§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I beg to move,That this House regrets that the strong desire of the country for international agreement on disarmament has not been reflected in the policy pursued by His Majesty's Government at the Disarmament Conference and, realising the growing opinion in favour of the total disarmament of all nations throughout the world, this House calls upon the Government to submit to the Conference proposals for—
This Motion stands in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and of several of my colleagues as well as myself. Perhaps it would be convenient if I recalled to the mind of the House something that happened in the Debate last week. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made to the Government an offer the purport of which was broadly this: He intimated that we desired to continue the discussion initiated last Tuesday and that we would prefer that that discussion should be continued in a more or less non-party atmosphere, in the hope that we might be able to put before the House proposals in regard to disarmament, and that having put them before the House we might test the opinion of the House upon the proposals regardless of party affiliations. We would have preferred not to have embodied this Resolution in the form of a Vote of Censure, if that method were possible; but the Government found it impossible to accept and adopt that suggestion, and we therefore are obliged—we make no apology for it—to put on the Order Paper the Motion which I now submit.
- (a) the complete abandonment of all air bombing;
- (b) the general abolition of all weapons at present forbidden to Germany by the Treaty of Versailles, namely, tanks, heavy artillery, capital ships, aircraft carriers, submarines, and all naval and military aircraft;
- (c) the international control of civil aviation;
- (d) an immediate reduction by all nations in their expenditure upon armaments;
- (e) the suppression of all private manufacture and trade in armaments;
- (f) international inspection and control of armaments in all countries;
- (q) the creation of an international police force; and
- (h) the definition of aggression on the basis of the proposals made by the Conference Committee"
580 Before I come to the details of the Motion, I would like to make a reference to the concluding portion of the speech of the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the Debate last, Tuesday. The hon. Gentleman gave expression to a criticism which is very commonly applied by Members of the Government party to the Opposition nowadays in relation to this matter. They accuse us of using the disarmament difficulty for party purposes. The Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs gave point to that criticism and made an appeal to us, as I understood him, to cease from that kind of activity. I challenge the right of the Government to demand that we shall hold our tongues when we differ from them in policy. This is His Majesty's Opposition, and, if we come to the conclusion that the Government are following the wrong policy either in domestic matters or in foreign affairs, we claim the right—I repeat, the right—to express our point of view, without the good will of the Government's friends in any part of the House.
Suppose, however, that there was something in that criticism, I could find ample precedent for such a course. The Tory party have not always been silent when Governments from which they were dissociated politically followed certain lines of policy in foreign affairs. Let me recall one incident. When the first Labour Government—which I think the Prime Minister still recollects occasionally—was in office, it was engaged during September, 1924, in discussions at Geneva. The result of those discussions was the emergence of the instrument known as the Geneva Protocol. Shortly afterwards that Labour Government went out of office. Did the succeeding Tory, Government accept that instrument and follow the line of policy laid down by their predecessors? Far from it. One of the first things they did in foreign affairs was to abandon the Geneva Protocol and to follow their own line. do not blame them. They were entitled to do so, but, if they are entitled to follow their own line in foreign affairs, are not we equally entitled to follow ours? I can say this to the Government frankly, and I am sure I 'shall carry all my colleagues with me in saying it, that so far as we find the Government pursuing peace we shall with great heartiness afford them our support, 581 but in so far as we consider their policy to be inimical to the interests of peace we claim the right to challenge that policy in the place where it ought to be challenged, namely, in the House of Commons.
I turn now to the terms of the Motion which I am submitting to the House. It contains three propositions to which I shall invite the attention of hon. Members as I proceed. First, it posits the proposition that the country entertains a strong desire for international agreement regarding Disarmament. Is there any Member in any quarter of the House who will dispute that proposition? In the Debate of last week all the speakers, the official spokesmen of the Government as well as others, were agreed that there is a deep-seated desire among the citizens of the land that a policy of Disarmament should be faithfully prosecuted and brought to a successful issue. In regard to the first proposition, I submit there can be little controversy. If proof were required of the state of public opinion on this question, I need only recall two recent electoral events. One is the result of the East Fulham by-election. Whatever the merits or demerits of the opposing policies generally, it is quite certain that the question of peace entered very largely into the decision of that election in one of the suburbs of London. Then there was the Skipton by-election, and I noticed that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was sent down post-haste by the Government in order, if possible, to stem the tide of opinion which was flowing against them and to declare in categorical terms that the mind of the Government was fixed on the prosecution of peace. Those events give ample proof of the strength, the truth, the accuracy of the first proposition which I am submitting to the House.
We pass from that which is agreed ground to the second proposition, namely, that the national will for Disarmament has not been reflected in the Government's policy at Disarmament Conferences. Here, no doubt, there will be some controversy. I have already indicated I think that, whether our propositions be conceded or not, our right to challenge the Government on these points cannot be disputed, and I proceed to develop as best I can a case in support of the second proposition in this Motion. There is, first, a point which has a very 582 practical bearing upon the whole Disarmament situation. I must recall to the Foreign Secretary, to the Prime Minister, and to their colleagues in the Government that what happened in the Far East last year could not but have had a profound influence upon the attitude of the world towards the problem of Disarmament. I shall not enter into the minutiae of the developments which took place there. The effect was that Japan ultimately left the League of Nations and she had, I verily believe, been encouraged—I will not say deliberately but encouraged almost inferentially, certainly by this Government in the policy which she prosecuted in the Far East. Not only was she encouraged by the Government in the way I have indicated, but speeches were made by leading Members of the Tory party in this House last year deliberately encouraging Japan in the course upon which she had embarked.
§ Mr. JONES
I cannot stop at this moment to do so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I can recall three. There was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery). Another was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), and a third was, I think, one of the hon. Members for Liverpool——
§ Sir AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
To my astonishment the hon Gentleman has named me in that connection. Will he read any passage from my speeches which justifies his allegation
§ Mr. JONES
I will reply to that in this way. Certainly I ought to have fortified myself with actual quotations. I will not deny that, but the right hon. Gentleman will recall that he devoted a very considerable proportion of that speech to justifying Japan in large measure, on the ground of the difficulties created for Japan by the disturbances in China.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
If to be enabled to see two sides of a question is to be a partisan on one side, then there is perhaps some foundation for the hon. Gentleman's charge. I endeavoured to show, before condemning the action of Japan, that at least I understood what 583 had led to it, and my condemnation was outspoken. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] If, after that, the hon. Gentleman persists, I say flatly that there is not the slightest foundation for his argument.
§ Mr. JONES
Am I to be allowed to proceed, Mr. Speaker I am not going to withdraw a single word. I repeat that the inference of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in the main was in the direction which I have indicated. If that was not the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, I cannot help it.
§ Mr. HANNON
On a point of Order. The hon. Member makes a statement, and my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) repudiates the accuracy of that statement. Is it in order to make a statement, in any part of the House, which is immediately repudiated by another hon. Member, and to make no apology?
§ Mr. JONES
I hope my time will not be taken up with interruptions. I turn from that to a further point. The effect of the policy pursued by the Government and supported by individual Members of its own supporters in this House was to encourage Japan, which led ultimately to the conquest of large sections of territory and the development of the belief—and this is the important point in this discussion to—day—that strong and important Powers could do what they would, without expecting any violent action on the part of the League of Nations against them. The consequence was that once you had sown the belief that the League of Nations was impotent in regard to strong and powerful nations, you developed a lack of faith in the efficacy of the League itself. I pass from that except to repeat that the Government cannot be absolved from their share of responsibility for what has happened in regard to the development of a lack of faith in the League.
584 Let me turn from that to a particular discussion of the 1932 Disarmament Conference. It is not without significance that not one spokesman for the Government last week attempted to say a single word in justification of the record of the Government in relation to disarmament during 1932. History for them last week began in March, 1933, when the draft disarmament plan appeared. The Government had been in office nearly two years before that—a year and a half certainly—and they know very well that the record which stands opposite their name in relation to disarmament last year, 1932, is a record of which they have no right whatsoever to be proud. Let me recall to the House one or two facts. Shortly after the Conference itself began, if I remember rightly, in February last year, there was presented to that Conference a series of plans or schemes. One of the biggest of them was the Italian plan. What happened to that? Of course, the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary at once began, in a characteristic way, to hand over bouquets by way of compliments on every hand—"A lovely plan," "The Government was interested; it would give it its attention; it would study it very particularly." But what have we done? Nothing at all.
The Hoover plan came along a few months later, and again a veritable plethora of compliments. The right hon. Gentleman is deadliest always when he is most friendly. Compliments galore, fine buttered phrases, but what has been done? Nothing at all. The Russian plan came along. It may have been, from the point of view of hon. Members in this House, far too advanced, far too thorough-going, but it was a plan. What happened to that plan? What was the reaction of the Government to that plan?
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir John Simon)
What was the Russian plan?
§ Mr. JONES
The hon. and gallant Member had better look up the facts himself. The next was the German plan. Here again was a scheme put forward. What again was the action of the Gov- 585 ernment? Any number of compliments, an endless number of fine and courteous words, but, so far as plan was concerned, definite reaction, definite contribution, I think the Government cannot but admit that the sum total of their contribution during 1932 amounted to very little indeed. We made a contribution. The right hon. Gentleman propounded conundrums. Admiral Pound got in one of those commissions, and Admiral Pound, speaking of battleships, said they were as precious as rubies, but they could not be regarded as offensive weapons. The proposition was made that tanks over 20 tons should be abolished. How many did it mean that you would give up? We were told at the time that that proposal involved giving up one tank. That was prodigal generosity. That was allowing the spirit of peace to run away with you. What was the sacrifice you made? What were you prepared to give up? [An HoN. MEMBER: "The British Empire!"] The right hon. Gentleman cannot deny that at the end of that Conference one who cannot be accused of being Labour in sentiment or kindly disposed to our Labour movement—I refer to Signor Grandi—used these words in relation to that situation:The Fascist Government now deem it necessary to say that it is not enough for the Powers here assembled to make a declaration of good will couched in general terms in order to make an impression on the peoples of the world who are seeking and waiting for definite and positive results. The Italian delegation, after having sincerely and unsparingly collaborated to secure the triumph of those prnciples which in the general framework of armaments would have enabled the Conference to secure positive results, is compelled to state that the effort made has been a vain one and entirely inadequate when compared with the wishes and hopes of the world.If I ventured to quote to the House, not that statement merely, but the translation of an article written by Signor Grandi in the "Populo d'Italia" on 31st July, I think it would shock the House as indicating the view of the share taken by our own country in the discussions that had hitherto been proceeding in Geneva. In fact, it is not unfair to say that, at any rate, during 1932, the contribution of this Government by way of indicating what this country was prepared to give up, what sacrifices we were prepared to make, was a contribution hardly adequate to the necessity of the times. 586 The right hon. Gentleman last week spoke of fouling nests. I wonder how many nests were fouled in Geneva last year. Anyhow, our point is that if the responsibility lies anywhere upon any one nation in regard to the failure of Disarmament discussions last year, and certainly in regard to the proposals of other nations, that responsibility lies heavily at the door of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary.
I do not dwell upon the actual nature of our proposals during 1932 beyond saying that there were proposals, it is true. There was the proposal that all submarines, for instance, should be abolished. I am all in favour of abolishing submarines, but then hon. Gentlemen must not forget that it happens to be convenient for us that submarines should be abolished, and, therefore, we proposed it. But it is not convenient for us to abolish battleships, and, therefore, it was not proposed. What was proposed was that battleships of the sort then in existence should be retained until 1936, and that smaller battleships, and more of them, should be built thereafter.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald)
I am perfectly certain the hon. Gentleman does not make a serious statement without having at his finger end the facts. He has just made a statement that the desire was to have smaller first-class battleships, and more of them. Has he got any justification for the latter part of his statement?
§ Mr. JONES
For the moment, I think I am nonplussed. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me, and will give me a chance, I will return to it later. Let me pass on from that to the next point. I want to be perfectly fair to the House, but I must be allowed to go on. The next point was in regard to air armaments. We invited other nations to come down to our level, and after that there was to be general reduction all round. The effect of this was to create a general 587 sense of depression at Geneva, and especially was this depression present to the minds of the German delegates. Everyone will recall that at the end of 1932 a very serious internal situation was developing in Germany. That situation finally culminated in the triumph of Herr Hitler, who subsequently became Chancellor of Germany. Early in 1933 Germany was out of the Disarmament Conference, and the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister speedily journeyed to Geneva and propounded what he called the Draft Disarmament Plan.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Let me get the dates right. The withdrawal of the Germans from Geneva took place, if I recollect, in July, 1932. Negotiations which brought them back were completed in December, 1932, and they returned, therefore, to Geneva to the Disarmament Conference, not in 1933 but in 1932.
§ Mr. JONES
Then I beg pardon. I made a mistake in reading my notes. To return to the main point. The Germans have been out of the Conference. The right hon. Gentleman went to Geneva and propounded a Draft Disarmament Plan, and from that point, I cordially admit, Britain had before the Disarmament Conference a definite scheme, not perhaps as advanced a scheme as I desired, but, still, there were proposals in the name of Britain which could be very fully discussed. I want to say, on behalf of my hon. Friends and myself, that any criticisms we advance concerning the Government's attitude on this matter of Disarmament, do not in any way whatsoever imply or express any sort of approval of what has been going on internally in Germany. We have the utmost abhorrence of all the incidents that have taken place there, for we regard it as a crime against civilisation that whole bodies of people should be subjected to the treatment to which they have been subjected. In spite of that, we really must keep some sense in regard to this matter vis à vis Disarmament.
588 We used to argue with hon. Gentlement opposite, when they cited what they deemed to be excesses in Russia, that what happened in Russia was a matter primarily for the Russian people. Similarly we argue that what happens inside Germany is a matter for the German people, and that they themselves must address themselves to their problems. But just as we argue that Russia should be in the League of Nations, so we say, equally categorically, that Germany ought to be inside the League of Nations and all its constituent bodies similarly. This plan of the Prime Minister was accepted as a basis of discussion, and in due time representatives of various nations began to express their point of view regarding it. I hope that hon. Gentlemen will forgive me if I emphasise this point. To me the vital thing in this matter is to convince the German people that they can get a square deal from other nations at the League of Nations and all its constituent bodies. What they call a square deal is quite precise. They insist upon what they call equality of treatment. It is not a new proposition. As a matter of fact, I have in my hand the Notes for Speakers issued by the Conservative party on 2nd November, and in this document the Conservative party invites its speakers to point out to their audiences that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in this House on 24th March, 1925, used these words:It is essential that Germany should enter the League of Nations on a footing of equality, both of obligations and of rights, with the other great and small nations.That was a statement of the right hon. Gentleman, which he will recall, after the Locarno discussions in 1925. He was not alone in that matter.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
Of course, it had not the slightest reference to Disarmament, as the hon. Gentleman will be aware, if he looks at the speech.
§ Mr. JONES
Surely the right hon. Gentleman will not deny that you cannot be conceding equality of treatment in one respect and denying it in another. If she is equal with other nations with regard to some propositions, she must be equal with other nations in this matter. But let me assume that the right hon. Gentleman was not speaking of Disarmament when he used those words.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
If the hon. Member quotes me incorrectly, I think I am within the Rules and Privileges of the House to point that out.
§ Mr. JONES
Since the right hon. Gentleman presses it so much, I may tell him that this quotation in the Conservative speakers' notes is used as part and parcel of an argument indicating the approach of this Government towards the question of German armaments. It is used in connection with that argument. If it were not so used, there would be purpose in having the quotation there at all. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman will be good' enough to look at the notes, he will find that I am not at all abusing my opportunity in referring to him on this particular point. Let me take the point further. Suppose the right hon. Gentleman did not use it in that sense, in what sense did the leaders of the Powers use it on 11th December, 1932? These are the actual words that were used:The Governments of the United Kingdom, France and Italy have declared that one of the principles that shall guide the Conference shall be the grant to Germany … of equality of rights in a system which will provide security for all nations, and that this principle shall find itself embodies, in a convention binding on all sections of the Conference.It seems to me therefore that whatever might have been the particular interpretation individual people might fairly put upon those words, it is clear that German people put that very clear and precise interpretation upon it, namely, that they were to enter these conferences on the basis of strict equality with other nations. That cannot be conceded merely as an afterthought because the point was made by Count Bernstorff at the Preparatory Commission; the same point was made by Herr Bruening and Herr Nadolny in 1932, by Herr Von Schleicher in January, 1933, and by Herr Hitler in May, 1933; and if the published document which was referred to in another place as being presented by Count Bismarck at the Foreign Office is authentic, that same point was presented by him on the 6th 590 October this year. You must concede this thing as a matter of justice, and, if it is conceded, you cannot barter with it, for, after all, you cannot barter with the principle of justice in that way.
In the intervening period between the 6th October and the 14th October, when the right hon. Gentleman spoke at Geneva, there were doubtless conversations between the Foreign Office and the German Foreign Office. A question was addressed to the Prime Minister this. afternoon, and he gave a clear and specific answer. I will not carry that discussion further. I gather that the Government take the view that it is not wise or discreet to publish certain official documents conveying information of some discussions that took place during those days. All I will say is that it is clear that whatever was in the view of the representatives of the Governments who discussed with the German representatives, the nature of the discussions that took place, the Germans still take the view that the situation in regard to equality of treatment has undergone a substantial change. I think that the Germans were exceedingly foolish in leaving the Conference at all, and I shall be very glad—for it is vital to the peace of Europe that it should be so—to see them return at a very early date.
If they are to have equality of treatment in regard to armaments, what follows? It can only be conceded in one of two ways. Either we must disarm or Germany must re-arm. [HON. MEMBERS: "We?"] The rest as well. Either other nations must disarm as Germany has disarmed, or, if there is to be equality of treatment, Germany must re-arm to preserve the principle of equality. I will not traverse the ground covered last week in this matter, but I will ask this question: What is the mind of the Government regarding German rearmament? It is vitally important that we should know. If I correctly interpret the phrase used by the Foreign Secretary, and if I understand the position aright, it seems to me to imply that in the second stage, instead of there being disarmament, there was n definite concession to re-arm. The words to which I refer were:A common list of permitted arms which would be the same for all countries as a result of the abolition of various kinds of armaments and a prohibition against their further use.591 Does that mean that after some appointed date the Germans are to be free to possess armaments hitherto refused to her by the Treaty of Versailles? Is she to have aeroplanes, tanks, mobile guns and any other implements that are allowed to other nations under the phrase "a common list"? Is she to possess whatever instruments of warfare other nations possess? That is an important point. I understand the Government to keep on saying, "We will not have rearmament for Germany." If this means what I think it means—I hope I am wrong—clearly, instead of there being disarmament on the part of the other nations, there is a concession of rearmament for Germany after a certain period. That is a most important point which must be cleared up, because, if it be so, we have to visualise in a few years a new race of armaments in Europe. We are not encouraged to believe that all will disarm. What we are encouraged to believe is that all will be armed up to a certain agreed measure.
That is reversing the clock entirely, and is leading Europe in entirely the wrong direction from the point of view of disarmament. That proposal can only lead to trouble. If there is to be no rearmament for Germany equality of treatment involves disarmament on our part; and disarmament on our part cannot leave greater armaments for us than there are for Germany because that would not be equality. It means that all should be treated in exactly the same way. Because of that, we submit the third part of our Motion, namely, the body of proposals dealing with methods of disarmament which we as a Labour movement advance.
§ Vice-Admiral TAYLOR
Is the hon. Gentleman advancing a numerical equality of armaments, or armaments in accordance with the varying responsibilities of nations?
§ Mr. JONES
The hon. and gallant Gentleman puts me a proposition which clearly is a matter for a disarmament conference to examine in every possible detail. All I need say to him is that we have put down in this Motion point by point the lines upon which we demand disarmament to be carried on among all nations. I admit that there are technical difficulties against immediate disarma- 592 ment here and now. I am not asking that. All I am asking is that this Government shall go to the Disarmament Conference with this programme in mind, and invite other nations to accept it as the basis of discussions and the object of their ultimate endeavours.
I do not think I need trouble the House with each single detail of this programme. Some parts of it have already been the subject of discussions at Geneva on the initiation of other nations, but from our point of view we would insist that there cannot be security for the peoples of the world outside the adoption of these proposals. Hon. Gentlemen will recall a speech made by the Lord President of the Council in the House some 12 months ago in relation to aerial bombardment, in which he said that experts could not be found anywhere who could guarantee to any people immunity from invasion or from bombardment from the air on the occasion of war. If we cannot guarantee to our people immunity of that sort, what is the sense or reason of inviting men and women to put a blind faith in instruments of this sort which we know we cannot guarantee will give security for their hearths and homes?
Our Motion includes reference to the private manufacture of instruments of war. How many hon. Gentlemen who are now Members of the House can recall the speech made by Mr. Philip Snowden, as he then was, from this side of the House in the days before the War? In that speech he showed how private armament firms were influencing opinion here through the Press and otherwise, and especially how armament firms abroad directly owned instruments for the creation of public opinion; and he indicated to the House that, as long as the manufacture of armaments remained in the hands of private individuals, so long would private interest militate against the public interest which disarmament involved. Lastly, there is the question of the internationalisation of defence. I associate this with item (g) of our Motion, namely, the proposal for an international police force. I know that hon. Gentlemen in, many parts of the House, though otherwise sympathetic with our Motion, have some difficulty about this item. I have always been against the application of force of any sort in the decision of international disputes. But if there are nations which feel insecure without some 593 sort of international body to be placed at their disposal, very well, here is a concession that can be made to them, which will give everyone mutual security and offer to none any sort of offence.
