§ 3.53 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir John Simon)
I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn."
The arrangement which has been made that on our reassembling to-day there should be this opportunity for discussing the international situation and the present position in regard to Disarmament will, I feel sure, be generally approved. That situation is undoubtedly serious. But deplorably exaggerated and excited language has been used about it by some people and in some places outside this House, and it is very necessary that the House of Commons, in free debate, should examine it seriously and with clear eyes, but calmly and fairly. The language of panic is not only unjustified in itself, but it is utterly foreign to the fundamental steadiness and good sense of the British people.
The Government therefore welcome the opportunity of laying before the House and the country the true facts of the situation and of initiating a discussion, as I propose to do, on Britain's attitude in regard to it. There are some illusions that we want to dissipate. There is help in our heavy task that we shall be glad to receive from any quarter. And, if there be any critics, well, we are anxious to meet them here, face to face. When the position and action of the Government are plainly stated and fairly judged, there will be no doubt in the mind of any reasonable man or woman that our own devotion and efforts in the cause of Disarmament have been constant and sincere.
It is just over three weeks ago that Germany, for the second time, withdrew from the Disarmament Conference, and this time she has given notice of her intention—an intention which cannot be carried out for at least two years—to leave the League of Nations. I would call the attention of the House to this significant association of facts. That announcement was immediately accompanied by a long and carefully drafted "Appeal to the German people"; by an elaborate proclamation by Chancellor Hitler; and by a decision which showed that all arrangements had already been made to dissolve the Ger- 42 man Reichstag and to hold new elections, under conditions which Government candidates in this country might well envy, on 12th November.
Now these things necessarily involve previous consultation and long and mature preparation. It is obvious, therefore, that the idea, if it ever has been entertained in any quarter, that the proceedings at Geneva of the Bureau on the 14th October were the cause of the German announcement on that very morning, is quite untenable. Indeed, I read in the papers to-day a very important statement, which was made yesterday in Berlin by the German Foreign Minister, which in itself implied that the step that had been taken is one that had been taken after very long reflection.
And, in fact, there was nothing in the proceedings of the Bureau on 14th October which, could justify the adoption of shock tactics of that nature. Anyone at all familiar with the working of the Disarmament Conference under the Presidency of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clay Cross (Mr. A. Henderson) knows that that is so, for those proceedings, the record of which, as the House knows, has been printed in the White Paper, were similar in their nature to proceedings which have taken place more than once in the course of the work over which the right hon. Gentleman presides. That reason, therefore, may be dismissed. But the important thing is not to spend our time discussing the alleged reasons. The important thing is for us to examine with candour what is Germany's real reason, what is really at the back of Germany's mind which causes Germany to do this, and for that purpose it is necessary to survey the course of preceding events.
I will be as brief as I can be, but I think I shall be serving the House if I state, in due order of date, a number of important steps which took place at Geneva. The Disarmament Conference, the calling of which is contemplated in the Covenant itself, first assembled as long ago as February, 1932. There were high hopes that it would reach definite results without great delay, for the Preparatory Commission, in the work of which every 43 previous Government of this country, of whatever complexion, since 1925 had taken an active part, had spent many years in going over the ground, and with much labour had produced a schedule of many clauses—a schedule, I am bound to say, which had this shortcoming, that wherever figures were needed, the schedule consisted of nothing but blanks. The moment that we pass away from general declarations to real business, the essence of any Disarmament Convention that will operate must be figures, sizes and dates. An example, in passing, is furnished by the Naval Treaties of Washington and London.
This preparatory scheme—I do not wish to belittle the work, but we must face the facts—had another very great defect. If hon. Members will look at it and examine Article 53, they will find that this preparatory scheme kept alive the provisions of the Peace Treaties as regards limitation of armaments, the provisions in Part V of the Treaty of Versailles with regard to Germany, for example, and for that reason Germany gave notice before ever the Disarmament Conference met that she would not accept the draft scheme. For various reasons this first essay was soon discarded by general consent. The moral to be drawn from it is not, indeed, that the men of all parties through all that work and long labour were reckless and foolish, but they found it difficult to formulate the definite terms of an agreement dealing with this vital subject to which nations big and small all over the world could agree.
As the discussions proceeded at Geneva, various alternative documents and declarations of a general character made their appearance. There was the British programme of work. There was the Hoover plan. There were two documents from the French which put the necessity for security in the forefront, and there were others. Meanwhile, the Disarmament Conference adopted, with practical unanimity, a number of general propositions. I mention two—the resolution that international disarmament by agreement must proceed by stages. Everyone voted for that, Germany voted for it. Then, again, there was the resolution which approved the method of what was called qualitative limitation, 44 that is to say, that you should proscribe certain types of weapons which are specifically to be regarded as offensive, the abolition of which, therefore, may be supposed to assist the defence against the attack.
Those were general resolutions, but general resolutions, though they stimulate for a time, do not in themselves lead to concrete agreement on essential details. It is the details that count, and the Disarmament Conference was in danger of losing its way. It was beginning, I think, to splash a little aimlessly about when it was given a new and a definite direction last March by the production of a British Draft Convention. I am not here in the least to blow the trumpet of the British Draft Convention, and to claim all the credit for it, but I do say that not only was that draft the result of long and detailed work in the Foreign Office and the Cabinet, but it was a draft which has been of immense service to every practical worker for Disarmament at Geneva ever since. It was presented to the Conference by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 16th March. It was subsequently expounded by me both at Geneva and in the House of Commons, and, of course, it was made available in the form of a White Paper.
May I remind the House of two features of that British draft which constituted much of its value? The contents of the British plan were selected with a view to suggesting what appeared to be, as nearly as possible, the probable greatest measure of attainable general consent. We put it forward knowing that it contained some provisions which, as yet, were not acceptable, let us say, to A or to B. but in the hope that by co-operation and mutual concession it might he welded into an agreed whole. And the special merits of that plan, as we thought, were first, that it presented the picture of a complete settlement, because if you go on discussing a particular corner of the Draft Treaty you will get people refusing to consider it until they know how they are to be treated in another corner. This was a picture of a complete settlement, though in some places gaps naturally had to be filled in. The second feature of it was that it had the boldness and originality to suggest and to write down numerical limits on such matters as 45 military effectives and aeroplanes where the principal countries of Europe were concerned. Of course, we never claimed that it was verbally inspired. The Prime Minister was careful to say that our plan was subject to amendment, and might need alteration, and in these circumstances it was adopted by the General Commission of the Conference, first as "a basis for subsequent discussions" and later, on June 8th" as the basis of the future Convention."
Let me make one other observation about the plan. It was universally regarded at Geneva as a real and valuable contribution towards world Disarmament. It was accepted in principle by both France and Germany, and it was the first time, to the best of my belief, that has ever happened in these Disarmament discussions. It was widely welcomed in debate here in the House of Commons, and I recall that it was the subject of congratulations addressed to the Government by the executive committee of the League of Nations Union. I do not wish to be unduly complacent, but I admit that until quite recently I had supposed that this British draft had been generally regarded as, at any rate, a good and useful piece of work. Certainly the President of the Conference has relied upon it as a basis ever since.
I am sorry to make a reference to a Member of the House who is not here, but I read that, in a particularly violent speech at Bristol on 28th October, the hon. and learned Member for Bristol East (Sir S. Cripps), referring to the British draft, used these words:We have offered a Disarmament Convention which might well make the gods laugh if they desired the destruction of the human race.Well, Sir, the hon. and learned Member desires the destruction of so many things, that I can form no sort of estimate of where he wants to stop; but we are really entitled to know, I think, in this Debate where the official Opposition stands in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition will, perhaps, let us know. in the course of his speech, whether on this point he has capitulated to his learned and dictatorial colleague.
Although the British draft was, after long debate, adopted without dissent on what at Geneva was called its First Reading—and it takes a 46 great deal longer at Genes a than First Readings do in this House—though that was so, that discussion produced a crop of reservations and qualifications, most of them in general terms, from a large number of other Powers, which was very disappointing. No progress at all was made in the essential matter of agreeing numbers, and by the end of June it was so clear that it would be impossible to enter upon the Second Reading of the draft in the General Commission, that it was decided to adjourn the Conference until October, in order to give an opportunity for conversations between various interested Governments. I ask the House therefore to note that the proposal for conversations between certain Powers was not a malign conspiracy privately entered into by three or four great Powers. It was the decision, the request, of the Conference itself. The President was at the same time requested to use his best endeavours to harmonise the views of various Powers, and for this purpose he visited Paris and Rome and Berlin as well as holding conferences in London with my-self and other representatives of the British Government.
§ Sir J. SIMON
He is one of the latest additions to the party opposite, the right hon. Member for Clay Cross who, I have no doubt, the hon. Member now recognises as his leader. The President made a report to the Bureau on 9th October, and it showed that while he had certainly worked hard and accomplished useful work, a very formidable list of matters, including some most difficult and important questions, were. still without any agreed solution at all.
I come to the question of how this affects Germany, because I most wholeheartedly agree with the view that what we have to do is to see inside the mind of those in Germany—whatever we may think of what they have done—and try to understand why it is that they have exhibited this vehement resentment. Well, all this consumption of time without achieved result was not only deeply distressing to all who were working sincerely for agreed Disarmament, but it must have made Germany increasingly impatient. We all of us, I hope, have the 47 good sense and generosity to see that that is not to be wondered at. While it is untrue to say that Germany's disarmament under the Peace Treaties was conditional upon the prompt achievement of general disarmament by others at a given date, it is clear, it is clear on the face of the Treaties, it is clear in the Clemenceau letter, that German disarmament provided for in the Peace Treaties was contemplated as a first step towards general disarmament. The signatories to the Covenant in terms recognised that—The maintenance of peace requires the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations.I allow myself at this point to include an observation which refers to our own country. Britain has set the example, has led the way. No reasonable or instructed person can possibly suggest that we have not reduced our own armaments to the lowest point to which we could go by unilateral action. It will not be thought a waste of time if I give the House three or four figures. Take the Navy—I am not going to give comparisons with the end of the War, when we had piled up enormous forces; I am going to the year in which the War began. Since 1914 the capital ships of the British Commonwealth have been reduced from 69 to 15; its cruisers from 108 to 54, its destroyers from 216 to 152, and its submarines from 74 to 59. In 1914 we had a class of vessel called a torpedo boat, of which there were 106 in commission in 1914. They have disappeared entirely. At the same time there has been a reduction in personnel, as compared with 1914, from 152,000 to 90,000.
Take the Army. Since 1914—we all remember the size of our own Army in 1914—the regular Army has been reduced from 258,996 to 205,534. This has been effected by disbanding nine regiments of cavalry, 61 batteries and companies of artillery, 21 companies of Royal Engineers, and 21 battalions of infantry and three batteries of Colonial troops. At the same time the Special Reserve has been reduced from 80,120 in 1914 to 24,600; and there has been a reduction in the Territorial Army during this period of 141,702. In 1914 it was some 312,000; to-day it is 170,000. In addition, during 48 the same period 18 regiments of cavalry, 31 battalions of infantry and seven battalions of pioneers have been disbanded by the Indian Army. That has resulted in an approximate reduction of 17,000 men.
Take the Air Force, which was in its infancy in 1914. No valid comparison in this or in any other country can be made with that date, but, although Great Britain was one of the two leading air Powers in the world at the end of the War, and although she relies more than any other Power on the Air Arm in connection with some of her mandatory duties, her first line aircraft have been reduced to little more than 20 per cent. of her post-war strength, with the result that the United Kingdom now stands in the number of her military and naval aeroplanes only fifth in the list of States. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] I beg hon. Members not to express or to entertain that view. I think it is to the credit of this country that we have done our utmost. It should be further realised that of the aircraft authorised for home defence by His Majesty's Government in 1923, 20 per cent. have not, in fact, been constructed.
I am concerned to make this point, which I feel every British subject should be prepared to prove by chapter and verse and, therefore, I ask leave to make it plain by various quotations from Members from different sections of the House. Let me take first a very much respected Member of the official Opposition, Mr. Tom Shaw. Speaking in the House on the 24th of March, 1931, the right hon. Gentleman said:Whatever the Government has been since the War ended, whatever colour it has heel, it can claim to have played a part in the comity of nations which has been a peaceful part…. There has been no question as to the policy of the Government. It has been stated perfectly clearly that unilateral disarmament has gone far enough, that it is not helping, and has not helped, towards international disarmament, and that only disarmament by agreement will be successful in the future."OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1931, col. 292; Vol. 250.]Let me quote from a speech made by Mr. Alexander, who also held Cabinet office in the last Labour Government. He said:We have pleaded for disarmament. You can go too quickly in this matter unless you get other countries in Europe 49 to go just as quickly as you. You find a steady decline in our naval expenditure and a steady rise in almost every other country.I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) is not in his place to-day, and all the more so because I hear that he is confined to his house with a painful muscular attack. But the right hon. Gentleman when he was a member of the British Delegation at Geneva made, as we should expect him to make, a close and analytical statement and pointed this out:On the basis of the figures published in the League Armaments Year Book it will be found that the expenditure of the United Kingdom on armaments has been reduced between the year 1925 and the year 1930 by 15 per cent. Since that date further reductions have been made which give a total reduction of 20 per cent. in seven years. If a simple cut were made in expenditure on the basis of the present year, that would not represent an equal reduction as between countries which in recent years have reduced their budgets and countries which have not done so…. It is essential that the Conference should not ignore reductions already made.I have not exhausted all the streams which together make up the full flood of House of Commons opinion. I have here a quotation from a most distinguished man who is not a member of the official Opposition or in immediate association with the right hon. Member for Darwen. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) made a speech in September which I think most of us read and noted with great pleasure. In his speech at Bar-mouth he said:Germany disarmed; Britain followed, and even anticipated that process of disarmament, but she stood alone in carrying out her obligations.What a pity it is that the right hon. Gentleman, when he became a movie star and took to the films with, as I understand, an international circulation, forgot altogether to mention this exception in favour of his own country. I have his words here, and every word which comes from him on a subject like this has rightly tremendous influence. He declared, and hundreds and thousands of our fellow subjects listened to the words:The victors undertook that if Germany disarmed they would follow suit. So far from disarming they have actually increased their armaments.50 Not a word to inform those vast and attentive audiences what the right hon. Gentleman so properly said in his speech in Wales, that there is an exception, an honourable exception, to be made, because "Great Britain disarmed, and even anticipated that process of disarmament, although she stood alone in carrying out her obligations."
And the worst of it is that the right hon. Gentleman has imitators, I will not say allies, who put it more crudely. I am glad to see the hon. and learned Member for Bristol, East (Sir Stafford Cripps) is now in his place. In the speech to his constituents from which I have already quoted, he made the monstrous assertion in connection with Disarmament:We have done nothing.When he said that he was not speaking generally and collectively of the victors. He was speaking of ourselves. It was addressed to ourselves. The phrase "we have done nothing" appears immediately before that other gem, in which he said that "the British document would cause the gods to laugh." The hon. and learned Member is too young to recall how the town was taken by storm when Gilbert and Sullivan first produced "The Mikado", but possibly he may have heard the lines of the Lord High Executioner who had" a little list" (I will vary one word) in which he refers toThe gentleman who praises, with enthusiastic tone, All centuries but this, and every country but his own.I think that his fellow-countrymen will long remember that statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman about the efforts which this country has made since the War for Disarmament, when he declared that "we have done nothing", as a classic example of the morbid delight which same Englishmen take, in face of the plainest facts, in fouling their own nest.
When the appeal is made, and rightly made, for fair play for Germany, we are entitled to demand fair play for Britain too. There is no ground whatever for reproaching this country with having failed to do its utmost to promote world disarmament. I would add that in other matters also we have led the way. This country has led the way in restoring Germany to her position as an equal partner, and in re- 51 moving the discriminations which pressed upon her. Let the House remember that it was we, this country, which took the chief part in making Germany a member of the League of Nations and a permanent member of the Council—positions which she is now spurning. It was we who pressed for and secured the withdrawal of the army of occupation from the Rhineland. The history of reparations, from the Dawes Plan to Lausanne, furnishes another illustration.
The Prime Minister came to Geneva to conduct and carry through terribly difficult negotiations which ended in the Five-Power Agreement of last December, and it was that agreement, signed by France, the United States, Italy, Germany and ourselves, which declared that the principle of equality for Germany was accepted in a system which would provide security for all nations. No doubt it is difficult for a people, a great people with a proud tradition, to be patient when they sincerely feel that the remedy for their grievance is overdue. But it is 'a gross injustice to this country to forget all that Britain has done during these years to promote good relations in Europe after the War by obliterating distinctions between victor and vanquished; and it is an even greater outrage for any man or any party in this country to seek to exploit the peaceful sentiments and deep anxieties of British homes by falsely pretending that there is any difference between us all as to the urgency of Disarmament.
Undoubtedly recent events have created a special difficulty. It is no good simply going back and saying that if people had done so and so this might not have happened. We must look at the thing as it is. Germany has not only withdrawn, but some of the declarations made in recent months with authority in Germany have undoubtedly made the task of international disarmament more difficult. A week before Germany withdrew, the President, now the right hon. Member for Clay Cross, declared in Geneva, in a speech to the Bureau, that some of the more important questions still to be settled in the Disarmament Conference were questionsthe approach to which is manifestly influenced by the present unsettled state of Europe and the ensuing distress and alarm.52 Everyone knows that that is true. Lord Cecil, as soon as he heard on that Saturday of Germany's withdrawal—he was at Geneva—made a speech in which he pointed to her "flaming propaganda and reckless policy as the chief cause of anxiety in Europe, and traced the connection between this anxiety and the unwillingness of some highly armed States promptly to disarm; and he added thatit would be folly for us to ignore that recent events in Europe have unquestionably increased this fear.If anyone wants to see a very sober and measured statement to the same effect he will find it in the last public declaration which was made in London by the late Lord Grey.
All this is indubitably true. But how is this situation to be alleviated? I ask for the general assent of everyone when I say that there can be no doubt at all that the most material contribution to the restoration of confidence in Europe would be an international agreement on Disarmament, to which, of course, Germany must be a party. Since I have had a great deal of work to do on this subject, let me point out to my colleagues in this House a consideration, very elementary in itself, the true force of which is not always realised by disarmament enthusiasts who call for this country to give a lead. We have given a lead. The point however is that what we are seeking to bring about is an agreement between nations—an agreement, and you do not necessarily produce an agreement by striking an attitude, by proclaiming that you are willing to disarm. Still less do you produce an agreement by pointing to the fact that we ourselves have disarmed and that therefore we should like other people to do the same. From some points of view the actual negotiation of an agreement acceptable to other Powers would be rendered simpler if we were able to say "If you will do this or do that, this is what we will do."
To a very large extent the difficulties with which we are all struggling at Geneva, and which every serious minded man desires to understand, are not reduced but are increased by the circumstances under which this agreement is being sought. It was with the object of trying to get that agreement that the exchanges of views took place between some of the principal governments con- 53 cerned during the summer, and from 23rd September onwards there followed a period of intensive discussion, largely at Geneva, between, for example, the French and Germans and ourselves and the Italians and Americans, and sometimes others came in. What was the object of those discussions? The whole of the discussions were to try to arrive at a method for carrying into practical effect the principle which had been acknowledged on all hands, namely, the principle of equality for Germany in a system which would provide security for all nations.
In this negotiation we had something in our favour. The achievement was undoubtedly assisted by two factors. There was an agreement which was universally accepted, that disarmament must be reached by stages. Secondly, there was the suggestion of the establishment of a system of international supervision of armaments by a permanent disarmament commission.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I was just going to make that point. To that proposal Germany said she would raise no objection, provided that the system was generally applied. I shall point out in a moment the attitude that we took up. Working on these two factors the conception began to develop along these lines—that certain provisions or 'operations in the British Draft might first be put into force, e.g., the transformation of Continental armies, which affects France and Italy and Poland as well as Germany; a reduction in effectives; together with the setting up of an adequate system of international supervision. The idea began to emerge that that could be done as a first step, and should be followed by substantial disarmament by the heavily armed Powers, involving the complete abandonment of types of specially offensive weapons by everyone, and accompanied by complete qualitative equality between Germany and the other States as to the types of weapons which were internationally permitted. In other words, there would be an end once for all to the system which said, "That particular instrument is permitted to me, but it is not permitted to you."
I confess that it appeared to me and to my colleagues of the British Government that this scheme was entirely con- 54 sistent with the principles of the British Draft, that the security which the actual establishment of international supervision would provide would do much to restore confidence between nations—and you can do nothing unless confidence is restored. Actual disarmament would he reached by international agreement and the equality of Germany would be vindicated.
I want to take up a point just mentioned by my right hon. Friend opposite. In these discussions, sometimes between two or three and sometimes more, the United Kingdom Government, represented by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and myself, insisted that the Disarmament Convention must contain, from the moment of its signature, the detailed and specific amount of disarmament referred to above. We said to the French: "We will have nothing to do with a convention which as its first stage provides for such and such and then says, We will wait to see what disarmament takes place in the second stage.' "We said," Put it down at the beginning." It was to be defined and definite. Germany, we said, was entitled to know beforehand not only what the ultimate disarmament would be, but she was entitled to something else; she was entitled to know whether the decision as to whether the provisions of the first part of the Convention were duly observed was to be arrived at by an impartial international body, or whether each nation was to be judge for itself. We insisted that not only should supervision be generally applied, but that it must be the verdict of this impartial international inquiring body which would decide, aye or no, whether the Convention was being observed.
That was the basis of the tentative scheme, of the tender plant which we were doing what we could to cultivate. While there remained some important matters outstanding, it did appear to promise prospects of adjustment which were encouraging, and this sense of encouragement was by no means confined to the Government of this country. know very well that it was shared by the representatives of other nations. For example, the approach to a common viewpoint between France and Italy was undoubted, and that is an improvement in the relations between these two great countries which everybody must be glad to see. Co-operation with the United 55 States has always a special character. It had never been more intimate, it had never been more valued and it had never been more cordial. I do not for a moment suggest that Germany's representatives at Geneva were agreeing on all points, but they were there; they were discussing this and that, they were raising questions as to this or that and, as the White Paper shows, when the right hon Gentleman the Member for Clay Cross asked for some account of the latest discussions he was provided with the information in language which certainly did not contain a single provocative word, and the information which he was given was promptly confirmed by the United States, by France, and by Italy.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for interrupting, but this is really very important. The Foreign Secretary has given an extraordinarily lucid account of the proposals of the Prime Minister in March, but I do not think he has been quite clear as to what the variation was which led to the departure of Germany from Geneva. For instance, I would like to ask him one or two questions. First, he has not explained the period of probation. Then I would like to ask him whether, during that period of probation, supervision is to be general or merely unilaterial. For instance, is the League of Nations to have supervision over the arms of all nations, so as to know exactly what the position is? Another question I would like to ask is whether any of the other Powers are to comply with the provisions of the Prime Minister's draft and begin immediately the first stage of Disarmament; whether they are to wait until the period of probation is over, and whether meanwhile there is to be no reduction anywhere?
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, and I think his intervention is most useful. I was rushing a little, because I feel that I am occupying a lot of time.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am quite prepared and am very glad to deal with each of the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman. There was a great deal of misunderstanding when we began to talk about eight years. I mean in this country. I was unaware of it because 56 I was in Geneva, but the actual proposals I will now state more specifically to the House. Before I do so, however, let me make it plain that this was reporting to the Bureau the direction in which suggestions were being made. No one was tabling a plan, but in view of the fact that in the last three months many of us had been asked to interchange views, it was natural for the President to ask, and I think quite proper for us to reply to the question: "Will you tell us what is the general nature of the changes which are suggesting themselves in these discussions to the various Governments?"
