that, that is not only a policy that implies freedom of trade but a policy by the following of which you will secure peace in the world. That is one of the greatest reasons that have always made me a convInced Free Trader, that inside the policy of Free Trade there is the great policy of peace. Disputes between nations nowadays are almost always economic and, if you can remove the economic causes of dispute, you are much more likely to have peace in the world than if those causes are allowed to remain.
What is the policy with which the Government are going into the Conference? I understand that it is the removal of obstacles in the way of international trade. If that policy is definitely and firmly adhered to and carried out, we on these benches will support it with all our power, and I believe the following out of that policy will secure peace and confidence in the world which do not exist to-day. But, if their policy is not carried out and if, as a result, the World Conference breaks down, a terrible responsibility will rest upon those who have led to that breakdown. The British Government has an unequalled opportunity. It is the Government of a country which in past years has been a Free Trade country, but which has now, owing to the force of political and other circumstances, altered its policy and became a Protectionist country. If that country, the leading trading country in Europe and one of the leading trading countries in the world, is not able fully, fairly and firmly to face the difficulties with which world trade is threatened, we can only look for disaster to the Conference, and, if the Conference breaks down in disaster, I am afraid we shall never get any material disarmament, 1481 because the economic causes of dispute and distrust will still remain. I was very disappointed at the attitude that was taken in the Debate last night by certain Protectionist interests because the Government had embarked on a policy of bargaining and lowering tariffs in order to widen the ambit of national trade. If individual industries and convInced Protectionists are not able to back the Government in their desire to remove trade obstructions, it will be upon them that the responsibility for breakdown will rest, and I would appeal to them at this moment, when Great Britain should be leading the world back to sanity, to put aside their smaller interests in the wider interests of the nation as a whole.
§ 1.41 p.m.
§ Mr. EMRYS-EVANS
We have had two speeches to-day from two leading Members of the House who are both supporters of the League of Nations. We heard the Leader of the Opposition, who showed so much impatience and so much desire to get forward to a place which I think is far ahead. Then we had the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), who showed that he had a greater faith in the possibility of gradually building up the organisation of the League. He realised that that you cannot in a very few years—it is only 12 years Since its foundation—build up a completely effective organisation. It will take a long time before it can perform those functions that the Leader of tie Opposition seemed to expect that it would perform. The last fortnight has been a very significant one, for it has shown us more clearly than anything else could have done where are the dangerous rooks and the currents in the European seas. We have now no excuse for refusing to face the realities of the situation. The Nazi revolution had been discussed at considerable length during the last Debate that took place on foreign affairs.
I believe the revivalist spirit of the Nazi revolution ought not to blind us to certain fundamental facts about Germany to-day. After all, a revolution is a sign not of strength but of weakness and we have seen, in the first place, the obstruction of the German delegate at Geneva, followed by the unfortunate article of the Minister of Foreign Affairs when he asserted not only the right but also the intention of 1482 Germany to re-arm. That was followed by Herr Von Papen's speech. I think we might draw a certain amount of comfort from the result of the attitude of the German Government. Almost immediately after the German delegate had been withdrawn from Geneva Germany realised that she was encircled and isolated as she had never been in the past, not even in the days of 1914. There was a consolidation of world opinion against the militarist spirit in Germany, and I think it is a very significant fact that you should have had a unanimous opinion created in the world. It is something that has not occurred before. We have never found a nation almost entirely without any allies. It seems as if the words of the poet thatThe common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awehad come true. I believe that that, arising out of the difficulties of this crisis, is a sign of encouragement. The speech of Herr Hitler should be welcomed, as, indeed, I believe it has been welcomed in this Committee and in the country, but with certain reservations. There is one point in the speech which should be brought to the attention of the Committee and definitely touched upon, because there has been a danger of it being ovErieoked. Herr Hitler, in the course of his speech, attributed the misery through which Germany has passed during the last few years to disarmament but we all know that it should not be attributed to disarmament. Surely, the very fact that Germany had a small military budget would have meant that her position should be better rather than worse. No, it has been due to Separations. That is the real cause of Germany's difficulties, and any effort on the part of the Germans to treat disarmament as the cause will only obscure the difficulties with which the world is faced at the present time. The speech of Herr Hitler has done much to allay the anxieties of Europe, but, as has been said on several occasions during this Debate already it must be followed, and I trust will be, followed by deeds. Revision has certainly become remote as a result of German actions. It will not be possible to consider such questions as that of revision until Germany has shown signs of practical co-operation in Europe once more.
1483 The position in Europe has naturally caused considerable nervousness in France. There has been a tendency on the part of Germany and in the Press of Europe to talk about the isolation of France; and that it will be possible for France to find herself in somewhat the same position as Germany has found herself during the last fortnight. I think that such a suggestion is mischievous. I see no comparison between the position of Germany praising militarism and going back to her Prussian spirit which was fought by Europe, and the natural anxieties of France at the present time. We should not forget that France has made great sacrifices already for peace, that she has recently surrendered Reparations, and that she evacuated the Rhine earlier than the Peace Treaties laid down that she should do. I believe that during the last few years France has been a good European and would be prepared to make concessions in order to bring about the pacification of Europe, but after all her experiences she must have some guarantees for her security.
We have, as the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has told us to-day, made a great advance in Europe and in the world towards being able to give some greater guarantee to France than she has had in the past, for the declaration of America, cautious as it is—and it has been very cautious—is nevertheless a great step forward. No one who knows America and how much she clings to her policy of no foreign entanglements can doubt that this is a definite step towards world co-operation, but it also means that it dots the "i's" and crosses the "t's" and makes it clear that we in this country can in no circumstances adopt a position of isolation. If America has had to abandon her isolation, there is no question that we in this country, whether we would or not, are unable to become less involved in world agreements, and particularly in European agreements, than we have been in the past. I trust that this will enable France to come forward in a spirit which will enable her to make further concessions than she has been enabled to do during the last few years.
The restoration of world trade is as essential to Germany as it is to us, and a prosperous Germany is a necessity for a reconstructed world. But I do not believe that we shall be able to build up 1484 a satisfactory structure at the World Economic Conference unless we are able to have sound agreement at Geneva. No merely improvised agreement will be satisfactory. The problem which the Conference in London will have to face is the problem of distribution. We have to some extent solved the problem of production, and the problem of distribution will be the problem of the current century. It is much easier to cut your lines of communication than to lay waste a country, and I believe that it will only be possible to reconstruct those lines of communication and channels of trade if you are able to create confidence by the conclusion of an agreement at Geneva on Disarmament. I think that the whole Committee will congratulate the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the statement which he has made to-day. He has given us some hope that that agreement will be reached and that there will be some firm foundation on which the very difficult negotiations which are to take place in the course of next month will be brought to a successful conclusion.
§ 1.53 p.m.
§ Mr. COCKS
As the three right hon. Gentlemen with whose speeches I entirely disagree have left the House, I am pleased to say that I agree with a good deal of what the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Emrys-Evans) has said, especially his references to the Nazi problem in Germany. Although I have a very high respect, as we all have, for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) I cannot agree with him that the international position is any clearer to-day than it was when he made his great speech before the Easter Recess in which, I believe, he performed a service to Europe as well as to this country. In the last three months we have seen the emergence in Germany of a great menace to civilisation. I say deliberately although I try to be moderate in my language in debates on foreign policy, that the menace is almost as great as that when Attila and his Huns swept over the frontiers of the Roman Empire. Owing to the fact that the persecution of the Jews has been brought so much to public notice—and quite rightly—it has perhaps been ovErieoked that the people who have also been persecuted are those who have been preaching peace and internationalism. The other day there was a 1485 great demonstration in Berlin where all the pacifist books were burnt. Socialist books and books by Jewish authors were also burnt. The Pacifist books included the famous book "Lay down your Arms" by Baroness von Sutner, which I remember reading when a child. At the same time, a list was sent to libraries recommending other books to be taken including Hitler's "My Fight," which has already reached a circulation of about 400,000, and books romanticizing war and praising the military spirit.