We suggest to the House that this Motion is the only logical solution which can be offered once you have granted the principle of equality for all nations in this matter. I understand that the Government keep the door open for Germany to return to the Disarmament Conference. I want to know on what terms. Are they coming back frankly on the basis of equality? If so, this proposal which we are putting forward is, in our judgment, the only proposal which can effectively guarantee equality of treatment in the matter of armaments. In one final word let me say this: This House will cover its name with shame if it does not speedily make it clear to the world, on behalf of the people of this country, that it insists that the Government of Britain shall work in the council of the nations in the interests of real disarmament; for without complete disarmament there can be no security for man, woman or child, nor can there be peace in the hearts of men.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I confess that I had some doubts as to what was to be made out of this Motion, and I am sorry to say that I am now in still greater doubt. The last sentence uttered by the hon. Member was a very encouraging one, however. He said the programme he was offering to the House is the only way to peace. There are eight items in his programme. Four have been taken from the Government's plan, and of several of the remaining four he himself confessed that he was not quite sure of them. The process of conversion is getting on. But I must say this before trying to follow the hon. Member: In the name and on behalf of the House I protest most strongly against a statement made by the hon. Member, without any foundation, which, when challenged, was not withdrawn, that this Government—he had forgotten about my right hon. Friend, and it was then "the Government"—by their action at Geneva had encouraged Japan. That is not true. Having been challenged on that the hon. Member said: "Well, leading Members of the Government." Challenged again, he ventured to indicate my right hon. 594 Friend, Challenged by my right hon. Friend, he could give no reason at all why he had indicated him; and when my right hon. Friend, quite properly feeling that even the hint of an accusation like that required to be followed up; pressed for a withdrawal, neither justification nor withdrawal was forthcoming. Unfortunately, those statements are not confined to these four walls, nor are they confined to this country. Before he left this subject he actually argued that the British Government, having proved to Japan that within the League of Nations she had a doughty ally who would forgive all her faults, and that that discovery on the part of Japan induced Japan to leave the League of Nations. Really, if we cannot have facts we must have some common sense. He also laid down the law that the League of Nations ought at that time to have taken violent action against Japan.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The hon. Member has been received in a very indulgent way to-day, but he really must not deny what he himself has said, because I took it down as he said it. He said: "Violent action should have been taken against Japan." What sort of violent action; and when he said that, was it part and parcel of an official pronouncement from the Opposition? Can anyone imagine an appeal being made to East Fulham on the cry: "Violent action by the League of Nations"? Some of us never thought very much of the old cry that we should end war by war. The ranks of those whom we regarded as mistaken have been joined, apparently, by the hon. Member this afternoon. Violent action by the League of Nations in order to establish the League of Nations on a secure foundation!
This is a queer Vote of Censure. The hon. Member repeated what the Leader of the Opposition said the other day: "We do not want a Vote of Censure. We want to get a Hastings resolution down on the Order Paper of the House of Commons and have a Debate upon it." The hon. Member knows perfectly well that that is not the way to do Parliamentary business—for a party—it does not matter what party—to go to a party conference and then return here and ask the Leader of the House, the personal 595 custodian of our time, to give him a day to discuss the resolutions passed at that party conference. If I had agreed to that I would have been no longer worthy to remain as the custodian of the business of the House of Commons. It is like somebody who does not know the rules of the House very well, but rises impulsively and asks Mr. Speaker to hear him on some plea or other which is just as improper as were his previous attempts to get Mr. Speaker to call upon him. There is one way and one way only of bringing such business before this House, and nobody knows it better, or ought to know it better, than the right hon. Gentleman, and that is by a Vote of Censure on the Government. That has now been done. As I say, they have put down a Motion of Censure, half the contents of which is borrowed from the Government's own documents and with the most important item in the remaining four partly rejected by the chosen spokesman of the Opposition when moving this vote of no confidence.
Although I do not want to be very long, I should like to do the Motion of Censure more honour than the hon. Member who moved it. Regarding air policy, in Article 34 of our Draft Convention there is a declaration in favour of the complete prohibition of bombing from the air, and then an exception is made in the matter of police purposes in certain outlying territories. The hon. Member, who was so shocked at that reservation, so conscience stricken about it, wants to console people who may be rather frightened about complete disarmament by establishing an international police force, to which this sort of thing, among others, would be committed. The hon. Member shakes his head. Imagine some rather wild and difficult region, both as regards the territory itself and the individuals, where trouble is brewing. The hon. Member has got his international police force, but he will not allow a raid. What is he going to do to stop it? We cannot have these snippets of detached points of opinion. There is to be no bombing from the air by the police force. This is not to be an international police force that is going to bomb, to march and to sail; this police force is going to do nothing of the kind. It is not going to Use the air or the sea, and it is not going to use the land. It must be a fourth 596 dimensional force, in order that the squeamish conscience of the hon. Member may be accommodated in his disarmament ideal.
In regard to the police bombing part—I can assure the House, although I have not been at Geneva very much, that there has not been an hour wasted by the Disarmament Conference in discussing this reservation, which has never at any time been raised as a serious obstacle to an agreement. This reservation, made in view of experiences and circumstances which everybody in our position knows about, has never been regarded as something that was going to stand finally between an agreement that could be come to but for that one point. It is one of those points about which you may very well say that it has been gone into. When the hon. Member tries to censure us for it, he is trying to censure us for exactly the opinions and the outlook that we share with him.
Why the censure? There is censure one minute, and no censure the next; one minute peace, and the next minute violent action on the part of the League of Nations. The whole thing is trifling with a situation that is one of the most difficult at this moment in Geneva; trifling with a problem that is one of the most important, and is going to be one of the most important, in the immediate history of the world. Hon. Members of the Opposition, without having made up their minds about it, have not produced a programme which really justifies a sharp division. I hope that the House will not waste too much time in coming to a decision in this matter, or that it will allow countries outside to assume that we take a very serious view of the situation in which we find ourselves this afternoon.
Let us take the next proposition. The hon. Member talked a great deal about plans—this plan in 1932, that plan and the other plan. I confess that my feelings about 1932 were that there were far too many plans, and that 1932 was a year when everybody who wanted to produce a plan produced it. Those plans, coming in one after another and being held in order for discussion, blocked one another, and wasted weeks and months of the time of 1932. It is greatly to the credit of the Government that in 1932 they produced no plans at all, but that they did their 597 best, all the time, to get the various plans that had been produced sifted, so that at last individual plans would cease to pour in, and conjoint action could be begun. That was the policy of the Government in 1932, and it has been perfectly justified. Hon. Members opposite have been in Hastings; we have been in Geneva. That is just the difference between us. We are working for an international agreement; not for a party propaganda declaration.
Take these propositions. Abstract from them what has been covered by the action and the declarations of the Government. What is left? Such things as police bombing and an international police force. How long is the Disarmament Conference to sit, in order to get an international police force created? That is not to be done in a week or a month; that is not to be done by resolution, or by an instrument of 20 or 30 clauses. What does this mean, this international police force? How is it to be created, and who is to officer it—a French general, an Italian airman, a German naval officer, a British soldier or the head of the staff from one or other of the Services? That would be an international police force drawn from exactly those people who, in every country, are strongest in their national loyalty because it is their business to be so; a collection of great soldiers, airmen, naval men—because they must be men of competence—simply joined together and considering plans, perhaps of offence against some of their own countries. And moved how? By a majority of the Council of the League of Nations, or unanimously? I leave it to the House to work that out and to imagine what sort of disarmament agreement you are going to get with an instrument establishing that, and embodying those consequences. If hon. Members do not mean that, why do they bring that proposition forward as an element in their censure to-day? Their censure to-day refers not to some very remote action on the part of this Government when it has been in office perhaps for 40 or 50 years, but it refers to this Parliament. Hon. Members really must be careful what they say. This is not a demand made upon this Government years and years ahead, but is a demand that the House of Commons should censure this Government because it has not, in connection with the existing Disarma- 598 ment Conference, embodied something about an international police force.
Let us take another point, that in regard to civil aviation. This is one of the very attractive things that might be all very well on a platform. I pay great tribute to hon. Members for selecting things that may be misleading but which centre the hopes of people. Separated from their point about bombing from the air is a proposal, made in this programme, about the control of civil aviation. We have made it a condition, and we will continue to make it a condition, that civil aviation shall be controlled internationally, more particularly in so far as civil aviation can become an immediate and a serious menace to the civil population, should war unfortunately break out. To scrap our air force, and to allow development without control on the lines that are now being pursued so rapidly and so successfully by our splendid engineers in charge of civil aviation, because there are great opportunities for development of that service over a vast continent or a collection of continents, would, in our geographical situation, be not only madness but criminality. There again, that point is embodied in our plan. Our plan calls for an immediate conference on this subject. We have tried to get it. The control of civil aviation raises the question of nationality at the head of the controlled force, and the question of manning the civil aviation. It raises the question of the building of the machines and of the relations between the civil aviation policy and the possible military policy. Again, months and months must he spent in working out plans that will be satisfactory to everybody, and clauses upon clauses must be drafted in order to make our position secure in a disarmament agreement. Do hon. Members mean to hold up disarmament until the Disarmament Conference has settled that?
There is one other point—equality. So far as disarmament is concerned, I want the House to be perfectly sure of this. The equality that was granted in principle was, on every hand, agreed to be reached by stages. I happened to preside over the conversations which discussed the matter, and which agreed to a recommendation to the Disarmament Conference. It was clearly understood to be by stages, the armed Powers making their contribution in the form of 599 disarmament, and the disarmed Powers—of which there was only one present at the Conference—to make its contribution in the form of increased security. The increased security was to be a declaration that the five Powers there present would not seek to resort to force, in order to redress grievances, for a period of years. So that, when bon. Members talk about equality, either inside this House or outside, they must remember that it was equality clearly understood to be reached by stages when it was first of all accepted. When the Draft Convention was moved by me on behalf of the Government in Geneva in March, I emphasised that point in my speech. The German delegate, who was present, followed, and he made no demur to that statement; and not only that, but, after it had been printed and considered and circulated, a debate took place in Geneva about it, and the German representatives agreed that that draft was to be the basis of the new Disarmament Convention. There is no doubt about that at all. Those who try to change the situation—because it is a change in the situation—and encourage the Germans to ask for things which they themselves never had any intention of asking for, are not helping disarmament.
The Government problem at the moment is an international agreement. It is no use getting two or three people to agree. That may be all right as a declaration at the moment, but, if we are to have disarmament, if we are trying to have an active movement in disarmament, there must be an international agreement, including Germany, for that purpose. But to-day there are several possibilities of helping that problem. The conditions are still involved; the results of yesterday have still to be observed, have still to be seen; and I feel perfectly certain that this House would not wish the Government here to say by what precise means they are going to use the existing unfortunate situation—to say how they are going to use it in this way or that way or the other way in order to get an international agreement. Sufficient for to-day is this: The Government believe that in the end there must be an international agreement if good is to come, and that, if that should fail, it will be their duty to make it clear to the 600 world on whose shoulders the blame for it must rest.
We are in close touch with France and Italy; the United States will be kept informed; and we are in touch with other nations, especially the smaller European nations, who have a great stake in this; and they, being at Geneva, are available for consultation. We ask the Germans to come in, not at the end, but now. We want Germany to be its own representative and its own spokesman. The exchanges of views and conversations to which I have made reference are not anti-German, but pro-European; they are not to punish, they are to establish peace in Europe. The problem we are trying to solve, and the way we are trying to find, in this entanglement of passion and propaganda and expectation and despair and hope, is the way to enable us, to enable the Governments of Europe, to enable the League of Nations, to establish peace in Europe. Whatever form those conversations may take will not involve any weakening of our loyalty to the League of Nations, nor any diminution of its status or authority. If there is anyone who says that, in order to deal with present difficulties, we should be asked to join in the destruction of the only existing machine of international co-operation, a machine for which no alternative has ever been proposed, our answer is "No."
As to the Disarmament Conference itself, we cannot admit that because Germany has withdrawn from it the work for disarmament ought not to go on. Germany's withdrawal has unquestionably greatly complicated the work of the Disarmament Conference, as I have just said. Germany's withdrawal, therefore, necessarily involves the consideration of ways and means and methods, and it would be unreasonable, as I have already said, to ask the Government to declare now and to-day its final view of all these questions. One thing is quite clear: the moving of this Censure Motion, and some of the proposals which it contains, would not be of the slightest assistance in helping to arrive at the best method of improving relations in Europe. I also want to make this clear. In these deliberations between Governments, and exchanges of view, no Government can compel any other Government to accept 601 risks which it believes are too great. We can put our case, we can argue, we can expound views, we can look round, with them, the whole of the problem and weigh up the pros and cons; but we cannot—and this is the difference between going to Hastings and going to Geneva—[HON. MEMBERS: "Or Birmingham !"] Certainly; but nobody from Birmingham has asked the Government to give a day for the discussion of a Resolution.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
If hon. Members would not mind—they know that I must be very careful in what I say, and I hope I may be allowed to proceed without interruption. I say that in these deliberations and exchanges of view no Government can compel any other Government to accept risks which it believes are too great, and, in any event, we cannot extend our international commitments as the price of what may be asked for in an ultimate agreement. Our Draft Convention remains the basis of Geneva deliberations; it has not been abandoned. When I moved it, I said that, if after examination it was found to require some amendment, we would consider the proposals that were made. My right hon. Friend, in making his last speech, which has been so much misreported and misinterpreted, made it quite clear that he was reporting, on the invitation of the chairman of the conference, on the result of the conversations he had had with certain heads of Governments upon the British Convention. That is the position in which it was then, and in that position it is now. I firmly believe that, if between now and the Division the Opposition would master the idea of the Convention and its contents, and remember the international position in which we are, remembering that what is expected and wanted of them now is to contribute to peace, not half-a-dozen would go into the Lobby in support of a Censure which has no substance in it, but can only damage the purpose for which it professes to have been moved.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
There will be no doubt in any quarter of the House as to the strong feeling upon this subject which exists throughout the country, a feeling which must find its reflection 602 within these walls. The nation expects from the Government a clear objective, a strong resolution and an effective skill in reaching that objective. The country is not in the least interested in allocating blame for a failure. The right hon. Gentleman says that it is important to make clear, if a failure occurs, on whose shoulders the blame rests, but that is not a matter in which the nation takes the smallest interest; what the nation wants is a success. The nation cannot negotiate; Parliament cannot negotiate; Parliament can approve or oppose the general lines of a policy, but only the Executive can act, and Parliament must judge by results. If those results are successful, then the Ministers who achieve them are applauded; they are welcomed as generals returning after a victory. If the results are failure, they cannot escape a measure of condemnation.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Perhaps I misunderstood my right hon. Friend, but I am very anxious that there should be no misunderstanding about one point. My right hon. Friend uses the word "blame". What I had in my mind was that, if everything fails in the future, then the world would know where the blame rests. I did not mean now.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I would much rather that a British Prime Minister should look forward contemplating success, and be determined to achieve it, than envisaging, apparently, a failure after which all that would remain would he to make it clear who was responsible. If I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, I certainly shall not pursue the point, for I have no desire to impute to him any pessimism which might be read into his speech, and which apparently he did not intend to convey.
So far as the conduct of the Disarmament Conference is concerned, from its initiation a year and a-half ago until the present day, I am bound to say that I concur in the general judgment passed a few days ago by Lord Cecil in another place, that the action of the Government throughout has been inadequate to the need. There has frequently been a lack of energy, there has been a postponement of vital issues until after the propitious moment, sometimes, had passed. In order to bring home the point more clearly, I would specify three particular questions on which the action of the 603 Government has not conduced to the successful development of the Conference.
The first is that it should have been made clear from the beginning that French insistence upon security meant that it was vital to establish a machinery of effective international control, of supervision and inspection of armaments, that that was of the essence of the matter, but until quite recently the British Government, always holding back on the point, was unwilling to concede any really effective measure of inspection and control. Secondly, the whole of the naval side has been put into the background so far as capital ships are concerned and all that has been proposed is not that there should be any reduction in capital ships at present but that in future years, when the time came for replacement, the size of capital ships should be somewhat smaller than the size of those ships to-day. Thirdly, another essential issue is budgetary limitation. If you are going to give freely to various Powers the right to accumulate a large range of armaments below the specifically excepted aggressive weapons, there is no means of checking a great competition in armaments unless you have some measure of budgetary limitation. There again, the British Government have not endeavoured to frame any effective scheme of budgetary limitation, but have left it to the technical committees to work, almost without guidance, on minor points. It has not laid down any bold declaration of policy on the necessity for limiting expenditure.
In general, looking at the whole as from a distance, during the last year and a-half, although certain members of the British Government have worked zealously and hard at Geneva, in the main there is not that earnest urge on the part of the British Cabinet as a whole which is really essential to secure success. [Interruption.] The hon. and learned Gentleman is inviting me to make a statement which it would be exceedingly improper for me to make. I do not propose to say what were my relations with my colleagues or what memoranda may have been presented, or what discussions took place during that time. It is certain that, while there are many Members of the Cabinet who are quite zealous on the matter, the Government are somewhat held back by elements in the country, 604 particularly powerful in the Conservative party, which are sceptical, to use a mild word, with regard to the whole movement for disarmament and international control.
§ Sir BASIL PETO
The right hon. Gentleman is urging very strongly that budgetary control over armaments is essential. How does he suggest that it is possible to have any budgetary control when there are no operative Parliaments in most of the great countries in Europe?
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
The hon. Baronet has not given the subject the close attention which he usually gives to political questions. Of course, every country has its Budget, and the Budgetary Commission of the Disarmament Conference has drawn up the most elaborate forms for possible budgetary control with which any country which acceded to them would have to comply. Also a general system of inspection and control would apply to this as to other matters. The hon. Baronet has made an altogether false point.
There are very many elements in the country which have great faith in our own armaments and very little faith in the disarmament of other people. They will be quite prepared to see this country in a position of isolation. They anticipate, and would not greatly regret, the collapse of the Conference, and they do not perhaps fully realise that its collapse would mean a possible competitive race of armaments in which this country would be involved in enormous expenditure, for it is these same elements in the country which often are pressing most keenly for reductions of taxation and complain most bitterly of the taxpayer's burden. They accept that maxim which appeals very much to every simple honest citizen—more expenditure and less taxation.
Then here as elsewhere there are the armament interests which are powerful. I was a little surprised that the President of the Board of Trade, speaking not long ago at Sheffield—a point to which attention was drawn by the Leader of the Opposition—said he hoped we were working right up to the limit in our naval programme, not only for the sake of the nation but for Sheffield. That is a very dangerous course to take, to allow the country to be influenced in its armaments, and possibly to begin a race of 605 armaments, in order to give employment to certain armament firms and districts. I did not think that speech was really the voice of a crusader for Disarmament such as we are asked to believe all the present Government are. We have another element in the country, the ultra-Imperialists; for example, Lord Beaverbrook, with his powerful Press, who would have been regarded as reactionary even by the cavemen, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), who attack disarmament and the League of Nations in the interest, as they think, of the British Empire. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spark-brook, speaking in the House the other day, in effect said we should look not to Geneva but to the British Commonwealth. We must make a choice, and we ought to subordinate international co-operation to commonwealth co-operation.
This is a point of immense importance in these discussins to which I would ask the House to give its attention for a few moments, because I have lately returned from an inter-Imperial conference at Toronto which discussed precisely these points. About fifty unofficial representatives gathered together by the Canadian Institute of International Affairs with the co-operation here of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, met at Toronto to discuss Commonwealth relations—many of them men of administrative and Parliamentary experience, some of them representative of the younger generation of this country, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India, having no official responsibility at all but representing very considerable bodies of opinion. The conclusion that was arrived at—I shall be confirmed in this by three Members of the House who were present, the Solicitor—General, whom I congratulate on his appointment, the hon. Baronet the Member for Wimbledon (Sir J. Power) and the junior Member for Oldham (Mr. H. Kerr), all Members of the Conservative party—was that Dominions representatives attached supreme importance to the maintenance of a collective system of the management of international affairs and to the loyal co—operation of all parts of the British Commonwealth in the League of Nations. Every step away from the League is not a step towards the Dominions. It is a step away from them also, for they are in 606 the League and of it, keen and loyal members of it. If you go away from Geneva, Geneva includes them. Britain's loyalty to the League and participation in its activities is a powerful factor, and on occasion might be a decisive factor, in the Dominions' attitude towards the British Commonwealth itself. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook or Lord Beaverbrook in their enthusiasm for Empire think that by criticising, depreciating and attacking the League of Nations they are rendering any service to Imperial unity, they are profoundly mistaken. Nothing would be so likely to alienate the Dominions than for Great Britain in any degree to abandon the League.
The fact remains that there is this tendency towards inaction. Political supporters of the Government do not bear them forward, but rather hold them back. Their own enthusiasm, energy and zeal do not greatly carry them forward, for these are qualities, I am afraid, not native to this Government. They are kept up to the mark by public opinion, by the electorate and by this House, and the House ought not to take any action—I certainly should not cast any vote—which would add to the complacency which is native to this Government, or be construed as giving the impression that the country is satisfied with the action taken in the matter of disarmament. I believe the country is not. It is essential that a proposal should be made to Germany which enlightened opinion in this country, in the Dominions, in the United States and throughout the world will regard as just, and which Germany could be reasonably expected to accept. There is, of course, the natural reaction of the average liberty-loving Englishman, who feels an intense revulsion against many of the things that have been done in Germany, and in this and other countries there are many who are inclined to say we should make no concession, we should seek no agreement with people who make themselves impossible. Holding that they are a peril to Europe, the only course to be taken is to apply to them a measure of that force of which they are themselves devotees. I do not think that is a right course.