With that preamble, let me deal with the specific points raised by my right hon. Friend. First, "the period of probation" is a phrase, and not only a phrase but a conception, which we of the British Delegation had rejected publicly and privately throughout. Our point was "if you are going to get agreement, let us say with the French, then you must aim at a programme which might possibly meet with their acceptance. "If you proceeded to say that these things were all to happen at once, the result might be that you could not get any disarmament at all. Therefore, the idea was a programme which was modified in point of time, under which the first three years or it might be four years, would be occupied in the transformation of the Continental armies, not only Germany's but those of France, and Italy and others, and in the setting up of a system of international inspection.
I come to the second question. International inspection from beginning to end was to be applied to everybody, and there was a very good and practical reason why it should be so applied. One of the things that we thought might be included in this first period, was the provision that no Power, however heavily armed, should provide itself henceforward with any form of weapons which under the scheme of the Treaty were to be scrapped and abandoned. For that purpose, inspection of each country was obviously necessary. I assure my right bon. Friend that there never was a moment when there was reason for misunderstanding about that point. I am sure I shall be confirmed by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary when I say that I explained that point plainly and with the greatest clearness. What can be said, and quite 57 fairly said, about this suggested modification is that it did involve certain portions of the original plan of disarmament being postponed. That is certainly true. It involved that the French, for example, would abandon their big weapons, not at once but according to some programme or schedule which it was not contemplated would begin to operate immediately and might not operate for three years or four years.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The right hon. Gentleman will not mind if I do not use that phrase. I have always protested that it is not quite accurate. I cannot put the thing more plainly than it has been put in a great newspaper, not always very friendly to the Government but which seemed to me, two days afterwards, to state the position exactly. I will read to the House a portion of the leading article in the "Manchester Guardian" on 16th October. This is what that paper said referring to Germany's sudden withdrawal:If the, decision comes as something of a shock to other countries that is because Germany was on the point of gaining so much of what had hitherto been denied her. The Treaty of Versailles did not give any undertaking that disarmament by the other Powers would follow that of Germany either immediately, or within any given time. It did exact German disarmament in order to render possible the initiation of a general limitation of all armaments. And now, after too long delays, this was, for the first time, promised to Germany. It was, as Sir John Simon said on Saturday, an essential part of the proposed Convention that it should lay down an actual concrete programme for the abolition of the major arms which would come into force at the end of the first or preliminary period of three or four years. For the first time France, Poland and Germany's other armed neighbours would have bound themselves in the fetters of legal dates and figures, bringing them towards equality with Germany. The price for Germany was submission to a system of inspection"—As I have said that inspection was to be general—and abstention for another three or four years from the major arms. The resentment of the German people that nothing was done for ten years to remove their inferiority of status has long been recognised in this country to be just. But in the Convention they were asked to accept, the advantages to them enormously outweighed the disadvantages. Herr Hitler talks of persecution' at the moment when 58 the spirit of persecution of Germany has gone out of European politics. This is the moment when the Nazi Government has chosen to destroy the whole agreement at Geneva to secede from the League of Nations, and to complete the moral isolation which the triumph of the Nazi system has gradually brought on Germany.I think I have stated plainly what then was the position. Lord Cecil in the speech which I have just referred to declared that Germany had left Geneva "for reasons that no one outside Germany would accept," and that "she had done her best to prevent international disarmament. "The President composed a telegram which the whole of the Conference approved, regretting that this grave decision of the German Government should have been taken "for reasons which he was unable to accept as valid. "Much else may be said in criticism of Germany in this matter, but I am not going to say it, because the Government's chief concern and the chief concern of all of us is to pursue the work for disarmament which that action of Germany has so rudely disturbed.
I do not wish to say anything that would make its resumption more difficult, but we must face the central fact as it is. The central political issue is how to reconcile Germany's demand for equality with France's desire about security. Regarded as a direct issue that is a question between those two Powers and their respective peoples. It is a terrible problem charged with the most potent and persistent of all the historic influences which divide nations. That is memory—the memory of invasion on the one hand and the fear which it leaves behind, the memory of defeat on the other hand and the resentment and sense of humiliation which it engenders. Can one say that either sentiment is unnatural, and that in like circumstances we should not feel it ourselves? I do not think so, and for that reason the whole of British policy has been directed, not to denying or belittling either sentiment, but in the effort to promote reconciliation between them and to meet the supreme need of the world for peace, by turning the minds of both from the past and inviting their co-operation in the future.I believe that we have a very special role to play, because it was Britain who 59 brought the parties together and secured the signatures of both for a declaration of equality in a regime of security. We have used every effort, we are using every effort, and we shall go on using every effort, whether Germany is at Geneva or not, to that end. We have the most urgent national reasons for doing so, if only because the present inequality in armaments affects not only Germany but ourselves, and the very last thing we want to see is a process of rearmament either here or elsewhere. We stand, as we believe the vast mass of our fellow-countrymen stand, for international co-operation with a view to firmly establishing peace, and, at a time like this, when the international system set up since the War is in jeopardy, we declare ourselves, without any qualification, believers in and upholders of the League of Nations as the best available instrument for international co-operation.I must be allowed to say a word about isolation. We shall not get out of our difficulties by crying isolation when the conditions for isolation have disappeared and cannot exist. We shall not increase our influence for peace by declaring that it does not matter to us what our neighbours in Europe do or do not do. We have an immense moral authority to assert, for Britain has disarmed and has a right to speak. We seek to use that authority in the only way open to us, by making no special or select alliance with or against any Power, but by working for friendship and peace between all.
Now, Sir, I do apologise to the House for detaining it so long, but let me say something on the Locarno Treaties. The House may think it useful if I make a brief statement as to what the Locarno Treaty actually provides. Before we give any countenance to a campaign against the Locarno Treaties, which were devised to be one of the most effective instruments for peace in Western Europe, let us at least have a clear view as to what the Locarno Treaties say. The main instrument is a treaty of mutual guarantee between the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany, and Italy, signed in 1925, on the 16th October, a day which I believe is also the birthday of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain).
§ Sir J. SIMON
Yes, initialed. Many a birthday cake is marked with initials. The House will forgive me for making a very obvious point, but it is desirable that everybody outside the House should know. This Treaty is not an alliance of Britain and France against Germany; it is an inclusive agreement in which Germany, Belgium, France, Great Britain, and Italy are all parties. The arrangements made are purely defensive and are supplementary to the Covenant of the League. They do not constitute in any sense an alliance between certain Powers directed against other Powers. The signatory Powers severally and collectively guarantee the territorial status quo resulting from the frontiers between Germany and Belgium and between Germany and France, the inviolability of those frontiers, and the demilitarisation of the Rhineland.
What are our obligations under the Locarno Treaty? I am not going to argue the case on one side or the other, but just to state them. Our obligations may be summarised under four heads. First, if the Council of the League finds that a violation of the undertaking not to go to war against each other, contained in Article 2, has been committed by Germany, France, or Belgium, we are bound immediately to come to the assistance of the Power against whom the act complained of was directed. I observe that it is the Council of the League which is to make that finding, and in that case, as we are a permanent member of the Council, our assent is necessary to any finding. I do not suggest that it would not be given in a proper case, but our assent is necessary.
Secondly, if the Council finds that a breach of Articles 42 and 43 of the Treaty of Versailles—relating to the demilitarisation of the Rhineland zone —has been committed, we are bound to come immediately to the assistance of France or Belgium as the case may be. There again, let me state that our assent is necessary to the finding of the Council. That is the second case.
Thirdly, in the event of what is called a, flagrant violation of one or other of the above undertakings, which would really mean the case of something happening in so much of a hurry that you could not 61 call a meeting of the Council of the League, we are bound immediately to come to the help of the injured party, if we are satisfied that the violation constitutes an unprovoked act of aggression, and that immediate action is necessary. In this case we are the sole judges as to whether our obligation is applicable.
Fourthly, and lastly, if either France, Belgium, or Germany refuses to submit a I dispute to peaceful settlement or to comply with an arbitral or judicial decision, we are bound to comply with any proposals which the Council may make as to the steps to be taken. In that case our assent is necessary to any and every proposal that the Council may make.
The House will therefore see—of course hon. Members mostly know it, but it is not a waste of time to state it for everybody—that, with one exception, the decision to be taken before the Treaty has operative effect must be taken by the Council of the League. The Council can take no such decision unless it be unanimous, and since the—Unite Kingdom is a permanent member of the Council, it is clear that no decision can be taken without our assent. The one exception that. I have mentioned arises if it is alleged that there is a flagrant violation of the undertaking not to go to war, and so forth, by one of the parties. Such a case might be so urgent that there would be no time to take it to the Council, and consequently we are bound to go immediately to the help of the injured party, but we are the sole fudges as to whether this obligation has become applicable. And in all this—a; very important fact—Italy stands in exactly the same position as we do ourselves.
The House will, therefore, observe that no British Government is blindly fettered by the Treaty of Locarno. We have by that Treaty assumed certain important obligations — I do not minimise them—along with Italy and the other Powers, in the interpretation of which we have a decisive voice. I must point out further that the Treaty which came into force in 1926 between the five European Powers cannot be denounced by us or by any other signatory by way of a unilateral act. It can be terminated only in the circumstances stated in Article 8, which, the House may take it, are not material to this purpose.
62 Now Locarno was entered into as a contribution to the stabilising forces of Europe, and I would submit to the House that Locarno has not exhausted its influence in that respect. We shall not increase the power of those stabilising forces by announcing that we are completely indifferent whether the events referred to in the Locarno Treaty take place or not. It is the fact that we have pledged ourselves not to be indifferent which exercises restraint and which helps to keep solid the fabric of European relationships, and it provides an argument which we will use to all proper lengths to produce the limitation and reduction of armaments in other countries.
There is another question raised in certain quarters as regards the Treaty of Locarno on which I would say a word. The question is whether the obligations of this country would be ended if Germany, two years hence, carried out the intention of which she has given notice to leave the League of Nations. Let me first observe that Germany has the opportunity of withdrawing that notice at any time during the next two years, and the Government and, I am sure, the whole House earnestly trust that the course of events will result in her doing so. Besides, a great deal can happen, and a great deal will happen, in the next two years, and every influence that we can use will be on the side of reconciliation and peace. Do not let us speak to-day as if the march of future events was beyond the control of men of good will. The view of the Government, after consulting the Law Officers of the Crown, is that the withdrawal of any party to the Treaty of Locarno from the League does not of itself and by itself involve the release of all parties from their obligations under the Treaty. But the withdrawal of Germany, if indeed it ever were to become effective, would raise issues of so far-reaching a character that it would be impossible to make any public statement upon them without careful consideration in consultation with the other parties to the Treaty.
I would most earnestly deprecate the discussion of these hypotheses, which can only serve to create apprehension and, it may be, to cause misapprehension. Much as we deplore Germany's recent action, and unjustified as we think it to be, that is no reason for treating the door which she has slammed as though it was bolted, 63 locked, and barred, and we shall seize every opportunity of getting and keeping in touch with her as well as with the other signatories of the Treaty of Locarno. Our own influence in the cause of disarmament would not be increased—it would be fatally prejudiced —if the existence and effect of the Locarno Treaty were not fully borne in mind. I think I heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs whisper an observation, which was quite justified. The promotion of general disarmament was one of the objects envisaged by the Treaty; there were speeches made in the Locarno Debate in 1925 which stressed this very point; and while it is true that, without apportioning blame, there has been sad delay in achieving agreed disarmament, (but not a moment has been lost in working for it), no friend of the cause should make disarmament more difficult than ever by suggesting that assurances to which Britain has put her hand are assurances which we are prepared to ignore.
Here again we shall be glad of a little information from the official Opposition. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman opposite, their Leader, was one of a small band of 13 who voted against the Locarno Treaty when it came before the House eight years ago. It is a perfectly consistent attitude to oppose a treaty at the time of its negotiation, but to accept it and stand by it after it has been ratified and approved. And in a recently published pamphlet called, "Labour's Foreign Policy, "to which the right hon. Member for Clay Cross puts his name, the Locarno Treaty is treated as an obligation upon which the Labour party would insist. It will be interesting to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether this is the view of himself and his party as a whole.
There is one remaining point that I must make. The House will have seen reported in the newspapers of to-day a speech made in Berlin last night by the German Foreign Minister. It is, of course, a speech made in the final stage of the general election campaign, and in so far as the speech contains an attack upon the structure of the League of Nations and the contents of the Covenant it will, I am sure, be read with sincere regret by all who have honestly striven to work this new Geneva system with 64 due respect for the rights of others and with a real understanding of Germany's feelings. But it is not that passage of Baron von Neurath's speech to which I wish to direct special attention. There was a final paragraph in which the German Foreign Minister declared that the Germans were making to the other Powers an "honest and trustful offer, "and in which he invited foreign Governments "to take the hand Germany stretched out to them. "I recall in the same connection the statement made a short time ago by Chancellor Hitler in which he indicated his wish to get into closer communication with the French with a view to trying to promote accommodation. We most earnestly trust that these statements may lead, in some form or other, to the renewal of contact, and that this object will be pursued by whatever method is found most useful and appropriate. The British Government have shown themselves prepared to consult with other Governments in this spirit. We have never been sticklers for method if we can help the result, and we shall continue our efforts and invite other Governments to continue theirs.
I have laid before the House to the best of my power, as I undertook to do, a plain statement of the attitude of the Government and of the position of this vital question. We believe our attitude to be not only the attitude of the Government, but the feeling of the nation. These recent events abroad have given occasion for a demonstration of the intense devotion of this country to the cause of peace and of its overwhelming desire to see general disarmament brought about. Peace and Disarmament are not party issues. It is no service to Peace, it is no service to Disarmament either, to try to make them party issues. They are the common interest and the common objective of every one of us; and the Government have done and are doing and will do everything that can be done to promote and to attain this first and over-riding purpose of international policy.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The right hon. Gentleman, in his concluding words, said that peace was not a party question and that everybody desired peace. That is perfectly true, but peace is like many other good things that people hope to achieve; people very often fall out as to 65 the means by which to attain their end, and we profoundly disagree with the right hon. Gentleman and his Government. The right hon. Gentleman has been rather badly served to-day by his political devils. I hope that his legal devils do not serve him so badly. If they had treated him better, he would never have made that pernicious attack on my hon. and learned Friend. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Why not? "] In the first place, young as my hon. and learned Friend may be, he is in excellent company for the sort of denunciatory language used about him by the right hon. Gentleman. I happen to have sat upstairs in the period from 1876 to 1880, when I heard Mr. Gladstone denounced in exactly the same language by Tory speakers of that day simply because he took up an attitude against Mr. Disraeli. The recent letters published in connection with that episode in the life of Mr. Gladstone show that that denunciation was supported in very high quarters indeed in this country. To be told, as the hon. and learned Gentleman has been told to-day, that he is a friend of every country but his own because he happens——[HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear! "] All that it means is that the right hon. Gentleman happens to disagree with us. That is all.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I have no personal feelings in the matter, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell me what is his view of the statement made by the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
If the right hon. Gentleman will have as much patience as the rest of us have had, I will tell him. I shall not match his legal eloquence, of course. I am perfecty certain, after having heard him in this House make very able speeches on one subject two ways, that he is able to make as good a case for as against. I cannot hope to match that. I am only an ordinary person.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I am not trained that way, and I am very glad I am not. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will have the decency just to behave himself —now the Attorney-General is interrupting. I suppose it is a case of trade unionists taking care of each other. The 66 right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary was good enough to say that in taking a line against the Convention to-day we were doing something which we had not done previously. We never have accepted this Convention. In the discussion that took place on the Consolidated Fund Bill on 23rd March this year, my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) and the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) spoke for us. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower said:We recognise the dangers in putting figures forward in that way…. I have gone into those figures, and I find that there is room for considerable reduction before any marked advance is made in the direction of disarmament…. I would like the House to look at those figures with me, and I think we shall find that the best proposals that the Primo Minister could make provide for a personnel of 2,000,000 in land forces serving at home in Europe, with an additional 500,000 … for service at home and abroad. Those are the figures prescribed in the Prime Minister's plan for disarmament—2,500,000 land forces, making no allowance for the forces by sea or in the air. Those figures, we submit"—I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take notice that we queried the basis of the Convention from the start—are much too high and do not register any marked advance towards Disarmament.That was our position nearly a year ago, And it is our position to-day.We are to have, under the plan, 200,000 soldiers for serving at home, and we are to have an additional 200,000 for service at home and abroad.The hon. Member for Gower went on to say:We believe that Disarmament should be discussed not with a view to maintaining the balance of Europe"—he meant the balance of power in Europe—not with a view to maintaining the relative strength of the great Powers compared with the small Powers, not with a view of satisfying the ambitions of any one country at the expense of the other, but we believe that Disarmament should be discussed as a problem of real Disarmament, of doing away with arms. We understand that the House, and the Prime Minister too, at one time, believed that safety was not possible so long as we carry arms in our hands. No safety can be found in that way. The only way to get safety and security is by renouncing war, as it has been done in the Kellogg Pact, the Pact of Paris."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 23rd March, 1933; cols. 521–25, Vol. 276.]67 Then my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol made a very long statement on the subject in which he pointed out that the Covention, from our point of view, wasbased upon this sort of Principle—1' We stand largely where we were as regards our chief armament, other nations are reduced in their chief armaments, and Germany is allowed to re-arm.' That does not seem to us to be the conception which lay behind the Treaty of Versailles. The idea behind that treaty was that the disarmament of Germany was to he a first step, to which others would come later. It was never agreed or understood that Germany was later to come up to the level of the others, and any Convention which proceeds upon the basis of a substantial re-arming of Germ many must, in our view, be following a wrong idea. The most that one can say of this Convention is that it is a very meagre step towards Disarmament, and, on the whole, if Germany is to be permitted under it to re-arm to the strength indicated, it may well be a worse thing than having the present state of affairs."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st March, 1933; col. 608, Vol. 276]It seems to me that the gentlemen who look up quotations for the right hon. Gentleman might have taken the trouble to look up that Debate. The charge was that in saying that the Convention would make things worse my hon. and learned Friend was saying something new. The right hon. Gentleman wanted to know what I thought about it, and I am telling him that nearly a year ago the same thing was said in this House. I am sure that the Foreign Secretary is as well able to understand that as I am. The right hon. Gentleman was at some pains to tell us how unanimously it was received as a basis, and almost in the same breath he told us that in June, because everybody thoroughly disagreed with it, the Conference had to break up and adjourn until October. It seems to me that he is on very weak ground indeed there. The right hon. Gentleman was very indignant, and the Lord President of the Council wrote letter the other day expressing great indignation at the malicious statements that were being made about the danger of re-armament and the fact that the Tory party was not in favour of Disarmament.
The right hon. Gentleman takes a good deal of notice of what happens at Labour party conferences and warns the nation against the terrible consequences of carrying out their policies. I suggest 68 to him that if he wants to know the mind of his own party on the question of Disarmament he should read the resolution passed by his friends, because his caucus has as much weight with his party as ours does with us. I know that we are supposed to be living, or are going to live, under the beneficent rule of a sort of trinitarian arrangement which is to be arrived at, and are to have our old friend the Tory party dressed up in another name; but for the moment we will take them as they are. First of all, I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that he has also been badly served about the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). He was on the talkies, and for a couple of days he was on the pictures, and then dropped out of the pictures all of a sudden, and nobody quite knows why. When the company which was showing the pictures was asked for the reason it gave no reason at all. It put on afterwards admirals and generals, retired and otherwise, and they all warned us solemnly that if this pernicious pacifist policy, either of the Government or the Opposition, were continued—well, woe to England. It was said that we must have more armaments. Whether it is to be another case of "We want eight, and we won't wait" I do not know, but the picture of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was taken off and jingo pictures were put on. But to come back to this Conservative Conference of which the Lord President does not seem to have heard. Lord Lloyd—I do not know if you know him; apparently his name causes some surprise—received a tremendous ovation both on rising and when he concluded his speech. He moved the resolution:That this Conference desires to record its grave anxiety in regard to the inadequacy of the provisions made for Imperial defenceIn his speech he said:We are sick and tired of seeing the Conservative party pledged to these internationalist doctrines and these pacifist doctrines.Very much what the right hon. Gentleman interpolated in his speech this afternoon. Lord Lloyd went on to say:It is nothing but folly to go on disarming when everybody else refuses to follow that example.Yes, but I would like to ask Lord Lloyd, or whoever speaks for the Government, 69 to tell me who it is we wish to arm against, which of our Allies it is that we are preparing to "go for. "I would like to know. Nobody will answer that question. Then there was Lord Londonderry, speaking on 27th October. He is a member of the Government, and I dare say the Lord President has beard of him.
This is a good disarmament speech:Our armed forces are the insurance for peace and the wealth of this country, and if we are called on to pay a higher premium, well, we are willing and anxious to do it.Further, he said:We may have aimed too high. Some people believe we might have formed a convention to eliminate war. That was an idealistic conception. We must do our hest to influence people in every part of the world that war shall be postponed as long as possible.The First Lord of the Admiralty also made a speech, and said:We cannot have any more one-sided disarmament. We cannot always be idealists, we must face realities, and remember that it is not peace time Navy estimates that cost money; it is war. And wars are not made by a strong British Navy, they are prevented by it.Then as to what is happening now. Sir Ernie Chatfield said at Sheffield—that is a good place for the gentleman to make his speech—at Sheffield, the home of munition manufactures:The nation must take stock of its defence position and consider whether, on its present naval expenditure, it is maintaining a naval strength in accordance with its policy.Sir Walter Iiunciman—I beg pardon—the President of the Board of Trade, put in his spoke at the same dinner. Speaking of Sir Ernie Chatfield's speech, he said:I have no doubt that to-night he was right when he said that we are working right up to the limit of the London Naval programme. I hope we are, not only for the sake of the nation, but for the sake of Sheffield.Nothing like leather. The municipal elections were the next day. What about party propaganda there I Then there is Lord Lloyd again, speaking at the Navy League dinner in London on 19th October:The leaders of every party have preached pacificism. They forget that when Nelson expected every man to do his duty, he did not expect every man to do his duty by Geneva or the League of Nations.He is a good internationalist. I am sorry he is not here. Next I would like 70 to call attention to this, because apparently we take notice of newspapers now. The right hon. Gentleman does not always quote the "Manchester Guardian. "A paper which is not at all friendly to me or to my friends, that is, the "Times, "in a leading article on 12th October, commenting on this Resolution—of which the Lord President, of course, had not heard—Said:The second attack was delivered against the alleged inadequacy of the provision made by the Government for national defence. Here the assailants scored a tactical victory by securing unanimous approval for a resolution which, if literally interpreted, enjoins an immediate measure of rearmament by this country.I think the right hon. Gentleman owes my friends an apology for sending that very strong denunciation of them to a candidate in the by-election at Skipton. We can only judge by what his party say through their recognised organisation, and I think that what I have read proves that we were justified in saying that the Tory party were demanding an increase in armaments, which in our view must inevitably lead to war. Then the right hon. Member for the Spark-brook Division (Mr. Amery) —I am sorry he is not here, but that is not our fault —said:If those theorists could not tell them what was going on in the world and had no memory to remind them of history the Conservative party at least could give a straight answer to those Socialists and dreamers—Remember, we are all Socialists now—by unanimously passing this Resolution". That is the resolution to which I called attention. He went on:Armaments were not the cause of war. They were the instruments by which the aggressor brought about that war. They were equally the instruments by which the peace lover kept the peace.Then there is a gem from the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), which I am so sorry he is not present to hear, because he was a Member of the Liberal Government from, I think, 1906 to 1914, and was responsible, with Lord Grey and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, for the policy of the Liberal party up to the time of the War. This is what he says about his colleagues:It was the bleatings of Liberal pacifists which encouraged pre-War Germany to build her Navy.71 So the people now responsible for the War are not the Kaiser, not the War Lords in Germany, but the bleating Liberal pacifists. I am not sure that the right hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) was not one of the bleaters. The point I want to make on this is that we are living in days, as I would remind the Lord President, when more people read than ever before, when more books are written than ever before, and when statesmen write about one another during their lifetime more than ever before. [Interruption] No, you do not. I said "statesmen.' I am not sure that it is not a compliment to leave out the right hon. Gentleman. I will say to his face what I have said behind his back, that I do not believe he would be capable of writing the muck that has been written by some statesmen about men they have for years worked for, simply to get themselves out of any responsibility for actions for which they were responsible. As I was saying, people are able to read now and are able to weigh up the sort of situation which arises out of the conditions which the Conservative Conference has set going. No one can say that there is not in this country grave unrest, and a very great feeling of distrust, not because of anything we have said, but because of the things said and written by members of the Tory party, and influential members of it at that. The Government must clear them out of the way before they drop on us.