In discussing this matter with people from abroad I have been told that one of the most remarkable things that has happened in regard to this movement is the way that they have carried out their 25 points, which were laid down some years ago when the movement was at its birth. They have carried them out logically and, according to a resolution passed by the Nazi party, these points are unalterable. Amongst these points, which are very important from the international point of view, are the following: (1) the union of all German peoples, wherever they may live in Europe, to form one great Germany. That is to say, Germans who may happen to be in Czechoslovakia, Silesia, Poland and Alsace are to form one great Germany; (2) the abolition of the Treaties of Versailles and St. Germain; (3) the restoration of the German Colonies. These are three main demands of the Nazi party. Over and over again we find the leaders of the movement, including Herr Hitler himself, and Captain Goering, demanding an increase in territory and saying that at the present time Germany is overcrowded. Captain Goering, who is the second most powerful man in Germany to-day, said in Berlin, on 10th April:When, as was the case with Germany, 65,000,000 people lived in a small space, it was no use trying to solve the social problem because the essential conditions for a solution were lacking. The condition for the solution of the social problems at home was to build up the outward strength which would there create the room for existence of individual and of the nation as a whole.Throughout the history of the movement one finds a desire for increased territory, and the demand that militarism and all the martial virtues should be taught in order that the nation may be prepared when the time comes to get the territory they demand. The "Times," of the 16th May, says: 1486The youth of the country is being taught once more that the profession of a soldier is not only honourable, as it is properly regarded in all countries, but something almost sacred; and that war is not horrible at all, but a manly exercise bringing out all the finest qualities to be found in human nature. According to Herr Hitler's doctrine, set forth in a book of a thousand pages, nothing can be effected by the bourgeoise virtues of peace and order. 'Six millions of young men'"—says Herr Hitler in his book,'are to be perfectly trained by athletics, consumed by fanatical patriotism, educated to the maximum of aggressiveness' "Pious hopes" in the League of Nations are ridiculed; and Germany is advised to single out the most dangerous of her enemies and "attack him with all her forces.Further, in Herr Hitler's book—I hope the House will not mind my reading a few expressions to show exactly what the Hitler movement stands for—I find the following:The National Socialist movement must find courage to gather up the strength of the nation for the advance on such a line as leads out of the present construction of the space in which it lives to new territory, and so for ever free it from the danger of disappEarlng from the earth or becoming a slave to other peoples. It must remedy the disproportion between our population figures and the square mileage of our territory.The book proceeds:The question of the reacquisition of lost territory is always primarily a question of the reacquisition of political power. The freeing of oppressed districts which have been detached from a country does not depend on the wishes of the oppressed nor on the protest of those who have been robbed but on the means of action left in the possession of the dismembered country. Oppressed territories are not restored to the bosom of the Mother country by flaming protest but by a sword that is able to strike. To forge this sword is the task of the leaders of domestic policy; to secure that it be forged undisturbed and to seek comrades in arms is the task of foreign policy.Those are the words of the Chancellor of Germany. He says that "not only do we want weapons" but "we must seek to divide our enemies." He points out that the doctrine of the balance of power is calculated to bring in England to the side of Germany rather than to the side of France. Having done that he goes on to say that with Italy and Britain secured as her allies, Germany willhave the chance in complete tranquillity to make all the preparations that ought to be made for a reckoning with France.1487 Herr Hitler also declares that:An alliance whose aim does not include the design of a war is meaningless and useless…The aim of our policy must be an Eastern aim in the sense of the acquisition of the necessary soil for the German people…We must accept every sacrifice asked of us that is likely to lead to a destruction of the French hegemony in Europe.I could quote much more on the same lines to show what is the Hitler policy in Germany to-day. In Germany at the present time the schoolchildren are taught that Alsace was torn forcibly from Germany and that Strasburg is a German city which must be regained, in spite of the declaration made at the time of the Locarno Pact by the German representtives that they did not intend to seek any alteration of their Western frontiers. Only a few weeks ago a monument was erected within 100 yards of the Polish frontier, and opened with a great display. On that monument is the inscription:Never forget of what blind hatred robbed you. Bide the hour which will expiate the shame of this bleeding frontier.There is also the speech of Von Papen when he talked about the German horror of dying on a mattress and the desire of German women to bear children to fight and fall on the battlefield. And he is not alone, for Captain Goering says of women thather duty is the recreation of the tired warrior.Apparently there are German women who agree with this for I find the Women's Order of the Red Swastika, declaring that:There is no higher or finer privilege for a woman than that of sending her children to war.In other ways the same sort of propaganda is going on. The wireless is used for this purpose. In our country in the brief intervals between the items of the programme one hears a sort of tapping, like the ticking of a clock, but in Germany there is no tapping, but one phrase is constantly repeated "Germans to arms!" What are we asked to set against this sort of thing? Merely the fact that the speech of Herr Hitler was a more moderate speech—although it was not altogether a moderate one—than the one he was expected to make. Why did he make that speech? I am told that 1488 when he called the Reichstag together, in order to make his declaration, it was believed that he meant to make a declaration of defiance, that Germany intended to arm, but very considerable pressure was brought to bear upon him between then and the time when the speech was delivered. I am informed that not only was advice given to him from Italy but that very strong pressure, strong diplomatic pressure was brought to bear from Washington and from this country. Although the fact was not published in the newspapers, I understand that strong representations were made to him from certain Ambassadors in Berlin that if he did not take up a more moderate attitude, if he did not accept the British convention, certain serious results might be expected. People to whom I have spoken, people of knowledge and authority on Continental affairs, assure me that if Germany was armed to-day Europe would be to-day at war and, further that if other countries had disarmed to Germany's level there would also now be war.
What did Hitler really say in his speech? He said that he is willing to accept the British plan on three conditions. First, that Germany is given qualitative equality, the right to possess every type of weapon permitted to other nations as necessary for defence, secondly, that she is allowed five years in which to convert the Reiehswehr, her long service army, into a short term militia, and thirdly at the end of that period to have an assurance of complete equality of status with other nations. If by status Hitler means, as he does mean, equality in armaments it is only deferring war for five years. In the face of this I think that the Draft Disarmament Convention should be amended in many respects. I do not think the House realises exactly what this Draft Convention gives to Germany. It gives her equality of status. It allows her to construct tanks up to 16 tons, in any number although at present she is forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles to possess these weapons. It also enables her to build 4.5 inch guns in any quantity, also forbidden to her by the Treaty of Versailles, and, after five years, it promises her complete equality in every arm possessed by any other nation, including I understand, complete freedom to build a fleet up to 1489 the strength of the strongest Naval Power. And yet I have heard it said that the only two reasons why the peace of Europe is preserved to-day are the armies of France and the fleet of England. Those are the two things which stand between Europe and war to-day.
But what other precautions are taken in this Draft Disarmament Convention? If it is accepted that armaments are brought down to a certain level and that Germany keeps to that level, it is suggested that there should be what is called controlled disarmament, that is to say, that inspectors should be able to go to various countries to find out whether the terms of the Disarmament Convention are being carried out. There are many experts who believe that this is impossible. After the war General Nollet was the chief of the Inter-Allied Control Commission to supervise the disarmament of Germany. I am told that they were not even able to discover where the "big Berthas" had gone—the big guns which had fired on Paris. If it was impossible to find out where these gigantic guns had gone, surely it will be impossible to detect with any accuracy whether a country is constructing smaller weapons, and there is one thing which they certainly could not control, and that is the manufacture of poison gas. Therefore, the proposal to have a sort of international control of disarmament will not work in practice and does not give sufficient security for France or any other country.
Take the question of security. We have been told, and it is true, that disarmament will never be brought about without security; and in regard to security I go a good deal further than the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. Take the provisions which have been read by the Foreign Secretary, the new clauses which are drafted to ensure security. It is proposed that in the event of a breach of the Pact of Paris either the Council or some other member nation may propose immediate consultation. It is proposed to have a sort of conference about it. There is no stipulation that the consultation is to be granted, but that is a small point. But suppose the consultation takes place, in the event of a breach or threat of a breach of the Pact of Paris, the consultation is to exchange views for the purpose of preserving the peace. In the event of a breach of the Pact of Paris, when the 1490 peace is broken, when armies are crossing the frontier, when aeroplanes are dropping poison gas on cities, they are goingto use their good offices for the restoration of the peace.When war breaks out between two great well-armed Powers, it is impossible to restore peace in the first few weeks in that way. But they are going to use their good offices, and if, in the event, it proves impossible thus to restore peace, they will thendetermine which party or parties to the dispute are to be held responsible.How are they going to determine that? As my right hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) has said, it took them 18 months to determine who was the aggressor in the Far East. What kind of defence is that going to be to any nation? What nation is going to feel secure by being told that 18 months after war has broken out and they have been defeated that the other side has been declared the aggressor. Is that any consolation? The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetlands (Sir B. Hamilton) said that the only use of the League was a moral use; it was no use expecting it to give material security to any nation. Japan, he declared, had the moral verdict of the world against her. But that is not very helpful to China. It reminds me of an incident in classical history during one of the interminable wars between Athens and Thebes. The Thebans thought they ought to have an ally and they sent to a neighbouring State and said, "We are both descended from the same heroes, certain demigods, and in the name of these common ancestors of ours we ask for your assistance." The other city replied, "As you have appealed to us in the name of our common ancestors we send you the images of these heroes." But as these made no difference in the military situation the Thebans sent back the images saying, "We thank you very much, but we should prefer a few men."