There are some who might expect that I, in particular, in view of the attacks upon the race to which I belong, the 607 monstrous insults and gross oppression, he flagrant denial of elementary justice —as a consequence of the bitter resentment and intense indignation which I, personally, must feel, would be naturally disposed to take that view; but I have always held that any man who has any responsibility in public affairs, who allows personal feelings to warp his political judgment is of little service to his fellow-countrymen. So I put all that aside, and I ask only what course is wise in the presence of the Germany of to-day. It seems to me certain that the present situation with regard to disarmament in Europe cannot continue indefinitely. If, after the Napoleonic wars, at the Congress of Vienna the Powers had said to France, "You have kept Europe in turmoil for 20 years, now that you are defeated you shall be disarmed and shall remain disarmed in the presence of an armed Europe," no wise man at that time would have expected that that could last through the Nineteenth Century. It would have been an impossible proposition. And the Conference at Paris in 1919 did not attempt to lay down any such proposition. On the contrary, insisting upon disarmament for the defeated Powers, they did definitely anticipate that that would be followed by a general measure of disarmament, and that was specifically declared.
That is the situation in which we find ourselves to-day, 15 years after the, Declaration of Peace. I would wish that the moral opinion of the world should continue to be outspoken in disapproval of many of the measures which are proceeding inside Germany, and that the censure which has been expressed, as it has been, has already, possibly, had some effect, and may have some effect in the future. Germany has been proud that by common agreement of all the countries of the world she has held, and has been recognised as holding, a foremost place in the ranks of civilisation, and if she has now done things which brings her down to a lower level, and if the other countries make her feel that they so regard her, then, sooner or later, I believe the eyes of her people will be opened. They will be ashamed of some of the things which have been done, and there will come a change. Meantime, the armament issue exists. It is here. It is real. It is urgent. It is not to be put 608 aside by generalities, aspirations, formulas, platitudes. We must do something or do nothing, and to do nothing is in itself an action. If Germany rearms, and there are rumours—I do not know whether they are well-founded or not—what then? The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said the other day in the Debate in this House: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." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1933; col. 80, Vol. 281.]That is his view. By whom and how? Suppose Germany does re-arm, and suppose she refuses to answer any questions, denies the authority of anyone to challenge such action as she may be taking. What then? Her neighbours may call for intervention. The League of Nations may have to take cognisance of the matter. It will have a choice of courses. The worst course that could be chosen would be to threaten and not to act. It was a wise saying of Senator Elihu Root.The country which shakes its fist first and its finger afterwards soon falls into contempt.And if action is taken and troops march and aeroplanes attack, and there is resistance on the part of Germany or of some elements in Germany, it is very essential that public opinion—the general body of public opinion in this country and throughout Europe, in America and in the Dominions—should feel sure that the League of Nations is acting with full justification. That is why it appears to me to be so essential at this juncture that the nations should make an offer to Germany which Germany could reasonably be expected to accept. The Prime Minister just now said that Germany had accepted the basis of the Draft Convention and that, so I gathered from him—I am not quite sure that I interpreted what he said rightly—there had been no change since then to justify Germany's withdrawal. But there is one very great change. The latest proposal involves the postponement of the greater part of the action to be taken for four years, or for such period less than four years as might, after discussion, be agreed. But four years was the period quoted. During that time arrangements should be made for 609 reducing the armies of Europe to what may be called a militia level. No new aggressive weapons were to be obtained by any of the adhering Powers, but, on the other hand, they were not to be required during that period to get rid of any of the armaments which they now possessed. There was to be merely a promise of future action, definite no doubt if it could be obtained, but just a promise. The Foreign Secretary objects to the term "probationary period." May I call it a promissory period?
Meantime, the one effective thing to be done was to set up a system of international inspection and control, and the Foreign Secretary emphasised the fact that that is to be applied to all alike. There is no inequality so far as Germany is concerned. If she is asked to accept inspection, so are all the rest of the Powers. But what is the purpose of the inspection? What are the inspectors to do? They are to see to it that the status quo is preserved; that Germany is not to obtain any of the weapons or increase her armaments in any way beyond, possibly, the reorganisation of her army; that she is not to do anything new; and the Powers themselves undertake not to do anything new, and are subjected equally to the maintenance of the status quo. It is not to make sure of the reduction of armaments in the armed States, but that there shall be no increase of arms in the disarmed State, so that it displays an apparent equality in order to perpetuate a real inequality. During this initial period we should see actually in being a system of inspection established by the League of Nations at Geneva which should go about Germany checking the reality of the completeness of her present disarmament, and go about the other countries merely to secure that their present enormous armaments were not being further enlarged. It may be apparent equality, but it is not equality in fact.
So that I suggest very earnestly that this matter should be re-considered, and a fresh offer made on definite lines. For two reasons. Firstly, if this is done, and if some definite action should have to be taken against Germany in the near future for breach of the treaties, we should all feel sure that we were on strong moral grounds, and, secondly, because it appears to be most desirable that we should envisage as our objective the return, not perhaps immediately but ulti- 610 mately, of Germany to the League. Her withdrawal was unjustified, and if it can be reversed it should be reversed. We should also envisage, and our policy should be directed to securing it if possible—I do not say by the surrender of principles to which we attach great importance, but by a carefully considered policy—the return of Japan, and possibly the entry of Russia and ultimately, maybe, the United States. For not until then can the collective system in which we believe be fully established.
The Motion which is before the House is, in my view, utterly wrong in its form. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said that he did not desire to put down a, Motion of this sort. He said: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1933; col. 78, Vol. 281.]But, owing to the exigencies of the Parliamentary Rules, he has been obliged to put them down in this form, on which the House of Commons cannot really give a considered judgment. In any case, as I said at the beginning, it is not for the House of Commons to endeavour to conduct negotiations. That must be left to the Executive of the day. Suppose the other Parliaments concerned were all to table resolutions in a different form—France, Italy, Germany, if she still has a Parliament, though I am not sure at the moment, all the different countries all over the world were to draw up lists of specific proposals in detail and put them down as instructions to their Governments? Would that he likely to result in an international agreement at the Conference? Would it not rather tie the hands of negotiators? In fact, the Resolution raises a new issue of principle as to how far the legislature should seek to go in matters of detail when an international negotiation is proceeding.
Take one point to which the Prime Minister has drawn attention. Included in these heads from (a) to (h) is the letter (g), which proposes the establishment of an international police force, to which to—day this House is asked to express its assent by passing this Resolution. If all the nations were disarmed completely, or almost completely, I could conceive that it would be essential to 611 have something in the nature of an international armed force in order to prevent minor disputes and to maintain international order. I realise the ideal which is in view, but in the world as it is, what is to be the nature of this international police force, and how is it to operate? There are some who think that it would be easy at Geneva to establish a large number of formidable bombing aeroplanes, and if any dispute arose anywhere in the world an air squadron should come out of the sky, like an archangel in the Apocalypse with a flaming sword, and drive back an aggressor and stop a war. But aeroplanes are mundane things. They have to operate from a base not far away, and in case of resistance, undoubtedly, they would have to be supported by ground troops, and possibly, in some cases, by naval forces. It may be said that they might not be resisted, but they might.
By calling it a police force you are merely begging the question. What you term a police force might prove to be several army corps, and a fleet of battleships. For example, in the Manchurian dispute, do you envisage a course of events in the nature of sending a constable of the Metropolitan Police to hold out his hand to stop the Japanese army? Or in some comparatively minor dispute as between Paraguay and Bolivia, do you envisage sending out a force from Geneva if one or other party proved recalcitrant and did not accept the proposal made, in order to occupy the capital of that country, or even to occupy the contested territory in the Chaco? And in many cases which have already been settled by the League—disputes between Italy and Greece, Greece and Bulgaria, this country and Turkey, this country and Persia, if any of those had become acute, would it have been a strength to the League and increased its authority if it had had power to draw upon all the various Powers to send a coercive force against the one which appeared to be in the wrong?
I believe that this proposal would not assist the League, but would greatly hinder it. It is hard enough already to secure unanimity in the Council of the League for any course of action in time of crisis. But if unanimity meant calling up an armed force from various territories, it would be a great hindrance in 612 securing effective action. The constitution of the United States definitely forbids any such participation, so that would be a further barrier to its taking part in the work of the League. How many of the countries would be in a position to pledge their Parliaments in advance that on any occasion when called upon they would be willing to vote the money and to send the men which these operations would require? This proposal would try the League too high, and I, who am a convinced adherent of League policy and regard the establishment of the League as by far the greatest event in the modern history of mankind, would strongly deprecate the advocacy of this proposal, for I believe that so far from helping, it would do the League of Nations injury at the present stage. I do not demur to other proposals in this list, but if they are to be entered upon the Order Paper of the House of Commons, the House must have the opportunity of expressing a considered opinion with regard to them. It is not enough to say that these are a list of proposals of this or of that party conference, This is not a party conference, nor is this a debating society. This is the Parliamentary assembly of the British House of Commons, asked to give directions to the Government of the day as to the course they should take in making proposals to the whole world, and it is not consonant with the dignity of the House that they should be asked to accept as a single whole a series of propositions without the fullest opportunity for consideration.
The Government have said that the door is open for further negotiations, and we rejoice in that. I would earnestly hope that they will not be deterred by the enormous difficulties of the international situation from proceeding along those lines. From 1914 to 1918 Britain clung tenaciously to her task of winning the War, and such tenacity has been regarded by historians as one of the chief characteristics of this nation. I hope that the British people will show the same tenacity in establishing the peace.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. WILMOT
I do not propose, as a new Member, to presume to occupy the attention of the House for more than a few minutes. I listened with very great interest to the speech of the Prime 613 Minister and to the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, as I listened to the speech of the Foreign Secretary on my first day in this House, and I am bound to say, with great respect, that those speeches filled me with dismay. They seemed to me charged with a sense of impending disaster, as if those who are responsible for the foreign policy of this country are beginning to lose hope of the possibility of ever securing any real and effective measure of disarmament. I believe that it is that feeling, that the Government have lost control of the situation, and that after 15 years of waiting the British people see very little hope of tangible and immediate results, which is responsible for the somewhat remarkable results registered in recent by-elections. I speak as one who has lately come to this House as the result of a by-election in London, about which there has been some considerable comment. On my first day here I listened to charges, and I think they were repeated to-day, against myself and others with regard to the conduct of that campaign.
It has been said that we went about fomenting terror and using that terror for the purpose of snatching votes for party ends. As one of those most nearly concerned in the election which I have mentioned, I would beg to say that such a statement is entirely untrue. This election campaign put before the people, in what was a consistently Conservative Division of London, the Labour party's policy; the campaign had not been in progress for more than a few days before it was obvious to everybody that there was being shown in that election, as a symptom of what is a general feeling, a passionate and insistent desire for peace, not merely a purely nebulous desire for peace, but a demand that that desire should he translated into some practical disarmament accomplishment. It was the registration of that feeling of loss of faith and loss of hope that the Government were going to accomplish something real and sound which was responsible, in my view, for the turnover of nearly 20,000 votes in that particular division, and also for the repetition of a similar thing on not quite so large a scale in both the by-elections which have followed; in both those by-elections the Government secured many thousand votes fewer than the anti-Government candidates.
614 I submit, with all respect, that this feeling of the public on the question of peace is not a thing which we are called upon to deplore. It is something in which we should rejoice. If it is true, as I believe it is, that public opinion among plain and ordinary men and women is in advance of the Government of the day on this question, that also is a matter about which we should rejoice on both sides of the House. I believe the time has come when some definite action must be taken. Something must be done soon to prevent the whole elaborate machinery of collective peace, which was brought into being largely through the initiative of this country, from crumbling away. I do not believe that it will sustain many more shocks of the kind that have been delivered against it during the last two years. My final word is this, and I say it with all respect to the House, that I feel that we who are English people should demand that the greatness of our country should once again be registered in leading the world; leading in a positive policy to secure tangible results at the earliest possible moment.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Colonel GRETTON
Not in any conventional sense, but frankly and definitely, I congratulate the hon. Member on his maiden speech. He will not expect all of us to agree with all that he has said, and I will not endeavour to disturb his electoral satisfaction as to the causes to which he attributes the majority which has made him a Member of this House. He ended his speech, as others who have spoken before him ended theirs, by saying that something definite must be done, but he was not able to enlighten us as to what that definite action should be, to promote peace and save the League of Nations. In these Debates a tone of pessimism has arisen. May that not be due to some recognition of the real underlying facts of the present position? There is no one who wants war; indeed, everyone desires to promote and maintain peace. The only difference between us is as to the most effective means of promoting peace.
The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), spoke with great force on the necessity of the League of Nations preserving peace, but he was not able to tell us how that is to be done. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan 615 Jones) said that violent action, or words to that effect, should be taken by the League, and I think the right hon. Member for Darwen, although he did not use the word "violent," said that something like decisive action should be taken. What action can we take? There is a large body of opinion in this country which thinks that the Government have gone too far in their disarmament policy, that its members have not, perhaps, described fully the situation in which we find ourselves, and that we have incurred great risks and are daily incurring risks owing to the position to which this Government and other Governments have allowed our national defences to decline. What are the facts, or some of the facts, of the situation? The League of Nations has never had on it all the representatives of the great Powers. Russia and the United States have never been members of the League, and Japan and Germany have withdrawn from it.
How can we expect or anticipate general disarmament when four of the great Powers of the world are outside the Disarmament Conference and outside the League of Nations? America has not been and cannot be a member of the League. President Wilson came to the Peace Conference and was one of the principal authors of the League of Nations, and he desired to pledge his country to support it to the full, but the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and the Congress would have nothing to do with tying the United States to the skirts of an assembly in Geneva. They decided then, and they still hold, that the foreign policy and action of the United States should remain in their own hands and not he subject to the control of any convention or League of Nations whatsoever. Notwithstanding, they have sent observers to take part in the deliberations and to voice the views of the United States, but neither those observers nor the President of the United States are able to enter into agreement to bind that country to action unless they can obtain the sanction of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate.
How are we to bring Germany back into the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference? The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken and others agree that it is desirable that they should come back, but on what terms? 616 It will not help matters to take part in negotiations if by those negotiations the German Government is encouraged to make higher demands. One cannot ignore the results of the vote taken in Germany only a day or two ago which gave an enormous majority of German voters approving the withdrawal of Germany from the League of Nations. That vote makes it much more difficult for any German Government at the present time to reverse the verdict of the German people and go back again into the League of Nations against their expressed will. To-day the newspapers contain the definite statement, which has not been denied in this Debate, that Itady also proposes to withdraw from the Disarmament Conference and is to stand there only as an observer taking no part in the proceedings.
Some years back there was the Treaty or Pact of Locarno, which was made above the heads of the League of Nations, outside the League, and which depends in many of its provisions on the arbitration of the questions in dispute before the League of Nations. That part of the Pact of Locarno seems to have been forgotten. It seems to have been forgotten that many of its provisions say that in matters of dispute action must be taken before the League of Nations before resort to the arbitrament of war. How can that be done in the case of a country which has left the League of Nations, repudiated the League, and which refuses to act as member of the League? Germany by withdrawing from the League of Nations has shattered the Pact of Locarno, which has been so greatly extolled by some hon. Members. What has happened to the complicated and difficult question, that we in this country shall come to the aid of any one party to the Pact in case of attack? I would observe that it is by no means clear that in case Great Britain should be attacked by another Power there is any undertaking in the Locarno Treaty that any of the other signatories would come to our aid. The truth of the matter is that Locarno has served its purpose. Now that Germany has left it the foundations of Locarno have been shattered and it provides no guide or assistance to foreign policy.
But are we in a position to fulfil our part in the Locarno Pact? Have we 617 armaments or the power to enable us to carry out the undertakings which we may be called upon to fulfil? Let us look at the case as it might arise. Suppose France were attacked by Germany; do our armaments to-day suffice to enable us to carry out our undertaking to go to war? Let us make no mistake about it. Why did we go to war in 1914? We did so to defend the neutrality of Belgium, and the Treaty of 1830. Why did we make that Treaty? We made that Treaty because we though that the neutrality of Belgium then, and ever since, was necessary for the safety of this country. Our own security was involved by the attack made on Belgium's neutrality.
§ Colonel GRETTON
That is all clear, it is a page of history. Suppose France should make an attack on Germany, go into the Ruhr or the Saar Valley, and be judged by the League of Nations to be the aggressor. We are called upon under the Locarno Pact to ally ourselves with Germany; and we do so. Will our Air Force allow us to do so? Will our Navy in the English Channel, with the present number of torpedo boats and submarines and cruisers, enable us to take a free and independent part in such an action? That is a matter which may be answered by the technical experts responsible for our military and naval forces, but laymen outside have the greatest doubts of our ability in such a case. The Government are talking all the time about disarmament. We are disarmed already, far more than any other great nation of the world. We have reduced our armaments, and our power of negotiation has gone. We are asking other nations to follow our example. Does anyone imagine that this Government, or any other Government, responsible for the safety of this country would undertake to cut down our defences in military, naval or air strength below the point at which they now stand unless all the other great Powers cut down their armaments to a point which has not yet been contemplated by the most sanguine of those who expect great things from the Disarmament Conference?
The fact is that we have been disarming and all the other great Powers arming; and some of the lesser Powers, too. 618 The United States, armed. The Treaty of London, the Naval Pact of London, or whatever name it bears, was an agreement to disarm down to the level to which the United States was prepared to build. We and Japan agreed to that Treaty; we agreed that there should be equality between our Navy and that of the United States, and to establish that equality the United States had to build in all branches of the naval service except capital ships. Japan obtained a small increase; but no other great naval Powers entered into that Pact. France and Italy, the two principal nations outside that agreement, have been expanding and improving their fleets, as it seemed good to them, without let or hindrance. The United States of America, as part of her reconstruction programme, is to spend, I see, about £47,000,000 upon reconstructing her navy, including the reconstruction of her battleships. The United States has increased her navy; and the naval rivalry between Japan and the United States is a factor which cannot be left out of calculation in the international situation.
Has Russia disarmed? Is she disarming? Rather the reverse. She is speaking with increased minatory language to Japan and threatening war if she does not get the consideration she requires. What is happening in Europe? France is nervous, as she well may be having suffered two great invasions during the lifetime of many present, and will not drop her defences unless she is absolutely assured that she will be safe from attack again. Switzerland, also bordering on Germany, is arming and taking measures to defend her frontiers in case of aggression; and Switzerland has no money in her budget to waste. Belgium is spending large sums of money on frontier fortifications. It is clear that the European situation has been greatly disturbed by the action of Germany—and Germany's demand is for equality in arms. Make no mistake about it, that is the German demand. What are we to do in these circumstances? It seems to many of us that this constant running after conferences, this desperate anxiety for international agreement, is only provoking disagreement. It seems to me that by the more skilful old-fashioned diplomacy much more might be accomplished.
Has not the history of the last few years taught our Government that all these 619 great international conferences and leagues are failures in deciding the great questions of the world? There are other means of arriving at international agreement. You can do so by patient diplomacy, by preparing the ground for agreement, and by giving evidence of sincerity while the negotiations are taking place. There is little to be hoped from the Disarmament Conference at this stage, and I suggest that it would be wiser and better for the world, better for the advocates of peace and more effective in promoting peace, that this unhappy and ill-starred conference, to which so much effort and exertion have been devoted for two years past, should be dropped at any rate for the time being and that we should proceed to settle the differences which are causing disturbance and disagreement by other means. Are we not proceeding from the wrong end? Are we not beginning at the wrong place? Would not disarmament be more hopeful and make better progress if the grievances of nations were more fully settled? It seems to me that those people who talk of disarmament and cry "peace" when there is no peace, are doing a disservice to their own country and to mankind. In the case of war, should it unhappily occur, we require strength and ability to maintain our neutrality, so that we shall not be buffeted or be the victim of contending nations. I am one of those who think in the old-fashioned way that Englishmen and Britons ought to be patriotic and let their country come first. We should take care that our armaments in an armed world are sufficient to maintain the security, honour and peace of our own country.
§ 6.16 p.m.
Mr. MURRAY-PHILIPSO N
It is with considerable diffidence that I rise for the first time to address the House on a subject of such vital importance as disarmament and international peace, but if the House will bear with me I feel that I may be excused for a very few minutes, because it is really vital that we should endeavour in these discussions to get down to a basis of reality as opposed to a basis of talk. I wish to approach this problem on two distinct lines of thought, namely, what hope and expectancy have achieved, and what reason and reality have taught. In 620 the first place, on the basis of hope, it is an undoubted fact, that Great Britain has reduced her armaments to an extent which is not only an example to the rest of the world, but to an extent which, in my opinion, definitely places this country in a state of danger. There is no question, that in the air we are grossly underarmed and are incapable of protecting ourselves or looking after our responsibilities throughout our Empire. This Government and every Government since the War, has made the best of its opportunities and endeavoured in every way to see that other nations were in harmony of thought with ourselves.