There is another thing which is causing a great deal of unrest. Armament firms are now doing remarkably well in this country. To whom are they supplying arms? I understand that we supply about one-third of the total world export trade in armaments, and I think it is a, disgraceful thing that we should be doing that. I said we are supplying about one-third of the total world export trade in arms, that is, we are supplying more than one-third of the total arms that are exported by manufacturing countries to other countries. During October, 340 highly skilled armament workers were taken on by Sheffield firms. Those people had been unemployed for years. The exports of nickel, a very large percentage of which is used in 72 making armaments, have amounted to 13,000 tons during the past 10 months, an increase of 700 per cent. over the same period last year. Imperial Chemical Industries, Limited, are extending their explosive works at Ardeer, in Ayrshire, where at present they are employing 2,000 men. Since 12th March armament shares have risen. On 21st October, that is, in seven months, they had risen as follow: The Birmingham Small Arms shares had gone up 109 per cent. Armament firms, I am talking about. [Interruption] This will not do. I think hon. Members will find that I am quite right. The de Havilland Aircraft Company, Limited—I dare say that you will tell me that they do not make bombers, but their shares are now standing at 42. Imperial Chemical shares have gone up 20 per cent.
I have here a long list of people who hold shares in these armament firms, and if hon. Gentlemen will have patience they will know the point of this in a minute. It may very well be that many of us on this side say nothing that is worth while listening to, but we do listen to you. I am going to make a point about the armaments later on, and if hon. Members take no notice of what I am saying now, they will not understand the point. I was saying that I have a long list of names of ministers, ex-ministers, bishops and other respectable people who hold shares in these concerns. I think that they ought not to do so. The capital of Imperial Chemical Industries, Limited, is £70,000,000. They control the whole British chemical industry, with perhaps one or two small exceptions, and the principal and interest on their 5 per cent. guaranteed debentures—this is a point that I want hon. Members to grasp—are guaranteed by His Majesty's Government, which means that it is considered necessary to see that Imperial Chemical Industries are kept going, so as to be ready when you want a little poison gas. I should like to ask—and I hope that someone will give me an answer—that au inquiry should be made, either through the Board of Trade or some other Department, in view of the secrecy that prevails over the whole question of the private manufacture of armaments, in regard to instituting in this country a definite system of Governmental inspection of armament firms, together with the 73 publication of all figures of armament production in this country month by month. That would show the nation how much money private people are making out of the sending abroad of armaments which might be used against our country, if unhappily we went into war, and what armaments we are producing for our own use in this country.
I want to touch on some points which the right hon. Gentleman left out of account, and the first is that 12 months ago, when we discussed this question, every speaker agreed, in regard to the World Economic Conference, that the settlement of the economic conditions of the world was a condition precedent of any settlement of the Disarmament question. I want to make it quite clear that we do not think that peace and Disarmament alone can preserve the peace of the world. We think that it is a terrible mistake that the Economic Conference should have faded out as it did, and that apparently no immediate effort is to be made to reconstitute it. We do riot think that you can settle this question of the peace of the world—that is, ordinary peace and war, as men and women understand it—until you have settled the economic and financial warfare that goes on day by day between nations. We also think that until you get international control of raw materials and markets, by some authority set up by the nations, by which you can have equitable distribution of the raw materials of the world, you will never be able to be certain that peace will be secured, no matter to what agreements you may come.
If I may give an instance of what I mean, no one at present worries about the Sahara Desert. There is nothing there of any value to anyone. No one wants to annex it, though I was told the other day that, owing to the development of flying, we may be falling out as to the control of the air stations in certain portions of that desert. I hope that we shall not. Anyhow, I think that I am correct in saying that it is those portions of the world where there are rich natural resources that cause nations to go to war with one another. A further fact is that the right hon. Gentleman has taken a great deal of trouble—and I admire the skill with which he did it—to make out his case about the Disarmament Conference itself, but he left out of account, 74 in our judgment, the most fatal blunder and, in our view, the worst part of the Government's policy and the worst failure of the League of Nations. I was asked to-day about Locarno and so on. All that is quite true. I voted against the Locarno Treaty. It is also true that our party, like every other party, is bound by treaties until we can negotiate and remove the treaties. To-day I heard, in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, that in the last resort the Government, that is, this Government, or the French Government or any other Government pledged by the Locarno Pact, individually were to be the judges of what action they would take. I think that I am correct in saying that in the Treaty itself there is no word of war or armed force. Any Government might agree to quite other measures of trying to deal with a recalcitrant nation or Government that was opposing what was considered to be the best interests of those who had made the agreement.
Therefore, I do not think that I am called upon to do more than to say that we know perfectly well that if there is a treaty we cannot say that that treaty is wiped out without first negotiating with the other parties concerned. I want to say to the House and to the right hon. Gentleman that you must not pick and choose what treaty you are going to adhere to. There is the Covenant of the League of Nations. One of the greatest countries in the east of the world has smashed that to atoms, and it has also smashed the Kellogg Pact and the Nine-Power Pacific Treaty. Until this country, and all other nations, measure out to small and weak nations, and to powerful and strong nations, the same treatment, there is not much hope of getting respect for treaties—none at all. Our charge against the Government all through has been their supineness in this matter.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman has made very learned speeches about the Japanese situation, but he has never been able to get over the fact that Japan acted like an international pirate, is now still in possession of her neighbour's territory and is threatening war against the Russian Soviet Republic. I respectfully point out to the House that you cannot have respect for treaties if you sit down and accept that situation merely by getting a resolution through the League 75 Assembly condemning what has taken place. I think that action ought to have been taken long ago to deal with that. [An HON. MEMBER: "What sort of action?"] I have already told the House what sort of action. It is provided for under the League of Nations. I am standing by the League of Nations right through and all the time, even though some of the provisions would be against what I would like to do. I should stand by it, because it is only by collective action that anything can be accomplished. All nations who signed the Kellogg Pact agreed that disputes of whatever nature or of whatever origin that might arise among them, shall never be settled by other than pacific means. It may very well be that I do riot understand the English language, but when I read that and cheered it in this House, I thought that it meant that we were outlawing war altogether, and that there would not be any more need for armaments.
The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that we and the people who think like us are unfair and unjust to the Government. We are not. All that we ask is that the Government shall be just to themselves. They are responsible for making the nation, and all nations believe that, when the Kellogg Pact was signed, the men who put their names there meant what it said, that no dispute should ever go to the arbitrament of war. The reason why people are losing faith is simply because nations and statesmen either do not understand what they sign or do not mean what they sign. It must be one or the other. When ordinary people, like those with whom I associate, have to sign a document, they are supposed to understand what they sign. If they go to a lawyer afterwards and complain that they did not understand it, the lawyer says to them: "You should have employed one of us, and we would have told you what it was. "The language of the Kellogg Pact is so simple. It is so explicit, and yet we are faced with the fact that Japan has smashed it and, so far, the League of Nations appears to be absolutely powerless.
Then there have been the South American nations who were also members of the League. They have gone to war with each other quite cheerfully, after signing those pacts. Is there any wonder that people like me ask: "What do 76 these people mean? "As I said a moment ago, either they do not understand what they have signed or they do not mean it. We must take this other thing into account in judging the present situation. The one nation that has got back what it felt should never have been taken away from it is the Turkish nation, who took back Constantinople by force. The great Powers that had sworn to defend the treaties left this country, as it were in the lurch, and Kemal Pasha was practically able to dictate his own terms. Can you wonder that people are asking themselves why it is that nations signing these agreements should continually throw them over in this way? I should be very glad if some person more experienced in foreign affairs will try to explain to me—not only to me but to the country—why these things happen, and why it is that, when a treaty is signed, statesmen do not stick to it. There have been dozens of these pacts and agreements—Four-Power, Five-Power, and the Covenant of the League of all the Powers—and at the end we are in the position in which we are to-day, of facing a European situation which, in our view, has been brought about mainly because the Peace Treaties which were forced upon the conquered nations contained within them the seeds of future wars. Until these are all brought up for revision, I do not think you can expect, even within Capitalism, any sort of settlement in Europe.
There is a party in the country here that is devoting itself to the task of securing a revision of the Treaty concerning Hungary. A number of representatives from all over the House have gone to Hungary. I have received a very big book about the condition of things in Hungary, and I have received a statement signed by a large number of Members pledging themselves to secure a revision of the treaty concerning Hungary. I know also that other nations besides Germany and Hungary are asking for revision, and the reason why they are asking for it, and the reason why Members of this House of all parties can see the justice of it in the case of Hungary, is because the conditions imposed were impossible conditions, and bound to lead to the situation with which we are faced now.
77 We are faced, too, with this—and I want to make this clear when speaking on revision. We who sit here would never vote for placing any more people under the control of any Fascist rulers in Europe. If this were forced on us, we could not help ourselves, but with our good will neither Germany nor Hungary nor anybody else can have the sort of revision which would bring other nations within the scope of revision while they are persecuting people in the fashion in which they are being persecuted in Germany to-day.
The other thing that I want to say on that line is that, when we are obliged, as the right hon. Gentleman said we are obliged, to be, as it were, friendly towards the Hitler regime—that we cannot go to war to change the rulers in Germany, Austria or elsewhere—that is true but it is equally true that we must find some means of negotiating with them in order to bring to an end if possible the present difficulties. I want to say this about them. I do not know whether Herr Hitler is an honest man or not. I listen to him over the wireless very often, and I know that he must be a very effective speaker anyhow. But I also know this, that at the moment he and his friends are in control in Germany, and, not once, but several times, they have said they are willing to accept the same disarmament as everybody else. They have asked for equality of status. Stalin, who acts as another dictator on another line in Russia, put forward, through M. Litvinoff, the statement at one of the Conferences, and has never gone back on it: "If you want disarmament, let us disarm. "He said that they were ready to disarm right down to the very lowest; and I have seen a statement by Signor Mussolini that Italy is willing to go down to the very lowest with everybody else. Why should not our Government take them at their word? Why should not we say the same thing?
Our charge against the Government with regard to these last 12 months—the last two years—is that for a long period they took no real active interest. Other people made proposals, and these proposals again and again were more or less turned down or damned with faint praise by the Foreign Secretary whenever he had to speak, and he asked that a cer- 78 tarn Commission should examine details as to what armaments should be scrapped. We think it is time that all these experts were put out of the business altogether. When you get one naval expert glorifying the British battleship as the best security for peace in the world, we think that is rather "tall, "but we also think that it is no argument against the abolition of the battleship. We think, further, that discussing battleships and submarines and tanks is all beside the point. Today I want to put to the House the perfectly simple proposals that were gut forward at Hastings. The Prime Minister, I have no doubt, has read these proposals, but we are going to ask him whether we can have a day to discuss them definitely. We should prefer not to put them down as a Vote of Censure, because we should like to take the considered judgment of the House on them as proposals to put before the Disarmament Conference. We desire that people shall be able to vote fairly and squarely on them, without being forced to vote for censure with which, perhaps, they will not agree. Of course, if we cannot get a day without putting censure in, we shall most certainly censure the Government, and be very glad to do so, but we are always told that we are partisans, that we think more of our party than we do of peace, and we want to give the House the opportunity of thinking about peace instead of about party. I am sure a number of the Liberal Members will agree with what I am going to read out, because I notice that the Liberal candidate at Skipton has adopted them nearly all. It may help them to vote with us if we leave the censure part out, because it is very difficult for them to censure a Government which they so frequently support.
I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he will give an answer, through whoever is going to reply to the Debate, as to whether he will agree that we shall continue this discussion, but with a Motion embodying these proposals: that we shall affirm our belief in the total disarmament of all nations throughout the world, and the creation of an international police force, and call upon the British Government at the Disarmament Conference to abandon its retrograde attitude on the question of air bombing—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I will read it again:That this House favours the total disarmament of all nations throughout the world, and the creation of an international police force; calls upon the British Government at the Disarmament Conference to abandon its retrograde"—the right hon. Gentleman wanted to leave that out. Leave it out if you like; that is all right. You see, you are all so full up with your own. party spirit that you cannot believe that I want to do something that will take us above party. I am perfectly willing to leave the word "retrograde "out, and to say:to abandon its attitude on the question. of air bombing, and to submit proposals for a large and important reduction in the expenditure of all nations on armed forces, for the general abolition of all weapons forbidden to Germany by the Treaty of Versailles, for the abolition of military aircraft, for the international control of civil aviation, and for the suppression of all private manufacture of and trade in arms"—that is why I made that statement just now; I wanted to show what a very lucrative business it is in this country—for the suppression of all private manufacture of and trade in arms, and for strict international inspection and control of the execution of the Disarmament Treaty.That is not so long a document as the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister produced in the early part of the year for Geneva. We produced this at Hastings, and we would like it to go to Geneva as the basis for a convention between the nations. It may be, of course, that it will be turned down, but I want this House to say what it wants done, not what other people want done. What we want is that our nation shall say quite definitely and distinctly that this is our policy, which we advocate and which we invite other people to support. If we are turned down, we cannot help it, but let us take our stand on realities; let us be realists for once. These proposals really contain the whole of the proposals necessary to bring Germany into line with ourselves, and us into line with Germany.
I want to say this, too; I think I have already said it, but I must repeat it here. This means disarmament. As we understand the Government's proposals, and 80 that is why we objected to them nine months ago, they mean re-armament by Germany, and we are confident that, if Germany starts re-arming—some people say she is already doing so, and has been doing so—that ought to be stopped quite definitely. But, further than that, our case is that, if you allow Germany to increase her armaments by a Convention, that must of necessity mean war in the very near future. Nations do not arm merely for the fun of the thing, and we believe that the only way out, and the only proper line to take, is to bring the whole of the armaments of Europe down, and not allow Germany to re-arm in any way whatsoever.
I hope, when the right hon. Gentleman asks me what our policy is, that he will understand that these proposals that I have read out are the proposals of the Labour party, they are the proposals to which we all adhere and they are the proposals which, one way or the other, we shall ask the Government to give us facilities for discussing at the earliest possible moment. We do not want them treated as an ideal, as something to reach forward to. We believe that it is practical politics for all the countries that signed the Kellogg Pact. It is the logical outcome of the Kellogg Pact. We want them to be voted upon by the House as instructions to the Government and as the basis on which a new road to Disarmament and Peace may be laid. We do not at all put them forward as anything tentative, but as proposals to which we want to pledge the Government.
Finally, we are not isolationists, neither are we in favour of the old balance of power theory of safety. Neither do we accept the theory that one group of capitalist Governments is more worthy than another. We really believe in the League of Nations. We do not want five-Power pacts, or any other unit of nations. We want the League of Nations to be an all-embracing League, embracing the whole of the nations, including Russia, Japan, America and Germany. I know that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will be able to gibe at me because of my ultra-pacifist views on war and armaments generally. There is a certain amount of inconsistency even in living in a world such as we live in to-day. I am under no delusion about that. I am not speaking here as one who considers himself any better or worse than the average 81 man. The position in which the world is, as far as I can see, is exactly the same as it has been over and over again in the history of my not short lifetime. I have heard similar speeches made in this House by great men, statesmen and others, who have told the country what would save them, and they have always been wrong. The ordinary people have always been right.
The average man and woman who live in the back streets do not want war. They do not understand why people should want war, and they only go to war when they are told by people like those who sit around me here that the country is in danger. I do not know how many thousands of my people, boys whom I knew when they were born, went out to the War. We sent a bigger percentage from my division than I believe any other area. Hardly any of them came back. I shall attend at the Cenotaph on Saturday and have a vision of those boys marching behind the drums when they first enlisted. There was not a boy, there was not a mother who did not believe that they were going out to fight to end war. There is not one of you who spoke on the recruiting platform who did not hold that out. I may be a fool and I may be a dreamer, but you practical men —you men who have all the power in your hands—see to it that you are true to those who went out with that slogan ringing in their ears— "Never again. "Also try to have a vision of the nearly 50,000,000 people bruised, battered, disease-ridden and destroyed in the War. Some people say you get a period of peace after a great war. No, not peace to those who are at the bottom. There can be no peace in the world, there never will be peace in the world until men learn to trust not to the power of their fists, not to the power of the gun, but to the power of righteousness and love for one another.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
The whole House will regret that when discussing these grave matters of public policy, we are deprived of the counsel of my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). His absence is felt nowhere more keenly than on these benches. The problem of peace, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred so feelingly in his concluding sentences, is perhaps the most fundamental political 82 issue which this House or any other Assembly can discuss at present, for upon its solution not merely the future of our own country, the fortunes of nations and the destinies of Empires, but the survival of civilisation depend. The world has not yet recovered from the last War. One great nation crumbled into ruin and chaos. It is quite certain that, after a war fought with weapons more destructive even than those that were employed in the last, a, nation which survives will be fortunate indeed. Therefore, I hope and believe that the first result of this Debate will be to make it clear that there is among Members of all parties a unanimous, earnest and sincere desire for peace. I have friends among the leaders of every party, and almost every section of every party in the House, and I can testify from my own personal knowledge that there is not one who does not ardently desire, and would not make every sacrifice to preserve the peace of the world. The House and the people of Britain are united in their will for peace. Therefore, the Foreign Secretary was amply justified in claiming that peace is not a matter of party politics.
But equally justified was the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken in pointing out that, when we come to discuss the means whereby we are to secure peace, there are honest differences of opinion, and I hope the second result of this Debate will be to define more clearly the views of the different schools of thought and to make clear the differences of opinion that are held among different sections of the House. To say there is agreement when there is no agreement is like saying peace when there is no peace, and if we are insincere in attempting to gloss over these differences of opinion as to the methods to be adopted to secure the peace of the world, we shall find it the harder to convince foreign countries of our sincerity in the pursuit of our main objective of peace.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) made some reference to certain very strong expressions of policy, different from that which has been expounded to us to-day by the Foreign Secretary, which were made at the Birmingham Conference of the Conservative party. I think it is important for men of all parties to realise what actually was discussed and decided at that conference. There was, for 83 example, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), who said:Ever since the War it had been the fashion of all the world to pay lip service to disarmament. Great Britain alone had taken it seriously. Had we contributed to the cause of peace? No. Armaments in themselves were not the cause of warThere is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who said:We had steadily disarmed, partly with a sincere desire to give a lead to other countries and partly through the severe financial pressure of the time. But a change must now be made. We must not continue longer on a course in which we alone were growing weaker while every other nation is growing stronger.Again, what was even more significant was the action which that Conference thereupon took upon a motion that was upon the paper to approve the disarmament policy of the Government and to approve the reservation, which was originally made but of which I understand the Government in certain circumstances offered to consider the withdrawal at the request of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), on air bombing. The Conference refused to pass that part of the resolution which referred to disarmament, but passed the part which approved of bombing. At the same time, there was throughout the cinemas of the country and in the Press the beginning of a deliberate propaganda in favour of re-arming. These men whom I have quoted are all honourable, sincere, patriotic men, men who have rendered great services to the State and men of influence, leading important sections of public opinion in the country. I believe they all sincerely desire peace, but they do not believe that it can be attained by international negotiations through the League of Nations. Therefore, I think it is idle and harmful for the Lord President of the Council to pretend, as he did in that message which has already been criticised, that everyone is united in his party, great as his own services have been to the cause of disarmament and those of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham and Lord Cecil—it is idle to pretend that the whole of his party is united behind the policy of Peace and Disarmament which the Government are now pursuing. 84 But there are also two schools of thought in the Labour party. There are those who follow the lead of the right hon. Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Henderson) and believe in a constructive policy of Peace and Disarmament through the League of Nations, and there are those who follow the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, who has told us many a time that in his hearts of hearts he believes in disarmament by example—unilateral disarmament. He has voted on many occasions for the abolition of the forces of the Crown. He has assured us to-day that he thinks we are bound by the Treaty of Locarno, and must stand by it. He further says—and I agree with him—that the re-armament of Germany must be prevented. How can it be prevented if the young men of the country listen to the appeal that he made to them the other day and refuse to enter the fighting services? There would then be no power left to prevent the re-arming of Germany. I, therefore, believe that this Debate will reveal that there are four main schools of thought in this House on the question of Peace and Disarmament. There are those who believe in disarmament by example. I think that such disarmament as we have carried out in the last few years, as has been shown by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to-day, is an essential part of the policy of this country, but it has met with no direct response in the reduction of armaments by other countries. Other countries have not, in fact, disarmed in the same proportion. We see abroad a pacific country like Switzerland, which remained neutral in the last War, now being compelled to fortify its frontier. Denmark, which went as far as to disarm completely, far from evoking any similar response from Germany finds that German propaganda is directed against her frontiers, and is now forced to re-arm. I believe that the practical effect of any further attempt to follow here the line of unilateral disarmament would be to increase the insecurity of Europe and to provoke further armament among those nations who are now content to rely in part upon us to stand by our obligations which we have assumed under the League of Nations. There are those who believe in a Continental alliance. That, to my mind, would be a fatal policy for us to pursue. It 85 would inevitably lead to a counter-alliance and the precarious restoration of the balance of power. And it would lead also to the disruption of the British Empire, because undoubtedly the great countries of the British Empire would never allow themselves to be tied to a purely Continental foreign policy.
There are those who believe in the policy of isolation—an Empire in isolation, walled in behind tariff walls and quotas, behind battleships, submarines, aeroplanes and tanks. Armed cap-a-pie militarily and economically, such an Empire would inevitably attract the hatreds and jealousies of the whole world. The financial burden of its armaments would be such as to postpone indefinitely all hope of the recuperation of our national finances, of the lightening of the burden of taxation, and of the resumption of the march of social reform. Nor would the Dominions ever agree, on the one hand, to share in that almost overwhelming financial burden which such a policy would impose, or to cut themselves off from the United States of America and other countries and deprive themselves of that position of independence and influence in the councils of the world which they occupy at Geneva. I would say to the Imperialists who hold that doctrine that support of the League of Nations is a condition of British Imperial unity and co-operation. There remains the fourth policy, which is the constructive policy of Peace and Disarmament through the League of Nations. It is not easy: it is no panacea. It is not going to work quickly, but I have reached the conclusion, after examining all the other possible policies, that it is the only way in which we can reach the objective of a secure peace and disarmament.
I will very briefly examine what the main features of such a policy should he. I would say, firstly, collective guarantees of peace and the assurance of help against aggression. We therefore welcome the declaration which has been made both by the Government and by the Leader of the Opposition to-day—and we associate ourselves with those declarations—that this country is determined to stand by its obligations under the Locarno Treaty. The knowledge that the whole country is behind the Government in those undertakings is the stoutest bulwark of peace in Europe in these troubled times. Such guarantees are the only means of solving 86 the problem, to which the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs referred, of reconciling the German demand for equality with the French demand for security.