When a nation is told that there is going to be an examination into the causes of the conflict after it has started, after their country has been invaded, their land devastated and their people killed, and that the moral condemnation of the world will be given against their opponent, it is only natural for France or any other country to say that they 1491 would have preferred a few more ships and a few more men. I profoundly disagree with the right hon. Member for West Birmingham on one point. I am absolutely opposed to him when he said that there must be no definition of an aggressor. My reply is that whatever the disadvantages of such a course may be, I am quite certain that unless we get an almost mechanical, automatic definition of an aggressor, and security built around it, we shall never get disarmament, and we shall never get a durable peace. I say with the great respect that we all have for the right hon. Member for West Birmingham that when he destroyed the Protocol of Geneva, in 1924, an international crime was committed. I believe that that was the nearest point the world has ever got to a position in which Disarmament could have been brought about. If the Protocol could have been carried out we should have been much nearer Disarmament and further from war than we are to-day, and, quite possibly, the Nazi régime in Germany would never have succeeded.
I believe that the only possible way by which Disarmament can be brought about is the way advocated from the beginning by the French, that is to say, that a nation for its defence against another nation should not have to depend on its own army and navy alone, but on having the forces of the civilised world on its side so that if it is in the right and obeys the law, it has full security. If a nation realises that its defence lies not in its own right arm alone but to its membership of a community of nations, then, having that security, it will for economic and other reasons be willing to reduce its armaments. That is not the view of the French alone, but of all continental thinkers. Sir Arthur Salter, in his famous book, takes that view, and it is the view of our late Ambassador at Washington set forth in a publication sent to me recently in common, I suppose, with most Members of this House. I disagree with the right hon. Member for West Birmingham when he draws a distinction between what he calls the continental mind and the British mind. The only distinction I recognise is the difference between clear thinking and sloppy thinking, and that cuts across people in all countries. The present Prime Minister was one of the strongest 1492 advocates of the Protocol of Geneva a few years ago. There was a famous French ambassador, Jules Cambon, who saidI know of nothing more dangerous in politics than general, not percise and vague engagements.Unless you have this precise definition then whenever a crisis arises, no one knows what you are going to do and you may get a Foreign Minister with a great legal mind who can be trusted at any moment to find holes in any agreement—unless it is very clearly drawn— and find reasons for not interfering at any time on behalf, say, of China. The Lord President of the Council said once:If the subject is one of high foreign policy, the wrong words may raise issues not settled by dropping pieces of paper in a ballot-box, but by dropping bombs in cities.I entirely agree with that. You must have a system of security, that is to say a firm and definite declaration that nations will agree to settle any dispute by some definite tribunal either by arbitration or by a special tribunal set up for that particular purpose. Then you must define the aggressor. Incidentally, President Roosevelt himself has suggested a definition of an aggressor as the nation which first sends troops across the frontier. But surely the best definition is the nation which either refuses to arbitrate or refuses to obey the decision of a court of arbitration, and then proceeds to attack a nation which has accepted that procedure. I think, perhaps, that is the clearest definition of an aggressor that has ever been drawn up. In other words, it is a nation that refuses to confine its conduct within international law, and merely desires to exercise its own will. That seems to be a clear definition of aggressor. I do not see that it would be easy for a nation like that to put itself technically in the right in the way the right hon. Gentleman suggests. An aggresson having been defined in that way, the nation unjustly attacked has the right to expect, almost automatically, that every other nation will come to its assistance. I do not suggest that the Prime Minister should not have to come to the House and ask for authority to declare; war, but he would get it every time; and if you had a simple definition, it would not be a matter for legal argument, but every 1493 citizen would know where he was, and that his country would be bound to come in and help to stamp out such a war.
I think that the talk about extending our responsibilities is pure nonsense. It is a question of extending our defences. Whether when the time came to defend an attacked nation we should proceed by economic sanctions or by military sanctions is a matter for discussion. Anyhow, I think we ought to take, first, economic and, secondly, if that was not sufficient, military action. If this method were general, war would never occur, because if a nation knew that if it refused arbitration the whole of the other nations would be against it, I do not think they would take that risk. They might try once, but the lesson they would get would satisfy them for the future. Under that system I think nations would be gradually able to reduce their army, navy and air force to a police basis. Perhaps you might have an international police force instead of contingents of national forces. When I said this before I was accused by the First Lord of the Admiralty of being one of a company of blood-thirsty pacifists, worshippers of the heathen gods of Hatred and Vengeance. Well, those are not the gods to which we bow the knee. The goddess we worship, or to whom we pay our respects, is a calmer and nobler divinity. It is quite true that she is girded with a sword. But in her other hand she balances the scales. Her name is Justice and her instrument is law. It has been through the development of law and justice that humanity has emerged gradually from the times of primitive anarchy and barbarism to such civilisation as we possess to-day.
There was a time when the jurisdiction of international justice was co-terminous with the whole of the civilised world. That was the time of the peace and the justice of Rome. Since then it has been broken up by the narrow nationalisms which have developed in modern times. Once again her jurisdiction should spread over national frontiers and become international. Not only should we obey her decrees, but carry them out with the armed forces of the State. I profoundly believe that that is the only way in which we can get disarmament. Since the rejection of the Protocol we have had for eight years conference after conference on disarmament. Every one has failed, as this 1494 Conference will fail unless the provisions for giving security are strengthened in some such way as I have described. I believe that this is the only way by which peace and disarmament can come to this broken, distracted and tragic post-War world.
§ 2.26 p.m.
§ Mr. HAMILTON KERR
I hope that the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), who has just spoken, will not think me discourteous if I do not follow him in his very vivid description of the conditions under the Nazirégime in Germany, or in his very careful study of the principle of aggression. I am sure that the House listened, as it always does, with extreme interest to the polished and classical eloquence which so distinguishes the speeches of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). He praised the action which the Government had taken at Geneva, and I would like, in a humbler way, to add a brief but Sincere commendation of the five propositions which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs enunciated to-day, and of the part that His Majesty's Government has played in the past six months at Geneva. It seems to me that the British Draft faces up for the first time to the true realities of the case for disarmament. Previously propositions for disarmament had confined themselves to classic generalities, such as self-defence or non-aggression. Those had reassured statesmen gathered together over the Conference table, but they failed entirely to reassure those peoples of Europe who suffered so much by blockade or military and aerial aggression in the last War.
The second approach to the subject of disarmament had confined itself to the more technical question of aggressive or non-aggressive weapons. Experts debated amongst themselves whether 4.5 inch guns were strong enough to carve their way through the lines of entrenchments and barbed wire which were the upstanding feature of the last War. But all these approaches to the problem of disarmament failed to recognise what this country has recognised; that a great country like Germany, with martial traditions, but deprived after the War of its navy, of its 1495 overseas possessions, and of its Imperial ambitions, would not long be content to remain a second-class power.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State rightly said that the British Draft was a bold effort. It set out on a new line of progress towards disarmament. Allotting 200,000 men to France satisfied the French claim for security. The French frontier along the Rhine, 100 miles of which is protected by the almost impassable barrier of that river, could easily be held by a force of eight months' training, and not of great military standing, against any force which could be brought against it to-day. By allowing France 200,000 men for the defence of her great Colonial possessions in North and Equatorial Africa, France obtains there a measure of security, and is able to bring from those countries the store-house of her raw materials, the rubber, palm oil, wheat and olives, which feed her industries.