The Motion which has been moved is not only hypocritical, but is brought about by a spirit of disbelief in what we have done, and can therefore do no good whatever at present or the future. From among the many conferences in which our statesmen have been engaged the Locarno Treaty emerged, and I will have a few words to say about that when I put the other side of my argument, namely, what reason tells us as opposed to what we like to hope. Germany has left the League of Nations, and if we follow the same principles as we have been following since the War we hope, first, that she will return, and, secondly, that she will not re-arm. The Government in all endeavour to reconcile the Opposition have actually gone so far as to try to persuade the Opposition that it was not going to help their point of view to bring forward a Motion of this kind when the question of disarmament was being discussed. In other words, we are left high and dry in this House with a feeling that there is nothing to hope for. I have listened to every speech on the subject and have searched in vain for any constructive policy.
I turn, therefore, to what reality and reason tell me to be the answer to the question regarding disarmament. What has happened as the result of our example? As I have said, we have disarmed to the point of danger, and yet no other nation in the world has followed our example. Reason, therefore, tells me that we have gone far enough on that line, and that it is time to consider seriously what we are to do in the future. 621 Then with regard to the conferences which every Government, including the present Government, has been engaged in for years in an attempt to find a solution of the difficulties that confront Europe. The reason why the conferences have failed is that the part which the British Government has had to play has been an impossible one. The British Government have been trying to reconcile irreconcilable points of view. We have had on the one hand the French point of view, and on the other hand the German point of view. It has been found impossible, in spite of the efforts which have been made by statesmen of all parties, to reconcile those two points of view, because the wounds left by the Great War and by the war before that, have been too deep to make reconciliation possible. Those who condemn the present Government for not having done their best entirely omit the main reason why agreement has not been reached, namely, that it has been am impossible situation with which the Government have had to deal.
Let me refer to my third subject, Locarno. If we look up the Treaty, we find quite clearly that Locarno means nothing and this is confirmed by the highest authorities. Therefore, I suggest in all sincerity that it should be stated once for all that the Locarno Treaty has not only been broken flagrantly by every signatory except Britain, but that it means absolutely nothing. I beg that we should begin to bring some air of reality into our discussions, for to leave a matter of such importance to the imagination is not likely to help towards a solution of our difficulties regarding Germany. I have said that we all hope Germany would re-enter the League. But does any one in this House seriously think that Germany is going to re-enter the League in the course of the next week or month or year? If Germany does not—I am sure that is the expectation of almost all hon. Members—why not face the facts? I believe that if we honestly face facts which are incontrovertible, we shall be more likely to find a solution of our problems than we shall by following the course of make belief. There is the question of the re-armament of Germany, to which I have referred under the heading of "Hope." It is common knowledge 622 that Germany has partially re-armed; not only that, but probably a little bit more. I suggest that it is impossible to under-estimate the position resulting from that state of affairs. I hope it will be possible not only to find a solution of the difficulties resulting, but that we shall go forward on a new course based on realisation of the facts instead of empty hope.
I suggest that the Government take the Opposition in this House slightly too seriously. Every speech which has been made to the Opposition from the Government Benches has dealt solely with the Opposition's point of view. In taking too international an outlook the Government do perhaps succeed in pleasing Socialist Members, but at the same time they definitely alienate an immense amount of their own supportees throughout the country. Most seriously I suggest that the time has come when we must face facts. It is not possible to think of the present state of affairs without realising that we have got lost in international conferences which are going to lead us nowwhere. I urge that our destiny as a great race has never lain necessarily or altogether in Europe. We have an Empire of which we have never made the best use. We have spent our energy and money in attempts to bring about agreement amongst nations. I hope and trust the Government will seriously consider developing the Empire along lines or on a scale which will lead not only to the well-being of the English people, but of all those who speak the English tongue throughout the world.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Sir GEORGE GILLETT
In the first place, I wish to offer the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Murray-Philipson) my sincere congratulations on his maiden speech. I am sure that the House will be only too glad to hear him on other occasions when he may wish to speak. I entirely agree with the hon. Member that what we need in this Debate is to grasp the realities of the position. On that account I am rather glad that we have had the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton), because it seemed to me that he painted the picture of the European and world position in 623 about as dark a way as it was possible to paint it. While he was speaking I asked myself, even if everything that he said was correct, what did he suggest should be done in order to improve the position? The right hon. and gallant Member referred to the rivalry between Japan and the United States in naval armaments. He was quite correct. Both those countries are increasing their navies. Both of them have their budgets unbalanced. If we are to adopt the policy of the right hon. and gallant Member, where is a bankrupt world going to? That is taking no other outlook than the mere monetary outlook. Several States in Europe are bankrupt to-day. Several States in South America are in difficulties. Even what are called the great nations of the world hardly know how to make both ends meet. Yet at the present time the total expenditure on armaments throughout the world is in the neighbourhood of £1,000,000,000, which might be used in other ways. If the League of Nations fails, if we do away with it, as the right hon. and gallant Member has suggested——
§ Colonel GRETTON
No, I did not suggest that we should get rid of the League, but that we should drop the Disarmament Conference at the present juncture.
§ Sir G. GILLETT
The Conference seems to me to be an integral part of the whole policy of the League. If we are not going to disarm, if we are not to come to an understanding on this great question of armaments, how is the world going to face the industrial and social problems that lie before it? I cannot see that there is any hope for the world except in some organisation like the League of Nations. It is only upon such lines that we can build up the system of our civilisation in the future. As to the Vote of Censure which has been moved, in one respect I think the Government may consider themselves happy, in that already they have been criticised for not having done enough, while on the other hand the right hon. and gallant Member for Burton has expressed the view that they have already gone too far. Personally, I think it very unfortunate that these great international questions should have to be brought into the world 624 of party politics. If it were possible to leave them outside party politics, it would be much better, especially under the present very difficult condition.
I cannot understand the arguments used by some speakers, including, I understand, my hon. Friend who moved this Motion, in regard to the action of this Government concerning the Japanese controversy. I should like to remind my hon. Friend of the fact that one of the first moves which Japan made was made at a time when this country was passing through very acute financial difficulties. Another move was made at the time when America was passing through her great financial difficulty. When some ardent pacifists such as my hon. Friend ask that action should be taken against Japan, I ask them in turn: What action do they consider that the Government ought to have taken at that time? If a boycott had been organised by the nations of the world, what would have been the inevitable result? Surely, Japan would have attempted to break the boycott and would have taken action in China which would have brought us face to face with the question of whether we were going to war in order to defend China or not. It is exceedingly difficult to understand the outlook of those who, on the one hand, say that they are pacifists and, on the other hand, ask that this violent action should be taken in regard to Japan.
Turning to another question raised by this Vote of Censure, there is, as far as one can gather, complaint by the Opposition that the action of the Government has not been sufficiently strenuous at the Disarmament Conference. It is exceedingly difficult to criticise the Government in this matter, because we never know what has been done by our Government to suggest to those with whom we are working that certain action should be taken. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) was challenged as to what action he had taken in the Cabinet. He said he was unable to state what he had done as a Member of the Cabinet, and we have to accept what was done as the united action of the Cabinet. It is the same in the case of those who are working- together in a Conference of this kind. If a policy has failed we cannot know which member of the alliance is actually to blame for its failure. Thus it is difficult in a Debate 625 of this kind to discuss this question from the standpoint adopted by the Opposition.
I listened with interest to what the Prime Minister said on the Government's position as regards Germany. The right hon. and gallant Member for Burton has explained the German position from the standpoint of those who take a very gloomy view of the present situation. We cannot tell what is in the minds of the Germans, but it seems to me that as far as we are concerned we have to go on working for a Disarmament understanding. What is required is that those nations who are left in the League and left in the Disarmament Conference should get together—and I understand that this is the policy of the Government—and draw up their proposals for a Disarmament Convention. If that Convention is turned down by Germany, then at any rate we shall know exactly where all those countries stand on this question and where Germany stands. Until we have made such an attempt, to cease in our efforts would only bring upon us the very evils of which we have such fear.
Any new policy in connection with Germany has to envisage three main points. The first is equality of rights. While we are making the proposals contained in the Draft Convention now before the Conference and while other nations are bringing forward their measures of Disarmament, we have to ask Germany that she should not re-arm. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition when he says that he considers that Germany ought not to re-arm. Of course the only chance at the present time of bringing about an understanding is that Germany should agree to wait for a few more years. I recognise that Germany has a complaint against the other nations. When the Versailles Treaty was made, Germany was compelled to disarm, and the impression was created that the other nations would disarm. To-day no other great nation, except Great Britain, can be said to have made any contribution towards real Disarmament. But even granting that to be the case, still we have to make our contribution by offering to carry out the measures of Disarmament necessary to bring about that element of equality between the great nations which seems fundamental to a solution of this problem.
626 Then there is the question of collective security. I have listened with special interest in this Debate to the references to an international police force. It is well-known that this proposal is exceedingly distasteful to the extreme pacifist section and I observed the way in which my hon. Friend the Mover of the Motion slurred over that question. Obviously the proposal was part of the programme which he had to adopt but it was distasteful to him. The Leader of the Opposition may be interested to know that I was at a meeting a short time ago at which reference was made to the right hon. Gentleman's position on this question. One ardent pacifist at that meeting said that the Leader of the Opposition had declared in favour of the total abolition of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force—a proposal which met with his entire approval. But, he added, a short time afterwards the Leader of the Opposition had declared himself in favour of an international police force. The speaker then metaphorically threw up his hands and declared that he felt the position of the right hon. Gentleman to be hopeless.
As I say, I have listened with interest to the discussion of this matter, and especially to the very able way in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen referred to the difficulties connected with it. While recognising these difficulties I believe it is a part of the problem which is before us. The nations have never yet thought out the great question of carrying out the work of the League of Nations and of the police force, if it may be so described, that may be necessary, in some form or another, as a part of any organised system of law among the nations of the world. Criticism has been made of the Government in regard to the line taken on such questions as tanks and air bombing and the size of battleships. I feel that those who have made those criticisms have not sufficiently realised how many of these questions have to be faced by our Government from a standpoint which is quite different from the standpoint of the continental nations. We had, I was going to say a most enthusiastic speech—though that might be hardly a fair description—from an hon. Member of the Liberal party on the subject of air bombing. He pointed out the value for police 627 purposes of the use of aircraft on the Indian frontier but then apparently feeling that he was becoming a little too enthusiastic, he went on to say that of course he did not believe in the Air Force doing that kind of work at all. If they had to do anything of the kind, however, he acknowledged that there was a saving of life by that method as compared with the loss of life that might be suffered under other methods.
The League of Nations can survive only if it is recognised by friends of the League all over the world that what we are attempting to do is to build up for the world a system of law and organisation similar to that which we have in all civilised nations. In this country in days gone by each nobleman had his own retainers and made his own laws. That is the sort of situation which exists in the world to-day. But those noblemen were finally subjugated and brought under a greater power, the power of the Crown. In the world to-day a great international court will have to come into being and we shall ultimately have to recognise, while retaining our passionate devotion to our own country, that the interests of the world are greater than the interests of any country. The relationship between the nations will have to be organised in the same way as our legal system in this country has been organised. The efforts of every friend of peace must be devoted to that end.
In the past the energies of scientists and inventors have been devoted to building great battleships and to perfecting the machinery of war. The same devotion, the same wealth, the same ability and the same energy must be put into the cause of peace to-day if we are to pull through the present crisis in the world's history. Because of that that I was, in a sense, glad to hear the pessimism poured out to the House by the right hon. and gallant Member for Burton. I would, on the other hand, beg of those who believe in the ideal of a world organised for peace not to despair but to devote themselves with still greater ardour, energy and devotion to the cause which at the present time so imperatively demands their support.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken described the 628 speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton) as pessimistic. What I do not like in this Debate, however, is the complacency of the speeches made on behalf of the Government. It must be apparent to every thinking person that the condition of the world to-day is vastly different from what it was even a few years ago. Internationally we seem to have passed into a different atmosphere, and I think it is right that we should have an opportunity such as is provided by this Motion, of attempting to discover what has brought about the change. Why is the atmosphere so different to-day from what it was two or three or four years ago? It is 15 years now since the end of the War, which we were told was a war to end war, which was to make the world safe for democracy and remove the burdens of militarism from the shoulders of the peoples. It was to lead to the use of the wealth expended on militarism for a more social purpose, for increasing the well-being of the whole of the people. Labour was to be made a participant in industry. No longer was it to be a mere commodity; it was to be a partner, and to take an honoured place in its control and direction.
But here we are, 15 years after that, and militarism is more in the ascendancy now than it has been in my time or in that of most of those who are present, excepting during the actual years of the War. Democracy is pretty well killed, with the exception of here and in one or two exceptional places on the Continent. The condition of the working class all over the world is infinitely worse than it has been. [Horn. MEMBERS "No."] What is the use of saying "No"? I come from a place where despair fills the minds of countless thousands, for whom no one can offer much hope. I am not blaming any Government for that. It is the outcome of economic causes which they cannot control. It is no use saying that the conditions are not bad, because they are. Never mind the technical question whether they are farthings per week worse off or better off; the mere fact that they are unemployed and in the state in which they are makes them worse off anyhow. That is what I want this House to remember; and the rest of the 629 world is in the same position. President Roosevelt is making an attempt over there to establish an improved order, but it does not look as if he is going to succeed. What are the things that are foiling us? How are they used? Who operates them? How do they work? Why should they foil the best intentions of men in the way they do? These are questions that we have a right to ask and that press upon us at a time like this.
Take the question with which we are more particularly concerned to-night, which is, after all, the question of peace. This is the one question that could be mentioned in this House upon which there would be absolutely universal agreement. We all agree that peace is universally desired. We all pay lip-service to the theory and the idea of peace, and we all say that we would go far and do much to establish peace. It is when we come to consider how peace is to be obtained that we begin to differ. It is the details that elude us and evade us, and surely it is a good thing that we should attempt to discuss these problems.
I want to refer to a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). He returned to London from Locarno on the 23rd October, 1925. He had achieved a great piece of work, but he will excuse me if I say that I voted against his proposition, because I thought it might be dangerous. I am not sure now that it will not be, unless we take the point of view that it does not mean anything at all. If we take the point of view that it means something, however, obviously the danger is greater now than was probably foreseen by the right hon. Gentleman when he had so much to do in bringing it into operation. At any rate, he had done a great piece of work. He had got into touch with the Germans in a way in which they had not been got into touch with before. The animosities engendered by the War had been broken down, and the right hon. Gentleman came back to this House and said that all the delegates were animated by the same determined will to pull Europe out of the rut of suspicion, hate, and fear in which she had lain those 10 years past. We have recently had the speeches of 26 peace experts, in which they tell us that 630 Europe is rattling to war at an alarming rate.
To revert to the peace work that the right hon. Gentleman did, he was highly honoured for it. His Majesty conferred a high honour upon him, and I hope he will excuse me for saying that that was probably not entirely due to his own personal qualifications, great though they had been, or to his personal achievement as Foreign Secretary, but was more probably an expression of the relief felt by the whole country that he had been able to get into touch with the Germans, to express to them the desire of this country to establish better relationships than had been existing in the past, and to wipe out some of the fears that oppressed them as well as their neighbours on the Continent. At any rate, it was a signal honour that was done him, and it did express something, I think, to which we were all glad to give expression. But now the right hon. Gentleman, speaking in this House on the 13th April last, said:I view the present situation with grave anxiety. I think that the position in Europe, the state of public opinion and the actions of Governments are more menacing to-day and threaten peace more directly than anything which we have known since the close of the Great War.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th April, 1933; col. 2756, Vol. 276.]I submit that those are grave words, coming from the right hon. Gentleman. Considering the position that he has occupied in this House and the country, those are words which this House should listen to with gravity and should ponder with care.
Then there is the Lord President of the Council, who, speaking, I believe, at Birmingham in the first week of October about the peril of rearmament, said:If rearmament should begin, psychologically we should be back in 1914, with more knowledge than we had then, and I have never disguised my own view that another war in Europe would be the end of the civilisation we know.That is gravity piled on gravity. Two foremost political leaders in this country, speaking with great authority, have made those pronouncements, and I cannot understand the complacency with which the general situation is viewed by some who speak in this House and in the country as well. The Lord President of the Council must know the mind and intention of the Government, and we have 631 a right to ask, Does he intend to disarm? That is to say, does he accept the rejection of war as a means of settling international disputes? We want a plain answer to that question, and I think we are entitled to it. Let us look at the situation a little more closely. We have had discussions here about the actions of the League of Nations lately. The League of Nations is not a Socialist device. It was the best thing that capitalist Governments could do arising out of the War of 1914–18. It is not a perfect instrument. I suppose that no one expected that it possibly could be. Bred in a world that was full of suspicions, rivalries, and jealousies, it was bound to be difficult to get into operation, and, therefore, every care should have been taken that, whenever it made decisions—and they were bound to be extremely rare, I think—those decisions should be acted upon as far as was humanly possible.
The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary rather resents his policy in the Far East being discussed or criticised. In my opinion, the Government's policy in the Far East has been of a disastrous character, and that to a large extent we can trace the beginnings of our difficulties in Europe to-day to the disastrous line which the Government took there in 1931. It is well known in this House and in the country generally that for years the great preoccupation of successive Conservative Governments has been Russia. Russia has been their bogy man. Both internationally and nationally they have feared Russia.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
There you are. Put it there, only do not run away from the conclusions that are bound to be drawn. If hon. Members say: "With very good cause," that is their excuse for policies arising out of their suspicions. We have had a general improvement in our international relationships up to two years ago, but then a Conservative Government came into power with a huge majority. Am I not justified in assuming that Japan would begin to see that she would have a better chance in Manchuria than she had had in the previous two years? [HON. MEMBERS: "What would you have done?"] Hon. Members ran away from it. It is an undoubted fact that the Lytton Commission condemned Japan and 632 said that their policy was inimical to the Covenant, that they were wrong in every detail. There is no denying that, and in so far as this country was a party to the Covenant, we joined in that protest. The difficulty, of course, was this. The Foreign Secretary made no pretence about his view that Japan was acting illegally, but he excused her from the realistic point of view. He said that we had got to be realists, and that while legally Japan was right, technically Japan was not wrong. I say that the whole thing was a breach of the Covenant and was wrong from beginning to end.
You may say that it gave you an important ally in the Far Eastern provinces of Russia, that it helped to keep Russia in check on the Pacific. You are not saying it, but I say that you may say it, and I believe that if you did say that, it would find some support among the hon. Members who sit behind me on the Government Benches here. At any rate, that is my view. Japan took advantage of that position. She flouted the League, and we stood by and saw Articles 10 and 16 of the Covenant broken, because it is a breach of Articles 10 arid 16 of the Covenant not to stand by and enforce the decisions of the League when it pronounces judgment.
§ Vice-Admiral TAYLOR
Then does the hon. Member suggest that the League of Nations could have brought the Sanctions Clause of the Covenant into force?
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I will speak for myself. That is all the hon. and gallant Member asks me, is it not? I say that Japan should have been checked by the immediate establishment of an economic boycott. I believe that economic boycotts can be made successfully, and although you may tell me that an economic boycott is a dangerous weapon, the situation is dangerous anyhow, and is becoming increasingly dangerous. The first result is that Japan leaves the League. Then what happens? Australia "gets the wind up" and the result has been, according to the "Morning Post" and the "Daily Herald" —which, on this issue at least, are in agreement—that Australia and New Zealand, after conference with Canada and the Imperial Defence Committee, have begun to strengthen their defences on the Japanese or northern side of Australia against 633 possible attack by Japan. I saw a notice the other day to the effect that part of the British Atlantic Fleet had been ordered to Australian waters for the purpose of strengthening defences there. So, you see, you do not escape danger; there is no escape from it. We think we are avoiding one danger, and we run into others. Indeed, it would appear as a lamentable fact that one result of the policy has been that Japan and America have now begun a gigantic race in armaments the effects of which none of us in this House can possibly foresee or foretell. It is because of that that I condemn the right hon. Gentleman's policy. I say that the Government could have stood by the League and assisted in carrying its decision out. I should not ask that this country should act by itself, but I say that it could have acted as a member of the League, acted with the League and supported the League all the time by all the means in its power, using every possible device to strengthen it and not to weaken it.
One of the results of the policy has been that Germany is now in the same position. Germany now thinks that if one member—Japan—can flout the League, she can flout the League. It is an undoubted fact that a dangerous situation is developing. We do not know in this House where we are going to see the end of it. The leader of my party only a day or two ago said that in no circumstances would we consent to re-armament. Nor will I; I am a pacifist.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
We have just become aware of it. The hon. Gentleman's speech was full of pacificism.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I hope that if I am presented with two evils I will take the least I possibly can. At any rate, in view of the philosophy that is now being preached in Germany by the leading supporters of the German Government, how on earth is it possible to expect that France will disarm? Even holding my views, I would hesitate to offer advice of that description. It is no use going into the reasons for French and German hostility. Most of us are conversant with the main points of the history of those two countries for the last 200 or 300 years; even if we do not know all the details, at least we know the main points of their antagonisms. The fact for us is 634 that these antagonisms exist and have to be dealt with. There was a point when people were right to believe and were expecting that they might have been assuaged, but the whole issue of the policy that has been pursued has begun to give colour and support to a philosophy which has been preached by the leading members of Chancellor Hitler's Government. A sorry state of affairs begins to develop so far as Europe is concerned.
Whether we succeed or fail, the policy enunciated in this Motion is the one which this Government should pursue. I know it will be difficult. I do not believe that we shall ever succeed out of capitalism itself. The antagonisms go deeper than that; the antagonisms are in the commercial system; they arise out of a constant competitive squabble for raw materials, dominance and power. I believe that the surest way is by the establishment of successive Socialist Governments. I believe that they might find a way where others have failed. Hon. Members may smile at that suggestion or may think it absurd or ridiculous, but, at any rate, what we Socialists can always smile at—if it is a matter for smiling—is that all preceding Governments have failed. At least we should like to have a chance, where they have failed, to succeed by our own economic system.