Secondly, there must be a real, substantial and immediate reduction of armaments. Thirdly, no re-armament of Germany. I agree entirely with the Leader of the Opposition that such re-armament would indeed be a fresh and formidable factor of insecurity. We are not blind to Herr Hitler's writings or deaf to those exhortations which come through the ether to the German people to prepare for a coming war. Germany's neighbours—this country—would never consent to the re-armament of Germany. But, fourthly, Germany must be treated fairly and justly. It is true that we have a great record in this matter. This country helped Germany into the League, but the fact remains that the Allied countries have declared their intention of disarming and have not, in fact, disarmed. That intention must be fulfilled. For ten years Germany has been waiting for its fulfilment. The Nazi movement in Germany has thriven on the refusal of the Allies to implement that intention. Now is the time when it must be fulfilled. We have promised Germany equality of status in armaments. We must give it. We Liberals detest Hitlerism; we detest its revolting manifestations of tyranny and barbarism and its spirit of racial jingoism, but it battens on the refusal to meet Germany's just grievances, and can only be exorcised by fairness in the treatment of German claims. For the German war-monger we have nothing but resolute opposition, but we must assure the German people of our friendship and good will and our respect for their national dignity.
§ Vice-Admiral TAYLOR
Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say what practical steps he proposes to prevent Germany from re-arming and to get the other nations in Europe to disarm?
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
As regards the second question of the hon. and gallant Member I am now outlining a constructive policy of Peace and Disarmament but I do not intend to answer his first question. Before anybody would threaten Germany with any steps which might be taken if she did re-arm, we want proof that she is in fact re-arming. To issue a threat to 87 take action against a country when it is not proved that she is arming would be a most improper policy. Certainly I say that we ought to be prepared. I join both with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Leader of the Opposition and, I believe, with the whole of this House, in the determination that there shall be no re-armament of Germany.
§ Vice-Admiral TAYLOR rose—
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I am very anxious not to keep the House; I know that a great number of Members want to speak, and I think I had better not give way.
§ Vice-Admiral TAYLOR
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman prepared to admit that this country should use force to prevent Germany from re-arming?
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I am not prepared to threaten force to anybody who has not been proved not to have fulfilled their obligations. The time to threaten force is when proof is given of failure to do so. I have certainly made it clear that whatever methods might be used, they must be effective. I would put it like that Whatever methods were taken they must lie such as would be effective to stop the re-armament of Germany, and I gather that is exactly what the Leader of the Opposition and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs have said. Of course. such steps as would be taken would not be taken by any one Power or by two Powers acting in alliance, but would be taken under the aegis of the League of Nations as a whole. I would say further to the hon. and gallant Member that if such an emergency arose, it would be of fundamental and essential importance that the peoples of the world should feel that they were on firm moral ground, and that just and fair treatment had in fact been offered to Germany.
What I would state as an instance in regard to which I am doubtful as to whether justice has in fact been given to Germany is the question which the Foreign Secretary raises of disarmament by stages; which was in its inception and in essence a fair proposal but which seems to have degenerated into the conception of a period of probation. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has repudiated the idea of a period of 88 probation, but he has not made it clear that it was generally repudiated at the Disarmament Conference, or that he there definitely opposed it, and I hope that it will now be made clear that we are not asking Germany to accept a period of probation. It is, moreover, abundantly clear that if the nations insist, as they ought to insist, on Germany remaining without certain weapons, then all nations must equally accept the abandonment of those weapons. Fourthly, we think that no scheme of armament limitation would be complete without a scheme of budgetary limitation. Fifthly, we think, too, that the problem to which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred, and which we have often raised also—the problem of the private manufacture of arms—is one which must be seriously tackled in any Convention. Lastly, but by no means least important, must be a universal, real. and thorough inspection and supervision of armaments equally applied to all countries.
Therefore, I hope that as a result of this Debate four useful purposes will be served. Firstly, our sincerity and unity in the cause of peace and disarmament will be clearly shown. Secondly, as regards the methods we should pursue, to define clearly the views held by the different schools of thought. Thirdly, to show, as only a frank and open debate can satisfactorily show, that the overwhelming majority in this House is in favour of the constructive policy of Peace and Disarmament by agreement through the League of Nations. And I hope that the fourth result of this Debate will be to spur the Government to redouble their efforts to bring about an agreement between those Powers who are still members of the Disarmament Conference, and ultimately between those Powers and the Government of Germany.
It would be idle for me to pretend that we on these benches are pleased with the achievements of the Government in the field of disarmament. On the contrary, we are profoundly dissatisfied and concerned about the situation with which we are faced at the present time. Far be it from me to under-estimate the good work which the Government have done. When the Prime Minister tabled that Draft Convention to which the Secretary 89 of State for Foreign Affairs referred, I paid my tribute to the courage that he had shown in putting down the facts, the figures and the dates of disarmament. Far be it from me to suggest that the Government are solely responsible for the failure so far to achieve that end, but they must share the burden of the responsibility. The will of the people of this country is for peace and disarmament, and it is clear and strong. The peoples of the world demand it and will not forgive failure. Success will be the reward of consistency of purpose, energy and faith.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I agree with so much of what the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has said that I would rather dwell upon that agreement than follow him into some thoughts which he uttered and some statement he made which I think he would find it hard to justify. He called attention, however, to one point which I think to all of us must be very satisfactory. Once again, after considerable commotion and emotion, a great subject of national policy is brought upon the Floor of this House, and the first result is not to emphasise differences but to mark agreement as to the fundamental conditions on which British foreign policy has to be carried out, whatever men and whatever party sit upon that bench. Therein lies our strength, and I hope that that unity of national feeling may not be obscured by differences of methods or of reasons. I shall excuse myself also from following the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in his wide survey of the world, literally from China to Peru, but there was one observation of his on which I hope he will permit me one word of comment. He said that he must confess that for one of his pacifist leanings there was some inconsistency even in continuing to live in a world organised as ours is. I hope that he will continue that inconsistency for many more years. We should be very sorry to lose him from this House, and his friends would be very sorry to lose him outside.
The Debate has not taken altogether the turn that I had expected. So far as the previous speakers who represent the views of parties in this House are concerned, they all appear to demand, not that we denounce Locarno, but to assert 90 that we will maintain it. They have all agreed that though there have been deficiencies in the progress made towards the fulfilment of the hopes that we held out to Germany when she was called upon to accept disarmament, this country has shown a great example. Except for the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who believes that that example if carried to the point of complete disarmament would be more powerful still, there has been no voice in this House to suggest that we can safely go further except by general agreement. I had hoped that before I spoke my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) would have given his views to the House.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I know that the right hon. Gentleman is going to give his views after I have spoken. He would have given me very real satisfaction if on this occasion he had been ready to speak before me and to have allowed me to follow him. The right hon. Gentleman has published broadcast to the world at large, and in a foreign Press, charges against his country and the Governments of his country which he may perhaps, I hope he will, be prepared to modify after listening to the speech of the Secretary of State to-day. His article—he knows the article to which I am alluding—did not, I think, serve the cause of Peace. Doing less than justice to his own country, that article and his other utterances have become welcome party propaganda of the dominant party in Germany. I do not suppose for a moment that that was my right hon. Friend's intention, but I do appeal to him in these matters to weigh his words a little more carefully and to remember that he is read by a wide circle and that the Germans are allowed to read only that which supports the very impression that the German Government want to produce upon their own people.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that one of the first essentials of an understanding of foreign affairs was to try to get into the mind and behind the mind of the other party and to understand why he does a certain thing. I agree with him. It is important that we should ask ourselves and try by any 91 means open to us to ascertain why Germany left the Disarmament Conference and why she left the Disarmament Conference at that particular moment. She must have left it in the hope that she would bring the Disarmament Conference to an end, not with the good will of our Government or of our people. Be Germany present or be she not, we hope that that Conference will go on until it has framed a Convention, which will then be open to signature by Germany. In the framing of it we should be glad to have her co-operation, but it will be framed even if she refuses her co-operation. That Convention will be open to her signature and dependent for its operation upon her acceptance and ratification of it, and if that acceptance and ratification be refused all the world will know which country has disappointed its hopes and shut the doors against that new and better feeling which we hoped was entering into the relations of nations with one another.
I beg the House to remember that this is not the first time that Germany has prevented a Conference aimed at promoting peace and disarmament from reaching a successful result. It was Germany that prevented the Tsar's initiative at the Hague Conference from coming to fruition. It was Germany, in the years before the War, that repulsed with scorn and indignation every effort of the Liberal Government of the day to come to some terms for a limitation of the race in naval construction, and now it is Germany again who leaves the Conference and, as I say, seeks to bring it to an end. Why? Why at that moment? It is a very grave question, and the answer may be graver still.
What had happened? It is true that while no obligation was taken towards Germany on Disarmament on the part of the victorious Powers as a consequence of her signing and accepting the Treaty of Versailles, hopes were held out that that would be the first step to a general limitation of armaments. But I speak within my own knowledge when I say that no member of the British Government responsible for the Treaty of Versailles, responsible for the declaration in the Preamble of the Disarmament Section, or having responsibility for the letter which M. Clemenceau addressed 92 to the Germans, in the name of the Allies—no member of the British Government contemplated that the limitation of armaments would be of such a character as to reduce the victor Powers to the level of disarmament which was imposed upon the vanquished. I say more, that when this very question was raised in the course of negotiations at Locarno—free negotiations, at which fall the Powers met as equals, where there was no "dictator "and no imposed peace, but an agreement freely reached—before these Treaties were initialled and long before they were signed the negotiators for this country and the negotiators for France told the Germans that, though we trusted and believed that the conclusion of the Treaty of Locarno would facilitate and hasten a large measure of disarmament, it was an unreasonable proposal to make that we should come down to the level which they had had to accept. And they signed the Treaty of Locarno in full knowledge that that was the view of the then British Government and the then French Government. It is no longer the view of the British Government and it is no longer the view of the French Government.
A year ago Germany withdrew from the Conference. We may well ask ourselves, when she has withdrawn a second time, whether it was wise to run after her and purchase her return. What good has it done us? What effect has it had except to persuade Germany that by such action she can extort her own terms instead of negotiating in a position of equality and as among friendly nations combining for the same purpose. At any rate, advances were made. The promise of equality of status by stages was given, and the Convention which was visibly shaping at the moment when Germany withdrew from the Disarmament Conference for the second time and gave notice also of her withdrawal from the League, was one which would have implemented that promise and given effect to it within a reasonable, indeed in a, very moderate, time. I understand from my right hon. Friend's speech and from what I have read in the papers that two periods of four years have been spoken of, but that there was no decision taken upon that and that the 93 exact period either of the first stage or of the second was open to argument and adjustment.
What else was there? From the very first moment after the signature of the Treaty of Versailles, and even before it, the Germans protested vehemently against a section of the Versailles Treaty which was very dear to the heart of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs; that which refused them a conscript army and limited narrowly the number of the forces which they might maintain, and required that the men enlisted should be enlisted for a long period of years. They protested vehemently, and that is one of the chief grievances which they have consistently alleged, and one of the hardships—as they have said—of which they have most persistently complained, from that day till the moment when they saw a Convention taking shape that removed that grievance on condition that they were content with a militia the same as other countries would have, and did not continue this long-service army. They had said from the very early days of the Treaty that there must be inspection, at least they had said that they would accept inspection, provided that it was applied to all countries equally. When they said that, America was on record as saying that she would never accept it, and we were maintaining exactly the same ground. Then the American and British Governments, in order to facilitate the progress of this Convention and to get disarmament, agreed to waive their objections and to accept inspection on an equality applied to all countries irrespective of whether they were on one side or the other during the last war.
There were two vital claims: the main German claim to equality of status by stages being embodied and named in the Convention and their claim not to be condemned only to have this long-service army accepted, together with their claim that inspection should be general and their promise to accept it if it were equally applied. That is the moment at which they withdraw! Nobody in this country or in any other, after the mere recital of the facts by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary this afternoon, is going to say that the decision of the German Government was taken after his speech at Geneva, and still less on account of it.
94 There may be some few fools in this world capable of believing it, but I think that they are all under restraint. Why did they choose to withdraw Is it because they have made of their hundred thousand men a body of officers and non-commissioned officers capable of filling those ranks in the vast army which is provided by the various Nazi forces, nominally civilian, but more highly disciplined, more highly trained than our own territorial forces? Is it because of this fact that, although they asked for this and nursed it as a grievance, yet when their claim is admitted they do not want to accept that for which they asked, and must find some way of preserving this force of elite, this spear-point for a great army, some way by which they can retain it and seek to shift the blame on to other shoulders?
The same thing is true with inspection. They said, "We will accept an inspection which is common to all, "knowing that America had said she would not accept it, knowing that we had said that we should hot accept it. When we are converted and consent, she then goes out. Are you not driven to ask if that claim was put forward not in the hope that it would be met, but in the hope that it would be refused: to give her an excuse for that re-armament of which my right hon. Friend below me spoke a few moments ago. I ask myself—and I wish I could give myself a reassuring answer —Did Germany come into this Conference sincerely desiring the limitation of armaments by others so that she might enjoy the security which they themselves sought; or did she come into it intending to secure through its failure some moral claim to re-arm, in order that she 'night once again—hot immediately but presently—use force as an instrument of policy to achieve her aims, be they Anschluss with Austria; be they the stripping of the Danish provinces from Denmark again; be they the recovery of Alsace and Lorraine, or be they some alteration of her Eastern frontiers which she is pledged again and again, by one treaty after another, not imposed at Versailles but voluntarily accepted since, never to seek except by peaceful means?
It is a grave question, and it has to be in the minds of all of us when we are deciding what policy we are to pursue. It does not shake my allegiance to the League of Nations; it does not shake my 95 desire to see, in the interests of our own people and of all peoples, a great reduction in armaments. The withdrawal of Germany ought not in my opinion to prevent a Convention for that purpose from being signed, though it may be, with Germany out, that the Convention will be less favourable to Germany and less favourable to us all than it would have been if she had remained in. But it does mean that it is fatal to allow the German Government to suppose that by mere withdrawal it can extort terms which were not yielded to reason. It is fatal to allow it to suppose that there is the slightest weakening in the will of this nation, or in any other outside it, to maintain the Treaties we signed and to carry out our obligations, if they arise, in the spirit as well as in the letter.
If Germany withdraws from the League of Nations, if she withdraws from the Conference, she cannot withdraw from the Treaty of Locarno, and she is still bound, not merely by the Treaty of Guarantee to which we are a party, but by the Treaties of Arbitration which she signed with France, with Belgium, with Poland and with Czechoslovakia. She is still bound, if she cannot settle any dispute with any one of these nations by ordinary diplomatic or legal methods, to go to the arbitrament of the League, the Council of the League, of which she will become for the purposes of this dispute again a member. I was so much engaged in, and my name is so much connected, with those negotiations that I should sooner have left this to be said entirely by other people, but it is my firm conviction that, as the signature of the Treaty of Locarno did bring immediate relief from the tension of the preceding years, so it is just as we are loyal to the Treaty of Locarno and maintain it that we can hope for better things in the future and the relaxation of the present tension. I believe that if the key of peace can be said to be in the keeping of any one nation, it is on our hands, and that the knowledge of our loyalty—a knowledge not untested and not unproved—to our engagements—is the firm rock on which alone you can ever hope to build the reconciliation of France and Germany and to establish a stable peace on the Continent of Europe. If we withdraw, if we cast doubt upon our willingness to carry out 96 our obligations, then as sure as I stand here our children, or it may be our children's children, will see let loose again upon a world still riot recovered from the disasters of the last War, another war more destructive and more fatal still.
§ 7.15 p.m.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
My purpose in intervening in the Debate is to put a few questions to the Government, but before I do so I must say a word or two in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). At the beginning of his speech, he administered a very characteristic rebuke to me. I say characteristic because he rather assumed to himself the position of a very portentous scolder, and said that I was responsible for delivering some speech which was not useful to the peace of Europe. I am not sure to what speech he was referring.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I was referring more specifically to the right hon. Gentleman's article which was published in the "News Chronicle "and copyrighted by the Hearst Press of America.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I will deal with that later; and I propose to justify it. But I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he thinks that his speech is helpful to the peace of Europe? Does he think that at a time when advances are being made, to which the Foreign Secretary has referred in a most admirable and conciliatory spirit, it is helpful to the peace of Europe to make an attack upon the good faith of Germany? The right hon. Gentleman is naturally very proud of Locarno, and when he says that the peace of Europe depends upon the nations carrying out the obligations which they have undertaken I am entirely with him. But does he say that the signatories to the Treaty of Versailles, or to the Treaty of Locarno, have carried out their oligations in respect of disarmament? If he does, then he has not taken the trouble to ascertain the facts before he made his attack upon Germany.
May I give an explanation to the Foreign Secretary about my omission to repeat the statement, which I had already made in another speech, that this country had done its best to carry out her obligations under disarmament. The Foreign Secretary admitted that I 97 said so in my speech, and may I add that w hen I wrote an article afterwards for the Hearst Press—[Interruption.] It has a gigantic circulation in the United States of America and anyone who laughs at this powerful organisation is not a friend to this country—I repeated the same statement and said that Great Britain had set an example and that Great Britain alone had done so. I did not even except the United States of America. Having made the statement twice I came to the "talkie," and I had not the advantage which the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues have of access to the Broadcasting Corporation whenever I want to make a speech. I had not a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes to ex-press my views on Disarmament, I had only three minutes, and you cannot present the whole of the arguments in that time. Had I known that it was not merely for this country, that it would he repeated abroad, I should certainly have put it in. I was told that it was purely for this country and did not put it in because I had already made the statement two or three times. I regret that I did not repeat my statement in that broadcast speech, and the moment I discovered that it was sent abroad I was exceedingly sorry that I had not put the statement in. It would have been just as well to have put it in seeing that the film might be used in Germany. I did what I could afterwards by writing an article on the subject.
Now I come to the questions I should like to ask the Government. First of all, with regard to the trouble that has arisen which has ended in the departure of Germany from the League. I am expressing no opinion as to whether Germany was justified or not on that occasion, but I should like to know the circumstances under which she left. When the Prime Minister produced his scheme in March Germany accepted it in principle. It was given a first reading; I am not sure whether it was given a second reading, but at any rate after a prolonged debate it was accepted and Germany recently has said "we stand by the British Draft Convention. "They have used those words officially. I want to know what has happened not perhaps to drive Germany from the League but to give her occasion for leaving the League. The Foreign Secretary was 98 very clear in his explanation of the Prime Minister's proposals. When the Foreign Secretary wants to make himself clear there is no man in the House who can make a more lucid statement, but when he does not, when he wishes to be vague, a little confused, there is no one in the House who can do it better, not excepting even the Prime Minister.
I have been reading during the last few days the speeches of the Foreign Secretary explaining what happened at Geneva. I read his speech at Geneva. The relevant fact is that Germany is out for some specific reason which she gives. The question is whether there is any foundation for that. I read the broadcast of the right hon. Gentleman and reread it, and I cannot tell even now what it was that was proposed to Germany to which she objected. It clearly was not the MacDonald plan. What she objected to was the Simon plan, or some other plan, if the right hon. Gentleman repudiates parentage. There was obviously a difference. The 'Royal Institute of International Affairs have given a very clear explanation and they say that Germany objected for three reasons. The first was that a probationary period was imposed. They say that under the MacDonald plan there were several stages before reaching equality. Germany was prepared to accept that and was also prepared to discuss what those stages should be; she was not going out because the stages were too small or inadequate. But she said that a probationary period was interposed during which there was to be no disarmament on the part of any nation except Germany. The term was four years. The right hon. Gentleman says it was a subject of discussion. I believe that the United States suggested 18 months; but that does not matter, there was a probationary period, and during that period neither France, Poland, Czechoslovakia or Italy were under any obligation to reduce their armaments by a single gun.
What was their second objection? They said that during that period the supervision and control, or rather the inspection, was unilateral. I was glad to hear the Foreign Secretary's speech on this point because it is the first time it has been said. I want to know whether, during this probationary period, the inspectors of the League of Nations are entitled 99 to go not merely to every workshop and every chemical factory in Germany, and without that inspection is of no use, but whether they are equally entitled to go to every arsenal in France, to every chemical factory in France, and to every aeroplane factory in France, in order to find out how many guns, heavy and light, —and also tanks the French and the Poles and the Czechoslovakians have—what they have in their arsenal for the production of new guns, or is the inspection—and this has been my impression gathered from the documents issued by the Royal Institute of International Affairs—during the probationary period to be unilateral. If the Government will declare definitely—and I understood from the Foreign Secretary that it was the case—that during the probationary period the inspectors of the League of Nations will have the same right and the same obligation to go to all the factories and arsenals in France and Italy, and in this country, and find out exactly what there is, as they have of going to Germany, it would be a great advantage. I am not asking this as a criticism because I welcome the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman. It is the first time it has ever been stated.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is the first time it has been stated, but at the same time I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I am not going to interrupt him any more because my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will answer these questions, and I think that the answer to his second question will completely satisfy him.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That is a very valuable statement. If, as the right hon. Gentleman says, it has been stated before I must have missed it, because I have taken care to read everything that the right hon. Gentleman has said. At any rate the right hon. Gentleman has made it quite clear; he has answered that question. But I put the question again with regard to the period of probation. Does it mean that during the probationary period no other nation is under any obligation to begin any stage of the disarmament indicated in the document of the Prime Minister? That is very vital. Just see what it means. At the end of that period the Commission of Control 100 might say that the Brown Shirts were a military formation and were a breach of the Treaty of Versailles. They may say to Germany, "You have 50,000 or 100,000 rifles more than the Treaty of Versailles permits. "Are the other countries then in the position, although after the probationary period is over the stages are to begin, to say that they are not to begin at all until Germany disbands her Brown Shirts, until there arc no Brown Shirts in the demilitarised area, or that Germany may not have 50:900 or 100,000 rifles more than are permitted by the Treaty of Versailles? If so we are in exactly the position in which we were before under the Treaty of Versailles.
I put this to the Government: Is it necessary to have the probationary period if you have inspection? The Prime Minister's document is a document of disarmament by stages, accompanied by complete supervision and inspection by an independent body of the League of Nations. Take the first year. During that year every arsenal in Germany could be inspected, every factory and every workshop could be inspected, and if at the end of the period it were discovered that Germany had concealed arms and was manufacturing some weapons which she had no right to manufacture, then the other Powers would be in a position to say, "You have broken the Treaty and until you stop that business further stages are stopped. "What is the need for this probationary period? It simply makes it impossible to come to terms which I think could he achieved at this moment.
My own view of the whole position is this: I think the victors have broken the Treaty, that they have riot honoured their signatures. Germany has therefore undoubtedly a case. I wonder whether anyone here has taken the trouble to read the Report of the Control Commission on the arms surrendered or broken up by Germany? I ask the Government to publish that information. We had a conference of the leaders of the various parties in this House, sitting in the Prime Minister's room to consider the whole question of disarmament. It met in the summer of 1931, just before the formation of the National Government. My right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) and myself represented the Liberal Party. The Government was 101 represented by the Prime Minister, the Dominions Secretary, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, then Mr. Snowden, and the right hon. Member for Clay Cross (Mr. A. Henderson). It is very remarkable that we came to a unanimous conclusion, that the report of that conference was unanimous. Why? Because we had all the facts put before us. Without the permission of the Prime Minister I am not entitled to give the facts to the House, but I can indicate their character.