To Germany a force of 200,000 gives that equality of status of which she had so long dreamed, even if it does not give her a force with which she could strike at any nation with impunity. Poland is allotted 200,000 men for the purpose of defending that spinal cord of here economic and industrial life, the Polish Corridor. Coupled with the obligation to defend the Silesian coalfields, which the plebiscite after the War gave her, with the memories of those dark days of 1920, when the Bolshevist forces hammered at the very gates of Warsaw, that equality with France and Germany gives Poland a certain measure of security. The Little Entente, with its allotted force of 350,000 men allows those countries to feel that, combined, they can stand up to the forces of any other one big nation.
To Italy a force of 200,000 gives equality with France, which has been the ambition and the policy of her statesmen. But I would chiefly like to commend the Government for the way in which they have been successful in obtaining support of perhaps two of the most gifted men of executive capabilities in the world today, Signor Mussolini and President Roosevelt. It is entirely due, so a report tells us, to Signor Mussolini's intervention that Herr Hitler has calmed down the somewhat bellicose tone of his former pronouncements. It is due to President 1496 Roosevelt, speaking through his mouthpiece, Mr. Norman Davis, that we have this great step forward in the sphere of disarmament, namely, the fact that America will not longer stand aside in the face of a world crisis. Some of us could have wished that this historic declaration had been more precise, more concrete, but we must be satisfied with the mental picture which undoubtedly has been created in the minds of all of Europe, that behind that declaration stands the whole prestige of America, with its vast wealth, its untapped manpower and its great battle fleet.
I cannot help feeling that, in certain quarters, the French plan of an international force still holds the field. But we must surely realise that when this force actually comes into being most enormous difficulties will present themselves. Imagine, for instance, such a force collecting; differences in language, differences in ammunition, differences in ratio of rations, differences in drill books, and methods of transportation would cause incredible confusion; and on the lines of communication, always the Achilles heel of an army in the field, these difficulties would naturally be accentuated. If statesmen desire an international force to uphold the prestige of the League, surely an Air Force is the only possible force. If a force of some 100 or 200 aeroplanes were stationed at Zurich or Bale or Berne, at the modern rate of progress of a bomber, which is 180 miles an hour, those aeroplanes could be over almost any of the great Capttals of Europe or the industrial centres from which they draw their economic life, within four or five hours. When we realise that in the last War the Germans only possessed 30 bombers for their attacks on London, and when we realise that in the defence of London against those aeroplanes we employed 440 machines, 480 anti-aircraft guns, 700 searchlights and ten balloon apron units it will be seen that a force of from 200 to 300 aeroplanes placed at the disposal of the League of Nations, would be more than sufficient as a guarantee of peace.
The recent American manoeuvres in Panama likewise showed the efficiency of the air arm. At Bejuco, in the Panama sphere, two large bombers actually carried a battery of artillery for 25 miles, 1497 and made it possible for those guns to go into action only half an hour after leaving their starting point. The vast possibilities of aeroplanes in this respect are not yet fully realised. We have seen how only a few years ago, during the crisis in Afghanistan, our own Royal Air Force troop-carrying machines rescued civilian population of Kabul. In the recent crisis in Cyprus large troop carriers were employed with success in the conveyance of our troops to the scene of trouble. If a force is necessary to the League of Nations—and many are doubtful if it is—then an Air Force is the only possible one for the purpose. It is of manageable size, it has a wide range, it is not attached to old traditions like the other services, and it carries out that supreme maxim of war which Napoleon enunciated:Vitesse, vitesse toujours la vitesse."It has the incalculable striking power and speed. I wish to express my Sincere and warm commendation of the splendid way in which the Government have supported the efforts of the League of Nations, both morally and materially, in connection with the problem of disarmament, a problem which must be solved once and for all if the world is to regain lasting peace.
§ 2.40 p.m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Kerr) has given us a picture of an international force and has offered certain comments on the size of the various armies in Europe. I wish he would recollect that the next war will not be like the last war. Wars up to now have been in two dimensions, but the war of the future will be in three dimensions. The old methods will be of no account whatever and the question will be solely a question of what a country can put into the air and what it can put underground. In the consideration of these problems we shall have to use "the part above the neck" if we are to save ourselves and "the part above the neck" ought to show us clearly the dangers of the future. The danger, as far as we are concerned, is that we are no longer an island. The danger is that armies in future will be able to go over each other and under each other both on sea and land. It is with that future in view that we have to address ourselves to the problem.
1498 I listened with profound approval to-day for the first time to the Foreign Secretary. It seemed to me that, coupled with the reservations and comments and provisos of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), the policy laid down by the Government to-day is the only possible policy that we can follow at the present time. I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on the fact that, whether this policy is right or not, he has achieved two things which were necessary if the conduct of our foreign affairs was to recover its ancient prestige in the councils of Europe. First, he has given us once more the moral leadership of Europe and, whatever difficulties may be in the way of fulfilling his proposal, it is obviously the right one. Secondly, he is carrying out his policy in strict conjunction and co-operation with the United States. Nothing in the nature of an international police force can ever take form until we have the certainty of American co-operation; if for no other reason than that we alone are not sufficiently strong to take on the job of being the policeman of Europe. Every sign Since President Roosevelt came into power of further co-operation between England and America, is welcomed by every pacifist and we are all pacifists nowadays. Again emphasising the fact that it is "the part above the neck" that matters, I want, however, to ask the Committee and to ask myself, whether and in how far we are really pacifists. We all give lip service to pacifism but I am not certain that we are all pacifists.
I think, broadly speaking, everybody in this Committee would agree that there are jolly few things that we would fight for, but those things that we would fight for, we would fight for jolly hard. On that basis, I ask myself what is it that interferes with that will to peace which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has said is the only sure guarantee of peace. What is the will to peace? Roughly speaking, I think there are only two countries in Europe to-day which can be said to want war or which are likely to want war and those are Germany and Hungary. We have got all we want; France has all she wants, America wants nothing, and, broadly speaking, only those two nations are likely to want war. But the cause of 1499 war is not wanting war. The cause of war in nearly every case is fear and if you want to create the peace mind, you have to banish fear. The Government policy is, I think, directed towards that end. Disarmament means the attempt to banish fear but the attempt to banish fear cannot be successful until we have civilised the dangerous nations of the world to a higher degree than we have done up to the present.
I have said that there are very few things for which we would fight. One of the things for which I would fight, and I think most people would agree with me, would be to prevent injustice. When you see the sort of injustice that is going on in Germany to-day, the veriest pacifist is converted into an ardent militarist. You have not only to disarm; you have to get a change of mind in the Governments of European countries, at any rate. So long as you have people acting in a mediaeval manner, you cannot trust what they may do in their international relationships. We have had some very varied statements from Germany in recent days. We have had Herr Hitler cooing pacifist sentiments, and we have had Von Papen and Von Neurath going one better than the 1914 school. Whom are we to believe? If we get our armaments limitation and a general convention agreed to by Germany, are we to trust them?
How easy it is to improvise the new arms. Civil aviation merges imperceptibly in those gigantic machines, and I would have the Committee remember that it is not the machine, but how many men can drive the machine, that is of importance in the case of war. You can develop civil aviation, you can train your reserves of pilots, you can acquire your reserves of bombing machines, and nothing is more simple than to conceal from any international control the construction, in sections, of vast guns to fire a hundred miles and shells that can carry from the Continent to London. All that can be done. If a nation is not trusted by its neighbours, if a nation still has the will to war, fear cannot be abandoned, and consequently armaments will continue, and the risk of war. I think the Government have taken the best course, with the proviso that any rearmament of Germany should wait, and 1500 must be deferred until that Government has given, not to us so much as to the neighbours in immediate danger, adequate assurances that they will not be liable to treaty-breaking, irresponsible action. That proviso is essential, and I would ask the Government to bear that in mind when they are dealing with the French and their demand, that they cannot disarm unil they have additional security.
To-day is Friday. On Sunday the mass attack is to take place in Danzig. Already thousands and thousands of Nazis in the whole of East Prussia are crowding into that town for an election, or rather an election farce, such as was visible in Germany only three months ago. I have no doubt of the result of the election. If I were an elector in Danzig, and anti-Nazi, I should not vote. It is all very well, but when you are just being beaten up for voting, take my tip and stop at home. We know what the result of those elections will be, but I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary knows what action he will take when Poland invokes the League of Nations to restore Danzig to the League authority, and to remove Hitler. The difficulty is, in all these problems, that you have to make up your mind some time or another. If you let Danzig go, what about the Corridor? Remember the Anschluss; remember Posen. Nothing worth fighting about, all little things— Schleswig-Holstein, Alsace-Lorraine.