Nor do I believe that isolation is possible for us. Whether we like it or whether we do not, I do not see how we are going to carry it out. If we have not succeeded in the past—and there has never been a century from Julius Caesar's time to the present day in which we have not at some time or another been dragged into continental embroilments—if British statesmen failed in the past century under a vastly more localised system than the one we have to contend with, how should we hope to succeed where they failed? The one hope that remains to us is that we shall continue this work in which we are engaged. I would strengthen the hand of the Government by all means in my power. We are not here wholly condemning. All that we say is, "You are too slow; get on with the job; be more emphatic. If you are, you will have our help as far as we can give it—reserving all the time the right to put forward our specific Socialist theories with regard to the economic structure of modern society. "We should base our action 635 solely on that point of view, and I believe that we should stand a chance of succeeding where hitherto successive Governments have failed.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Earl WINTERTON
In view of the last speech, it is necessary for me to address a question to the Labour party which I very much hope will be answered by the hon. and learned Gentleman who is going to wind up the Debate to-night. As I understand the attitude of that party as expressed by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, supported by the loud cheers of his colleagues, it would have applied economic sanctions to Japan last year when the lamentable breakdown occurred in the relationship between Japan on the one hand and the League of Nations and the rest of the world on the other.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Judging from the cheers which the hon. Gentleman received he spoke also for his party. Suppose that the result of putting into operation those economic sanctions had been—as they well might have been, and as every expert in the country will tell you that they would have been—that Japan had treated it as an act of war; would the hon. Member have advised this country and the other countries concerned to go to war with Japan? Would his party, the pacifist party, have supported the country in that war?
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am perfectly willing that the hon. Gentleman should answer if he wishes to do so, but I thought that it would be better for his leader to answer.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I said that I should deal with that situation when the contingency arose. I said that we should be acting with the rest of the world supporting the League of Nations.
§ Earl WINTERTON
You cannot act in these things when the contingency arises; if you wish to be responsible statesmen you will have to say how you will act in such a grave situation. The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) appeared to contemplate that a situation might arise in which Germany rearmed, 636 and in which it might be necessary on behalf of the League of Nations to move troops and aeroplanes against Germany, Does he really believe that that situation is going to arise, and does he really think that in the interests of peace and of the League it is desirable to refer to the matter? I can tell him one thing. He said, "In those circumstances, if Germany or a portion of Germany rearmed." Troops might have to he moved into Germany even if a section or all Germany opposed them. I am neither pro-Nazi, pro-German nor anti-German, but I have just been to Germany, and I can tell him that if those circumstances did arise he would have every man, woman and child in Germany against him. Does he really think that it is helping the cause of peace to refer to those contingencies, at this of all times? If that is really the view of the Liberal party, all I can say is that their public professions in the last few years have been very different.
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman another question. At the beginning of his speech he made one or two most tendentious references. Does he or any hon. Members of his party deny that this country—not under one Government alone, but under all, because I give the Labour Government, the Conservative Government, the Coalition Government, every Government the same praise in that respect; every Government that has been in power in this country since the War—has made a far greater contribution to effective disarmament by active disarmament than the Government of any other country in the world? Does he deny that? If not, what is the meaning of his wounding and injurious reference at the beginning of his speech to the paucity of the efforts made by this Government in the cause of disarmament, to its feebleness and lack of endeavour? I do not know whether that lack of endeavour, incidentally, dated from before or after the time that he left the Government, or whether this feebleness was shown during or after the period when he and his colleagues were in office.
Certainly, as far as the pursuit of peace and attempts at disarmament are concerned, no charge of lack of endeavour can be brought against this or any other Government. Relatively and absolutely, Great Britain is probably weaker to-day 637 than she has ever been at any time in her history. Compare the figures: look at the position in which we were in 1914 or at any other time. Can any hon. or right hon. Gentleman honestly rise in this House and bring that charge against any Government that has held office in this country: that it has not attempted to disarm by the most effective means? I would ask the right hon. Gentleman a further question. Does he or any Member of his party, or does any Member of the Opposition to-night, believe that the one scheme which has been put before the Disarmament Conference which is, or was at any time, likely to succeed, was not the Scheme put forward by His Majesty's Government? It is the only Scheme that has had a chance of success.
What is the need, then, for all this talk? What is the need for the tendentious speech—as I must describe it—of the right hon. Gentleman? I would say this, and I would lay it down as a challenge to the Opposition whether they are an open or a hidden Opposition: If you put this question to the people of the country, "Are you willing to support a policy of continued unilateral disarmament when other countries are not only not disarming, but are actually rearming," I have not the slightest doubt what the answer would be. It would be "No." Do not let anybody in this House who cares for peace, from whatever angle he approaches the matter, have any delusion on those grounds. I have not the slightest doubt that sooner or later hon. Gentleman opposite will form a Government: I hope that it will be later rather than sooner. When they do and they enunciate the doctrine—it will be the first time that any Government has enunciated such a doctrine in this country— "We are going to disarm entirely quite apart from any other circumstances, whatever other countries may do," they will not have the support of this country for a single day. I would remind them, and especially the Leader of the Opposition, that when the Labour Government were in power they laid down in the clearest possible language through the mouth of, I think, a Minister who is not at present in the House, that His Majesty's then Government did not support the policy of unilateral disarmament on the ground not only that it was a foolish and an unsafe policy, but that it could not lead to peace in the world.
638 I wonder what really becomes of the Motion which is put upon the Paper, because the latter part of it is really an argument for unilateral disarmament. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Certainly, unless you can persuade other nations to do the same. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) smiles. Does he really think, in the present state of Europe, that you are going to persuade them to do that?
§ Earl WINTERT0N
Compared with the hon. and learned Gentleman, Mark Tapley was a pessimist. I ask the indulgence of the House to submit a point which is not generally supported by the House or by public opinion. I think that the House and the Government are wrong in thinking that the Disarmament Conference, for reasons due to no one cause, certainly not to a particular nation, has not completely failed and wrong in thinking that it can ever succeed. In my opinion, great mischief was done at the time that Germany withdrew from the Conference on the 14th October by a suggestion in some quarters, some of which, at any rate, were connected with the Government, that by Germany's action and by what was obviously the breakdown of the Conference the cause of peace in Europe for the moment was completely destroyed. I do not believe that is so. I do not believe that by the action that Germany took or by what I believe to be the virtual breakdown of the Disarmament Conference everything is lost. I believe that it is still possible to get a workable agreement between European nations even though the Disarmament Conference is, as it is in fact, dead and buried.
§ Earl WINTERTON
If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to go on to my next sentence, he will see that there is another way by which the peace of the world can be secured. What is most unhelpful to the peace of the world is to suggest that the instrument which has obviously failed is the only instrument by 639 which you can attain your end. Great mischief has been done by the suggestion that, because a particular conference has for a moment failed, you can do nothing else. That is the mischief which is being caused, I say frankly, by more than one set of persons in this country. We ought carefully to distinguish between the general interests of peace and the personal interests of individual statesmen, however great, who have chosen to stake their reputations upon fallible instruments, as they have proved, for promoting that peace. If the danger of war can be averted by some means, who cares, provided they are honest and honourable means, what those means are? Why are we to be bound to a. particular method and a method which from the very first has been far too spectacular and connected with far too many extraneous matters that have nothing whatever to do with the cause which every quarter of the House has most deeply at heart—that is, the cause of peace?
There is no doubt that the pre-requisite to any moral or physical disarmament in Europe is good will and understanding between France and Germany. That is the point of the whole situation. Everyone talks round the subject, they refer to disarmament and questions of arms—tanks, machine guns, cruisers, whatever they may be—but the central situation which can be seen by anybody who has travelled in Europe recently or has read the history of Europe since the War, the central focal point is the feeling at the moment between France and Germany. What is the situation? Everybody is aware how France knows and fears that Germany wants equality in status and everything else in order to secure certain revisions of the Treaty of Versailles. France knows that Germany is as determined to get those revisions somehow, some day, in some way as only a people united on a single issue can be determined. That is the situation. Why not face it?
How are we to deal with the situation? What is the use of trying to meet a situation like that by ingenious mechanistic plans, devised in Geneva by, perhaps, the representatives of Haiti or Abyssinia. It is true that great virile nations like France and Germany do not really do business in that way, and, since peace 640 in Europe primarily depends upon an understanding between these two people, and peace is a desperate need for Europe, we ought not to relax our efforts to see if in some way by some means this terrible generations-old misunderstanding cannot be cleared up. The whole situation is based upon the attitude of France and Germany the one to the other.
Is such an understanding impossible? I should not have thought it was. I should have thought that in Herr Hitler's broadcast, even after the withdrawal of Germany from the Conference, there was a hope of such an understanding. I should have thought that in the recent speeches of the Prime Minister of France there was hope of such an understanding. I believe that it would be possible with our help and good will and with the help and good will of Italy, which is certainly forthcoming in such a matter; and, if it were offered, with the help and good will of Russia, which has been drawn very much into the picture lately by her obvious understanding with France. I know that someone may say that to do this is to ignore the interests of small nations. They will ask, "What is to happen to the Little Entente and to Poland if you do that? They may be left out in the cold." They may say that it will also ignore the whole elaborate postwar machinery, so vast and, I much fear, so painfully ineffective, that we have built up in order to try and bring about peace. None of these things matter compared with the vast importance of getting an understanding between France and Germany because everything depends upon that.
I would like to say this to the Government even at the risk of receiving laughter from the Opposition. I think that the position into which this situation is leading the Government is an exceedingly dangerous one electorally. I foresee two more years of endless discussion through the semi-moribund Disarmament Conference—nothing done and the situation getting gradually worse. On the one hand, the Government will be attacked at the next election by those who may without offence be called patriots, who will say, "All this time while you have been talking other nations have been rearming"; on the other hand, they will be fiercely attacked by those who call themselves 641 pacifists, who will say, "As a result of your being in office things are worse than they were." Everyone who knows the situation realises that no one Government can really affect the situation, but those will be the charges brought. Is is not time to turn over a new leaf and to see whether it is possible to bring about what we all desire by some other means?
Finally, I must say this, if the House will again give me its indulgence for taking an unpopular view. I cannot see what good is being done by the support which the House gives to moral exordiums from different parts of it addressed sometimes to one country and sometimes to another. At one time it is to Japan to whom moral exordiums are addressed, supported by those respectful cheers which always show the House to be at one. Another time it is to Italy, another time to Russia, and another time to France for her huge army; at another time it is to Germany because of her internal policy and her treatment, which all of us deplore, of certain races and communities. Is that the way to bring about peace? We are far removed from the days of Exeter Hall and Mr. Gladstone. It is true that in the days of Exeter Hall and Mr. Gladstone these admonitions by the House of Commons or by public opinion here to Europe and the world were listened to with respect; but, if I may be cynical, they were listened to with respect because in the background even Mr. Gladstone could beckon to the British Navy if he wanted to do so, and in the last resort we could say it with guns.
Is public opinion to-day prepared to back up their attitude towards these foreign countries and say to them, "If you carry on as you do we will treat it as a hostile act towards us"? We know that we cannot. We cannot be pacifists and jingoes at the same time. In the interests of peace we cannot allow ourselves the moral virtue of criticising the policy of every other country. I have yet to see what has happened since the War that would lead an unbiased and impartial person to suppose that the present methods of conducting negotiations between countries are more fortunate than the old-fashioned methods, even though they were referred to by the name of "secret diplomacy," when it was carried on by men who were trained and paid for the purpose. I do not believe 642 that those spectacular aeroplane flights about Europe, those journeys by elder statesmen from one capital to another can really effect what everyone wants to see effected. I believe that we still have in this country and in most of the European countries as excellent a diplomatic service as ever we had. Would it not be as well to allow the men who are there for the purpose to conduct at least some of those negotiations which are being carried on? You talk of open diplomacy. Has open diplomacy in 15 years made Europe more peaceful than it was before the War? I see no signs of it.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I will answer the hon. Gentleman in this way. For many years before the War, through the seventies, eighties and nineties and in the early nineteen hundreds this country was often in imminent danger of being involved in a European war. That danger was always averted by two things. One, I believe, was the existence of a supreme Navy, and the other was the existence in this country of the best trained diplomatic corps that the world has ever seen. At any rate, I am not concerned with that. I am concerned with this aspect, that in 15 years of so-called open diplomacy there has been more ill-feeling between the nations of the world than at any other time. I am not suggesting that the League of Nation's should be abolished, far from it, but I am suggesting that these spectacular conferences are not really effecting their purpose 'at the present time. Therefore, my cure for this terrible situation is to try to see whether we cannot have a working arrangement between the European nations that really count, and whether we cannot approach that working arrangement by a method that at least would not prove to be, shall I say, mare infructuous than those adopted during the last 15 years?
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) is always consistent in his speeches in this respect, that he is invariably offensive to Liberals. I gather that he was complaining that my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) had made a speech this afternoon which was 643 not helpful to the cause of peace. If I heard the Noble Lord aright, this was one sentence that came from him: "The Disarmament Conference has failed." I put this question, and I think it is a fair one, to the Noble Lord: "Is it helpful to say that a Conference has failed when it is still in being?"
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am sorry to interrupt, but, as the hon. Member puts that question to me, I say that I think it is better to recognise failure as failure when it clearly is failure.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
Such a statement is surely not helpful in turning that Conference into a success. He also complained that my right hon. Friend had discussed the possibility of what this country should do in the case of German re-armament. What is the Noble Lord himself going to do in the case of German re-armament. Is he going to sit back and allow Germany to return to precisely the same position in which she was in 1914? If so, I think he has very few friends in support of that policy in this House. He complained that open diplomacy was responsible for our present situation. What has secret diplomacy attained? He says we were spared war owing in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century owing to our having better diplomats than at any time in our history, and that we then had a stronger navy than ever before. I would remind him that we have probably never had better diplomats than we had in 1914, and that the British Navy was at that time stronger than it had ever been.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
Grave criticisms can obviously be made of the Government policy in the handling of the Disarmament Conference, but I think it is only fair to say that those criticisms can be made of any Government which has been in power since the War. In failing to follow Germany in disarmament we have broken, if not the legal obligations of the Treaty of Versailles, at any rate the spirit of the Clemenceau letter. Successive British Prime Ministers, in failing to stand up to France, have been responsible to some extent for the growth of the Nazi movement, a movement which has 644 now reached the terrifying total of 92 percent, of the electorate. I say "terrifying" when one remembers the methods of barbarism which have been in operation to produce it. But the Labour party, who moved this Vote of Censure, cannot really escape responsibility for what has happened. After all, they themselves have been in power. They were in power—in office—in 1924, and the situation then had never looked more hopeful. Dr. Stresemann was Chancellor in Germany; M. Herriot was Prime Minister in France; Chancellor Hitler was, I think, in gaol. The international situation had never looked more hopeful. What was the gesture towards disarmament of the Labour Government? To build five new cruisers. They cannot say that the Liberals made them do it, because the Liberals voted against them and they relied for support in the Division Lobby upon the Conservative party. Practically every Member of the Opposition Front Bench now censuring the Government voted in that Lobby. They are censuring the Government to-day for failing to do something which, when they were in office themselves, under far more favourable circumstances, they made no attempt to achieve. I see my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition there. He voted for those five cruisers. The record of the right hon. Gentleman in the matter of disarmament is really most remarkable. I have here an interview he gave to the "Star" newspaper on 23rd October last:I would like to see the workers of every country refuse to make the foul weapons of modern warfare, and risk starving rather than lend a finger to this devil's work.I have been trying to make some arithmetical calculations as to the amount of this devil's work for which the right hon. Gentleman himself has been responsible. He voted for the five cruisers. He has supported in the Division Lobby, when his party have been in office, three lots of Service Estimates of about £115,000,000 each. At a rough computation he has voted for about £450,000,000 worth of devil's work, yet he is now asking the workers not to lend a finger to it. He even goes further, and asks them to starve for an ideal for which he himself would not even risk resignation. On the subject of the record of the Labour party on disarmament I find it difficult to keep myself within the limits of Parliamentary order in describing it. So far as their 645 record of the past is concerned, I can only describe it in the words of Mr. Disraeli: their record on disarmament is an organised hypocrisy; and I think we should get a little further in disarmament if they said more often in office what they say in opposition. I find very little to quarrel with in the Motion on the Paper as a programme of peace. I even support, and here I speak only for myself, the ultimate ideal of an international police force, for I cannot see that there can be any hope of permanent peace until we establish among all countries the same kind of reign of law as is established in each individual nation; but, obviously, those are plans for the future.
We have to examine Germany as she is at this moment, and the world as it is. In a speech that I ventured to make before the Recess I tried to point out some danger spots in the German situation. When I made a return visit a month ago I found those impressions heightened and confirmed. The right hon. Member for Carnavon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has been providing—I am sure to his own dismay—the Nazi movement with a very valuable election poster on breaches of the Treaty by the Allies. In Germany to-day, walking down Unter den Linden, one can play an amusing game by trying to see how many breaches of the Treaty by Germany one can see in a few minutes. First of all I saw a change in the uniforms of the Brown-Shirts. They now have green, red, black and yellow tabs. I asked what these meant, and was told that the Nazi forces are now regionally organised like the old conscript army. So that the legend, thin from the start, that these Brown-Shirts were merely an auxiliary police force has collapsed. Then there were the blue uniforms of the Air Force, an entirely new feature, the result of the extraordinary air raid over Berlin when nobody saw aeroplanes except Government officials and no one saw the leaflets they are supposed to have dropped. The attitude towards France at this moment is provocative in the extreme. In Nuremberg I saw the Chancellor receive a banner emblazoned "Strasburg" from a section of the Brown-Shirts. How should we feel if the Spanish Government received a banner emblazoned "Gibraltar," or Signor Mussolini started receiving deputations about Malta?
§ Mr. BERNAYS
I fully agree with the Noble Lord when he says we ought to do our utmost to take Chancellor Hitler at his word. He drew attention to the speech made by him yesterday, but side by side with that speech we must, as realists, take the speech of General Goering who, after all, is Prime Minister of Prussia, in which he told the German people to thank the Lord—why they should particularly thank him I do not know—that Germany had now re-established an army which had made the world shudder. It is argued by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs that Germany is not dangerous because all the surrounding States have powerful guns and potent weapons of destruction. I am just old enough to remember the same sort of argument used at the beginning of the War. It was said the forts of Liege would hold out for months, but the Germans brought up their big siege guns—we had never heard of them—and in a few hours Liége had collapsed. The German Army swung west to Namur and again the experts said: "Namur is impregnable." It fell in 49 hours. There are inventions in the direction of poison gas that make the most powerful fortifications in the world just scraps of paper. That is why I find it difficult to understand the speeches of my distinguished colleague in the representation of Bristol when he advocates the calling of a general strike in the event of war. Is he not thinking of the last war? What is the good of calling a general strike when there are 100 bombing aeroplanes over Bristol? What is the good of declaring yourself a conscientious objector when you see the hideous, yellow poison gas creeping up the Severn?
We have to ask ourselves what should he done. An hon. Member says: "What is the good of anything?" I am only trying to put forward what I think may be of use. First of all, it seems to be vital to get Germany back to the council chamber. It cannot be done by vague gestures or half-hearted surrenders. The Nazis must be made to realise that they cannot get what they want by force. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will be able to repeat the pledge that he made on a former occasion to Austria. The key to the situation is in Vienna. There is the weakest link in the chain, and Germany has been trying to break it. We should give a further pledge to Chancellor Dollfuss that, through the League of 647 Nations, we shall give him our utmost support in his gallant defence against the bluster of Berlin.
Secondly, it is very important to establish machinery for the revision of the Treaty of Versailles. Disarmament itself is not enough. For peace, surely it is necessary to disarm hearts as well as hands, but that will never be done so long as some of the more glaring grievances of the Versailles Treaty remain unredressed. You have only to make a cursory examination of Europe to see that the problem of minorities is a perpetually running sore. I have seen charabanc loads taken up from Breslau over the Polish frontier to have their nationality inflamed. One hears stories of farmers whose duck pond is in Poland and whose ducks are in Germany, and whenever those ducks go across the frontier they are arrested by the Polish gendarmerie. There are stories of brothers separated from each other by, perhaps, five minutes walk, who, in order to visit one another have to go 20 miles to get a visa and then 30 miles more to find a policed road. I do not believe, with the Opposition, that war is a capitalist conspiracy. I think that it far more often occurs because the passions of men have been roused by this kind of indignity and injustice. You see how the frontier is taken right through an industrial district of Germany and day after day and month after month German boys see in the distance in Poland the spectacle of the smoking chimneys of a town that once belonged to Germany. You hear the same sort of story in Bulgaria and in Hungary. When you visit these minorities in Bukarest and Danzig, immediately you suggest revision they say, "Put the frontier five miles back, and that means war." I suggest that this attitude cannot be allowed to continue, and that this Government should propose a real measure of immediate disarmament.