We had the facts with regard to the arms surrendered by Germany, and the arms broken up by the Control Commission. The figures were prodigious. There were scores of thousands of guns. That is not a secret; it has been published. It ought to be published in a White Paper. I forget how many rifles there- were, whether it was 5,000,000 or 6,000,000. There were tens and scores of millions of shells. But the most remarkable thing of all was the number of machines for the production of war material that were broken up. Practically all the machinery for the production of war material was broken up under the control of an inter-Allied Commission, and only just enough was left to enable Germany to renew her two or three hundred guns.
We were also told what were the arms of every country in Europe, including our own country—France, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Italy, Russia, and also the United States and Japan. We had for the first time authentic figures given to us, not by Ministers, but by the staffs of the various departments. Why are these figures withheld now? What objection is there to the House of Commons having them? The House is discussing the most vital issue that can come before it; that is the question of peace or war, and it depends upon disarmament. We are discussing it without the slightest knowledge of the essential facts.
I made a statement to the House in 1929 as to the arms of France. I knew something about them. My statement was challenged, but I understated the facts. I stated to the House that France had, with reserves, an Army of 4,000,000, that she could put 1,500,000 men in the field with reserves. But it meant more than that. It meant that with an Army of 1,500,000 men France had the most perfect equipment that any Army has ever had, and an infinitely more powerful 102 equipment than Germany had in 1914. She is perfecting it, she is increasing it in power. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) was very angry about Germany, about the way she has not kept her treaties. The reason assigned for the Treaty of Locarno was that it would enable the League of Nations to proceed with disarmament. What has happened? Since Locarno France has increased her guns and her bombing aeroplanes. She has increased her aeroplanes by 50 per cent. Do Members of the House realise how France has increased her submarines and torpedo boats I We have honourably done our best to carry out the obligations we entered into. Can anyone name any other Power that has done it?
France and the United States of America talk more about peace than all of us put together. Let, me give some figures to the House. France and Poland are not the only countries that stand in need of security. Take torpedo destroyers. In 1914 we had 135,000 tons. We are up to 197,000 tons now. France in 1914 had 35,000 tons; she has now 198,000 tons. She has more than we have. The United States of America had 40,000 tons in 1914; she has now 259,000 tons. It is all very well to lecture Europe about disarmament and to charge us with being bellicose. Here is a formidable figure: Japan in 1914 had 4,470 tons; she has to-day 125,000 tons. That is torpedo destroyers. Let us come to submarines. At this very moment I am going through the details of the submarine campaign and writing it up, and I shudder to think how near a thing it was. The submarines came nearer to destroying our power than anything that has ever happened.
In 1914 we had 47,000 tons in submarines; we have now 61,000 tons. France in 1914 had 33,000 tons; she has now 97,000 tons, or 36,000 tons more than we have. The United States in 1914 had 16,000 tons; to-day she has 77,000 tons. Japan had 3,264 tons in 1914, and she has now 77,000 tons. I believe that Italy, too, has more than we have. We have not even reached a one-Power standard in these things. Most of that development has happened since Locarno. Why did not my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, when he started scolding us, say something about that? Let me give him the budgets of the signatories to the Treaty of Locarno 103 which is "the foundation of peace." The spirit of Locarno, in my judgment, is no longer drinkable; it is charged with too much picric acid. France has almost doubled her armaments budget in the course of that period. The United States has increased from 590,000,000 dollars to 709,000,000 dollars. Italy has increased and Japan has increased. That is all since Locarno. How can the House of Commons judge fairly without getting these facts? You have Germany whose gigantic armaments were broken. You have the report of the Inter-Allied Commission. It ought to be published again.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That is right. The final report. Germany could not manufacture armaments. She might be able to turn out rifles. I do not know if she would be able to turn out machine guns without somebody knowing of it, but at any rate it could only be done with difficulty. But I defy anybody to organise the manufacture of big guns without the fact being known throughout the world. It cannot be done. Her armaments are shattered. She might be able to build up clandestinely armaments that would be formidable in defence as weapons used behind trenches. The rifle, after all, is a terrible weapon if you are behind something. But what is the good of attacking entrenchments with it? You cannot shatter barbed wire with it. They might as well, if they were going to invade France, go with their pockets full of pebbles as go with rifles. They must have big guns, and they cannot manufacture them. And yet we talk about a period of probation.
Let us have the real facts. President Hoover said there were 30,000,000 armed men in the world to-day or 10,000,000 more than before the War. All I know is that the nations that surround Germany have, between them, 7,000,000 of trained men and thousands of heavy guns. Germany has not one heavy gun and that is admitted to-day by both France and Belgium. Yet we say, let us have a period of probation. Germany has said—she said it before leaving the League of Nations and she has said it since: "We stand by the British Draft Convention. "Why not get back to it? Is it worth while imperilling the peace of Europe after an acceptance of that kind, 104 which is the most valuable thing that has happened for years and years when a practical proposal has been made by the British Government and all the nations accept it? Then we suddenly say: "We must have a period of probation for one party and that, the party which has disarmed." I beg the Government to go back to and to stand by the position which they held a few weeks ago.
It is no use saying that there has been a change in the conditions in Germany. Herr Hitler and his Nazis and Brown Shirts came into power in January with all their policy. They talked about rearmament and they paraded the streets with their Brown Shirts. The Prime Minister proposed his plan in March, two months later. There has been no change of any sort in the conditions since the right hon. Gentleman proposed his plan. Italy was willing to do without the period of probation. The United States only accepted it in order to propitiate France but they were quite willing to go without the period of probation. If Great Britain had taken the same line firmly and said "No; we put this plan forward after Herr Hitler became dictator of Germany and knew all the facts and therefore we mean to stand by it, "France would not have stood out. I again ask for information, first of all about the period of probation and, secondly, I ask will the Government in their White Paper give us the arms of Germany that were broken up on surrender? There cannot be any harm in doing that because it has been published already. Thirdly, will they tell us what their estimate is of the armaments of other nations? Finally, I beg them once more to go back to the position which they took up in March, to stand by their proposal and to put it through. Then and then only will there be peace in Europe.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. AMERY
I do not propose to answer the case put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) because, however eloquently he has pleaded the special point of view of Germany, I doubt whether he has in any way affected the judgment of the House after the speeches which we have already heard. In any case, I have no desire to continue 105 this "Who killed Cock Robin? "discussion. I would rather ask the House seriously to answer the question whether the time has not come for a reconsideration of the whole of our policy in connection with Disarmament, that policy which, so far, however well-intentioned, has failed to lead anywhere and which I cannot see is going to lead anywhere; and whether we had not better, under these conditions, make up our minds to change our policy and to adopt a course more consonant with our security, with our own interests and I believe, incidentally, with the peace and security of the world.
The Foreign Secretary made an admirably lucid and clear defence of the actual course of British policy in connection with this matter. But the better the defence, the worse becomes the case for a policy which has so obviously failed. I entirely agree with him that not only under this Government but under previous Governmentsour devotion to and our efforts for the cause of Disarmament have been constant and sincere ".I admit that no other country has ever done so much by precept or by practice, by exhortation or by example, to try to make a success of the Disarmament Conference. It has failed, as it was bound to fail. Failure was inevitable owing to the circumstances of the case and the temper of the nations concerned. We have listened to a powerful indictment of Germany's policy in this matter by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). We have listened to a powerful indictment of everybody else by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. Those very speeches show how impossible it was to get both sides together. It was never possible, in my belief, to frame a Disarmament Convention that you could reasonably have asked France to accept and to which Germany would have agreed.
What is the position of Germany? Germany wants to re-arm. Germany means to re-arm. Germany is going to re-arm, and nobody is going to stop her. That is the fact, and what hope can anyone at the bottom of his heart entertain of the future of this Convention? The speech of the Foreign Secretary shed no light on the question: How are you going to find a new Convention that will be acceptable to Germany after what has 106 happened? Is France going to accept immediate, unconditional disarmament, relying on a system of inspection of the value of which she knows nothing? How far do you think Germany, which recently arrested Mr. Banter for reporting an ordinary public parade, is going to facilitate the inquiries of a disarmament commission? Indeed, how can you ask the ex-Allies and the other nations who were at Geneva recently, and who agreed to certain terms, to whittle down those terms any further in face of Germany's attitude? How, after a triumphant verdict next Saturday, do you think Chancellor Hitler is going to regard these proposals? Things being what they are, why should we any longer deceive ourselves? The Disarmament Convention is dead and no one is going to be able to galvanise it into life. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham did indeed suggest that it should have a dignified and suitable funeral; that the other Powers should agree upon all the details of a Convention and go through the ceremony of presenting it to Germany in order that she might refuse it. That might be more decent than leaving the corpse to be thrown on one side. But it is not going to resuscitate the Disarmament. Conference.
That being so, had we not better ask ourselves: Is there not an alternative policy more worthy of following than one which is leading to nothing but irritation and failure? I believe there is. I believe that if only we would stop this wild-goose chase after mechanical, reach-me-down schemes of world disarmament and peace, and leave Europe to settle her own affairs, the profound desire of the peoples of Europe for peace, the economic forces which are bringing them together, will themselves, through the ordinary flexible adjustments of international intercourse, bring about a much more lasting and real solution.
Europe, I believe, is already beginning to find herself. The elements of a new crystallisation on the Continent are showing themselves, not at Geneva but in the different capitals of the various Powers. Nothing has been more remarkable in recent European history, nothing has been more remarkable since the War, than the recent constitutional pact by which the three Powers of the Little Entente have formed themselves into a new political unit 107 with a single council to conduct their affairs. Some centuries ago three little cantons in Switzerland met together and formed a league out of which grew the Swiss Confederation. I believe that this union of the Little Entente may mean much more to the future peace and stability of Europe than anything that has been done at Geneva. Their example has been followed in the last few weeks by Turkey and Greece. There is to-day a continuous going to and fro in Central and South-Eastern Europe and a movement in the direction of bringing the whole of its countries into a single economic combination. That may well, favoured as it is to-day by both France and Italy, lead to something much more real, solid, and enduring than the schemes which have been hatched at Geneva.
Nobody at this moment has contributed so much to this re-grouping and consolidation of Europe las Germany herself, by her aggressive methods and her aggressive language. So long as she maintains that aggressive attitude, so long will she strengthen the unity of the rest of Europe, and, I quite agree with the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, so long will her power to do mischief amount to very little, in face of the overwhelming margin of strength which is enjoyed by the Powers which are concerned in the preservation of the status quo in Europe. Let her re-arm. As long as the other Powers keep together, they will not be forced into any race for re-armament. The answer to a threat is not always more expenditure on armaments, but in making other friends and consolidating the position. In the end, if Germany once realises that no re-armament on her part can ever put her into a position in which she can reverse the general settlement of Versailles by force, the recognition of that fact, the pressure of economic forces, and the need of markets, may even bring her in the long run into the European consolidation.
The best help that we can give is to encourage that consolidation, and at any rate not to interfere with its evolution. If we are out to help, let us make the most practical contribution we, can, land that will be to waive our claims under the most-favoured-nation Clause, which at present prevent the nations of Europe 108 which wish to co-operate with each other from giving each other preferences such las the nations of the Empire have given to each other at Ottawa. In any case, let us stop nagging and pestering France and every other European nation into disarmament schemes in which they do not believe, and as the price of which they are bound to ask us for guarantees of support which will only entangle us ever further in the European situation.
I shall be told that I am advocating a policy of isolation. Isolation is a relative term. Clearly we cannot stand alone. But, after all, what matters is the nations to whom we are going to stand close. In the first place, we have got to stand close to our own Dominions. The unity of the Empire is infinitely more important than any association with any other Power. Secondly, it is vital to us to stand close to the United States of Amercia, and akin to us in race and tradition and bordering us along 4,000 miles of an open frontier. My strongest objection to a policy of continuous meddling in Europe is that it isolates us from the Dominions. The more our policy commits us to intervention in European affairs, to the probability or even the possibility of another European war, the more determinedly will the Dominions avoid sharing our responsibilities and stand aloof from any attempt at a closer and more effective organisation of the Empire for a common policy. I believe that the same is in large measure true of the United States. The more the United States identify us in their minds with the affairs of what they regard as a quarrelsome and irrational continent, the more will they keep aloof from us. The key to Anglo-American co-operation lies in teaching the Americans to dissociate us in their minds from the affairs of Europe and to associate us more closely with the affairs of the Dominions, whose policy and mentality they understand and appreciate.
I know perfectly well the stock arguments that are always advanced against such a policy. They were hinted at by the Foreign Secretary in his speech. We are told that the aeroplane has so diminished the advantages of our insular position, has brought us so near to Europe, that willy-nilly we must continually go on intervening in European affairs. I cannot for the life of me see 109 the force of that argument. If the air forces of Europe are so formidable, I should have thought. that that was a reason for avoiding embroilment in European affairs. Canada, with 4,000 miles of open frontier, is even more vulnerable to American aeroplanes. Does she draw the inference that she ought therefore continuously to intervene in the internal affairs of the United States? Of course not. But I will add this: if the aeroplane has brought us nearer to Europe, has it not also brought us much nearer to the rest of the British Empire? Has not the whole possibility of Imperial co-operation been immensely enhanced when men like Kingsford-Smith and Ulm have shown that it is possible to fly to Australia in a week? The aeroplane is not the only invention which has modified and transformed the political geography of the Empire. To-day the statesmen of the Empire can have direct personal communication at any moment over the wireless. Science in this respect has obliterated and annihilated the vast spaces that once separated us. But science has not obliterated the barriers that are interposed by differences of speech and of mentality. Melbourne and Ottawa have been brought next door to us. Paris and Berlin are still as far away as ever.
We can never, of course, wholly disinterest ourselves in the affairs of Europe so close to us. The control of the coast of the Channel opposite our shores by a Tingle aggressive, dominant Power is a danger against which, League of Nations or no League of Nations, Locarno Treaty or no Locarno Treaty, we might, in accordance with our historical tradition and necessity, at all times have to take measures, in the future as in the past. From that point of view, I believe that our people, and indeed the Empire, might be well prepared to endorse the continuance of our guarantee of Belgium, and, indeed, also the Locarno Treaty, in so far as that Treaty deals with the limited and, I believe, remote contingency of direct aggression by a dominant, aggressive Power against one of our neighbours across the Channel.
To my mind, the real danger to our peace is not the Locarno Treaty, which —I entirely agree with the Secretary of State and with what the Under-Secretary 110 of State said recently in a very able speech—in practice always leaves us free to make up our own minds when the time comes. The danger lies in a course of policy which, in the professed interests of a system of collective peace, is calculated continually to involve us in moral responsibilities from which we cannot escape, and to drag us into quarrels in which we have no real interest, while at the same time tending all the time to deprive us of the control of our own defence. I may be told that the policy I advocate will involve us in unlimited rearmament. I entirely dispute that. The armaments which we need for our security —and I admit that they are far from adequate at this moment—as an Empire, on sea, on land, and in the air, will in the main be governed by factors which lie far away from the European situation. If they are sufficient for those wider needs of Empire, I think they will be sufficient to give us reasonable defence against any unprovoked, sudden attack by any European Power, and indeed I can hardly imagine such an attack taking place without finding others whose intervention would promptly follow. But if they are insufficient for those wider purposes of Empire, then I doubt whether any scheme hatched at Geneva is going to help us on the Khyber Pass or keep secure for our commerce the freedom of the China Seas.
I have felt bound to use words, possibly not consonant with the general trend of the speeches that have been delivered this afternoon, which may call for rebuke from those virtuous and admirable persons who continue to delude themselves with the idea that you can bring all the forces and passions which animate national life, not into some new group of natural development, but into some mechanical scheme. I know that anybody who takes the view that I do, who is prepared to say what he believes on the situation, is regarded as a cynic, a reactionary, and an immoral person. But I cannot help thinking of the story of the Emperor's robes, in Hans Andersen's fairy tales, which some of us may have read in our youth; of the charlatan tailor who came to court and said that he could produce the most beautiful clothes in the world, but that they had this rare quality, that they were only visible to those whose conduct had been above reproach and 111 whose conscience was clear. In consequence nobody, either at court or in the crowds in the streets, dared say a word when the Emperor paraded the streets of his capital in his underclothes, until finally a child ventured to say, "Why is not the Emperor wearing any clothes" For a good many years now it has been considered immoral to venture to doubt the reality and efficacy of these mechanical policies. I do doubt them, and I do hope that the House of Commons will face this issue, will get away from these ready-made schemes, and will see how far the peace of the world can be helped by such great groups as those of our own British nations and by encouraging other groups of nations to constitute themselves.
I believe that the decisive issue in politics in the next few years is going to be between those who believe in a policy of national and Imperial strength, development, and consolidation, and those who still hanker after a policy of internationalism, both in economics and in politics. It is on that issue that the future is going to be decided, and while I confess that we have not had a very definite lead as yet from the Government on this matter, it is on that issue, above all others, that sooner or later this House of Commons and the nation will want to know where they stand. We have to stand on one side or the other. We may not wish to renew party strife in any sense, but if the affairs of this country are to be successfully administered, they must be administered on a definite principle and by people who unitedly believe in that principle.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
This afternoon we have heard speeches from many eminent personages who have a reputation in this country and a reputation in Europe which should not be forgotten when they speak in this House or outside. I was concerned to find that we have wandered away from the subject of Disarmament into all kinds of conflicts and dangers of the European situation, and of foreign policy, quite apart from the policy of Disarmament. As representing a party which is a party of peace, a party known throughout Europe as a party pledged to international co-operation, I am very anxious that any word of mine shall not militate in the slightest 112 against the prospects of improved international relations at the present time. Never before in the history of Europe has it been more necessary that caution should be used in public utterances, and I deplore the fact that to-day men whose experience ought to have led them to speak with much greater caution have allowed their sympathy with this country or another to colour their views and the expression of those views. The speeches made this afternoon will be printed and published in other countries in Europe in justification of their purely nationalistic policies, and that will aggravate the situation.
Everybody knows that the situation is bad enough. Never before have we known so much inflammable material; never have we known such pent up possibilities of an outbreak of war; never before have we known such confusion in the minds of nations and of people regarding the outcome of possible hostilities. This danger is not a danger to one country. It should never be looked upon as a danger to one country or another. It is a danger to all, a common danger to mankind. In the last War, if I remember rightly, every European nation with the exception of six was involved. I doubt whether it would be possible for six European nations to keep out of a conflict which occurred now. It would really mean a world war if the worst fore bodings of this afternoon's Debate materialised. I feel some confidence that later words spoken from this side of the House and, I hope, from that side too, will do something to redress the tone and tendency of to-day's Debate, that the summing-up of the Debate will go forth as an indication that Great Britain is really concerned about the world situation and about the perils of the partial failure—the temporary failure, we hope—of disarmament, and that we shall send forth a solid expression of our belief in the imperative necessity of a disarmament agreement Which will make the world safe for all for some time to come.
This question of disarmament is based mainly upon the Conference which has been taking place in Geneva for some time, and on this side of the House we do not conceal our disappointment with the progress made there. I do not wish to attack the Government or to hold them or its representatives solely responsible. We know the situation is 113 difficult. There are national antagonisms and susceptibilities that find their expression in Geneva every day. There is great reluctance on the part of those who meet there to show willingness to disarm, and there is very great difficulty there because confidence has been lost. Nobody's word is believed these days. There has been so much manoeuvring for position and advantage on the part of one country and another that the nations are very reluctant to accept anything said on behalf of any Government at Geneva. I think that we must come back somehow or other to the Geneva Conference with a determination to accept each other's utterances at their face value. We must go there somehow or other to convince those sitting with us that we are in earnest about this problem. Everybory looks at this problem from his own point of view. Everybody's view is coloured by his own national or imperial interests, and it has been impossible thus far to get anybody to believe that the delegates at Geneva are keen upon disarmament all round.
It has been said this afternoon that we on this side of the House at one time accepted the Prime Minister's plan. We accepted that plan only in part, as was expressed from this side of the House about eight or nine months ago. A few of us, speaking in a debate on foreign affairs, said that we thought that it would be an advantage as a basis of negotiation to have figures inserted to represent the armed forces of each of the countries of Europe and each of the countries represented at Geneva. I still believe that. If disarmament is to come universally, if it is to come by gradual steps, the standard and the basis must be fixed for each country at the beginning; but that must only be adopted as a level from which each country should work downwards. The real value of the British Government's plan, as I see it, is that there is this uniform standard, but if we content ourselves with the British Government's plan with its figures for land forces and other forces for each country laid down as a permanent basis, then we really are deluding ourselves and making it impossible for the future permanent agreement at which we hope to arrive by the further negotiations in Geneva.
A good deal has been said about Germany's reason for breaking up this Conference, and some measure of blame has 114 been apportioned to Germany. Indeed, doubt has been expressed whether she entered the Conference at any time with the desire to share in a general agreement. I do not think that it will profit us to inquire whether Germany has a bona fide interest in this Conference, but she has gone out of the Conference and we should not allow the absence of one discontented party in Europe to destroy the possibility of the agreement which might be arrived at if every other party entered the Conference in good faith. Germany is passing through a period of very great difficulty. I have not the slightest sympathy, no one on this side of the House has the slightest sympathy, with the present Government in Germany. The people in Germany with whom we have political sympathies are in concentration camps. If they are outside the camps they may be in the streets and in their offices, but they are dumb, their voices are not heard, their influence is not felt in the common life of Germany. We have no means of establishing contact with the people who hold similar views to ours, and of ascertaining how far they are prepared to submit to the general policy of the Government which is responsible for their incarceration, or for the complete system of censoring which prevents the German people from knowing what takes place in the outside world, and prevents us knowing what takes place inside Germany.
The German Government is the complete repudiation of democracy. It has for the moment broken with the world comity of nations. It has come to a kind of epidemic of nationalism which has thoroughly poisoned the German national system. She is living in a condition of high temperature which has become a great danger to her and to us. That condition of things in Germany is causing grave apprehension in neighbouring countries—countries like Denmark, for example, where Disarmament has been tried to a greater extent than any other country in the world. Denmark did adopt a system of almost complete disarmament, serving as an example to every other country, but the Danish people feel the influence of this aggressive spirit of nationalism coming across their frontiers, and grave apprehension exists in Denmark on that account.
We must have regard to the susceptibilities of other countries border- 115 ing on Germany, and while we do not wish to throw stones or to make it difficult for the German people to come back to this Conference, we in this House of Commons should try to understand why the unwillingness of Germany to remain in the League must cause apprehension to countries immediately around her, into which the German could "step over." Even without arms, even without heavy guns and aeroplanes, they could cross the frontier and invade those countries. That forces these neighbouring countries to hold the arms mentioned in the Debate. For example, there is Poland, a country which for hundreds of years was denied its freedom, and was condemned to a sense of national inferiority because it had lost its nationhood. It now has national independence, after hundreds of years of subjection to Germany, Russia and Austria. The Poles are a people smaller in numbers than the German people, and there is a country which, even without waiting for Germany to re-arm, stands in immediate fear of an attack by Germany and of an invasion which would take from her the freedom which she values so much. There is also Czechoslovakia. Those countries stand in fear of Germany, and we should not be oblivious of their position. While we speak to Germany to-day in terms of a generous and broad-minded appeal to her to come back to the conference at Geneva, we should not ignore the dangers.