The only chance of preventing these things happening is to take a firm line at first and never to give way to force what you are not prepared to give way to weakness. If you do that, you encourage force. I am sure that every Member of this House wishes that we could get back to six months ago, to a year ago. How gladly then would we have come to terms with German aspirations, some of them legitimate, some of them not. At all events, we should not then have the dread feeling that in doing something of justice to Germany, we were putting under the heel of tyranny people at present free. How gladly would we go back, but it is too late. We cannot rewrite history, but at any rate do not let us re-write the old history of the end of the Roman Empire, continually buying off hordes by concessions to people whose appetite you merely whet by your conciliation.
1501 There is no doubt that the situation which we in this world face to-day is more serious than it has been at any time Since 1&14, and there never has been a time when it was more necessary, for all people of good will, not merely in this country, but throughout the world, to stand together. The League of Nations is one such weapon. I would invite its aid by every means in our power, though I realise that its executive capacity is nil until we have the co-operation of America, in forming an international peace. The League of Nations is only one thing. The British Empire itself must have its mind united, and that greater British Empire which includes America and, I would hope, some of those Scandinavian countries where democracy still survives. We must stand together and not have divided opinions on when to put our foot down, but realise before the demands are made that they will me made, and that either we have to fight Germany now or allow Germany to fight us later on.
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Mr. JANNER
I think all those who are present will agree almost entirely with what the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) has just said. There can be no one who does not commend the action and the activities of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and of those who are working earnestly in the cause of peace and for what we hope will ultimately be the complete success of the League of Nations. No one desires the acquisition of that more earnestly than I do, and I am sure that there is no one in the world who does not desire it in some form or another. I am sure nevertheless, that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if in my representative capacity in this House, I touch again on a subject which is of importance in considering the position so far as Germany is concerned, in the hope that that country, which is seeking for itself the rights of first class citizenship, will grant to those who dwell within its borders the same rights and not treat them as members of a helot class—men and women who have established their right in every branch of life to recognition and appreciation rather than to extermination. The Committee, I am sure, will 1502 join with me in the horror and indignation that still exists in respect of the continued oppression of people of the Jewish race among others which is still being carried on in Germany. Expressions of opinion were given vent to recently in this House from all sides and by people throughout the country, and men and women of eminence have added their profound sentiments of regret to those which have been expressed here as to the conditions which prevail. Herr Hitler has said:It is not wise to rob people of the economic possibility of existence without taking into account the fact that human beings demand the right to live.In the same speech he said:The idea of rendering service to other peoples by destroying the economic life of 65,000,000 people is so absurd that nobody can dare openly champion it to-day.Is that consistent with the action which, is being taken in Germany to-day, if I may use the one specific example, against the Jewish people. What is actually happening? I will quote accounts of a few incidents which have occurred within the recent few weeks, which will satisfy every Member of the Committee that what Herr Hitler was preaching in that speech he is certainly not putting into practice. At Leipzig, Nazis summoned the Jewish doctor Schwer to an ailing person. On his arrival at the appointed place he was assaulted and severely beaten. Jews and aliens who are students of Berlin University are to have red admission cards and German students are to have white cards. This arrangement has been made notwithstanding the recent declaration by the Ministry of Education that foreign students will be made welcome in Germany as in the past. I give these instances from reports which are reliable. Students and Nazi and Stahlhelm detachments ceremoniously burned a number of so-called un-German books in front of Cologne University on Thursday last week. Even the Rector and Senate took part in the proceedings.
If Herr Hitler is honestly speaking pacifism and can be persuaded to believe in it, when will he make a move to stop the carrying out of this type of auto da fé, and use his persuasive powers to make his supporters realise that this is not a correct action for men who seek abroad the principle of first-class citizen- 1503 ship for themselves. All the organisations of office and shop assistants have held a joint conference at which it has been decided to establish a united front excluding Jews completely. The Federation of Men's and Women's Clothing Industries notified its Members in a circular thatComplaints have been made that Jewish firms are describing their products in advertisements and otherwise as German goods or made in Germany. This description, it is objected; is consciously or unconsciously misleading the public. The undersigned are convInced that Jewish firms have every right to feel that they are German firms and to describe themselves as such and the complainants will certainly not object if they describe themselves as German firms for export purposes. But we believe we must recommend Jewish firms not to employ this designation here in order to avoid misunderstandings and complaints.Many years ago in this country a certain apt question was used to describe the feelings of men and women and I think that with a slight variation we might ask, now that this so-called Aryan drive is being made in Germany, in almost similar terms—"When Adam delved and Eve Span, who was then an Aryan J"I appeal to the Foreign Secretary to realise that 500,000 people are at the mercy of those who are now asking for their own rights and to exercise, as I am sure he will, his full influence in remedying a difficulty which occurs in this regard. Let me give a final statement from a Dutch correspondent:Last week a German family from Duisburg arrived in Venlo in the ProvInce of Limburg, having passed the frontier in an automobile. The father was so terribly injured that he had to be taken immediately to the hospital. He was bleeding from the head, arms and legs and was covered with bruises and scratches all over the body. He was interviewed at the hospital by a Dutch reporter. The man, having lived in Germany for 21 years, had served as a soldier on the front throughout the war. He had never concerned himself with politics, as was proved by his holding a passport and visa which, under the present regime, are not given to Marxists or political opponents. On Saturday night (May 13th), at about 2 a.m., people rang the bell at his house and he opened the door. Immediately he received such a terrible blow on the head that he collapsed. He was seized by ten Nazis in uniform who forced him to walk, in night clothes and barefooted, to one of the Brown houses. There he was received by some fifty Nazis. He was stripped, thrown on to a table, be-laboured with the butts of revolvers, and 1504 then thrown down the stairs. More dead than alive, he managed to get up, and crept through the gate, while several bullets were fired after him. He went to the home of a friend who enabled him to flee to Holland in an automobile. What was his crime? A couple of days before, being at Venlo, Holland, he had bought two chickens, killed according to the Jewish rite, and had taken them to Duisburg. And, apparently, this had been betrayed by somebody.He had gone in order to get food, which had been prepared in accordance with his religious observances and which he had been accustomed to respect during the whole of his life. "Shechita," as it is called—that method of slaughter is being prohibited throughout Germany, and meat prepared in that manner is being stopped from going into the country. Religious oppression is unjustifiable, and no sane thinking person would commend or tolerate it. I could continue giving cases, but there are so many cases, that it would be impossible within the short space of time at my disposal to describe many of them.
I should like to mention one thing which is very significant. In Germany today even children of immature age who go to German schools and who happen to be Jewish are asked to rise and sing Nazi songs which are anti-Jewish and invite violence against their own fathers and mothers. If that is the spirit which prevails I can hardly believe that the nation can be thoroughly genuine in asking for peace with its fellow nations. I hope it is genuine, and I hope that Herr Hitler has realised at long last that humanity counts for something, that human beings should not be treated in that way, and that he will once again bring into the full fold of the German nation the many Jewish people who in the past have been so anxious to do their best in the service of the State and in the service of their fellow men as a whole, and who in the future would do very much more than can possibly be conceived by those who are now persecuting them. I am sure the Committee will realise that it is with a heart very oppressed by the horrors of these indignities that I have been compelled to say what I have said.
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ Captain HAROLD BALFOUR
In the very few minutes which I intend to occupy I want to refer to the speech of the right 1505 hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, and the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). One common feature of those three speeches was that all those three right hon. Gentlemen said that fundamentally the success of disarmament depended on the will for peace, and they used the simile of the symptom of arms and the disease of war. The fifth proposition of the Foreign Secretary's five propositions was that it was a necessary condition of European policy that the present (mistrust must be dissipated. I do not think there can be anybody on any side of the Committee who would disagree with that principle, but I feel that we are deluding ourselves as regards European disarmament, and deceiving others, for I think that as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) said, there is often more hypocrisy in ourselves in what we say about disarmament than about most other political subjects.
When the Leader of the Opposition touched on the subject of the Soviet Union of Russia he said he might probably be on rather delicate ground, and that people might blame him for bringing in Russia. I do not think people will blame him for dragging Russia into this. Debate, because Russia is an absolutely vital factor in the question of European disarmament. I may differ with the right hon. Gentleman as to how that problem is to be solved, but it is a grave problem, and one cannot conceive those countries in Eastern Europe bordering on Russia agreeing to any great measure of disarmament until the question of the Russia forces and the menace by a Russian air fleet is dealt with. In the Draft Convention we agree to limit ourselves to, I think, 500 aeroplanes. We are to have 500 aeroplanes, with certain further reserves for overseas police work, and other European countries are not allowed to go above that figure, but unless Russia comes into this disarmament scheme in some form or other we shall still have her free on the flank as a menace to every European country, and as the range of aircraft increases so will the range of the menace of Russia increase.