The Foreign Secretary says that he hates the probationary period; that he hates the word "probation." Cannot we get rid of the idea? Cannot we propose, here and now, an immediate measure of disarmament? We can do so with perfect safety. Why cannot we agree to abolish all offensive weapons? We can 648 do so with perfect safety, and it will be a fair and reasonable step. Chancellor Hitler talks peace; let us give him the fullest possible chance for ensuing it. If not, and if Germany is determined to rearm, then there is no alternative but the collective front and joint action by economic blockade. Is that or is it not the policy of the Government? With all that sincerity that is in me, I hope that it is. May I suggest that if that is the policy of the Government, it is not unreasonable to ask that we should have more driving force behind it. Is it too much to ask that, for the rest of the Disarmament Conference, there shall be, in continuous presence at the sessions at Geneva, a Cabinet Minister?
I wish too, that there was some evidence that the Government were all of one mind on this question. Reference has been made to a speech by the President of the Board of Trade. That speech was preceded at the Cutler's Feast by an examination, by the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, of the dangers in which the Navy were. No doubt he spoke with very great authority. I suggest with all respect that the First Sea Lord is a servant of the Government, and that he has no right to make a speech in public which, whether he means it or not, is bound to give further ammunition to the big-Navy school.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
It is all the worse. Then there is the speech of the Financial Secretary to the War Office. Speaking in Bournemouth on 7th November he said:I do not believe that, armaments are the pause of war.in direct contradiction to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council who said, at Birmingham, that once rearmament began in Europe, the danger of war would become very clear. Then there was the Secretary of State for Air who said that we must do our best to influence people in every part of the world so that war shall be postponed as long as possible. What should we have thought of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs had he said in the height of the War, in a 649 message to the nation, that we must do our best to see that defeat is postponed as long as possible. I do not quote these speeches in any sense to create a party atmosphere, but there is a tremendous anxiety in all parties in this country that the whole force of the Government should be behind their disarmament policy, and it does suggest to minds not unfavourable to the Government that there is a lack of sincerity in some of its Members on this all important question.
This question of peace and war makes some of our domestic controversies appear very small. As I sit here listening to our wrangles on great questions of the day like unemployment insurance, State control of industry, tariffs and now, apparently, the great question that is agitating the electors, to judge by our post bags, the protection of wild birds, I sometimes wonder what is the use of it all, unless we scotch the peril of war. I suppose that most of us in this Parliament will carry away, as their most vivid memory, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, in which he spoke of the next war. He told us, in an atmosphere more macabre than I have ever experienced in this House—that there were inventions in the last war so horrible that nations fighting for their lives shrank from using them. To concern ourselves with purely domestic matters while this overshadowing question is in the balance, is as futile as if the crew of the "Titanic" had spent their last moments on earth decorating the grand saloon when the ship was sinking.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
If I believed, with the last speaker, that it is possible to secure a change of spirit in Germany by revision of the Peace Treaties, and if I felt that we could bring France, the Little Entente and the other nations to agree to modifications of the Treaties, so that the Danzig Corridor, Silesia and various frontier questions were righted, I should heartily support him and the excellent speech which he has delivered, but surely we all know that, make what concessions you like to the Nazis in Germany, you will not change the spirit that rules in Germany to-day. There you have a party who have seized power, and who can only retain power by perpetuating 650 the idea of a grievance among the German people. Their policy demands that this grievance shall be continued. I do not care what revision you make of the Versailles Peace Treaty, you will not stop the rearmament of Germany, or the threat that the rearmed Germany will hold over the whole of civilisation.
The danger that we are in to-day is the belief that we are still dealing with the sort of world with which we were dealing for 14 years after the Armistice. Now you have a very different position. You have that nation which has always shown itself the most powerful in war, determined to rearm itself, and to prove to a world which certainly does not like it that, if it cannot be loved, it must at least be feared. That is a new fact, which is illustrated by the determination of those people to rearm Germany. I do not know what excuse they gave for leaving the Disarmament Conference or the League of Nations, but I am certain of their determination to rearm Germany, and no invitation to them to come back into the League of Nations or the Disarmament Conference will have the slightest attention in Germany, if it is intended to curtail the power of rearming Germany. That is one fact that we must appreciate.
The second fact is that you cannot stop them. No international control, no inspection and no threats of the League of Nations will stop Germany rearming now; in fact, they are rearming. All they need is the machinery of warfare—the aeroplanes, the great guns and the tanks. The only obstacle in getting these things is not lack of enthusiasm, or lack of men or of intention, but lack of money, and the fear that, before they have them, Europe may step in. Everybody in this country realises that to-day. Everybody realises that although, for 15 years, ever since the War, we have been talking about the dangers of war, for the first time there is a real danger-spot for the people of England. That is why East Fulham went over—fear of another war. That is why the country will go over, and quite rightly.
Cato—I think it was the elder Cato—used to end up all his speeches, "Delenda est Carthago," an excellent motto, and he finally carried it out. I do not say that I want to destroy Germany, but it seems to me that the most urgent duty 651 of all who love civilisation is to put an end to the sort of spirit that is ruling in Germany to-day. There you have a complete negation of justice. There you have the spirit of the Middle Ages impinging upon, and threatening, the twentieth century. We were in danger, although perhaps we did not all know it, in 1914; we are in infinitely greater danger to-day, partly because our inviolable frontier and barrier of the sea has vanished. We are in infinitely greater danger because, while to be under the Kaiser's heel would not be pleasant, to be under this awful Frankenstein in Germany would be infinitely more terrible to every civilised race on earth. Therefore, the danger is greater to-day, both because the frontiers have gone and because the results of the next war, even if we are not all exterminated, will be far more fearful. That is only to say that really we need not waste our time now in talking about disarmament; what we have to concentrate our attention on is seeing that we know exactly what this Government must do.
The Government must make up its mind when and at what point it is going to put down its foot. They are absorbing Danzig now. We shall not fight about that. They are absorbing the Polish Corridor to-morrow; they are absorbing Austria later on. Where do we stand now? Where does the League of Nations, where does the collective civilisation of the world step in and say, "No further"? I do not think it is necessary for the Government to tell it to the public, but the people who are interested, the people upon whom we must count to help us if the worst comes to the worst, are the people who ought to know. Some people think we should not have had the War in 1914 if France had known beforehand with certainty, and, above all, if Germany had known, beforehand with certainty, that we should fight. Let us avoid that difficulty next time by knowing clearly beforehand how far we can allow Germany to exercise force and change the treaties, and how far they must not go. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not a yard."] I agree, but we must not ask too much from the Government. What we want to know is when the Government will say to the French Government, and to the Italian 652 Government, and to the League of Nations, "We will back you on this if we will not back you on that." Foresight is what is wanted. Goodness knows, I am not a war-monger; I have seen too much of it; but there are certain things for which it is legitimate to fight. I do not mean King or country, but when it is a question of fighting for justice and the right I think we have to remind my hon. Friends on these benches that there was a certain man called Patrick Henry, who once said:Is life so sweet, or peace so dear, as to be purchased at the price of chains of slavery? I know not what course this may take, but, as for me, give me liberty or give me death.I think there is, at the long last, a justification for the use of force, and I would far sooner be using that force in the interests of humanity, to stop this horrible thing that is going on in Europe, than for purely nationalistic ideals. That is not all. For the last 15 years the defences of the country have not seemed really important to any of us. We have had Debates on every Estimate that has come up, but we felt that the country was perfectly safe, that there was no risk of war, that it did not really matter. Now it does matter; now we have to realise the danger ahead of us.
I heard the other day that one of the questions that were exercising the great brains in our Admiralty was the question of a possible war with the United States of America. They were complaining that the United States of America were building big battleships, and were saying that the only reason why they were building battleships, costing £4,500,000, was that America had them. Where you have a real danger, for goodness sake scrap from your plans all the imaginary dangers. Nobody but a pernicious lunatic could imagine that we should ever go to war with America. There are three reasons why it is not possible. One is that it would break up the Empire, because the Dominions would not take sides; the second is that we should not fight; and the third is quite conclusive, namely, that we should be beaten if we did, and England never set her foot on a rotten bridge. That, therefore, is out of the question. I do not think we are going to fight Japan, in spite of the right hon. Gentleman. There, again, I would give the warning that Japan is too tough 653 a customer for Great Britain to take on 5,000 or 6,000 miles away. Therefore, you can rule out Japan, and scrap the Singapore Docks. There is one real danger; guard against that.
It may be observed that, whatever else the Germans do, they will not build a navy; it costs too much. Therefore, as we have not to consider a German navy, and really need not bother about the Japanese and American navies, we might reduce our Naval Estimates and apply the money where it would be more useful. The great difficulty in dealing with these Services, all three of them, is that they are so conservative—not national, like the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, but sheerly conservative. They regard the country as existing for the benefit of the Services, not the Services as existing for the benefit of the country, and the result is that you have these old-fashioned methods continuing for ever. Think what a struggle we had in the War to get tanks, to get shrapnel helmets, to get any of the mechanical improvements of warfare, and think how during that War we maintained for the whole time 40,000 cavalry behind the lines eating their heads off—cavalry which could not be used against barbed wire; and observe that we are still keeping cavalry regiments going to-day. The Services have got to have a firm reforming hand upon them. Since the time of Haldane we have not had at the War Office anybody who has sought to impose his own will upon that Service. Ministers, both at the War Office and at the Admiralty, have more and more become merely the mouthpieces of the Service. They are advocates with the Treasury, they are advocates with the Cabinet. Since the time of Winston Churchill when he was at the Admiralty there has not been a soul who has dared to contradict an admiral.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Nobody bothered about them, but now it is getting a bit too dangerous. Could we not now, through the Committee of Imperial Defence, provide some sort of reorganisation? Think of these bigs ships, costing £4,500,000, crawling slowly across the ocean, with the chance of being destroyed at any moment by some great gun, such 654 as the Germans had in Belgium, 100 miles away, or of being destroyed in five seconds by an aeroplane bomb. What is the use of pinning your faith to these things when at Jutland, during the War—when they did not cost anything like so much as they do now—the Admiral thought fit to withdraw the British Fleet in the face of the enemy lest they should lose one of these——
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
There are two accounts of the Battle of Jutland, Lord Jellicoe's and Lord Beatty's, and I think Lord Beatty was right. If I were in charge of expensive eggs like that, I should clear them out of the risks of warfare. But that is one of the things which have to be considered. In the light of the new danger to this country, we have to see that our Fleet, if it can be of any use at all, shall be used to good purpose, and we have to see that a proper allocation is made in cash as between the Fleet and the new Air Service. Just as the last War was a complete revolution as compared with the one that preceded it, so the next will be a revolution as compared with the last. The last War invented barbed wire and the tank; the next war will be a war in the air and a war underground. If you leave it to the War Office and the Admiralty without any strong hand from above, without any direction, without any shaking up, you will start the next war worse situated than you were when you started the last. We have to have in your politicians the knowledge of where we are going to put our foot down, and how we can best stop a war coining upon us; and we have to ask from the Services a better plan of campaign than they slowed last time, and more sacrifice of the interests of the Services in the interests of the safety of the country as a whole.
The Prime Minister, apparently, does not approve of this Motion being put on the Paper. I think that the actual Motion which has been put down is admirable. I do not see why the Prime Minister should complain of the inter- 655 national police force. He used to be a great advocate of what was called the Protocol de Genève, which was exactly the same. Personally, I did not like the Protocol de Genève, and, personally, I do not like the international police force, but I am coming round to it. I voted against Locarno—there were only 13 of us who did so—but, once having got that as a treaty registered between us and the French, I would no more dream of dishonouring it than I would cancel my debt to America. And when we come to consider the impossibility of an international police force, we have to remember that in the past mercenaries have always been loyal to their salt, in fact, more loyal and more trustworthy than national armies, and I can recommend strongly to those people whose minds will still look forward to the distant future, when we can have a certain amount of real safety from the German menace, to the time when we may have a League of Nations able to act, that the Swiss in olden days were the best mercenaries that ever existed. I cannot think the Nationalist difficulty is really an obstacle in the way of an international police force, as the Prime Minister made out. All these questions of what we should put before Europe as a possible means of disarming Europe and destroying the fears under which we live to-day are out of place in this new world where we have a real, tangible, ever-present danger before us. What I am afraid of is that the Government will go on trusting to a Disarmament Conference instead of thinking themselves what they must do if a crisis should come upon us.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General SPEARS
Although I cannot support this Motion, I am most grateful to the Opposition for having put it down, for it gives an opportunity to humble back benchers like myself to express their views on this all-important question of Disarmament. I remember reading some time ago an excellent book on Japan called "The Honourable Picnic." I felt, as I listened to the Debate on Tuesday, that I was assisting at something infinitely more august, that is, a right honourable picnic. Indeed, the only opportunity that back benchers had of Addressing the House was during that hour when every self-respecting right hon. Gentleman was having his dinner. It is 656 not always remembered on the Treasury Bench, which after all decides upon the time that is allocated to any Debate, that the most insignificant of us back benchers represents exactly as many electors as the Prime Minister himself, and, strange as the idea may seem, that there are actually some back benchers who may have something to contribute to these Debates. As I sat through the Debate on Tuesday, tealess and dinnerless, the speech I enjoyed most was one made by a back bencher, if I dare claim as one of us, the hon. and learned Member for Swindon (Sir R. Banks), although I suspect him of having his foot on the steps of the Throne, so to speak. Although I disagreed with every word that he said, I felt the immense value there was in hearing a point of view in opposition to your own clearly expressed.
In discussing this Motion, one is naturally influenced by last week's Debate, and one of the outstanding speeches was that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). It was a little difficult, as one listened to him, to remember that he is the only survivor of the powerful triumvirate which was mainly responsible for the Treaty of Versailles. It seemed to me that he omitted the one real explanation why the Treaty that he complained of so bitterly has riot given the results that he said he expected from it. The fact simply is that, when the Allies promised Germany that they would eventually disarm, France agreed to that proposition because she felt secure in the guarantee that had been given her by England and by the United States that they would stand by her in case she were attacked. That guarantee never materialised, thanks to a clever clause inserted by the right hon. Gentleman that it would only operate if it were ratified by the United States. The sense of security that made France envisage with calm the idea of disarmament in the future disappeared. It was clever of the right hon. Gentleman to insert that clause, too clever perhaps, but it ill behoves him to-day to rail against a nation which was robbed of the security which it had been guaranteed. The clue to the whole problem is the question of the relationship between France and Germany. The whole of the Peace Treaty was built up on the foundation of the guarantee that we and the United States 657 gave to France. When that guarantee was withdrawn the whole edifice of the Peace Treaty cracked, and we have been attempting ever since to find some means of giving the security which was then withdrawn.
Turning to another point; thanks to the speech of the Foreign Secretary on Tuesday we can debate this Motion with full knowledge of the facts which have led up to the present situation. We listened to his admirable speech with rapt attention. He told us at great length how disarmed we were. But it is quite obvious that our disarmament has not given any nation a sense of security. In a few words that is the story of our disarmament, and it seems to me that it is not a very successful story. What the right hon. Gentleman had to say about Locarno I thought was more distressing still. The whole burden of his argument was, "We have signed it. Of course, we will honour our signature, but it is we who will interpret the Treaty. It is for us to judge whether we are called upon to take any action or not." The whole implication is that we are completely free. We are both judges and parties in the dispute. No one will know until the very last moment what our action will be. How can anybody consider an instrument of that kind as anything upon which you can build peace? The whole effect of what the right hon. Gentleman said on this subject must certainly be to weaken the sense of security in Europe. I have not read all the papers which have been published, although I have read a good many, but I certainly think that what I have just said is justified by the facts. The greatest impetus to re-armament in Europe to-day is ignorance on the part of other nations of what part we are to Play.
We should look upon this great question of peace and Disarmament as a business proposition. Is it good business on our part to prevent war in Europe, or is it not? The answer of the overwhelming number of our fellow citizens would be in the affirmative. But if it is good business, how much is it worth our staking to maintain peace? Is it worth while our taking out an insurance against war? If so, what premium are we prepared to pay? I gathered from what the Prime Minister said that we are not prepared to pay much. I was very sorry indeed when I heard him say that. If we refuse to pay 658 a premium for peace and if we refuse to assume any responsibility for maintaining it, what will happen France and Germany's other neighbours, faced by a Germany which is arming, will, in the first place, forthwith strengthen their military alliances among themselves. That is an extremely important point.
We have heard a great deal about Germany. We have heard much less about France, and nothing about the Little Entente. After all the Little Entente, which really came into diplomatic being thanks to the Four-Power Pact, is now a solid block of 70,000,000 people. That is something. I am sure that the House would be interested to know their point of view, and their point of view, as far as I can make out, is that of France itself. In the first place, they will bind themselves together more closely, and the next thing is that they will begin to increase their armaments. France will certainly begin to increase her armaments in order to keep the advantage she now has over Germany. There is no doubt about that at all. One thing of which I am certain, after very careful inquiry, is that even the most Socialistically inclined people in France will vote any sum for which the Government may ask of them for arms. There is no doubt about it. To ask people who are so minded to place themselves on a footing of absolute equality with Germany, which has twice invaded them, without giving them a guarantee that they will receive support if they are attacked, seems to them to be the wildest folly.
If we stand aside, I feel certain that the armaments race will begin, and it will begin soon. We have very little time to lose. To some extent it has begun, and if we go on wavering as we have been doing, and it becomes clear that we are not going to make up our minds, the Continental nations will be compelled to adopt a course of their own, and it is exactly the one I have outlined. Once the armaments race has begun we certainly shall be unable to influence the course of events.
The race in armaments will not mean immediate war. I know that the French nation would not go to war to-day. What will happen is that the burden of armaments will become ever more crushing, and there are those in that country, the nationalists, for instance, who will come 659 along and say: "Why go on like this? Why go on postponing the inevitable? Germany is re-arming. Attack her while we still have some advantage." That will mean war. I have ventured to draw the attention of the House to one dangerous result of our attitude. I notice in the papers the very significant change in the attitude of Italy. If there is one thing more certain than another it is that if this country gave a strong lead Italy would follow. She always has done so. The prestige of the League of Nations is being undermined. The Prime Minister spoke words of comfort. I hope that they will be given tangible form, but it is no use beating about the bush. It strikes me that the only friends the League has had have been the small nations, the Little Entente, and France.
Let us, if we want peace, decide to pay the premium necessary to ensure it. That premium is to undertake to stand by any nation that it attacked, that is, to give practical interpretation to Article 10 of the Covenant. If we do that, there will be no war, because there will be no attack. England seen from the Continent is like a lump of ballast. If you put it on the scales on one side, down go the scales on that side, and nothing you can do on the other side will make it go up. If a country is made aware that in case of conflict it must add to its potential enemies the enormous forces of this country it will know that the opposition is too much for it and that it cannot take it on. That was true of an all-powerful Germany in 1914. If she had known that we were on the other side she would not have taken it on. That is as true to-day as in 1914. If it is known beforehand that we will come down with all our strength on the side of the attacked nation, there will be no attack. If, on the other hand, we act as we did in 1914, the events of 1914 will be repeated, and this time; there will be no excuse.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Mr. EMRYS-EVANS
The Motion refers tothe growing opinion in favour of the total disarmament of all nations throughout the world.Is that a true statement of the position? Is it really true that there is that feeling throughout the world. I do not think that the cause of peace will be served by hiding from ourselves unpleasant and 660 inconvenient facts. The most unpleasant and inconvenient fact with which we are faced at the present time is the coming into power of the Nazi regime in Germany. It is not only the action that they have taken inside Germany itself—which is an internal question, which must nevertheless affect the world—but it is their attitude towards their neighbour, towards Austria, which has caused fears and anxieties to arise such as we have not known since the War. She has proved herself during this period not to be a good neighbour. Germany is speaking to-day with two voices, the voice of peace and the voice of the drill sergeant. It was so in the days before the War.
The German Imperial Government protested on many occasions their devotion to peace. The world believed them, because the world wanted to believe that those protestations were sincere, but at the same time Germany was pressing forward with preparations for war. All the Governments of the world were also making preparations for war. There was an armaments race and alongside that armaments race there was that spirit in Germany which believed that only along the paths of military glory lay the future of Germany. That spirit disappeared for a time but it has come again and there can be no doubt that it has gained a very strong hold on the whole of the German nation. It is true that to-day the position is very different from that which existed in 1914. At that time the German Imperial Government were in command of the greatest military machine the world has ever known. To-day, even if Germany is rearming—and the arrest of Mr. Panter shows that she has much to conceal—I do not believe that there is any immediate prospect of a conflict. There is still time, but there is a chance, indeed a great possibility of an armaments race.
During the Debates that we have had in this House it has often been said that if there was an armaments race in Europe, Germany, with her greater resources and her larger man power would overhaul France. I do not see an armaments race in that light. I do not believe that if Germany challenged the world again that she would have to race against France only. She would have to race against all nations and she would have no chance of success. During these 15 difficult years, no country in the world 661 has shown more sympathy with Germany's efforts to re-establish herself as a great nation than this country. I do not think there has been anywhere a greater welcome to Germany's efforts. Germany has made the Disarmament Clauses of the Treaty the touchstone of her rights to come back into the comity of nations. There were many unjust and many impracticable Clauses in the Treaty of Versailles but I believe that the Disarmament Clauses were justifiable at that time.
When we think of the time when those Clauses were made, when we think of the bitter memories which were then so fresh in the minds of the victorious Powers, can we believe that it would have been possible then to place a time limit within which the victorious nations could have been expected to say that they would disarm? I do not think that it was possible. The victorious Powers have not behaved as some would have us believe they have behaved. They did make preparations fairly soon after the signature of the Treaty of Versailles for bolding a Disarmament Conference and that Disarmament Conference, which they pushed forward, was a really genuine effort on the part of the Allied Powers to establish peace in Europe. That Conference was not broken up by the then victorious Powers, but by Germany.