It is not a question of the danger in which we ourselves stand, and perhaps not a question of the danger in which France stands, but of the danger to Germany's weaker neighbours because of the possibilities arising from the fact that there is living next door to them a nation with a population of 68,000,000 people. Those countries, some almost completely disarmed or unarmed, are living next door to Germany with that country in the mood in which Germany finds herself at present. With Germany in that mood our motive should be to gain time. Whether disarmament to the extent which we desire can be achieved this year or next year, it is indispensable to gain a year or two or five years' time. I think it is vital that we should gain time. When the question of a probationary period was being discussed, and taunts and gibes were thrown across the Floor of the 116 House, I felt in sympathy with those who were willing to consider a short period of probation. I do not say the probationary period should be five or 10 years, but some short period of probation is necessary. We cannot get the French or Polish people to disarm to-morrow. They want to know first how far the German nationalist movement is prepared to accommodate itself to a world in which peace is the rule and in which disarmament is to be the order of the day.
Another point which I think is vitally necessary is to have some kind of supervision. We shall not be able to hold the smaller countries of Europe in peace if rumours spread abroad—and one knows how fast rumour flies—without a very close and well-organised system of super. vision. All kinds of rumours might get around the world. Germany might 'be wrongly accused of arming when she was not, and the position would be aggravated by the absence of a system of supervision which would enable the world to know exactly what Germany was doing and what France was doing in regard to armaments, and what even the smaller countries were doing. This system of supervision is a vital necessity while we are gaining this breathing space of a year, or two or three years, during which the world can settle down and we can regain confidence. While we are waiting for that it is vitally necessary to have a system of supervision under the League of Nations. Even though all the countries of the world were not prepared to accept such a supervision, I think the system should be offered. The League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference should make it a definite condition. It should not be supervision for Germany alone, hut supervision in all countries, with regular reports to the Bureau of the Disarmament Conference, in order that everybody might know what was being done. In that way we should discount possible alarmist rumours which might spread from one country to another.
After the question of the probationary period, with supervision, comes the question of the fixing of armaments. We on this side have never committed ourselves, and never shall commit ourselves, to any fixed figures—to allowing Britain to have so many guns of given dimensions, so many battalions or army corps, so many cavalry regiments, so many battleships, so many cruisers. We cannot imagine 117 that such a balancing of figures will serve the world for ever and maintain peace. On behalf of the party I entirely dissociate it from that conception. It might be a useful, and perhaps an essential preliminary to the wider agreements which would end in total disarmament, but to conceive of a constant balancing of the armed forces of the world is to imagine a vain thing, and we could not give our support to any such proposals. We are very anxious, while giving expression to what is in our minds, to give no occasion, which we might regret later, for other feelings to be created. What is needed at the present time is the utmost coolness, the utmost calmness and the utmost impartiality. The world is in very great danger indeed.
We are drifting back into the stage of mutual antagonism which has been recalled here to-day by men who were themselves international leaders during the period of the Great War and in the postwar period. But it is no use going back to those things. It would not serve the House or the country to go back to the Treaty of Versailles and to say, "This should have been done then, "or to say that the conditions in that Treaty have been neglected or ignored and that the Treaty of Versailles should have been carried out. We say quite plainly that in our view the Treaty of Versailles was in itself an improper instrument for settling European affairs. It is no use blaming countries for not carrying out the Treaty. The Treaty of Versailles was an unjust instrument, and the effects of that Treaty are still with us. In the economic sphere we have found the Treaty causing grave injustice to nations. Germany herself suffers gravely from the Treaty of Versailles, but it is no use invoking that treaty in favour of Germany. It is no use harking back.
Again, it is no use analysing the Treaty of Locarno, and trying to decide whether certain things in it ought to have been left out, or whether certain dangers exist because of the terms of that Treaty. What we have to face is the present situation. It is bad enough in all conscience. It is a situation frauglht with menace to the whole world, one of danger from the military standpoint and of hopelessness from an economic standpoint.
This question of Disarmament I believe to be vital to the maintenance of peace in Europe, but do not let us imagine that 118 any settlement of the question of arms alone is going to maintain peace in Europe. I hope that the Foreign Office is not blind to the economic conditions and to the disabilities from which Germany and other European countries suffer. There is immense genuine poverty all over Europe. Millions of people are driven to desperation. Despair rules over Europe at the present time. Poverty is increasing day by day. Hungry and desperate men will swallow any nostrum or gospel prescribed to them by men equally desperate who occupy high office in various countries. We must try to come back from that condition of intoxication, and to face our problems as well as we can, not forgetting the economic issues which lie underneath, but insisting —I hope that everyone present in this House who is responsible for public opinion outside will also insist—that this country shall extend its hand and try to draw within its sphere of influence all those in the world who are prepared to agree not to re-arm but to disarm as rapidly as possible and to set up in Europe and in the world, not States rivalling each other in force and in power, but the conditions under which the nations of Europe and the world can co-operate for their mutual benefit.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Sir REGINALD BANKS
I find myself in agreement with much that the last speaker has said. I think that he, like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), brought us into an invigorating atmosphere of reality and out of that realm of slogans and catch-phrases that have done more to produce the mischievous situation in which we find ourselves to-day than anything else in the world. Of course, the hon. Gentleman is right. It is a change of heart and an altered mentality—what our ancestors in their curious way used to call the grace of God—that is really going to make the difference. While I am entirely in agreement with him and with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the view that to disarm is helpful, it is not in itself a solution. If it were, there would never have been any wars in the world. People split one another's skulls with flint axes before the aeroplane was invented, and they will fight with their naked hands after aeroplanes and big guns are abolished, unless 119 there is a change of heart. As for getting rid of those more expensive and formidable weapons of war, a course in which some people affect to find a remedy, that is only to substitute for an expensive kind of belligerence what a friend of mine, in a phrase I like very much, called a Woolworth war, but not the less deadly for that.
It was the realism of the hon. Gentleman's speech that I liked. Here is another thing that is true. Germany has made up her mind, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook has said, that if other people will not disarm promptly she is going to re-arm, and I agree with him in saying that nothing that we can do or say is likely to stop her in her present mood from pursuing that resolution. One falsehood, I hope, has been finally and completely repudiated this afternoon. I do not see how any reasonable man, to whatever party he belongs, having heard the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, can go on being unscrupulous enough to say in public or in private that this Government has war plans or is indulging in war propaganda. Believe me, I get resolutions from the most pious and estimable people in my constituency begging me to do what I can in this House to oppose the war plans of the present Government. Unless the Lord has deprived them of reason or they are saying that which they know to be untrue, I do hope that they will read what the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon. They are bound to agree that the facts are beyond dispute. It does not matter in what quarter of this House we sit; we are all striving for peace and none of us have any war plans.
At the same time, some of us are far from believing in those nostrums to which we have had to pay a simulated respect for so many years. I think that it is worth while considering—I go no further than that—whether we ought not to speak a little more bluntly about the League of Nations. That is a holy thing. We have all got to genuflex and cross ourselves when that sacred word is mentioned in this Chamber, and, apparently, in the Press; but outside this Chamber, in even more frequented apartments, in the country, wherever I go, I can find none so poor as to do it reverence.
120 They all think that whatever it may have been in its younger days it is becoming senile and decrepit, if not in articulo mortis in 1933. Unless that League of Nations can be revived in same form or other and made a real thing, we had better speak the truth about it and say that most of us consider that it is just a great and expensive institution for disseminating international quarrels. None of the nations do any serious business in the council chamber. Open diplomacy? It is a farce and a superstitution. It is dune over a whisky and soda, or over a cup of tea, or on the golf links. It is as secret and private at Geneva as ever it was in the old and wicked days of secret diplomacy.
Again, how shall we really call it a "league of nations," when Germany and Russia are outside it and Japan has left it, when the United States that begot it has repudiated its own paternity and when Latin South America, and many other nations, though they are pleased to be members of a reputable club, cannot be found to pay their own subscriptions year by year? I do not see why this country should be responsible for paying most of the bill, and be condemned to raise its hat in superstitious veneration to something that in the future had better be judged on its merits and on its merits alone. Here is a set of circumstances, in which we are—I go no further than this, as I say—entitled to consider our position in international affairs de novo. I do not like shams, and that is why I do not like the way in which the Locarno Treaty is defended. Legally there can be no question about the exposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary. Very few people will be found to cavil at him when he expounds the law. What does it come to He says: "Do not be worried. Do not be anxious. There is no conceivable set of circumstances that I can think of in which you will not be entitled to say, if you want to, We shall do exactly what we like'."
He went through them all. I am not going over them again, but there were three sets of circumstances in which the judgment of the Council was necessary, and, since it cannot be unanimous without our assent, our assent is necessary. What does it mean? If we like to say, "We do not care a rap about this; we 121 are not going to do anything about it," nobody can complain. In the fourth set of circumstances, we were the sole judge of what we should do and what we should not do. In a word, Germany can fly at the throat of France, or France can fly at the throat of Germany, or there can be any number of imbroglios all through Europe, and we can say, although we have solemnly signed the Locarno Treaty and nothing in the world would make us so dishonourable as to repudiate our signature, "Here is the letter of the text, and here is Article this and Article that, and we are not legally bound to do anything at all unless we want to. "That is the legal interpretation, and it is correct. If that is all the Locarno Treaties are worth, they are not worth a rap to any country in the world, and I cannot see why there was all the enthusiasm for them when they were originally signed, or why they were so important. Germany was to come into the League of Nations and have a permanent seat on the Council, on the fundamental principle that Great Britain, with all the might, majesty, power and dominion of our Empire, and all the King's horses and all the King's men, was going to guarantee these frontiers for the future.
Whatever the legal interpretation of these Clauses may be, the world will hold us to a moral interpretation of them if ever the difficulty arises, and our moral responsibility was conditioned upon one circumstance: these treaties were not to be valid unless Germany came into the League of Nations and obtained a seat on the Council. If Germany did not come in, if she did not get a seat on the Council, then the Locarno Treaties fell to the ground. If her entry into the League was a condition precedent and a sine qua non, surely that does not mean that she should be there to-day and gone to-morrow. It must be a condition that she should not only go into the League of Nations, but remain in the League of Nations. Whatever the Law Officers of the Crown may choose to say about it, Europe will say the consideration has failed. I can remember that, in the Debate on the ratification of the Treaty, complaint, and bitter complaint, was made by the Foreign Secretary himself that we had been temerarious enough to allow Poland to come in, and, therefore, the composition of the Council of the League of Nations, that final tribunal of 122 arbitration, was altered. Did not everyone know that we only signed this treaty on the basis that Germany should come in, and that the Council of the League of Nations should be exactly as it was, plus the membership of Germany? Germany has gone, Japan has gone since then, and the whole tribunal is altered. Is it not at least time that we reconsidered our position?
"Isolation" is another of these catch- fords. If anybody is rash enough to say: "I would rather not like my country to be tied up by I do not know how many conventions and security pacts and guarantees; I would rather like to feel that, if there is another fight in this European saloon bar, I can take whatever attitude seems to me to suit myself and my people best when the time comes, "that is not necessarily isolation, is it? Surely, you are not isolated because you refuse to say that, if there is a row, you are in all circumstances going to back the man in the brown ulster as against the man with the trilby hat? I do not know how many obligations we have; nobody does. It would have been interesting to hear the Foreign Secretary rehearse them this afternoon. But, really, one has got tired of reading about them, and about the golden pens, and green baize, and the outbursts of popular panegyrics when there has been a new pact, a new renunciation of war, a new Covenant in the Treaty. Under how many obligations are we here? The old motto that was once written on a Spanish sword was a good one:Do not draw me without reason; do not sheath me without honour.If there is one thing that every man in this world knows, it is that England is never going to start an aggressive war against anybody, but I should like to feel that I could go down to my constituents and say to them: "So long as I am the Member for Swindon there is not one man from the Great Western Railway Works that is going across to endure what we had to endure because European countries are flying at, one another's throats in a quarrel with which we have no concern. "I should like to feel that, if we had to go, I could appeal to them, unfettered and unbound, to fight for justice, and for nothing else in this world will this country ever fight. That being so, the sooner we revise our position and let the world know that if, after all these 123 years of pleading, after all these years of good example, after all these years of good European citizenship, they will not have a change of heart, if they will not come to our view and if they will not play the game as England has done, England will stand for herself and the interests of her Empire, unfettered and unbound, until the occasion arises, the better it will be.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. HANNON
The House will have listened with the greatest respect to the eloquent discourse we have just had from my hon. and learned Friend, but, while I have very great sympathy with most of the proposals that he submitted, I hope it will not go forth from this House in any circumstances that an obligation honourably undertaken at a time of great crisis will ever be repudiated by the people of this country or of Scotland. My reason for rising to offer a, few observations to the House is because of the speech made this afternoon by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. Unfortunately, owing to the fact that I was engaged, during part of the time he was speaking, with a deputation outside the Chamber, I did not hear what he said, but I am informed that he made a charge against the armament firms of this country as being contributory factors to the maintenance of the present unrest in Europe; and I believe he said that one particular armament firm, namely, the Birmingham Small Arms Company, had made a substantial profit during its last financial year because it was engaged in the production of armaments.
§ Mr. HANNON
Then I want to repudiate the inference, which might follow from my right hon. Friend's statement, that the shares had gone up because this firm was engaged in the production of armaments. There is not a shred of foundation for any suggestion of that kind. The Birmingham Small Arms Company, as the right hon. Gentleman would have seen if he had taken the trouble to read the reports in the newspapers, is a holding company of a, large combine or group of several companies engaged in the production of motor cars, 124 of motor bicycles, of bicycles, of steel, and of machine tools; and the profits which the Birmingham Small Arms Company has to its credit during its last operative year in business are derived entirely from the particular sources which I have just mentioned, and only in an infinitesimal degree from the present production of arms of any sort or description. The profits made from the arms section—the production of rifles and shotguns—of the Birmingham Small Arms Company, and I have personal knowledge of what the company is doing, represent a mere fraction of the operations of the company as a whole, and I want to say, if the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for doing so, in order to make the situation perfectly clear, that within my knowledge there is not a single firm associated with the production of rifles, guns or machine guns in this country today engaged in the execution of a single order which could be interpreted as the preparation of organisation for the purposes of war.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
It is a pity the hon. Member was not here when I made the statement. I was contradicted and I was told at first that the Birmingham small Arms Company did not manufacture any war material at all. I knew that was not true, and I am glad that the hon. Member confirms me. As to what proportion of the increased productivity which has enabled its shares to go up is due to the manufacture of machine or other guns I am not in a position to say, but it is a curious fact that with the increased export of arms, which no one denies, the shares are going up.
§ Mr. HANNON
I tried to make the right hon. Gentleman understand that in the business of the Birmingham Small Arms Company the part played by the production of anything that can be described as arms is the merest fraction of the whole of its productivity. The real earning capacity of the company is derived from motor cars, motor bicycles, bicycles and high speed steel. I have the greatest respect for the right hon. Gentleman, and I know he would be no party to the spreading of a statement which was not absolutely justified by the fact, and I think it is a great pity that he should mislead the House in making the suggestion that firms engaged in the ordinary process of industrial 125 organisation are engaged in the production of weapons for the purpose of war. There is not a single armament firm in the country which can be described as executing a single order for the preparation of any kind of weapons for the purpose of prosecuting war. I hope the House will be convinced that that is the actual fact, and the right hon. Gentleman has no right to make the suggestion he did.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. MANDER
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Swindon (Sir R. Banks) made an attack on the League of Nations and said it was ineffective. That is obvious to all of us, but one has to realise that the League of Nations is merely a piece of machinery and only functions as those Ministers make it function who are sent there by different Governments, and, if, as we know, it has recently been going badly, the best thing to do is for each country to send better and more effective Ministers and better and more effective policies to make it work more successfully in the future than it has done in the past. The only alternative to the collective international work of the world through the League of Nations or some organisation of that kind is the same kind of thing that happened before the War. There is no effective alternative to some machinery of that kind.
In this Debate it seems to me that there is not much purpose served in laying blame on any body or any nation for what has happened in the past. We can blame ourselves. We Can blame the Allies generally for not having carried out their promises. We can blame the present Government to some extent for their policy in respect of disarmament, not recently but 18 or 12 months ago. I think their action over Manchuria was an absolutely fatal blunder and a fatal precedent for what has been happening recently. I believe Chancellor Hitler has done exactly what the Japanese did. They used force and got away with it and no one did anything to them. Hitler thinks, "The Japs got away with it, why should not I, too, leave the Conference and re-arm? No one will do anything to us. "The question that we have to devote our minds to is what is going to be done about it. At the beginning of the Disarmament Conference, if the 126 British Government had come forward resolutely and firmly, as they did 12 months later, with a definite draft programme, at any time during the first three months, when a democratic regime existed in Germany, you could have obtained a satisfactory disarmament convention without the difficulties which have now arisen.
When the Foreign Secretary claims that all along the British Government have acted wisely and well, I think he claims too much. But in the last few months I believe the British Government have firmly, honestly and sincerely worked as hard as they could to get agreement between all the nations of the world for an effective convention. I do not think that any other action that they could have taken would have produced a different result. I agree wholeheartedly with the admirable speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). I believe Germany had no intention of agreeing to any effective disarmament convention. They do not want inspection. Above all things they want to avoid that, because they know well that they are re-arming, and have done so to a considerable extent already. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) asks for the publication of the report of the Inter-Allied Commission, I hope that will be published, because we have been told recently, in letters to the "Times" by Professor Morgan, who was a member, that the Commission never reported that Germany had carried out their obligation to disarm. I hope we shall have all the facts before us. By all means let them be published.
I believe the German Government had made up their mind to re-arm and that the task that lies before us is to make up our minds how that is going to be prevented, because it would be a first class disaster to the whole world and would lead to the certainty of another war worse than the last. There is a tendency—we have heard something of it to-day—to regret the situation, to say it is deplorable that Germany is tending to re-arm or is re-arming, to say it is a great pity but we cannot do anything about it and that we must, therefore, build up huge armaments. The Leader of the Opposition in his broadcast speech 127 the other day, which I did not think very helpful, used these words:We will not support an increase of armaments, but we shall also refuse to support our own or any other Government in any endeavour to apply penalties or sanctions against Germany.Is not that a direct invitation to the German Government to go on with the good work of re-armament and, so far as the Labour party is concerned, no one will lay a finger upon them? If it means anything, it means that, and it seems singularly unhelpful. We have either to deal with the situation now, when it can_ easily be dealt with, or it will have to be dealt with in 10 years' time at the cost of an enormous sacrifice of human blood once more. The question is what can we do, what is the effective policy to pursue? I should like to support the policy which I understand to be that of the Government, that they shall press on in every way they can with disarmament conversations and conventions, that they should go further than they have recently. I suggest that they should agree now to abolish at the end of the disarmament period all those weapons that were forbidden to Germany in the Treaty of Versailles and not only certain selected ones because, if that is not done, it means that at the end of the disarmament period, eight years as suggested, Germany would be in a position to claim re-armament according to the Government's plan. She would have the right then to build a certain number of tanks and large mobile guns, and certain other things as well. We should be wise in meting out to ourselves the same measure that was then meted out to Germany.
With regard to the probation period, I think that it is only reasonable, in view of the sort of gang who are in power in Germany at the present time, that some period, call it what you like—I think "probation" is an unfortunate word; I do not know how it arose—of pause or of control should be interposed. I am wondering whether it could not be got over by really, in effect, starting disarmament at once, but making it, for a period only, of a token nature. If you did it for the first six months, say at the rate of 24 per cent., gradually rising in the later periods, you would be able to maintain that disarmament to some extent had actually started, and you would 128 avoid the psychological humiliation which certainly does arise from the German point of view when that country is told that no disarmament of any kind is going to take place for a period. I would urge, therefore, that we should place ourselves upon the unassailable foundation of a just Disarmament Convention offered by the whole world to Germany. That is the strong factor before everything else. We should offer it to Germany; urge it upon her. But what if she rejects it? What if she finds, as she has already found, some reason or excuse for not accepting it? Are we going to allow her simply to go on and re-arm? I submit that it is necessary to take action of some kind.
Various Members in the House to-day have used words such as "collective action" and "guarantees" which really are the measures which actually would have to be taken. It seems to me that in that position we must take action of some kind. It might he brought into operation under Article 16 of the League of Nations. The first step, surely, would he economic sanctions. I know that Members on the Front Bench cannot use language of this kind, but there is no reason why a bank-bencher, speaking without the responsibility of Members of the Government, should not say exactly what people are thinking and what we shall have to make up our minds about. I suggest, first of all, that the right course would be economic sanctions, and international blockade of all German exports, which would, I believe, if done immediately. achieve the result desired. That course should be applied to any nation in the world whichever it might be which was defying the world opinion and acting in a way dangerous to mankind.
§ Vice-Admiral TAYLOR
If nations are already disarmed, will the hon. Gentleman explain who will carry out the blockade and apply the sanctions of which he has been telling the House?
§ Mr. MANDER
Perhaps I have not explained my argument clearly. This would happen at once before disarmament had taken place.
§ Mr. MANDER
I am suggesting that action of this kind should be taken before disarmament has taken place. It would have to be dealt with at once by the world as it is at the present time. Supposing the nations were unable to agree, as might be the case, about economic sanctions, the question might be asked— my hon. and gallant Friend, I am sure, will put it— "Would you in any circumstances be willing to apply force to Germany or to any other nation who might be a danger and an aggressor to the rest of the world?" That is the question one has to answer. As an extreme measure in order to prevent such a disaster to the world as the rearmament of Germany would be, I say "Yes". Surely, we realise that for a long time in this world force is going to rule in human affairs. It is better that that force should be in the hands of some central authority rather than in the hands of parties to the dispute. It is what we have done inside our own borders, and it is what is bound to come to the whole world in due course.
Personally—I am speaking for myself only—I think that we shall be driven to having some form of international police force, preferably an air police force. I believe that recent events are showing that you cannot effectively go on relying simply upon good will and the desire of all nations to work together. You must have some sanction behind it, and I would not hesitate for a moment to see something of the kind organised upon an international basis. It is easy to pour ridicule upon it and to point out difficulties and dangers. These can be faced in national problems, and they can be faced and solved in world problems, too. After all, the object of an army is to break the law. The object of the police is to preserve the law and to see that it is preserved. I urge the Government to go forward with their policy which they have so clearly set forward to-day, pursuing every possible channel by obtaining agreement and by submitting a better and more effective Disarmament Convention, if possible, to Germany, and pressing it upon her to the utmost. I believe that we are faced to-day with as grave a danger as existed in the summer months of 1914. The difference is that nobody then realised what was coming, but now we do realise it, and I hope that the 130 Government will succeed in saving us and the world from another disaster which might well bring civilisation to an end.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not know how the rest of the House feels about to-day's Debate, but I must say that it leaves me with a sense of profound dissatisfaction, which started with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary and increased to perhaps a maximum point with the speech of the hon, Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander). He who has stood in this House as perhaps the most enthusiastic denouncer of the use of force has just concluded a. speech—
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am afraid I do not accept that definition as being of any value, because the right place for me is exactly where I want to use it, and for him also and for everybody else, including Herr Hitler in Germany.
§ Mr. MANDER
Is my hon. Friend willing then to abolish the Metropolitan Police? That is the logical result of his argument.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I would start there. I made a speech here when the Home Secretary was introducing his new methods of organisation pointing out that the Metropolitan Police was a menace to the public safety. But I do not want to be dragged off the issues involved in this Debate. As I was informed about this Debate through the medium of the public Press, I learned that it was to be a Debate about the Locarno Treaty. The field of Foreign Affairs has been ranged over rather than the limited question raised by Locarno. I think the statement of the Foreign Secretary on the meaning of Locarno was the most awful piece of specious pleading that ever I heard in this House. He analysed Locarno and showed that it meant precisely nothing, or, rather, that it only means as much as the British Government care to make it mean. I was forcibly reminded of the nature of the understanding that Britain had with European countries just before 1914. My old friend, Keir Hardie, on many occasions before 1914, when the Liberal Government was in power, stood up in this 131 House and wanted to know the nature of the commitments between England and France and other European countries in the event of war breaking out, and he invariably received the answer from the Foreign Minister of the party to which the present Foreign Minister was then attached, that we were committed to nothing at all. We had no commitments in Europe that compelled this nation to go to war.