I have here a Russian paper, the "Izvestia" for 4th May, dealing with the May Day celebrations. There is a 1506 picture in it of the Russian Air Fleet showing a number of 4-engined Tougeloff planes, which are extremely powerful long-range bombers. I can count 158 of them, and there are obviously further aeroplanes in the distance. There is no reason to think that the photograph is a fake. People who have been over to Russia have seen the large number of bombing aeroplanes that are being built there. If any hon. Member likes to say that the photograph is a fake, all right, but the spirit there is not a fake. We are bound to reckon Russia as a menace. If you like to say that this is false information and propaganda for the internal conduct of affairs in Russia, that is an indication of the dangerous spirit that is bound to wreck disarmament in Europe. If this is an actual photograph, as I believe it is, it shows that Russia has on the Eastern frontiers of Europe one of the greatest Air Fleets of any country to-day. If the draft Disarmament Convention came into force, then the actual greatest Air Fleet of any country in Europe would be that of Russia.
I submit that we are playing the fool in trying to deal with European disarmament until we have recognised that the problem of Russian disarmament must be tackled. How it is to be tackled I cannot endeavour to elaborate in any way. We all have different views, and I shall not go into that question. The inter-nationalisation of civil aviation would be no solution because that proposition is full of fallacies. The most common fallacy is that an international civil aviation force would be available at any moment to strike at an aggressor, because the trouble is that the international force would be spread over the air lines throughout the various European States and, while this motley armada was being collected, the aggressor would have matters all his own way. There is no hope for the protection of civilised countries by the internationalisation of civil aviation. I believe that the only hope is by a codification of the laws of air warfare, just as we have had codification of the laws of warfare upon land and sea. If we can work along the lines of codification, I believe that we might reduce the menace of air warfare. Neverthless, to proceed along the lines of codification of the laws of air warfare, in order to reduce the menace to the civilian populations, would be as useless, without tak- 1507 ing into consideration the Russian air forces, as it is to try to proceed with the present Draft Convention without equally taking into account the Russian position.
§ 3.14 p.m.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
The great vice of Debates in the House of Commons, as all of us know to our cost, is the repetition of speeches, one Member repeating points from another's speech. I do not propose to cover the ground which has been trod by others; indeed, the views which I wished to express have been most admirably stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), with whom I usually find myself in profound disagreement, but whose doctrines upon the subjects with which he has been dealing to-day seemed to be as wise in substance as they were forceful in expression; and also the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton), which represented, I believe, the standpoint of all Liberals on the great matters which have been under discussion.
The Debate has been dealing mainly with the two Conferences which are occupying the mind of the public in this country and in all countries—the Disarmament Conference, which has been labouring at its difficult task for so long, and the World Economic Conference, which is about to meet in order to engage upon tasks fully as difficult. The two are closely connected. It has been emphasised from America and from elsewhere that the success of the Disarmament Conference will greatly conduce to the success of the Economic Conference, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland pointed out, the success of the Economic Conference is also essential to secure the purpose which the Disarmament Conference has in view. If mutual antagonisms continue in matters of trade, if there is perpetuation of commercial friction and international difficulty, then mutual animosities will prevail in the sphere of armaments also. The two Conferences will certainly overlap in time, and at bottom they overlap also in their purpose.
There has been at Geneva of late a British initiative, which has been men- 1508 tioned by the Foreign Secretary to-day, and the fact that Britain has taken the lead there is a source of gratification to all of us, no matter in what part of the House we may sit. But the question arises whether there is likely to be a similar British initiative at the other Conference which is to meet next month, and the question to which I would address myself in the first instance, and the inquiry which I would address to the Government, is whether the British Government is prepared to take an initiative there along the lines of the report of the Experts' Committee. Are we to understand that the report of that Commiteee, on which our own Government was represented by able officials, represents the policy which His Majesty's Government is to pursue there? Only a short time ago in this Chamber the Foreign Secretary, in reply to some observations made by hon. Members opposite, laid the strongest emphasis upon the weight of authority which this Experts' Committee commanded. He said, with much forensic gesture and emphasis:I hold in my hand, for example, the report of the experts who formed the committee appointed by the League of Nations to make a preliminary study of the problems which might he expected to come before the Monetary and Economic Conference. It was, undoubtedly, a body of most exceptional authority. It contained certainly some of the best known authorities on this sort of subject in the world. It produced a report which was entirely unanimous. It was not limited to people appointed by countries which are members of the League, but included very distinguished members of the United States."—[OFFICIAL (REPORT, 9th May, 1933; cols. 1426–7; Vol. 277.]Then, basing himself upon that authority, the Foreign Secretary proceeded to demolish the arguments of hon. Members opposite. I would ask him whether he regards this authority as applying to the whole report, and as indicating the course which the Government will take when they come to meet the Governments of other nations in this Conference. The experts laid the greatest emphasis upon this point. I would venture to make this one quotation, because it summarises the whole of the main part of the experts' report, and indicates what should be in our view the essential purpose of the Conference. They say:Every country seeks to defend its economy by opposing restrictions on imports, which in the end involve a contraction in 1509 its exports. All seek to sell but not to buy. Such a policy must inevitably lead to increasing paralysis of international trade. Governments should set themselves to reestablish the normal interchange of commodities. In the first instance every effort should be made to secure a general agreement for the progressive relaxation, and the complete abrogation at the earliest possible date, of the emergency measures—prohibitions, quotas, etc.—imposed as a result of the crisis.The Foreign Secretary himself with the greatest emphasis urged that the Experts Committee was to be regarded as authoritative, that the Report was unanimous and that it was signed by the persons most qualified to speak of any in the world. Basing myself upon his authority, I have quoted a well-known passage from the report which urged that it was essential, if the Conference is to succeed, that the present restrictions upon trade should be removed, in particular that quotas should be abolished and other restrictions should be reduced. His able colleague who commands the support in such large measure of numbers of Members in the House, the Minister of Agriculture, on the 18th of this month propounded precisely the opposite doctrine to that of the experts and that which we were hoping would be the policy of the Government. Speaking at a meeting of the Council of Agriculture for England, a very authoritative and representative body, he ended his speech with these two sentences:He thought that it was certain that the Government was on the right lines. The organisation of the producers at home and the restriction of imports from abroad were the two cardinal points of their policy, and restriction by every means, whether of tariff, embargo or quota, would be used.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
That was greeted by cheers, as it is greeted by cheers to-day. I put this dilemma to the Foreign Secretary. Is the policy of the Experts Committee or is the policy of the Minister of Agriculture to be that of His Majesty's Government? I do not object so much to the fact that the Government should not produce in detail in advance their policy for the Economic Conference. What I object to is that they should be propounding at one and the same time two contradictory plans. British illogicality is, as we all know, with our usual self complacency, a great virtue. The House was amused by and endorsed 1510 a quotation given by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) from a book by Senor Madariaga, a statesman who has the quality of wit equalled only by his self-sacrificing devotion to all great causes. But that British illogicality can be carried too far if at one and the same time we declare that the report of the Experts Committee is authoritative and should be pursued, a report which says emphatically that we should aim at the removal of restrictions and the abolition of quotas, and at the same time endorse the views of a member of the Cabinet who says the Government is right to use by every means restriction, whether by tariff or by quota.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Major Elliot)
I understand that the right hon. Gentleman has gone back upon the pledge on which he was returned when he claimed a free hand with regard to restriction of imports. He has now gone back from that position, and will he, therefore, submit himself to his constituents again and get a release from the pledge which he then gave?