The deadlock which has arisen has naturally caused us in this country to examine the position both here and in Europe and our attitude towards international problems. A great deal has been said about isolation. I believe that isolation is against all the lessons of history. There has never been a major and a general European conflict from which we have been able to keep out. We have tried often to remain neutral and stand aside but we have inevitably been drawn in. The changed conditions of warfare have swept away the barriers which were so strong in the past, and if we were not able to keep out of conflicts in the past I do not think that it would be possible to keep out at the present time. If we have any doubt in regard to our present position let us consider the position of the United States, a country which has greater isolationist traditions than we have, a country which does not believe in foreign entanglements. The United States attempted to keep out of the last 662 War, but with the wide Atlantic between Europe and its own shores it was gradually driven by circumstances until it became a decisive factor in the conflict. Even if we were able to remain outside a conflict and stand aside, I do not think it would avail us anything for in the general ruin which would inevitably follow a European war we should share with all the nations of the world.
The crisis has brought forward various proposals from the Opposition. At their meeting at Hastings they made it quite clear that if they are in power when a major European crisis arises, they will make this country ineffective in international affairs and will silence its voice in Europe. They have laid it down that, however great the outrage, however just the cause, they will strike and not fight. They twill make Locarno useless, and deal a mortal blow at the League of Nations. The passing of these academic resolutions is merely playing with a problem which affects the fate and happiness of many millions. The Leader of the Opposition, during the course of his speech last week, said that the Conservative party had had their conference at Birmingham and that several significant resolutions had been passed. A Government must be judged by its deeds and an Opposition by its intentions. Hon. Members in this House have a great respect for the sincerity of the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition, but in the speeches he has made during the last few weeks I do not think he has shown any real sense of the brutal realities and the practical side of war. He does not seem to realise that many factors contribute to the establishment of peace and the maintenance of order, education, healthy public opinion, increasing common sense and, in the last resort, the use of force.
The failure to realise that the task of establishing peace is an arduous one has led to the irresponsible campaign which has been carried on up and down the country. We have to go back and hold to the barrier which was set up by the Peace Conference, that bit of ground gained in the course of those difficult days for peace, and that is the League of Nations. It has been the endeavour of the Government to build up satisfactory machinery for dealing with 663 international problems. I should like hon. Members to go back to those difficult days in June and July, 1914, and remember the efforts made by the then Liberal Government to reconstruct the Concert of Europe, to try and get the nations of Europe to see where they were going and make one effort to stop the conflict which was then upon us. How useless it was. There was no real machinery. We have the machinery to-day. It may not be effective; it may not be strong, but it is machinery which there is still a chance to make strong and effective. It can do two things. It can consolidate the opinion of the world when an aggressor makes it clear that he is going to attack. It may stop the attack merely by a movement of the little finger, but if it is impossible to cheek the aggressor by uniting world public opinion, it will be able to marshal the nations against the aggressor.
To abandon the League of Nations is to abandon all hope of settlement. We should abandon even more than disarmament, we should abandon the hope of a new international order. I do not think it will be easy or that the disarmament and pacification of Europe will come quickly. A Convention, if we do arrive at one, can only be a beginning; and it is by deeds and not by words that we shall really restore the confidence of European nations. The Noble Lord the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) said that he was taking a rather unpopular line by suggesting that France and Germany should be brought together. I trust that it is not an unpopular line. I can imagine nothing better than that Germany and France should come together, and I do not think that His Majesty's Government will stand in the way, but will rather do all they can to help to bring about that result. It is only along the line of establishing confidence between these two great nations that it will be possible in the end to arrive at that feeling of confidence and security which alone is the foundation for a happier and better Europe.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. COCKS
When I came into the House just now the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle- under- Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) was making a speech which I judged would have been more appropriate to the naval or military 664 Estimates, but I felt that he was quite right in taking the line he did for, although the House may not realise it, it is clear that the Disarmament Conference is dead, and it was killed to-night by a single sentence from the Prime Minister. In the statement which the Prime Minister read and which, therefore, I presume was a Cabinet statement, he made use of words like these:No Government can compel another Government to take risks they feel too great for them, and for our part we say that we cannot extend our obligations in order to induce them to do so.In that one sentence the Prime Minister has destroyed the Disarmament Conference, and has made the fortunes of the armament firms.
§ Mr. COCKS
I want to deal, in the first place, with the point that Germany has left the Disarmament Conference. We have been told from certain quarters that the rise of Hitlerism in Germany, and the present mood of Germany, is due to the fact that other Powers have failed to carry out their promises given at Versailles and have not disarmed. I doubt whether that is really the case. The rise of Hitlerism in Germany is due to many causes, some of which do not concern us to-night, but I do not think that the chief cause is the fact that other nations have not disarmed. If I were going into the various reasons which have caused Germany to take up the attitude she has, I might take the Treaty of Versailles itself, and I am confirmed in that by a speech made a week ago by Baron von Neurath, the German Foreign Minister, in which he includes amongst the German grievances matters like the partition of Upper Silesia, the Eupen-Malmely referendum, the treatment of Danzig and Poland, the question of the Saar, and the question of the German colonies which were taken away from her. To these I might add the Polish Corridor and the fact that the British Government at that time was the leading Government which imposed on Germany the whole cost of the War, which, incidentally, she has not paid. It is said that Germany is disarmed, I do not know. A statement was made in the "Times" the other day by Professor Morgan, a member of the Interallied Military Commission which supervised the disarmament of Germany, 665 in which he said that when the final report is published:The whole world will be convinced that Germany was never disarmed, never intended to disarm, and for seven years did everything in her power to obstruct, deceive, and counter-control the Commission whose duty it was to disarm her.And to-day Germany who has removed pacifism and internationalism from her vocabulary, in the words of her leading statesman, who is threatening unarmed and defenceless Denmark and an impotent Austria, who is trying her best to separate Britain and France, who is preaching on every side the gospel of militarism and war, that country is arming at the present moment ac headlong speed with the aid of supplies of spelter and nickel and scrap iron which are being poured into her by British capitalists and the capitalists of other countries; and she is being aided by British armament firms, who are advertising in Germany arms which are forbidden Germany by the Treaty of Versailles. [An HON. MEMBER: "Name the firm!"] The name of the firm that is advertising tanks, which are forbidden to Germany, is Vickers Armstrong. That fact has been published and is well known. The result of the election at Fulham, which the Prime Minister describes as an amusing incident, is a revolt against the armament firms who are thrusting to-day into the hands of Germany and of Japan the very sword with which civilisation may be destroyed. If those swords are drawn and we suffer as a result, the blood of us and of our children will be on the heads of a Government which declines, even when asked to do so by the French Government, to control the traffic in arms.
The second point which has led to a position for which the Government are indeed greatly responsible, is the failure of the League of Nations in the Far East. To-clay we see established on the main- land of Asia a formidable treaty-breaking Power which has broken not merely the Covenant of the League of Nations, the Kellogg Pact and the Nine-Power Treaty, but is a country which regards treaties and tears them up as if they were scraps of paper, and regards the League and Internationalism with contempt. And it has done all that with the bland acquiescence of our Foreign Secretary and Foreign Office. Over and over again last year, 666 before the crisis reached the present point, we begged the Foreign Secretary and the Under-Secretary—I do not blame the Under-Secretary, because he is not a free agent—to say something or do something which would restrain the action which the militarist party of Japan, as against the civil party, were taking at that time. They refused to do anything of the sort. They refused not only to protest, but to sign a note which the United States sent and asked us to sign, to say that we would not recognise any territory taken as a result of the breaking of those treaties. By this action we encouraged Japan to go forward, and as a result we have established in Asia a formidable Power which may become a menace to the British Empire, as it is certainly a menace to all who stand for international peace and reorganisation.
It is largely due to the weakness of the British Government in this respect that the present movement in Germany has developed. I have said that the Disarmament Conference has failed. The right hon. Gentleman who leads the Liberal party said that he felt that too, in the gloom which was produced by the speeches from the Front Bench. But the Disarmament Conference has failed, and it will always fail, unless the Government moves from the attitude it has unfortunately taken up. I make an appeal to the Prime Minister to alter his attitude, because it was not always his attitude. When I consider the work that has been done for disarmament since the Armistice, I feel that the work reached its culmination in the Protocol at Geneva in 1924, during the time of the Labour Government. I see that the Prime Minister agrees with me. When I consider the work he did along those lines for Disarmament I regret that he bas not gone on with it and I hope he will use his great influence inside the Government to revive the Protocol which was afterwards repudiated. Since the idea of pooled security has been abandoned by the British Government not one single step has been taken in the direction of disarmament or international peace. We have not made any progress, for the simple and common-sense reason which appeals to people without question of party, that no nation will disarm unless it feels secure, and no nation will feel secure when its arms are limited, unless 667 it feels absolutely certain that if it is attacked unjustly by some other Power all the other nations will come to its assistance and defend it against the aggressor nation. It is only within the realm of armed peace and armed justice that disarmament can be accomplished and peace be preserved.
The Foreign Secretary said last Tuesday that the great problem before the Government and the world was to reconcile the German idea of equality with the French demand for security. But it is not merely the French who are demanding security. The demand for security is the demand of the humanity of the world, and the only way by which humanity can be secured from those dreadful things which the Lord President of the Council foreshadowed in a famous speech some time ago, is by a system of collective peace. There are three essentials. You will have to set up a system of compulsory arbitration, collective arbitration with an international court—not the Council of the League of Nations, which must have unanimity, but an international court such as is suggested by the Protocol at Geneva, a court whose decision shall be final. Secondly, you might have behind that court an international police. I agree with the Prime Minister that there are many objections to it. I do not consider that it should be a squadron of bombing aeroplanes, but it might consist of swift aeroplanes with unarmed officers coming down to the frontiers and having behind them the prestige of the whole of the forces of the world. Behind that the Council will have to call on the national but limited forces of the States.
Thirdly, you must have automatic definition of an aggressor. It is necessary that the nation should know exactly where they stand and what they will have to do in the event of the peace of the world being broken. The definition of an aggressor in its simplest form would be, "The nation which goes to war in defiance of the court—the nation which refuses to arbitrate and goes to war or the nation which refuses to accept a decision of the court and then goes to war." I have heard certain subsidiary objections to this plan but the only serious objection which I have heard is that mentioned to-night by the Prime Minister, namely, 668 that we are not prepared at the present time to extend our responsibilities.
I ask hon. Members on all sides to consider that in a proposition of this sort it is not a question of extending our responsibilities but of extending and strengthening our own defences. Under a system of that sort, if this country were ever unjustly attacked we should be able to call upon the forces of the other countries of the world to defend us, just as we would defend any of the other countries if they were unjustly attacked. I do not regard that as an extension of our responsibilities. It has often been said that the greatest interest of this country is peace and therefore by defending peace, we shall not be extending our responsibilities out of all proportion to our interests? In any case as the hon. and gallant Member for Carlisle (Brigadier-General Spears), with whose words I fully agree, has said we have to pay the price of peace and that price is simply to put our naval, military and air power at the service, which is no mean service, of international justice. I believe that to be the only way in which peace can be preserved. Reject that plan and I believe that war will become inevitable.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
I am sure that of the interesting speeches we have heard to-day few can have intrigued the House more than that of the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. S. Cocks). No doubt he expressed a great deal of magnificent idealism and we all hope some day, though some of us think it may not be for many hundreds of years, the world will be ready to offer its sons in defence of any nation whatever the quarrel may be and however distant it may be. I agree that that is a magnificent ideal and I do not think that the hon. Member should be blamed for holding it, but it must be confessed that while we listened to the hon. Member's speech, so full of that magnificent ideal,-we felt that we could not have heard much more sabre-rattling than he indulged in during his oration. First there was a fierce diatribe against the Japanese. Then there were his strictures against Germany, in which he pointed out that the fears of war entertained in various sections of the House were justified. Then we had as the final dose, the statement that this country 669 would have to place its Fleet, its Army and its Air Force at the disposal of the League of Nations to fight in any war anywhere if the peace of the world was broken.
These are dangerous speeches, because they confuse the public. I suggest that the greatest harm is being done to the cause of peace by these everlasting debates about War and Disarmament. Year after year our pacifists in the pulpit, at the by-elections and in the Press, keep this question of war in front of the people. I suggest that this constant talk of War and Disarmament is creating fear which has always been the parent of war. A Debate such as has been initiated to-day by the Opposition does not help the cause of Peace. Debates of this kind set the countries of the world counting once more their men, their ships, their aeroplanes. The hon. Member who spoke just now from such a truly idealistic point of view will agree I think that everyone in this House wants peace and the people who want peace more than anyone else are those who know what bloody war means, day after day and month after month, those who have seen the hell of war for themselves. They desire peace just as much as the gentlemen who are always frightening the old women of this country by making them believe that there is a war just round the next corner.
I wish to say a few words upon the attitude of the Opposition towards this question. The Leader of the Socialist party is responsible for this Vote of Censure—though having read it carefully it seems to me that in some respects it is really a vote of praise because its terms have been so largely poached from the various endeavours of this Government and other Governments to find a solution of the problem. The right hon. Gentleman in his recent utterances has adopted a line which has given great cause of uneasiness to many of his supporters. They do not know where he is. First, he made a speech in which he called upon the young men of this country not to join the Army, Navy or the Air Force. That is serious advice coming from one who holds such a responsible position and who, no doubt, aspires some day, when he has reached more advanced middle-age, to be the Prime Minister of this country. If any humble agitator were to take such a line he would bring himself very close to the law.
670 The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) knows all about these things. He is going to be greater than the law one of these days, and he is probably aware that under Section 98 of the Army Act a person who without due authority directly or indirectly interferes with the recruiting services of the Forces is liable on summary conviction to a fine. Never before in this country has anyone holding the responsible position of the right hon. Gentleman made a statement of that description. An agitator, for instance the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) might be run in for taking an attitude of that kind in the North of this country, and I cannot see why there should be one law for the poor and another for the Socialist Member of Parliament.
But the right hon. Gentleman made another speech. Having urged the young men of the country not to join the Forces of the Crown he made a speech two or three days later in which he said that this country ought to have coerced Japan. Later on we learned from him that Germany must not be allowed to re-arm, and finally he told us that when his party got into power the masses of the soldiers and sailors would back up him and his friends.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I may say that the hon. Gentleman who interrupts is dotting the "i's" and crossing the "t's" of his Leader, so that the people of this country outside may clearly understand that if a Socialist Government is to be returned, the armed forces of the Crown, whose recruitment he has tried to destroy in the meantime, are not to be used for national defence, but are to be used as a kind of Nazi force to compel the people of this country to swallow Socialist measures which they loathe and detest. I find it rather hard to square these statements with the Sermon on the Mount which is so frequently invoked in the speeches of those who support this Motion. There is a similar confusion of thought, it seems to me, on the Front Bench here, where I know the hon. Gentleman wants to qualify in the realm of accuracy, with regard to the Treaty of Versailles. The hon. and learned Member for East 671 Bristol, whom I am glad to see in his place, stated recently:In 1919 we pledged our honour as a country that we would disarm as soon as possible and other countries did the same. In the face of that Germany accepted the Treaty of Versailles.The hon. and learned Gentleman still has not read the Treaty of Versailles, and he still believes apparently that his statement was sincere and correct. The terms are—I do not know whether he will dispute the actual words: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.You cannot square that with the speech which the hon. and learned Gentleman made in the country. I suppose it is not necessary for our embryo Hitlers in this country to use the same accuracy as an ordinary constitutional lawyer would naturally have to adopt. Even so, when he is discarding the wig and the gown for the toga, I think people will look to him to give some semblance of facts with regard to great and vital matters such as the Treaty of Versailles. This country, as every fair-minded man and woman of British blood will admit, and every foreign statesman that any of us has ever met will admit, and will generously admit, has gone far beyond any kind of pledge that we have made. Certainly, there was no pledge in the Treaty of Versailles which we have not far exceeded in the matter of limitation of our armaments. In fact, we have reduced our armaments to such a degree that not only, as has been pointed out, has our example not been followed, but we have actually arrived, in the solemn words of a Member of the Cabinet, at the edge of risk.
I want to point out how I believe that the pursuance of that policy is likely, not to make for world peace, but to defeat that very object, which is so dear to the Prime Minister and those around him. When the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol states that we have done nothing in this connection, words fail me. It is a frigid and calculated reversal of the facts, which, if I was not standing in Parliament, I might describe by a very much better known but shorter English word. He and his friends are bringing this attack upon the Government on the ground that they have not gone farther 672 in the matter of disarmament. I was very surprised to hear the hon. Member, in his really fair attack on everyone, state that this failure has gone on for the last eight years. He did not exonerate even his right hon. Friend who sat below him, but when the attack is made on the Government because they have not disarmed far enough, though I do not think it is a matter of praise, I think that if they searched, they would discover that actually the Coalition Government and Conservative Governments reduced our armed forces to a greater extent than their own Governments did; and if that be the case, the indictment of the hon. and learned Member of the criminals who are to enter the dock at eleven o'clock to-night falls on those sitting around him now, and not on those on the Government Bench opposite.
I beg the House to remember—I do not want to labour it, because the hon. and gallant Member who spoke just now so admirably expressed the point of view of the French fears—that we have to realise, as anyone who has visited France recently will have done, that among the very humblest in the land there is this real terror. The taxi driver who drives you to the hotel, the man who welcomes you at your hotel, the humblest people in the land, have this clutching dread upon them the whole time, and it is no good saying that that is a militarist feeling. It is a feeling of great and deep-seated fear among the French people. The French are a logical race, and they have not, like us, got the blue ocean to protect them. They have not the Channel separating them from their neighbours. They are logical, because they have been taught logic by the fact that twice they have seen mighty armed hosts pour over their frontiers, desolate their provinces, and, in the last case, slay and lacerate some millions of their people. These things are very fresh in French minds, and because they are so logical, they say: "Who was it who broke the Treaty of Versailles?" I am merely describing the views that I have picked up from ordinary people in France. They say: It was the Germans who broke the Treaty, when they declared that they could not pay the costs of the War, which they had given their solemn obligation to do." Then, following it up with their logical mind, they say: "How, if they had to break ale Treaty on the ground of their poverty, 673 can they afford to re-arm as they are so clearly doing now?"
That is one side of the case. I have no personal animus against the people of Germany. I think they are a very brave race. I think they are a great and proud people. At the same time, one has to realise that at present that people is mobilised in mind and thought in the same way as it was mobilised at the commencement of the War. I have studied the whole of the announcements of Herr Hitler recently, in order to try to find what he is really out for, and I notice that there was one phrase which might be taken by those who have not studied anything to do with war as a very generous utterance on his part. He said, in his manifesto:The German Government and people renew the vow joyfullly to agree in any real disarmament of the world and are ready to destroy the last German machine gun and dismiss the last man from the army if the other nations desire to do the same.Let us come back absolutely to realities. If that were done, Germany, with her great population, would have a greater number of trained men and would be on an absolute equality with her neighbours. She would be able to run through Austria, Poland, Denmark, and Belgium, and obviously Germany would be in a very strong position at that time. Precisely the same is the case with regard to Russia, which proposed a similar plan. Russia said she was prepared to join in complete universal disarmament, but it is estimated that she has 8,000,000 men who have had some form of military training, some of them a very high form of military training, and if everybody was armed merely with a rifle, what an appalling danger that would be for the whole of the countries on her western frontiers.
I am going to ask the House a question which, I know, is very unfashionable, but I think it is just as well that we should search our hearts and ask if we are being quite honest with ourselves in regard to this whole matter. Can anyone tell me of any war which actually commenced on account of armaments? I ask that question, because I should very much like to have an answer from the Government benches this evening. If we were sincere with ourselves, faced facts and came down out of the clouds, we should say that for 100 years the peace of this people, and largely the peace of Europe, 674 has been preserved by the fact that there was a great and mighty fleet in the hands of a nation whose only desire was peace.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I merely want to reinforce this argument. I am not a militarist; I do not want any fighting, but can anyone doubt that if we had listened to Lord Roberts in 1910, 1911 and 1912 and enlarged our Territorial Force so as to have 1,000,000 men behind the Regular Army, and if we had told the truth to Germany in 1913 and 1914, the War would have been—I will not say avoided for ever, but postponed? It was my privilege to meet a number of very distinguished Germans soon after the War. I asked them all again and again, "Would the War have taken place supposing Lord Roberts's ideas had been fulfilled and we had had an additional 1,000,000 men trained and mobilised?" They all answered:" Of course, if we had really believed that you were coming into the War and had that force behind you, we could not have risked it." The risk would have been far too great, and I believe that any student of affairs would have agreed that this was true. The Great War was an awful fact that is still fresh in our memories, but I wonder if it is generally appreciated that in the Civil War of the United States of America, with a population far smaller than ours, there was a greater slaughter of men of our own blood and a greater loss in British dead than in the European War. They had no armaments at all.