That is what we were told to-day by the Foreign Secretary, but every one of us knows that by the 3rd August, 1914, our honour was involved so deeply that it would have been a disgraceful and discreditable thing for Great Britain not to partake in that war. At least, that was what the statesmen of the day said. That is what Viscount Grey said, and what the pacifist Liberal Government of that day said to the people. Although they said before August, 1914, that we had no commitments in Europe—we had no commitments in Europe so far as the mass of the people knew—the men had to march because our honour was involved. That is exactly the position put up by the Foreign Secretary to-day. Locarno means nothing. We are committed in no way, but if any one of the countries with which Britain is associated in that Pact were to get into any of the troubles indicated in the various points in the Pact, again we should be told that our honour was involved and that it was absolutely necessary that we should stand 100 per cent. with them.
Therefore, I express my profound dissatisfactibn with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. If Locarno means no more than he indicated to-day, then let us abolish it altogether. Why should it stand there as an international obligation, if it means nothing at all? If it means something, if it means anything, it means that British working people have been promised to any European conflict that may arise to any of the contracting parties to the Locarno Treaty. I voted against the Treaty when it was introduced into this House, and I hope that I shall have the opportunity of voting for its repeal. I hope that not many hon. Members will subscribe to the position put up by one hon. Member that a Treaty, once entered into, remains binding for all time. I have heard that doctrine propounded here a dozen times 132 in regard to a dozen different things. A more preposterous doctrine one could not imagine. When one realises that a Treaty which was valuable in particular circumstances has become a menace, then to suggest that although we realise that it is a menace it must be maintained because we have entered into it, means that we shall be put into a series of complications that, would be indefensible.
What is more terrifying—I do not think that is too strong a word—about to-day's Debate is the complete spirit of hopelessness, in face of the war danger, that has run as an undercurrent through every speech. Unilateral disarmament, which we have made more than any other country, has failed. I, like the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), would have all the facts produced and broadcast to the people of this country. Every detail that is known to the Foreign Secretary or to the Prime Minister or to any of the Service Ministers should be known to every person whose life may be involved in the circumstances that we are discussing to-day. Why there should be any refusal on the part of the present Prime Minister to give us the most full information as to all the facts, I cannot understand. There is something worse than secret diplomacy, and that is keeping secret the facts around which the diplomacy operates. There can be no justification in doing that in the circumstances in which we are to-day. Every fact that is available to any of the Ministers should be available to the whole of the people.
We are told that unilateral disarmament has failed. Obviously, confronted with the complete breakdown of the Disarmament Conference, multi-lateral disarmament has failed. All things are at a deadlock. And the spirit of this House to-day has obviously been that, since unilateral disarmament has failed, since the attempts at general disarmament have failed, to talk about disarmament at all is so much nonsense and that we should start arming to the teeth. [Hox. MEMBERS: "Nonsense!" "Why not?" "No!"] There is very strong disagreement. An hon. Gentleman behind me says "Why not? "The hon. Gentleman in front says "Nonsense. "There have been definite speeches to-day suggesting that, since the moves towards disarmament that have been going on since the end of the War have failed, Britain must 133 fall back on herself and must recognise that the attempt to keep a disarmed world is futile, is pursuing a fantasy, and the only alternative of a practical nature that has been suggested here to-day is to arm ourselves, and preferably to arm the Empire as well if we can.
I want to ask the men who have been more closely engaged in this matter, both the Government representatives and the right hon. Gentleman who has just come into the House and has also been very heavily involved in every operation through his position as the President of the Disarmament Conference, and I want to ask the armament-mongers of this House, whether the failure is due to the fact that the proposition has been tackled at the wrong end; whether the failure of the Disarmament Conference is due not to difficulties about so many aeroplanes, so many submarines, or so many torpedo-boat destroyers. The breakdown of the Disarmament Conference is due to the same fundamental causes as those which led to the breakdown of the World Economic Conference. The trade antagonisms which are inherent in the existing social system drove all the elements in the World Economic Conference apart, although common sense seemed to indicate that they should get together. Common sense brought the Conference together, but the basic economic antagonisms were too strong when its elements got together, and they were driven apart. The antagonisms of armaments are merely a cruder expression of the economic antagonisms underneath.
I suggest to the Prime Minister and to the Government that the key problem in the world to-day is not the problem of disarmament or of war; it is the problem of unemployment. You have to find the cure for unemployment before you can find the way to remove the trade antagonisms, and you have to remove the trade antagonisms before you can remove the competition in armaments. I cannot see, and have not seen, in this House any attempt to alter the economic foundations in such a way as would lead to the cure of unemployment. I cannot see any realisation in this House that the trade antagonisms can possibly be done away with. Indeed, I see to-day a keener trade antagonism than ever before. I see a more strenuous and less scrupulous 134 struggle for markets than ever before. Therefore, I am bound to recognise that it is only reasonable to expect a more strenuous struggle in armament building. The only hope that I have in the matter is that outside this House the Government that tries to inveigle the people into being marched out to destruction will meet with a resistance such as they have never met before, a resistance from the common people, who are not sufficiently far away from the last War to have forgotten what it meant. I hope that the Governments in the various countries of the world, including Germany and France, will meet with a similar resistance from their countrymen.
Any attempt to precipitate another war in Europe will lead to an upheaval along entirely different lines, and create the basic conditions which would enable the establishment of a world peace and world disarmament. These conditions are not present to-day. They are not being brought any nearer by anything that the Government have done. We have to recognise that good intentions in the way of disarmament and peace are not enough to secure disarmament or even to check any downward tendency. If I read the meaning of this House to-day, the overwhelming opinion is in the direction of starting an increase of armaments. To such a policy any resistance that we here can offer we shall offer, and any resistance that we can raise outside we shall do our best to raise.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Hon. Members, during the whole of the day, have debated the means by which we can keep the peace abroad. I shall venture only for one moment to stray from that theme in order to make a contribution towards keeping the peace at home. I notice that there is a very considerable proportion of people in this House and in this country who keep all their loving-kindness for export—I am not sure than my hon. Friend who spoke last is not among them—and who keep their rancour and ferocity entirely for the benefit of their fellow-countrymen. I listened to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, and I was touched by his conclusion that we must rely on the power of righteousness and love one another. But I read another speech only yesterday in the "Times" newspaper—I rely upon the report, and 135 the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—from which it appears that the right hon. Gentleman said:The workers who were serving in the Army and the Navy were their own people, and they swore allegiance not to a Tory Government but to whatever Government was in power. He believed that when the Socialists got into power the mass of the soldiers and sailors would back them up. As for their officers, the Socialist Government would know what to do with them, if they became treacherous in the day of trial.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The only thing I have to say is that I also related that to the Curragh Camp insurrection against the Liberal Government, and I said that I was practically certain that the soldiers would not allow their officers to debauch them from their loyalty to this House and to the Crown.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept the words which I have read? We are dealing not with matters of 20 years ago, but with the present day. I will analyse these words very briefly.The workers who were serving in the Army and the Navy were their own people. "What does he mean by that? Why should he, with a minority of wage-earning voters behind him, dare to say that they alone represent the Forces?They swear allegiance not to a Tory Government but to whatever Government was in power.They do nothing of the kind. They swear allegiance to the Crown, which is a higher and superior loyalty— —
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am not going to give way, and it is no good the right hon. Gentleman getting so very angry. He made the speech and he has to listen to his own speech. That is all that he has to put up with.He believed that when the Socialists got into power the mass of the soldiers and sailors would back them up.Back them up in what? What are the plans which the right hon. Gentleman is nursing against us which he wants to 136 have backed up by the Army and Navy? Then follows the sentence without which I would not have challenged the right hon. Gentleman.As for their officers, the Socialist Government would know what to do with them if they became treacherous in the day of trial.It is a mean thing to try to separate the officers from the soldiers and sailors. It is a needless, gratuitous and ungrateful thing. Twice we have had a Socialist Government in power with a minority, and with a country anxious to dismiss them, and never has there been any failure of the Services to obey orders which they have received from properly constituted authority. Here is the right hon. Gentleman, who is always preaching the doctrine of universal loving kindness as long as it concerns countries outside this, a man who holds a responsible position in our hierarchy, who does not hesitate to use language about the armed Forces of the Crown which is utterly uncalled for, and which I have no hesitation in characterising as shameful and disgraceful.
I leave the right hon. Gentleman and come to my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I do not think that he has distinguished himself very much during the Parliamentary Recess. I think he wrote quite a good letter to the British Broadcasting Corporation, but, apart from that, his interventions have riot contributed greatly to our enlightenment or to the consolidation of peace. My right hon. Friend seems to have in his mind a belief, a feeling, that he is entitled to some special claim to interpret the Treaty of Versailles, and other treaties which ended the War. It is quite true that he had a great deal to do with the making of that Treaty, and he wrote into it a great many of its most stringent aspects. I do not know whether "Hanging the Kaiser" actually got into the Treaty. That fell down perhaps at the General Election, but, at any rate, once a treaty is signed it becomes an international instrument which everyone can judge, and I have no hesitation in saying that, personally, I prefer to take the measured opinion of the jurists, upon who the Foreign Office relies, to the highly coloured account as to what is or is not meant in the Treaty which emanated from the right hon. Gentleman.
137 I believe that the Treaty has been maintained in the letter and also in the spirit. It is not true to say that this country—I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvan Boroughs withdraw that aspect of his case—or the great countries with whom we have been associated, have violated the Treaty in the letter or in the spirit. So far as the letter is concerned, that rests entirely upon the statement in the dispatch of the Government of August, 1932, which laid out the whole case in a most masterly manner. So far as the spirit is concerned, it is well known that ever since the Treaty was signed mitigations have been constantly introduced, far more than the Treaty contemplated. The evacuations of German territory have been carried out with greater rapidity, while the great scheme and structure of reparations has been swept away altogether, and the conquerors, the victors, in the struggle, have lent a thousand million sterling to Germany over and above anything they have been paid. It is altogether wrong therefore to suggest that the late Allies in the War have failed in the letter or in the spirit to carry out, broadly speaking, their Treaty obligations.
My right hon. Friend made to-night a deeply interesting speech, to which I listened, like everyone else with admiration, at the persuasive charm and skill with which he pressed his point. There is nothing that my right hon. Friend can do so well as to draw one side of a picture in the most glowing manner and then reduce the other side to small and pitiable proportions. He gave an account of the state of Europe. He represented that Germany might have a few thousand more rifles than was allowed by the Treaty, a few more boy scouts, and then he pictured the enormous armies of Czechoslovakia and Poland and France, with their thousands of cannon, and so forth. If I could believe that picture I should feel much comforted, but I cannot. I find it difficult to believe it in view of the obvious fear which holds all the nations who are neighbours of Germany and the obvious lack of fear which apparently controls the behaviour of the German Government and a large proportion of the German people.
The great dominant fact is that Germany is re-arming, has already begun to re-arm. I have no sources of informa- 138 tion but those of the public Press, but we read of large importations of scrap iron and nickel and war metals, quite out of the ordinary. We read all the news which accumulates of the military spirit which is rife throughout the country; we see that a philosophy of blood lust is being inculcated into their youth to which no parallel can be found since the days of barbarism. We see all these forces on the move, and we must remember that it is the same mighty Germany which fought all the world and almost beat the world; it is the same mighty Germany which took two and a half lives for every German life that was taken. No wonder when you get these preparations, these doctrines, and these assertions openly made that there is alarm throughout the whole circle of nations which surround Germany, an alarm which concerns not only the countries involved in the late War and still affected by the antagonisms of the War, but countries which observed strict neutrality during the War, like Denmark, Holland and Switzerland. Switzerland, indeed, has been forced to make a large credit, this peaceful country, quite impartial, Germans as well as Frenchmen living there, in order to defend herself. There is no doubt where the fear lies. I do not know, no one knows exactly, what is the position of German armaments; all we know is that the greatest anxiety has been caused to all her neighbours by her armaments and by her doctrines.
The Leader of the Opposition said just now that he and the Socialist party would never consent to the re-arming of Germany. I was very pleased when I read that. I agree with him. I should feel very much safer if I felt that that would not happen in my lifetime or in that of my children. But is the right hon. Gentleman quite sure that the Germans will come and ask him for his consent before they re-arm? Does he not think that they might omit that formality, and go ahead without even taking a card vote of the Trades Union Congress? Then the right hon. Gentleman said, "But in order to prevent them re-arming I should like to see all the other countries, their neighbours, disarm, "and that has been the burden of his speech and of many other speeches. But I doubt very much whether the other Powers are going to take any notice. I do not see why they should. In the next breath 139 the right hon. Gentleman said that if they take his advice, and if it should turn out wrong and they find themselves exposed to attacks and getting into trouble, the first thing he will do will be to call a general strike in order to prevent any aid being lent them. If the right hon. Gentleman is not going to take the slightest responsibility for these people, even if they do take his advice, I am inclined to think that they will be quite entitled to say to him, "Mind your own business."
But it is our own position that weighs upon us most of all here in this House, and it is about that that I will say a few words before I make room for the right hon. Gentleman who is to wind up the Debate for the Labour party. I was very glad to hear the definition given by the Foreign Secretary of our obligations under the Treaty of Locarno, and also that given in the very admirable speech in the country some days ago by the Under-Secretary. It is perfectly clear, as I have several times contended in this House, that whether in regard to the general Clauses of the Treaty or in regard to the special obligations under the emergency Clause, we still remain the judges of the event; we are the honourable judges of the event, but we still remain the judges, and we are free to choose. That is a very great re-assurance to the country, for in many parts it has been suggested that the decision would rest with someone outside the control of this country altogether. We are free to choose; and such declarations as that made by the Under-Secretary some days ago and not controverted by the French Government will henceforth rule in the interpretation of this Treaty. I am bound to say that I welcome those interpretations very much indeed. Now we have our freedom, our freedom to decide, let us be very careful that we do not corn-promise it or do not whittle it away.
That is why I am so glad that this period of what is called probation, this interval, has been introduced into this dangerous process of disarmament in Europe, which has played a noticeable part in raising the temperature to its present level. if we wish to keep our freedom, we must recognise the fact—I mean our freedom within our obligations, for far would it be for me to suggest 140 that we should abandon our obligations, whatever they are—it is of the utmost importance that we should forthwith recognise that our role in Europe is more limited than it has hitherto been considered to be. Isolation is, I believe, utterly impossible, but we should nevertheless practise a certain degree of sober detachment from the European scene. We should not try to weaken these great Powers which are in great danger, or feel themselves in great danger, and thereby expose ourselves to a demand that we should come to their aia—a demand interpreted in the very strictest sense.
I have deprecated these schemes which we have laid before the Disarmament Conference prescribing the size of all the armies and navies and air forces of Europe. I am not going to take up the limited time I have in analysing these schemes, the MacDonald Plan as it has been called. It never had the slightest chance of being accepted—never. I told the House in March that it never had the slightest chance of being accepted. How could you expect those countries that feel themselves in so great danger to make the very large reductions which were asked for in their armaments, their air forces and armies, while at the same time substantial increases were offered to the Germany with which we are now confronted? I know that it is natural for Ministers, for the Prime Minister, to wish to play a great part on the European stage, and to bestride Europe in the cause of peace, to be as it were the saviours of Europe. You cannot be the saviours of Europe on a limited liability. I agree with the statement of the late Mr. Bonar Law, who said that we cannot be the policemen of the whole world. We have to discharge our obligations, but we cannot take upon ourselves, our people do not desire us to take upon ourselves, undue obligations into which we shall certainly come if we are the leaders in compelling and pressing for a great diminution in the strength of France and other Powers which are neighbours of Germany. How lucky it is that the French did not take the advice that we have been tendering them in the last few years, or the advice which the United States has given them —I am glad the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs quoted the figures— 141 advice tendered from the safe position 3,000 miles across the ocean If they had accepted it war would be much nearer, and our obligation to come to their aid would be much more strictly interpreted.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I think that is so. At any rate, it is not the Gold Standard we are discussing. I do feel that there should be recognition of the fact that we ought not to place ourselves continually in the most prominent position and endeavour to produce spectacular effects of disarmament in Europe, because as surely as we do a good deal of our discretionary power will be gradually whittled away and reduced. I would not like to speak in this Debate without giving a definite counsel, because I think one ought to do that. The hon. Gentleman who preceded me said that the situation was hopeless. I am not so sure that it is hopeless. It seems to me that there is a fairly general measure of agreement as to the course which we should now pursue. I think we should adhere to the League of Nations. I did not agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs when he mocked and scolded the League, not to-day but in a speech in the country. Nor do I agree with those poor friends of the League who say that just because the League was incapable of dealing with the situation in the Far East, on the other side of the world, it will have no efficacy in dealing with the European situation. What could you expect of the League in far off Asia? China and Japan—what do they care for the League of Nations. Russia and the United States—neither of them Members of the League. Those four countries comprise half the population of the globe. They form another world, a world in itself, and you should not judge of the success or power of a great international instrument like this by the fact that it has not been able to make its will effective at the other end of the world. Very different is the case in Euope. In Europe you have at least erected it upon the basis of the Treaties of Peace. That is the foundation on which you can build and not only is it erected on that foundation but powerful nations stand fully armed to defend those Treaties and if necessary to make themselves the agents and authorities of the League of Nations.
142 I believe that we shall find our greatest safety in co-operating with the other Powers of Europe, not in taking a leading part but in coming in our proper place, with all the neutral States and the smaller States of Europe which will gather together anxiously in the near future at Geneva. We shall make a great mistake to separate ourselves entirely from them at this juncture. Whatever way we turn there is risk. There is peril on every side. But I believe that the least risk and the greatest help will be found in recreating the Concert of Europe through the League of Nations, not for the purpose of fiercely quarrelling and haggling about the details of disarmament but in an attempt to address Germany collectively, so that there may be some redress of the grievances of the German nation and that that may be effected before this peril of re-armament reaches a point which may endanger the peace of the world.
I have only one thing more to say, and it was suggested to me by what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said at the close of his speech and by those figures which he gave of our disarmament and other people's rearmament. I see in the House some of the Ministers responsible for Defence Departments. I have been in that position myself in the years of baffling uncertainty through which we passed before the Great War, and I should like to tell those Ministers this, which I give from my own experience. In such circumstances every kind of pressure will be put upon them to reduce what they consider and what they are advised to, be the necessary provision for our security. The papers will write leading articles. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his bounden duty and the Treasury are bound to put their case. The economists will give their views, and in Parliament there will be pressure for cutting down this and cutting down that. But if trouble should come, none of these gentlemen, none of the able editors, none of the stern economists will be at hand to defend the Ministers. When the Service Departments are found to be hopelessly lacking in the essentials of our safety it will be no use to turn round and say to this or that newspaper, "You wrote an article saying that there must 143 be a great cut," or in saying to this or that Member of Parliament, "You voted against any increase." These people will be among the very first to say, "Oh, you took all this money and yet you have not even provided what was necessary."
In these circumstances, proved as it is that we have disarmed to the verge of risk, nay, well into the thick of risk, a very great responsibility rests upon the Ministers for the Defence Departments to assure us that adequate provision is made for our safety and for having the power and the time if necessary to realise the whole latent strength of our country and also, let me add, for us to be able in any case to maintain our neutrality effectually—a neutrality from which, as I have said before, we should never be drawn except upon the conscience and the will of the overwhelming mass of our people.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) opened his speech with a lecture to the Leader of the Opposition which was perhaps not entirely germane to the rest of his speech. I gathered that he was dealing with the ethics of the loyalty of the armed forces of the Crown. He disposed of it all quite glibly and I should feel quite satisfied, if I had not during the last fortnight been reading an admirable work by the right hon. Gentleman, about his distinguished ancestor, in which the exact position of a leader of the armed forces of the Crown, torn between divided loyalties is treated with very great fairness and acuteness. As a matter of fact the point made by my right hon. Friend and by the right hon. Gentleman is really germane to the whole question that we should be discussing in a disarmament Debate, because, as I hope to show, the question that we have to face is whether we are in favour of the absolute loyalty of citizens to individual and sovereign states or whether those individual loyalties are to be subservient to a greater loyalty to a world state. Therefore the point that has been raised is, I think, very close to the matter.
I wish to deal first with one or two points from the speech of the Foreign Secretary. I think his arguments had a rather mixed pedigree. They did not all seem to be from the Geneva stable. A 144 good many of them were obviously by Trocadero lunch out of East Fulham. The Prime Minister, I noticed, at that very auspicious luncheon on a very auspicious day of the week stressed the need for propaganda and the Foreign Secretary supplied it. The speech, it seemed to me, explained to anyone who listened to it, the right hon. Gentleman's great success at the Bar and his failure as a Foreign Minister. It was an eminently forensic speech. I always notice the extraordinary skill of the right hon. Gentleman in the art of omission. When he tells a story he always begins at a convenient point and leaves off at a convenient point. He generally starts his disarmament history somewhere about the Resolution of 22nd April, 1932, or perhaps the bringing back of Germany to the League, or perhaps even the Draft Convention of March, 1933. He always omits that period—perhaps it was his period of apprenticeship—in which the Disarmament Conference went from proposal to proposal all of which proved abortive.
He says that the British plan is the one that was discussed. Yes, but that was because all the other plans were met by him with coldness or indifference or hostility. The Russian plan, the Italian plan, several French plans were all brought forward and all cast aside. There vas also the Hoover plan. It is said that we have always been ready to do everything, but the right hon. Gentleman left out of his story our reservation about bombing and our objection to the Hoover plan about the tanks. It is so unfortunate that these obstinate foreigners will always find difficulties and differences about details in our plan, whereas we are always perfectly willing to accept their plans—except in one or two important matters in which we must have reservations.
We heard the story again of proposals brought forward under the MacDonald plan, which was lost at Geneva, and there the Prime Minister went off to Rome and conferred with Signor Mussolini on a Four-Power Pact. Above all, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs omitted perhaps the overriding matter that has caused most trouble in regard to disarmament and that, quite apart from any propaganda of the Labour party, is a thing that you find talked of in all circles up and down the country where people 145 are interested in peace, and that is the failure over the Sino-Japanese dispute. That apparently has been put quietly to bed now. A question was asked about it, and the Foreign Secretary said, "Nothing is happening; it is quite all right." Everybody knows that in that Sino-Japanese dispute the whole question of security was bound up, and it is that failure of the League of Nations that has really stultified the disarmament programme right the way through. I noticed too that when he talked of British disarmament and the abolition of cavalry, the Foreign Secretary did not mention the creation of the Tank Corps. In all these little things we notice the forensic touch at its most efficient.