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
That is very characteristic of my right hon. and gallant Friend's methods of evasion, but I will gladly give a defence of the action upon which he challenges me. I never pledged myself at any time to adopt any of those measures. What I said was that if in this emergency it should be found necessary to adopt any methods of restriction for purely a temporary purpose, I should not rule them out on the ground of principle, and that I pursued. For the emergency and for the moment I did consent to various measures, but it is a very different thing, when you come to the World Economic Conference where all nations are gathering together to agree mutually upon a permanent policy and where you have experts proposing a definite course, to say that in defiance of that advice you are going to pursue an opposite policy. I again ask the question of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman: Is there, or is there not, an inconsistency between his view and the passage which I read from the Report of the experts? If there is an inconsistency, how does he propose to resolve it? Are the British Government going into the Conference with the main purpose of securing the general abolition 1511 of all restrictions and quotas, or are they going into the Conference with the main purposes of maintaining the system of quotas on all or many agricultural commodities imported into the country in order to maintain the security of British agriculture?.
I am very unwilling to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I will say, in the first place, that under the emergency under which he claimed he was acting, I have also a right to claim that I am acting. Consequently, there is no inconsistency between our view, and there is justification for everything I said in the Draft Annotated Agenda of the experts to which he has referred.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman takes his stand upon that, he will accept the sentence which I have quoted, namely,Every effort should be made to secure general agreement for the progressive relaxation, and the complete abrogation at the earliest possible date, of the emergency measures—prohibitions, quotas, etc.—imposed as a result of the crisis.I understand him to accede to that. We can assume that for the measures adopted for the purposes of the crisis he can get some justification from the Report of the Committee with regard to stocks and so forth, but he cannot have any justification for a permanent policy which assumes the regulation by the Governments of the world of agricultural production and the allocation of quotas to different countries. He cannot get any justification for that from the Report of this Committee. On the contrary, the whole emphasis of this Report is precisely in the opposite direction, and passages occur again and again which condemn roundly the policy of economic nationalism, which is that with which my right hon. and gallant Friend is closely connected. That is the one observation which I desire to make with regard to the World Economic Conference. British illogicality can be carried too far, if, on the one hand, our Government are all in favour of abolishing the quota system and, on the other hand, hold that that should be done on the one condition that the quota system should be maintained and extended.
I confess that I regard the prospects of the Economic Conference with some 1512 concern, when I remember that the British Delegation is to be headed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is and has been all his life one of the strongest Protectionists in this country. The school which he represents, prevalent as it is in the various countries of the world, has very nearly brought the whole world to ruin, and if it continues in its activities and if it succeeds in its purpose at the World Economic Conference, it is certain that the world will be brought completely to disaster. Our one hope is probably in the smaller Powers that will be represented at the Conference, Powers like Belgium, Holland and the Scandinavian countries, which have more enlightened views upon these matters. It may be that we shall get effective assistance from the United States, for the American Secretary of State, Mr. Hull, a few days ago made an official public pronouncement in which he used these words—This country (meaning America) had been one of the leaders in the movement recognised in recent years as economic nationalism, and now that every nation, as a result, finds itself flat on its back economically, it was high time to recognise that American responsibility involved leadership in the movement in the opposite direction.Therefore, we may get some effective support from that quarter. The Foreign Secretary said to-day that no one now-adays would venture in this House to quote the authority of Adam Smith and Ricardo. That is quite true, not because they are too remote, but because they are too modern for most, or for many, hon. Members, whose economics really are pre-Adamite and go back to the mercantilist system of the 17th and 18th centuries.
On the question of the Disarmament Conference, we shall perhaps find a larger measure of complete agreement in the various quarters of the House. The budgetary Committee of the League of Nations reported, I think yesterday or two or three days ago, that they found that the annual expenditure of the world upon armaments was in the neighbourhood of £880,000,000. After the Covenant of the League, after the Kellogg Pact, the nations of the world are spending on armaments £880,000,000 a year, about £2,500,000 a day. The hopes of the whole world are still centered in the Disarmament Conference at Geneva. We have not abandoned hope. I entirely 1513 concur with the Foreign Secretary in his expression of gratitude to President Roosevelt for his recent intervention, which I am sure the whole House of Commons will be glad to endorse. The President has no doubt gone as far as possible under the American Constitution in the way of co-operation, but necessarily the statement falls short of the security which is desired by France and other countries. It is only a contingent assurance, which they cannot accept as a sufficient guarantee against an actual danger.
I concur with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham that this country cannot engage in further military commitments. The Locarno Treaty has itself involved us in tremendous risks. I am one of the five surviving members in this House of the Cabinet which had the duty of engaging this country in the great War in July 1914. The decisive factor in the minds of many of us then, indeed I think in the minds of most of us, was the guarantee that had been given long long before to maintain, if necessary by force of arms, the independence of Belgium; and we must be exceedingly careful lest we commit ourselves in any way in a fashion that will again bring upon this country such a terrific sacrifice, if by any means it can be avoided. The right course is that propounded by the right hon. Gentleman, that step by step physical armaments should be reduced and, simultaneously, moral disarmament in the countries of Europe should rise to meet it.
The new situation in Germany undoubtedly has brought with it a very grave increase in our difficulties. Once set going, a militarist movement may be hard to check, and the rulers of Germany even with good will may find it hard to check it. Light a fire and it creates its own draught. And when we find, as is the case to-day, that Germany is using all possible means to rouse a militarist spirit, the schools, the universities, the power of literature, the theatre, the cinema and broadcasting, when it suppresses all counter tendencies which would teach the people what are the realities of war, it is likely to breed a population trained to war, its mind filled with the philosophy of war, despising the ideals of peace, which must be a danger to all its neighbours. Such a course, if pursued, 1514 will bring their own country to ruin again just as it was brought to ruin in 1919. None of us desire that. We desire to see a Germany which is equal, prosperous, great and free, but such a Germany must be a Germany which is peaceful and friendly. Much has been heard from the German side as to equality of status. Equality of status may be established by a Convention signed at Geneva, which depends on the formal assent of Governments, but moral equality depends on a nation's own acts, and it is granted or withheld only by the general opinion of mankind; and any nation which engages in religious or racial intolerance and persecution, which fosters a spirit of militarism and rejects the ideals of peace, such a nation, by being a menace to the peace and tranquillity of the world, places itself in a position of moral inferiority by its own act.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
We should have been delighted if the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) had spoken earlier in the Debate, and had turned our attention to the Agenda of the World Economic Conference which we had desired to discuss. At this time in the afternoon it is too late to attempt an examination of the questions which have been addressed to the Government, and I will therefore content myself with making-reference to one or two points of the model expository speech which we heard from the Foreign Secretary. There may be some regret at some of its conclusions and his exposition of the attitude taken up by several of the parties at the Geneva Conference, but we do recognise that to-day the House has not lacked a precise statement on the events of the last few days. The right hon. Gentleman stated that America, it seemed to be to his regret, was not prepared to deal with the question of security just now. However, the right hon. Gentleman appeared to be content with the position, and was prepared to show some tolerance towards the American point of view, and suggested that, despite the delay in coming to grips with this problem of security, the statement of Mr. Norman Davis would go some way towards satisfying the demand for security.
I feel sure that on this side of the House, and, indeed, in all parts of the House, there is a recognition that the 1515 American attitude is not entirely a question of viewing the military necessities of Europe as much as a geographical isolation from Europe. We ourselves, too, share in that isolation, and our views must consequently be not quite so intimate, not quite so responsive to the demand made by France, whose position in Europe renders her especially susceptible to this, and compels her almost to make a demand that, whatever measure of disarmament is to be achieved, she is to be granted security. It is quite understandable from her geographical position, and is not entirely to be put down to her Gaelic or other temperamental differences.
The right hon. Gentleman then told us that the American people had now been faced with a new definition of the term "neutrality," and we welcome the appearance of this new definition and this new relation as evidence that there is, after all, a greater measure of mutuality on all these things than is generally assumed. There is no possibility of long-sustained impartiality in the world. People must be on the one side or the other, and neutrality which is entirely independent, remote, and aloof from a state of actual conflict in any part of the world, is no longer possible. We believe that these new problems have got to be solved, and I am sure I am expressing the opinion of my right hon. Friend and those who support him on this side that we do insist that this measure of security should not be unduly withheld. We believe that without security there is no possibility of disarmament.
While we on this side to-day welcome the view of the Foreign Minister that the British draft Convention is likely to be approved and accepted as a basis of a scheme of Disarmament, we should like the House to be assured that we are not discussing Disarmament merely on the basis of figures. After all, Disarmament is a means to an end, and the end is peace and we ought not to be devoting ourselves to an examination of figures, a weighing of proportions and assessment of claims to this and that kind of armament, and forgetting the essential principle of peace itself. We would like the question of peace not to be lost sight of, but to be always present when this question of Disarmament is being dis- 1516 cussed, or questions of proportions and figures might lead us away from the very spirit of peace which it is our mutual object to serve. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) was not quite at his best when examining the speech of the Leader of the Opposition to-day. He did not do justice either to himself or to my right hon. Friend, for having declared that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) had said little that was relevant to the Debate, he himself spent the greater part of his time in an unsuccessful attempt to controvert previous statements which the Leader of the Opposition had put forward by way of argument.