The rest of his speech was really a paean of praise of this country. We have done every thing right, and everybody who has suggested anything to the contrary had some old and well-turned phrase that has been thrown at the Liberal party during the last five or six decades. Hence the cheers of all the Jingoes. The general tone of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech, though it is very agreeable to hear one's country praised, was perhaps not very happy, because at the back of it all was not merely praise of ourselves, but depreciation of all other countries. It was followed by speeches from two elder statesmen, who seemed to me to revive the fervid emotions of the war period. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) delivered a philippic—I do not say it was not well deserved—against Germany, and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) attacked France and her satellites, and each thought the other's speech was mischievous. I think probably both were right. Certainly, I loathe and detest the present German regime and the whole spirit of the Nazi movement. I am entirely opposed to Fascism and to the Fascist State and the kind of pretext given by the sham election now going on that the whole of Germany is united behind Herr Hitler. It is the same silly assumption that the Prime Minister makes when he speaks about the National Government and no more return to party strife.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I agree, but at the back of it all, although we get a different method, we get the same kind of idea, and that is an inflated nationalist idea and the conception of the nation, and not only the nation but the State, overruling the individual views of all the citizens. That, of course, is supposed to be the besetting sin of the Socialists, but as a matter of fact it is put forward most of all by your neo-Conservative, whether he wears a black shirt, or a brown shirt, or any of those various shirts that seem to be the popular wear in politics nowadays. The party on this side, as I say, loathe the German regime probably more than anyone in this House, but we have to recognise that this Frankenstein has been made by the victorious Powers. That has happened, and a mere attack is not going to cure the trouble. We have had example after example of the way in which you have attacked nations because you have considered that they were being oppressed by some small gang. The same old thing was said by the Kings of Europe against the French revolution, and it was said by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) against the makers of the Russian revolution; and I do not believe that it is very much use in this House to indulge in strong language against the Nazi regime.
I do not believe that you will do very much by outlawing the Nazi regime. I recognise that probably most of us feel that we should like to do so. It is the natural thing to say, "It is detestable; let us have nothing to do with it, "but we have to look to the future of the world, and the first point to remember is that, whether we like it or not, we have to live in the same world as Germany under its present rulers. On these benches we long ago recognised that, however much you liked or disliked it, you had to live in the same world with Russia and the present rulers of Russia, and therefore it is useless, if you believe in anything like world peace, to think that you can have relations only with those States whose internal organisation or policy you like. It seems to me that nowadays we have to realise that the whole conception of nationalism is out of date, that we need internationalism, and that the whole failure since 1919 has been the failure to implement and develop what really was recognised at the time 147 of the Peace Treaties, namely, that you have got beyond the individual States and that you have to have some super-government of the world.
We have been paying lip-service to that idea. I think there is a good deal of lip-service about still, and only lip-service, to the League of Nations. We have had a very frank speech from the hon. and learned Member for Swindon (Sir R. Banks). He did not call it lip-service, but a simulated respect for the League of Nations. I thought, however, that in his accents I caught perhaps the true voice of a very large section of the Conservative party, who are really out against the League of Nations and the whole of that idea. Curiously enough, I caught very much the same thing in the speech of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. Quite obviously he did not really believe that when the various nations joined the League of Nations they were all friends. He did not seem to think that an armed America would be any protection to this country, or an armed France either. He was obviously in this respect quite pre-War. Be was still considering a separate lot of warring nations, all ready to fall upon each other at any time.
I can remember only a short time ago in this House when people actually said, "if France is armed, it is a great protection to us. "The same is true with regard to America. It seems that we are getting a long way from that, and now we are going to look upon everybody as potential enemies. The question has been put more than once by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition when we have had discussions on the Army, Air and Navy Estimates— "Who is your enemy? "It is also very relevant to the question whether our forces are large enough or small enough because the comparison is always made to pre-War days when there was no League of Nations and when there was no collective protection. When I listen to a speech like that of the hon. and learned Member for Swindon, when I read the Resolution passed at the Conservative Conference, and when I try to square them up with the speech of the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister I find it rather difficult. I have to take refuge in that cryptic remark of the Prime Minister at the luncheon the other day in which be 148 spoke of himself and his colleagues as beingseparated in ideals but united in objects.It is an admirable phrase, but what it means I do not know.
I want to put it to the House that it is not much good thinking that you can get very far in disarmament unless the disarmament is to be linked up with security. The question is: are we going in for full security or, as some people even now suggest, are we going to go back and just strengthen ourselves and stand alone in this world. I agree with the Foreign Secretary when he says that isolation is impossible to-day. When you say you are going in for full security what exactly does that mean? I believe that the acid test is the readiness to surrender a large part or, at any rate, a considerable part of your individual sovereignty. I do not believe that numbers of people with then lip support of the League of Nations realise that this is the essential thing. People have mental reservations and I think that the Foreign Secretary lent them some support in his description of the League of Nations when he said that if the worst came to the worst you can after all always decide your own destiny. That simply means that although you belong to a team you must have your individual right to make the rules and, if necessary, to walk off the field. I believe that the failure of the Disarmament Conference hitherto and the apparent failure of the League of Nations is due to the fact that if you want full security you have to surrender sovereignty. The League of Nations will never work on the constitution of the Polish Diet. You have to go a great deal further than you have gone. You have to make the League of Nations a real League and you have to put loyalty to the League of Nations above loyalty to your country. That is a hard saying for many people. It cuts against all kinds of old instincts.
When you work out what the position of the citizens of this country is with all the covenants we have signed and all the obligations we have undertaken, unless we have undertaken them with our tongues in our cheeks, if we really believe what has been sworn on our behalf, we have a higher allegiance than to our own country. If our country were declared to he an aggressor State, it would be right 149 for all to go against her. If we put that forward many people would say it is treason. If you think that that is treason you have not accepted the principle of the League of Nations. We would like to see that principle enshrined in our laws in this country and in the laws of every other country.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
Certainly, if we have to have sanctions, and as long as we are to have the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. If we are in a League like that we must be prepared to take risks for peace. We on this side propose entire disarmament. We believe in an international police force. I do not believe that we could get satisfactory sanctions by means of a number of individual national forces which would have to be called up by a central authority. I think we have to go much further than that. I want to see air forces abolished, and an international air service. I should like to see navies abolished, and an international mercantile marine. I should like to see all the armies of separate States abolished, in exactly the same way as, in civilised countries, we make people hand over their revolvers and rely on the police force. Of course, there-must be a police force which is loyal to the ideals. But I also suggest that, without that, we may get a useful breathing space by qualitative disarmament.
We may get a mood which may bring Germany back into the League if we can work for all-round disarmament, but I would not have Germany brought back into the League if the price be re-armament. I believe that the Disarmament Conference has got to continue its work despite Germany having gone out of it. I believe, still more, that the League of Nations has got to be made effective, and I do not believe that it will be effective as long as we have the unrighted wrong of the Far East remaining. Finally, I suggest that it would be perfectly ridiculous to surrender any of our sovereignty to the League of Nations while at the same time believing so strongly in private enterprise as to allow the private traffic in arms. I believe that is having a very great influence upon events. I do not think that hitherto this country has done nearly enough, in fact.
150 I think it has done very little, in the direction of preventing private traffic in arms.
Finally, I would say that whatever may be done in the matter of disarmament, whatever may be our feeling with regard to the dangerous condition of the world caused by national animosities, we must remember that the disease from which the world is suffering is an economic disease, that if the patient had not been in a debilitated state owing to the breakdown of economic conditions these fevers, such as the Nazi fever and others, would not have caught hold of the patient. Therefore, we say that the failure, the complete failure, of the World Economic Conference is most intimately bound up with the question of the survival of the League of Nations and the success of world disarmament.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Eden)
I think that no one who has listened to the course of this most important Debate will be left in any doubt as to the very real value of the discussion which has taken place. It is at once a stimulating and a sobering reflection that this is now one of the very few assemblies in the world where such a free and frank discussion of events could, in fact, take place. That is a source, I think, at once of pride and satisfaction, although it is perhaps also a responsibility.
Before I deal with Disarmament, would like to say something on the subject which has been prominent in the speeches both of the Leader of the Opposition and of the hon. Member for Lime-house (Mr. Attlee). There seems to be a strain of complaint in their declarations that much of our trouble to-day, and a large percentage of the difficulties of the Disarmament Conference, are due to feeble and infirm handling of the situation in the Far East a year or more ago. I must frankly state that I am not in agreement with hon. Members opposite. It never seems to me that anyone, judging at once the authority and the limitations of the League, would have anticipated any other course of events, so far as the League was concerned, than actually took place. I am not asking hon. Members to accept my judgment or verdict in regard to the League's handling of the Far 151 Eastern dispute. I fully appreciate that since hon. Members believe that the League has failed, even more criticism falls upon His Majesty's Government. I will merely quote, if I may, the judgment of one who was extremely well qualified to speak on this matter, the late Lord Grey, who, in March last, speaking about the Far Eastern dispute, said:The attacks on the League for its handling of the Far Eastern trouble were not justified. The League had been a restraining influence from the beginning.There were those who said that this Far Eastern dispute was a test case, and that by it the League of Nations would stand or fall. In the opinion of Lord Grey it was not a test case. The dispute in the Far East, lie said, was a dispute between two nations on the other side of the world, and it was different from a European question. What more, he asked, could the League have done? That is a question to which we have never yet had a positive answer. Lord. Grey said:I do not like the idea of resorting to war to prevent war. It is too much like lighting a large fire in order to put out a smaller one. Anyhow in this case it seems to me it was peculiarly unsuitable for any action of that sort on the part of the League of Nations. Economic pressure could not have been applied on Japan unless it was done in co-operation with the Government of the United States. I am delighted that the United States has joined with the League as much as it has in this conflict, but I do not for a moment. believe that the United States Government has been so bashful that it has been anxious to do much more and has only been waiting to be invited to do so. So far as I am aware the British Government and the League have shown no backwardness in supporting anything which the United States Government proposed, and to have proposed more than the United States Government was ready to co-operate in would not have been effective and would not have been wise.That is all that I want to say about the Far Eastern dispute. I want to concentrate my reply upon the criticisms that have been made against the Government for its disarmament policy. I confess that as I listened to the Debate it seemed to me that the Government were not so much under fire as that they were spectators of a cross fire, which is always the more agreeable position for a Government to occupy. So far as I understand the criticisms levelled against us, they are two-fold. The criticism from 152 the right hon. Gentleman opposite is that our Draft Convention itself was utterly inadequate— "a very meagre step" was the phrase that I took down; whereas from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) the criticism is that we should have departed from this really admirable document. Let me take first the criticism of the document itself. It is quite unnecessary to repeat to the House at this hour what that document sought to do. It is, perhaps, enough to enumerate briefly the amount of disarmament it proposed. Had the nations of the world accepted it, if they would now accept it, we should have reduced the term of service in the conscript armies to eight months; we should have very largely reduced the number of men under service in all the conscript armies of the world; we should have virtually abolished all heavy artillery—there would be no guns left larger than the 4.5-inch —scarcely more than a field gun; we should have abolished all heavy tanks; we should have provided for the-total abolition of military and naval aviation, provided that a scheme could be worked out, and that is an indispensable condition, for the control of civil aviation. We outlined immediate and drastic reductions, in any event, to, in some instances, nearly a quarter of their present figure, of the air forces of the world.
I maintain without hesitation that, had all the nations accepted that Draft Convention when the Prime Minister put it down at Geneva, we should, in fact, have realised by far the greatest measure of agreed disarmament that the world has ever attempted. I am not going to ask hon. Members opposite to accept my judgment upon it; there are others better qualified. For instance, the representative of the United States Government spoke in terms of warm approval of this draft Convention, on account of the amount of disarmament contained herein; and, to quote a domestic authority, there is a newspaper which does not support the Government—the "Star"—in which there appeared, the night or the day after the Prime Minister's speech in Geneva, a leading article headed "What we think," with the encouraging opening:Sign, Please.It went on to say, in reference to this draft Convention: 153If the Powers were to sign the Prime Minister's disarmament proposal to-day, there is no doubt that it would be all to the good. Not a home in Europe would be less safe. The war spirit would receive no encouragement. The financial saving would he enormous. Nobody would lose a penny except the armaments makers and their shareholders.Then follows a sentence for which I apologise to the right hon Gentleman opposite:Any half-wit can pick holes in such a scheme";while later on it says:The statesman (so called) who in any country tries to hamstring this plan, should be sent into private life by the force of public opinion.
§ Mr. EDEN
The right hon. Gentleman's complaint is not foreign but domestic criticism. The article concludes:To refuse this olive branch of sanity"—the olive branch of sanity so well de scribed by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps)—will be the kind of mad folly which a man from Mars would find it impossible to believe.I do not want to debate any further the, merits or demerits of the Draft Convention. It was never suggested that that document had any super-quality, but I am confident that it was accepted at Geneva as being an honest and sincere attempt to save the Conference on Disarmament. It has been, in fact, our sheet anchor ever since, and if we had not had it we should have drifted to disaster long since.
I come to the next question, the criticism that in this Convention other people come down while we stand pat. It is not altogether accurate, because we do go down in proportion as others go down, and others go down more than us because we began the process long before them. In any Draft Convention that seeks to bring about equality in reduction, account must be taken of those who have effected their reductions in an earlier period. That is the only sense in which our Draft Convention may be said to take care of our own position, that we ask others to do what we have done before or what we are prepared to do now. There could not be a better example than naval disarmament. The Navy is, 154 perhaps, in a special sense our sphere. If the great land military powers had made reductions comparable with those that we have made on what we may call our element, perhaps the Geneva Conference in its present form need never have sat at all. Then the right hon. Gentleman gave us certain proposals which, as I understood it, he wished even now to put before the Conference. He will appreciate that we have not a copy of those proposals and we have had no time yet to study them, but they will be studied and perhaps discussions to decide as to a Debate can then proceed through the usual channels.
The right hon. Gentleman made great play with the private manufacture of arms. He complained that many of our industries at home were active and that some of their activity was due to the fact that they were turning out arms. These statements are not very difficult to make but they are admittedly very difficult to check, because in those industries which are concerned with the manufacture of arms in most cases that manufacture is comparatively a by-produt of the industry itself. For instance, the right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Birmingham Small Arms Company, and I am informed that the cause of their increased activity is in the main the success of the motor branch of their trade. I am sure he would not wish to withdraw from the Government the modicum of satisfaction that they can find from increased activity in the motor trade. Again he complained about explosives. I understand that the increased sale of explosives by one of the companies that he mentioned, a very great chemical combine, is due to the fact that the mining industry is doing a, little better and to the fact that the Minister of Health is engaged in slum clearance schemes which include the demolition of houses. Even explosives are not always used for the sinister purpose which he at once has in mind. I do not suppose that he will complain of the ever increasing amount of explosives used in slum clearance schemes.
There are two directions in which the right hon. Gentleman complains about the manufacture of arms. He says that we ourselves are increasing the manufacture of arms at home for domestic purposes. The answer to that is quite simple. We cannot do so beyond the actual figures of 155 expenditure laid down in the Estimates passed by this House. There is no question of increased domestic expenditure on armaments and presumably therefore the right hon. Gentleman refers to increased export. As regards export, we have signed a Convention which was drafted at Geneva but has never come into force, not owing to any fault of our own but owing to the failure of Governments in other manufacturing countries to sign it. We have to-day by far the most effective system of licensing that exists, and no shipments of arms from this country may be made to any other country without a licence from the Government. I do not think that the House would ask me at this hour to say that it is an acceptable proposition that we should handicap our manufacturers further if the only result is that other foreign competitors obtain the trade. Any further action which can be taken should be taken, but it can only be taken internationally.
May I turn from that to the criticism of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs? He complained that we had thrown over our Draft Convention and that we had busied ourselves with amendments to it. I would like to assure him that we have never thrown over that Draft Convention, that we have not thrown it over, and that we still stand by it now. Perhaps the slight confusion of thought that there is in it is due to some of the language which has been used. What happened in June was that the Conference itself, in face of the fact that there were a great many reservations on various articles in our Draft Convention, decided that it was impossible to embark upon a Second Reading without first attempting to negotiate the difficulties which survived on the First Reading. Consequently the Conference instructed the Governments to initiate conversations with a view to overcoming these difficulties and harmonising the views of various Governments. The report which was made to the Bureau of the Conference on 14th October did not lay down the lines of a new plan or a new proposal. It did not indicate that we were departing from our Draft Convention, but it did explain the point of view which we had encountered in the course of the conversations which we had entered into at the request of the Dis- 156 armament Conference. We want to be quite clear about that.
In the Draft Convention itself there is a proposal—if it is carefully studied it will be seen—that no actual destruction of material takes place until a year has elapsed. That is in order to allow machinery to get to work. If that period were extended from one year to three or to four years it would certainly be a debatable point. It is certainly a matter as to which a disarmed country might wish to state her own point of view or even to disagree, but I respectfully suggest that it is a matter for negotiation, and not an occasion for walking out of the Conference. If we are to be fair in this matter in our anxiety to do justice to the point of view of some, we must not be unjust to others, and it was no France who walked out of the Disarmament Conference a second time.
I am reminded in this connection of a story which I once heard of two distinguished statesmen, one from France and one from Germany, who were engaged in conversation as to the origin of the War. The German said to the Frenchman, "After all, when the history of the War comes to be written it will be difficult to decide where the greater measure of the blame lies, "and the Frenchman replied, "Well, my friend, the one thing that history will not say is that Belgium invaded Germany. "I think that in our genuine and right desire to do justice to the German point of view we must be careful that we do not do an injustice elsewhere.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Does the hon. Member mean that the British Government is not committed to what is known as the period of probation? I am not referring to the year which it takes in order to begin. I am referring to the extension of the year to four years, as it was proposed. Am I to take it that the British Government are not committed to that pronosal but are simply in process of negotiation and discussion?
§ Mr. EDEN
Certainly, in the process of negotiation. We were prepared to support it if it found support in the Conference. It did find a measure of support. The negotiations had reached a point when it seemed that several nations w ere prepared to accept something of that kind. I must emphasise the fact that 157 since that negotiation has failed, of course, the Draft Convention still stands The attempt to secure agreement on amendments to enable the Conference to accept the draft Convention failed and we have to try and find, if we can, some other means.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
If you are not committed to the probationary period, it should be known that the British Government has not committed itself to the period of probation, apart from the year.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
We are dealing with the British Government, and it is vital to know whether the British Government is committed. If the British Government is not committed, there is no other Government committed except that of France.
§ Mr. EDEN
Do not let the right hon. Gentleman be under a misapprehension. We were working in an attempt to secure agreement and we had very great reason to believe that this lengthening of the period from one year to three or four years would have resulted in a full measure of agreement. Certainly, the record of the conversations given by my right hon. Friend to the Bureau of the Conference was approved by Italy, by France and by the United States, and we had reason to believe that we might secure agreement thereupon. Quite obviously, we have now got to consider the situation as it confronts us, and I think we are entitled to just the same liberty as any other Government must enjoy in like circumstances.
To turn from that question to answer a categorical question about supervision, let me be absolutely clear that the supervision which was intended should be applicable not only to Germany but to every other signatory to the Convention—
§ Mr. EDEN
Even during the probationary period. The right hon. Gentleman may ask what was to be done during the first period. I will not use the phrase "probation." During the first period what was to be done in regard to super- 158 vision? From the very first there would be a stoppage of the production of those arms which in the Convention were to be destroyed. Therefore, no country signatory to the Convention, subsequent to the Convention, would continue to manufacture such arms. Therefore a truce was to be supervised in other countries in that respect, just as the conditions applied to Germany would have had to be supervised in Germany. There was no discrimination as to supervision. Do not let it be thought that only disarmament in the first period was to be done by Germany. It is true that Germany was to transform her Reichswehr into a conscript army. I do not know how much disarmament there was in that. There was a time when Germany demanded that she should be allowed to do that. At the same time that Germany was to do that and to transform her Reichswehr into a conscript army, other nations, France and other conscript nations, were to carry out their part of their transformation. I want the House to appreciate how much disarmament there was in that.
§ Mr. EDEN
I am dealing for the moment with the idea that no nation would do anything in the first period except Germany. If that had been accepted the length of service of all the conscript armies of Europe would have been reduced to eight months, which is virtually-the militia term of service. If you con, trast that with the three years' service just before the War by the conscript armies of France, I think it will be appreciated that there is in that a very real measure of disarmament. If we could have succeeded in reducing all the conscript armies of Europe to a virtually militia basis, we should have seen a real measure or disarmament.
The right hon. Gentleman said that ha had read my right hon. Friend's broadcast twice with very great care. If he had read it correctly once only he would have found that the right hon. Gentleman did in fact deal with this question of supervision of armaments. He said:In discussing this scheme, Germany stipulated, quite rightly, that the disarmament of the second stage must be all laid down in detail in the treaty itself, and that the supervision must be applied generally and not to one or two countries alone. With all that I quite agree, and I certainly 159 thought that we were finding in our discussions a much closer approach to a possible basis of agreement than ever before.
Me. LLOYD GEORGE
All I said was that, to anyone reading without the declaration, that is what it meant. It is the Foreign Secretary who made the claim, at which I rejoice. That obviously, on the face of it, applies to the second period, and therefore anyone reading it without having this specific declaration would have come to that conclusion.
§ Mr. EDEN
I am quite convinced that, whatever the doubts of the right hon. Gentleman, the German Government had absolutely no doubt at all of the position. The German Government were fully aware that, if there were supervision, it would begin at once and everywhere. May I say a word about prospects? The fact is that we were recently engaged in that period of negotiation. At one time we hoped that the negotiation would succeed and result in an agreement acceptable to all. In this hope we have been disappointed; our negotiations railed, and our efforts have in a measure been spent in vain. I am afraid that is not a new experience to anybody engaged in disarmament negotiations. In truth, the last phase of these negotiations was not unlike others that have gone before. But that is not a cause for counsels of despair. We have got to try again. We have got to do so, if only because an agreement is the only alternative to an armaments race. We have to do so, because this Conference has become a great test of the capacity of nations to agree in consultation, and it is a test that cannot be allowed to fail.
One refreshing aspect of this Debate is that a policy of isolation has scarcely any friends. But if we do not intend this country to pursue a policy of isolation, we do not want to see any other country doing so either. We shall always regret to see a policy of isolation pursued by any nation, whether by this country, 160 England, Germany, Russia, the United States—the world is too closely interdependent in these days for any of us to be able to afford these luxuries. That is one reason why we so much regret Germany's departure from the Disarmament Conference. We regret it because we wish to work in co-operation with Germany, as with all other nations, in friendship, and that task is not facilitated but complicated by Germany's departure from the Conference. We regret it also for, after all, it was largely British policy that played a part in securing Germany's entry into the League of Nations, and we hope that long before the two years are up that the notice will have been withdrawn.
In conclusion, may I say a word upon what perhaps might be done in this country to strengthen the League of Nations in a time of trial. I believe that the League will survive this trial, but it is a condition of its survival, an indispensable condition, that. we should assist in ensuring that the League of Nations and its future is not dragged into the party arena in this country. I fully understand, perhaps I may sympathise with, the temptation, when prolonged negotiations like these are taking place, to try and make a certain amount of party capital out of the failure of the Conference. Admittedly some mistakes are inevitable; in a two years' negotiation every Government has probably made them, and we certainly do not pretend to any immunity from them at all. I only ask that when these attacks are made those who make them should consider whether every word they utter is truly delivered in the interests of the League and in the cause of peace, or whether perhaps their darts are envenomed with hatred of His Majesty's Government. There is also this deep distinction between foreign and domestic policy. On the main issues of domestic policy the electorate is conscious of its ability to decide for itself, but in foreign affairs it necessarily relies, and is conscious of relying, on public men of all parties to guide them. Especially is this true of the complex issues of disarmament policy. Inevitably they must look for guidance to the leaders of all parties. To abandon that leadership and sink to the level of a camp follower is a responsibility which lies equally 161 heavily on all parts of the House. Particularly is that true when the issue is peace or war. Peace is not an issue of party politics, and any attempt to make it so must fail because peace is the deep concern of every one of us. The country knows that, and knows that every party in the state regards peace not only as the need of the nation but of the civilisations of the world. I warn hon. Members opposite, although I do not flatter myself that they will listen to me, that if they try to persuade the country that the National Government in the midst of its task of re-creating Britain is turning aside to pursue a bloodstained phantom of war it is a hopeless attempt and one which will lead them to the universal and deserved contempt of their countrymen.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.