The Debate, I think, has served as a prelude to another Debate and that point was made by the right hon. Member for Darwen. After all, we gave notice that we intended to speak on the Economic Conference to-day. On some day, on the Adjournment, we shall invite the House to join us again in a fuller discussion of the Conference. The right hon. Gentleman told us that the question of disarmament and of world peace is a matter, not of getting rid of the symptoms, but of curing the disease itself. It is the disease that we would like to examine. The hon. and gallant Member for Thanet (Capt. Balfour), who speaks with authority on air matters, referred to the menace of Russia, and as evidence of that mentioned a photograph of 128 aeroplanes in the air simultaneously, the admiration of a large crowd of people in Moscow. Russia herself believes that she is being menaced, and as security she insists upon having the largest possible armed force which she can command, and especially an air force.
Why is it that Russia has armed herself to her fullest capacity, and why is it that we find it so difficult to disarm? Underlying all is the economic conflict, which dominates us in every way. In less than three weeks 60 nations will be represented at the World Economic Conference. They are to discuss, not disarmament, not military arrangements, not even the question of the use of armaments, but the possibility of saving civilisation itself. They are not to battle against poverty, not to battle against the niggardliness of nature. These 60 1517 nations, to be represented in this great centre of finance and commerce, are coming here to fight the battle against plenty. The world is bursting with excess of all good things, and we have not yet found individual or collective wisdom to deal with the matter. It is only by collective wisdom that we shall succeed in solving the problem. I apologise to the Foreign Secretary for having taken up so much time, but I give him warning that on the Adjournment at an early date we shall raise this question again.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I would briefly express my thanks to the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken for his very kind references to myself, though I must say that I thought it was a poor reward to be told that the reprieve is for only the matter of a day, and that the Foreign Office Vote may be put on the Paper again. It is literally the case that the speech of the Leader of the Opposition travelled from China to Peru, because he had very relevant questions to put both about the Far East and about South America. I am sure that he will not expect me, in the few minutes that remain to deal with every point, important as it was, that he raised, but I can assure him that if he thinks it his duty to put the Foreign Office Vote down again I shall do my best to give him satisfaction.
At a later stage of the Debate to-day the centre of interest was turned in another direction, and I must not allow these proceedings to close without making one reference to it. The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) intervened to-day, as he does on every possible occasion, for the purpose of showing how justified he was in leaving the Government at a particular moment. I am not sure that the whole country is as interested in this subject as the right hon. Gentleman naturally is himself. I am far from saying that he should not take every opportunity of explaining how exactly it came about. I have in my hand an extract from a speech of? his passed to me by a Member of the present House, a Member with whom I am in very general sympathy, and this was the 1518 language which was employed by my right hon. Friend:The people are called upon to give or withhold their trust in a Government composed of men of all parties, to give us or to withhold a mandate to take whatever measures, no matter what might be their nature, which the present emergency might be found to require.I could understand the view that the emergency automatically ceased when my right hon. Friend withdrew from the Government, but I know of no other reason in history or nature, why it should be supposed to have suddenly come to a close just at the moment when to my Sincere regret, my right hon. Friend left. He has done to-day what he seldom does; he has not quoted quite correctly, and, as he was quoting me, I found it out. We are all perfectly ready to hear other people misquoted, but we are sensitive when it applies to ourselves. It is quite true that the other day I made reference to the Experts' Report, but I did not invite everybody to consider every word of it as Holy Writ. I referred to it for the purpose of showing the view of those distinguished men—and they are very distinguished men—on the opinion which was expressed in a previous Foreign Office Debate; of showing that the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, that the raising of commodity prices would inflict grave injury upon the wage-earners and the working-class, was not a view which commended itself to these experts. I may be permitted to say, and I think it it strictly in order, that I have Since ascertained that very high authorities also take a different view. I see, for example, that the late Mr. William Graham, used this language when President of the Board of Trade and a colleague of the right hon. Gentleman opposite speaking in the House of Commons on 24th July, 1930:There is not the least doubt that this accumulation of forces against our trade has added very largely to the numbers of the unemployed and a most important contributory factor has been the downward plunge of commodity prices Since October or November of last year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th July, 1930, col. 2486, Vol. 241.]I find that when the Macmillan Committee presented its masterly Report in June, 1931, there were certain gentlemen—Sir Thomas Allen and Mr. Ernest 1519 Bevin—who signed with reservations. They said:We have signed Addendum 1…but while approving of the general approach to the subject, we do not necessarily agree with every statement therein. We think it vitally important to emphasise that to acquiesce in the present or a lower wholesale price level with the idea of adjusting everything down to it is fatal. We are in full agreement that the only possible policy is to try to raise the wholesale price level and to maintain or improve the standard of life.In order that we may realise the full extent of the isolation of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, I add one other quotation: The General Council of the Trade Union Congress, along with another body submitted a statement to the British Government in July, 1932. In the course of it, dealing with price levels, the General Council of the Trade Union Congress declared:The decisions of the Conference (the Ottawa Conference) should be such as to facilitate international action designed to bring about a recovery in the level of wholesale prices. Both for the producer of primary products and for the manufacturer, the continuous fall in the price level must mean continuous stagnation while for the workers in every country"—it was about the workers that the Leader of the Opposition, very Sincerely I am sure, was particularly anxious—the result is increasing unemployment and privation.That was the point to which I made reference when I quoted the experts the other day, but without claiming that what those experts say is right, even though you have the most unusual experience of all the experts saying the same thing, it is to be observed that there are passages in the report which would appear entirely to justify the Minister of Agriculture and make it impossible to adopt the very hard and fast line which would condemn all restrictions as injurious and welcome all relaxation as necessarily beneficial.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The right hon. Gentleman misquoted me, I thought, because he said I had made a reference to the Ex- 1520 perts' Report, alleging that everything in that report was necessarily to be accepted as right.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
Oh, no, I did not say that. I quoted the right hon. Gentleman's own words from the OFFICIAL REPORT to indicate that those opinions carried an immense weight of authority, and I asked whether he thought that authority was confined to that particular point only.
§ Sir J. SIMON
As I say, these experts, on page 8 of the Report, declare thatthe question requires to be considered whether, particularly in the case of certain primary commodities where large stocks are overhanging the markets, a better level of prices could not be obtained by the regulation of exports or production.Not only so, but on page 32 there is a passage which says, with reference to economic agreements thatthey have represented an element of order in the midst of disorder, and have constituted what one might describe as islands of safety. They have effectively contributed in the case of certain products and certain countries to the prevention of conflicts and reprisals and the avoidance of tariff increases.It must be gall and wormwood to my right hon. Friend to learn that any body of experts, still more unanimously, recognises that there may be cases in which economic agreements which involve restrictions have actually resulted in the avoidance of tariff increases. I cannot be expected at this moment to answer more at length, but I would say, about our attitude to the Economic Conference, that we do not go into it as dogmatists at all, that we repudiate dogmatism, and that we believe we are much more likely to secure the results which we all desire if, as a matter of fact, we go into it, not indeed with an open mind, but with a mind a? well stored as we can, but at the same time with the determination to give as well as to take, to listen as well as to teach, and, by international cooperation, to do something to restore prosperity to the world.
May I say, in conclusion, how very warmly I agree with what the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) said just now? The disarmament question must not be regarded as though it were a sort of auctioneer's catalogue of guns, calibres, and details of that sort. You 1521 have to include all that before you have got an agreement, because after all you cannot disarm unless you define arms and count numbers, but that is not the substance of the thing. The substance of the thing is something which justifies the Opposition in claiming that you want to hold disarmament and economic questions as in the same field. They are right. The two thing are inextricably interwoven, because it is only if you can get the world to face the essential unity of the nations and the extent to which we are, in fact, members one of another, both in the matter of armaments and in the matter of economic relations, that you will ever hope to bring in some sort of comfort and prosperity to a very stricken earth.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.—[Captain Margesson.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at One Minute after Four o'Clock until Monday next, 29th May.