I beg hon. Members not to sacrifice too much to the idea that merely by saying "Disarm! disarm!" they will, in fact, disarm the world. We have to get the spiritual idea through the world; it is much more important than any action of that description. I am convinced that every sane man here and in every other country would desire to see the great expense of armaments reduced in order that nations should balance their budgets and that taxpayers should be relieved from these burdens which make people so angry and so sour with life. Obviously, the greatest blow at disarmament was struck by the United States of America when we offered to 675 reduce the size of our battleships, and of our guns. That was a great blow at world sanity. It would obviously be good to get rid of heavy guns, tanks and submarines, provided that the riddance was universal all round; that must, be for the advantage of the world. But if you succeed in doing this, do you think that it is going to make any difference in the long run to whether a nation desires or intends to go to war or not? Had I time I should have liked to tell the House of all the extraordinary differences in view of the recent announcement of Herr Hitler and his colleagues in Germany, compared with the hook which was published and translated into English at the beginning of this year. I beg hon. Gentlemen to get hold of the original book and either translate it or have it translated for them, because they will find the most terrible indications of a complete recrudescence of the old Prussian ideals in Germany. I should like to read one extract in particular to hon. Gentlemen:The settling of accounts with France would be useless if it were made the sole objective of our foreign policy. It can only begin to mean anything when it is covering our rear for an expansion of territory in Europe.That is a very alarming statement coming from the gentleman who is to-day Chancellor. We will hope that his utterances of last week are different and that he has abandoned the utterance in this book and that which he wrote in his appeal to the young people of Germany:The smallest youngster must he taught to pray: 'Almighty God, bless our Arms; render justice as Thou wert ever wont; do Thou judge now if we are worthy of freedom; Lord, bless our battle.'These two vital extracts did not appear in any English translation, hut if we, who have suffered so much as a people and as a race—as the whole world has suffered—ignore these facts, we, are doing a very ill service in the cause of peace.
In all the history of man there have been only 268 years of peace against 3,154 years of war.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I do not want to engage in any political controversy on such a vital subject. I know there are some things in which all the men in the 676 world have failed and that women will take their places—I hope they can; they have not so far shown much likelihood of doing so. But we who live on this earth, in our short span of life are mere specks against that great passage of time. How can we really imagine that because we say in the pulpit, "There will be no more war," and say, "No more war, do you hear? you wicked English people!" war will really cease? Let us go down on our knees and pray that there will be no more war; let us do everything in our power to bring the countries of the world together along peaceful lines.
I, for one, have never doubted the sincerity of the right hon. Gentleman, and all that he has done in this respect. But there is no good in denying the fact that up to now this policy, which has been tried with tremendous faith and energy, has not succeeded. I ask hon. Members and the people of this country whether with our present weakness in defence we can so surely influence our friends in different parts of the world to a more peaceful line of action as if we were able to say, "Here we are, still the great, proud race which five times has prevented Europe from falling under the heels of the dictator in the past, and which, when the time comes that we find our own country and our great Empire subjected to great danger, will take action; and if we find small nations about to be subjugated by some great Power acting as a bully, we shall be prepared to intervene again." I do not like written agreements which might possibly commit us to send our children into a great and terrible war on one or other side to help a Power with which we may have no sympathy. I am glad to learn to-night that we retain our freedom, for I feared that we did not.
In conclusion, it is my fundamental belief, first that if the British Empire with its real desire for peace is strong, it can do much more to help the Powers of the world to come together than if it were weak. I desire to say in the fullness of my heart that I do not believe it is altogether wise to tie your country up to this and that agreement for any long period of years, although I admit that it may have helped the situation in the last five or six years. I believe that in the long run we ought only to offer the lives of our people in the cause of right against 677 wrong, and that when we see the devilish forces setting up all over the world and making war upon Christianity, this country ought not to be finally committed to any one course. We ought to be a strong, peace-loving people free to intervene if we have to do so in such a way as to show the world once more that this country really stands by great ideals.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) who, I am sure, has as profound a desire for peace as any of us in this House, believes in the old doctrine of armed security and of individual action being taken by this country as and when it desires. It is a profoundly different policy from that in which we believe. He stated, I think quite accurately, that mere disarmament will not bring about peace. He said that the whole psychology of the nations has to change, and he might have added that the whole international economic system had to change as well. I prefer the opinion of the united nations of the world immediately after the War to his as regards the value of disarmament. In Article VIII of the Covenant, they said:The members of the League recognise 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.That Article is dealing, of course, with the enforcement by common action of international obligations, and not enforcement by individual action of individual obligations. Then the hon. Baronet charged me with having said that there was a moral obligation under the Treaty of Versailles that we should disarm, and I venture to suggest that nearly everybody already acknowledges the moral obligation. With regard to Part V of the Treaty of Versailles, the German delegation made the following reservation:Germany is prepared to agree to the basic idea of the Army, Navy and Air Force regulations … provided that this is a beginning of a general reduction of armaments.To that the Allied Powers replied:The Allied and Associated Powers wish to make it clear that their requirements in regard to German armaments were not made solely with the object of rendering it impossible to resume her policy of military 678 aggression. They are also the first step towards the reduction and limitation of armaments which they seek to bring about as one of the most fruitful preventives of war, and which it will be one of the first duties of the League of Nations to promote.I venture to suggest that that fully justifies the statement that it is the moral obligation of this country as well as of other countries in the world to bring about as speedily as possible a measure of disarmament comparable to the measure of disarmament of Germany at the time of the Treaty of Versailles.
§ Sir H. CROFT
May I quote once more the words which the hon. and learned Member used? He said:In 1919 we pledged our honour as a country that we would disarm as soon as possible.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
Certainly, and I think there could be no clearer pledge of our honour than that letter of Clemenceau to the Germans. I want to say a word before I come to the main subject on the Foreign Secretary's remarks on a speech I made at Bristol. The Foreign Secretary was a little anxious after the East Fulham by-election to bolster up the National Government, which felt its foundations in a somewhat quivering state. He adopted what I might call a slightly petulant style, rather the sort of style of someone who is feeling a bit rattled. He reminded me of some of the things that General Goering said at the Reichstag fire trial. The precise matter of which he complained was that I stated, with reference to the disarmament of Germany under the Treaty of Versailles, that we had done nothing to disarm, and I repeat that statement in the House now. Everybody knows that our forces have been mechanised and rationalised since the War, and that does not decrease their efficiency. In fact, it has been said by spokesmen for the Government with considerable pride that the mechanisation of our Army has increased its efficiency. That, indeed, was the reason put forward for mechanisation.
There are only two possible ways by which you can test the degree or the fact of disarmament, which implies, of course, abolishing something. The first is to test Whether there has been any total abolition of a classified kind of arm, and as to that, of course, no question arises in this country. The other is to take the total expenditure upon armaments. [HON. 679 MEMBERS: "No!"] Hon. Members who say "No!" will appreciate that that is one of the criteria that has been put forward at the Disarmament Conference as a test of disarmament. It is not much good selecting the number of men if you mechanise your forces and reduce the number of men. If one takes the total expenditure and compares it, not with 1913 as the right hon. Gentleman did, but with what is more usually taken in calculating these figures, the average pre-War figure; if you take the post-War figures and reduce them by the proper factors owing to the rise in prices since the War——[An HoN. MEMBER: "Oh!"] The hon. Gentleman does not appreciate that that gives the better comparison from his point of view, because it reduces a figure of £115,000,000 or £120,000,000 by a very considerable amount. He would have been the first to complain if I had put forward the comparison without making that reduction. If one takes those figures, one finds that the increase in expenditure in armaments in this country has been very considerable throughout the post-War period. Indeed, in the last two years it bas been very large indeed.
There was a very informative pamphlet published in 1930 by "The Economist"—not a particularly Socialist paper—dealing with the armament expenditure of the world. The author of it was formerly a member of the Economic Section of the Secretariat of the League, and was Secretary-General of the Economic Defence Council of Sweden, and presumably knew something about the matter. He sums up the position up to 1930 as regards Great Britain in this way:If the expenditure for non-effective services be deducted"—that is, pensions and so on—the effective charges are £64,000,000 on the average of the five pre-War years, and £102,000,000 on the average of the years 1995 to 1929, an increase of 58 per cent. The Budget charges for armaments have thus increased at the same pace as the rise in prices, and represent very nearly the same proportion of the nation's income as before the War. The British taxpayer is still burdened with charges for preparations in view of the possibility of future wars which are as high as those in 1909–1913, before the Great War was won.So far as that gentleman is concerned, he clearly is of opinion that there has been no measure of Disarmament on that criterion. If one carries forward those 680 figures to the last two years—the present year and the year preceding it—one finds, taking the total figure, that the figure of £70,200,000 pre-War has now grown—being reduced in accordance with the wholesale index figure of 100—in 1932 and in 1933 to £108,900,000. If anybody examines those figures it is perfectly clear that one cannot say, and it would not be the fact to say, that this country has disarmed since the pre-War period. Whether hon. and right hon. Gentlemen like it or not, that is the fact. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense!"] I venture to suggest that it is a complete misunderstanding of the position to say that merely because there have been changes, that more money has been spent on one thing and less money spent on another thing, that there has been a measure of Disarmament.
What is absolutely true, and is a matter for which this country and this Government are perfectly entitled to take the credit, is that our armaments have not been allowed to grow as rapidly as in some other countries. That is perfectly true, and no one that I know has ever suggested that they have been allowed to grow as rapidly as in other countries. Fortunately, we have not yet been stampeded into the fresh race for armaments into which some countries, like America, with her recent naval expenditure, have been stampeded. Those being the facts—[Laughter.] Well, perhaps hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will get the facts out for themselves. Some hon. Gentlemen are apparently unable to appreciate the arguments based on the money system. Those being the facts, it is quite clear the reason for those facts is the failure of the Disarmament Conference. The object of the Disarmament Conference was to enable all the countries of the world to agree upon a measure of disarmament, so that they might each carry out disarmament in their own field, and it is because they have been unable to agree that, naturally, they have been unable, so far, to disarm. That the situation is extremely grave at this moment there is no doubt. I will read the House a message which has just conic from the Geneva correspondent of the "Daily Herald." As it happens to be a statement by the President of the Disarmament Conference, I thought the House might be interested. Everybody knows 681 there were rumours this afternoon that he had resigned his position owing to difficulties in the Disarmament Conference. He says:I have not decided to resign, but the present situation is most unsatisfactory. Unless there is a change in the present situation I cannot continue as President of the Conference. No results are likely to be achieved by the attitude adopted by delegations at the recent meetings, and it is useless for me to remain here for months unless their attitude changes.It is because we are trying to persuade His Majesty's Government to change their attitude, in order that the Disarmament Conference may not come to a sad and tragic end speedily, that we brought forward this Motion to-night.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
The Noble Lady cannot rise unless the hon. and learned Gentleman gives way.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I would be glad to give way if I were not trying to make time for the Foreign Secretary. I want now to come to the first part of the Motion, which is the charge against His Majesty's Government for not having pursued a policy at the Disarmament Conference which was likely to lead to success. I do not want anybody to suppose that I am accusing either the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary or the Under-Secretary of being bloodthirsty or wanting war. I am perfectly certain that they, like everyone else in the House, have a sincere desire for peace, but it is not a question of intention, it is a question of policy, and we believe the policy that they have followed and are following will result in war and not in peace; because they have failed absolutely to give their unstinted support to the collective peace system which has been set up, and unless that is given we feel perfectly convinced that we shall get back into the anarchy of war which some people seem to desire.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The collective peace system, which the hon. Member does not seem to have heard about, is like any other system of law: it can only function 682 if the principal members of society give it their support—not their lip service but their support by action. This country is one of the most powerful and influential members of the society of nations and we believe it has the greatest power and opportunity of making the collective peace system, under the Covenant of the League of Nations effective. The hon. Member will have heard, perhaps, of the Covenant of the League of Nations. We believe that the Government have embarked upon this adventure of disarmament in the true spirit of compromise. They have tried all the time to support the League of Nations, and also to give full rein to the technical experts, and retain those weapons which they have been advised that this country needs if there is a war. We believe they have got to choose between the two courses, both of which have been pressed upon them to-day: one, to abandon the League of Nations and to rely upon our own strength and our own individual security; and the other, to abandon the idea of being able to support peace by our own armed strength and go in boldly for the policy of collective peace. We think the tragedy of the Disarmament Conference started with the Sino-Japanese dispute. A speech made by the Minister of Agriculture and reported in the "Daily Telegraph" of 1st November this year shows, I think, either a complete misunderstanding of the position by the Government or else their election to take what we believe to be the wrong course. He said:We have a record for peace loving that no party can surpass. We can challenge any party, certainly Mr. Lansbury's party.He went on to recall how my right hon. Friend and his friends had "howled" for sanctions to be taken against great nations in the East, a course which might have led this country to the verge of war. Exactly. If it had led this country to the verge of war, it would have been a war that was fought to support the collective peace system. The same complete misunderstanding of the situation was shown by the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon, when he asked what was the use of asking this country to give up police bombing if you propose to have an international police force. I might ask him a question: "What is the good of asking garroters not to garrote people in the streets, if you are going to have 683 a police force? "The very object of a police force is to stop individual anarchic action and to enforce a co-operative peace system. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may well laugh, but they do not seem to appreciate that when they entered into and signed the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Optional Clause they bound this country to undertake the defence of the co-operative peace system, and bound this country by its honourable word to protect that peace system. Now they are laughing at it, as a piece of paper.
I quite appreciate that some hon. Members think that the League of Nations is a rotten idea, that the Disarmament Conference should be abandoned and that we should get back to the old pre-war system. I quite appreciate that attitude of mind, but there is the other attitude of mind that, having bound ourselves by those solemn covenants we have got, in honour, to support that system. [HON. MEMBERS: "What with?"] With economic boycott and with armed forces if necessary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Bombs! War!"] Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen do not seem to realise that this country is pledged at the present time. It is not a question of this country selecting what it will do; it is pledged in honour. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) was pointing out the other day our obligations under the Treaty of Locarno. We are pledged in honour under the Treaty of Locarno, until it is altered by negotiation, to take certain action in the event of certain occurrences. [An HON. MEMBER: "Will you call a general strike?"] The hon. Member need not be so anxious. I hope that he has done me the honour to read what I have said about it. I have said that a general strike would be the way of stopping this country acting contrary to its obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations.
It is because of the Government's action and failure of action, in regard to the Sino-Japanese dispute, that we say that they caused the first serious setback to the cause of disarmament. Japan was declared an aggressor by the whole world, and it was the duty of this country, whatever personal sympathies and national sympathies were, if it desired to support the collective peace system, to take, or 684 to urge upon the League of Nations to take, immediate steps to stop the Japanese entering into Manchuria. I think that the attitude of the more conservative members of the Conservative party was put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) in his speech in this House on 27th February, 1933, when he said:The worship of unrealities to which this country, above all countries, has been giving itself at Geneva since the War is not going to conduce to the peace of the world. … There is a good deal of conscious or unconscious hypocrisy when we talk about the League of Nations, about disarmament and about peace."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1933; col. 84, Vol. 275.]No doubt the National Govenment in their attempt to satisfy everyone—they are always trying to do that—have paid lip-service to the Covenant of the League, but by their actions, and especially by their action and their failure of action in regard to the Japanese dispute, have, in fact, sabotaged the whole collective system. The League of Nations Union, of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham is so distinguished a Member, on 27th July, 1933, expressed the opinion in a resolution that His Majesty's Government ought to invite the assistance of the United States of America to help the League of Nations in the boycott of Japan.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not know for what purpose the hon. and learned Gentleman thought it necessary to introduce my name at this point. Since I have been a member of the India Committee it has been impossible for me to attend meetings of the executive committee of the League of Nations Union. I should have preferred to resign, and will do so, if I am to he held accountable for resolutions passed in those circumstances.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I naturally accept the right hon. Gentleman's explanation. Knowing that he was such a distinguished member of the society I naturally thought that an important resolution of this sort would have had his concurrence or his denial. There are many other distinguished members, and no doubt some of them took part in the framing of the resolution. I quote it to show that there is a large body of opinion in this country, and not only on these benches, that takes the view that economic action ought to 685 have been taken against Japan, in the interests of the Covenant of the League. The repercussions of that have been tremendous. Let me remind the House of what Herr Frick, who is now one of Hitler's lieutenants, said some months ago, after the Japanese incursion into Manchuria. He said: "I pay the League my respects, but I thank Japan for her example." Herr von Papen, in that famous speech which was so widely reported, the blood-and-thunder speech, asked, "What right have the Members of the League to condemn Germany hypocritically for fighting merely a moral fight against an immoral treaty, when they did not raise a finger to stop countries that had resorted to war and broken all treaties?"—referring, of course, to the action of the countries of the world as regards Japan. The effect, of course, is only so far as Germany is concerned. It has already been mentioned this evening, and I will not go into it again, but the re-arming in the United States, and the action which is being taken by Australia and New Zealand in strengthening their armaments, are all repercussions from this. All arise from the refusal of the Governments of the world, and the refusal of our Government to lead the Governments of the world, in initiating action against Japan. I think that perhaps that great organ the "Morning Post" has described the situation most picturesquely:The Covenant has been pierced with a keen Samurai sword, and the League trampled into the dust by the jackboot of Hitler.If there are conditions of that sort in the world, it is hardly surprising that people should feel insecure, and that one of the essential forerunners of disarmament is a feeling of a measure of security.
I pass from that point to the question of the Disarmament Conference itself. The same tragic vacillation and indecision accompanied the Government's actions in the Disarmament Conference, especially in the very precious early months of that Conference, when something might have been done. They were always trying to compromise between an expression of opinion favourable to the Covenant and an actual retention of those armaments which we value most, in particular, of course, the battleships. It is perfectly obvious that, if disarmament is ever going to be carried out, everybody 686 has to surrender what they feel is most valuable to them, or there will never be any effective surrender at all. It is impossible for us to keep battleships because we rely on them, and expect other people to get rid of submarines, upon which they mainly rely—France, for instance; yet our proposals in the early stages were the complete abolition of submarines and no alterations as regards the battleship programme. Time after time, in the early stages of the Conference, proposals were put forward by country after country, and we either damned them with faint praise or did worse than that and turned them down altogether. At the very outset, Germany pressed for the position of equality in disarmament—something which, as is shown by the passage which I have already quoted, had been clearly foreshadowed in the letter of M. Clemenceau before the Treaty of Versailles. One would have thought that the definition of "aggressive weapon" was sufficiently clear in the Treaty of Versailles when it said that the weapons were being forbidden to Germany because of her aggressive action in the military field, and at that time, clearly, all the nations in the world were of opinion that those things which were forbidden to Germany were properly described as aggressive.
It was the failure very largely to give a lead in the Conference as regards the equality of Germany in those early stages that caused such a tremendous waste of time, at the very time when there was a Government in Germany with which we could hope to do some bargaining and from which we could hope to get some consent. The campaign of Hitler followed, based very largely upon the action of the Allies in the Disarmament Conference, and the refusal of equality to Germany; and the danger, of course, now is that what we would not give to a democratic Germany Hitler thinks he can drag from us by threats of violence; and I hope he will not succeed in that. There were the Italian, the German, the French, the Russian and the United States proposals, none of which were accepted by this country, some of them hardly welcomed, and in the result there were the following propositions, for which this country did not vote at the Disarmament Conference in the early days:
687 As regards navies, the abolition of capital ships over 10,000 tons, and the abolition of aircraft carriers.
As regards the land, the direct limitation of land material, the abolition of heavy mobile artillery, the abolition of tanks, and the transference of heavy artillery to the League of Nations. Our Government voted in favour of none of these.
As regards the air, there was the internationalisation of civil aviation, the transference of bombing aircraft to the League of Nations, the abolition of bombing aircraft, the total abolition of military aviation, and the creation of an international air force. None of these were supported by the vote of our Government.
The only things that the Government did vote for in those early days were the abolition on land of offensive weapons particularly dangerous to civilian population, and the abolition of heavy artillery above a certain calibre; and, in naval affairs, the reduction of tonnage and maximum gun calibre in individual ships and the abolition of submarines. There were no votes on any matter connected with air disarmament at all—that disarmament of which the Lord President spoke in such tragic terms just about a year ago in this House, when he said, I think, that it was the duty of the younger men to take this job over—the old gentlemen could not deal with it any longer. I very much regret that the young men, of whom the Under-Secretary is such a very charming example, have not been able to influence the policy very much more violently than apparently they have. [An Holy. MEMBER: "What about your side?"] We, unfortunately, have no power with the Government; we can only blame them, and cannot make them do things. In February, 1932, a very inadequate suggestion was put forward by this country—certain vague and general proposals with no definition except the abolition of mobile guns over a certain calibre and of submarines. It was a suggestion ludicrously behind those of any of the other countries, such as Italy and France, which put forward suggestions at that time. Then, in April, 1932, there was the resolution on qualitative disarmament which was brought forward by the Foreign Secretary, and in which, I gather now, this Government do not believe, because I have here a quotation from 688 the Financial Secretary to the War Office, who, speaking during the East Fulham by-election, said:I frankly do not believe the way to peace lies in getting rid of one particular article of war. When a country is fighting for its life, it will use every weapon it can to defend itself. War is a costly, murderous business, but I think we are quite right in not agreeing to limit any one particular section of our armaments.I gather, therefore, that the policy of the Government does not now go to the limitation of particular sections or particular armaments. That suggestion was made by the Foreign Secretary, and he then had to leave Geneva, and left in charge of the naval part a gentleman known as Admiral Pound, who made this somewhat extraordinary remark. I do not say that I quote his words, but this is the substance of it:Battleships were harmless weapons of defence, and more precious than rubies to those who possessed them.In fact, he argued that qualitative disarmament did not apply to navies at all. It was not, therefore, very curious that Japan suggested immediately that no artillery was aggressive unless it was over 16 inches, which seems to be a fair size for a defensive weapon, and France suggested that no tank was aggressive unless it was over 20 tons, which also seems to be a fair size. In fact, of course, the whole thing was reduced to a roaring farce. The right hon. Gentleman, being pressed to define "aggressive weapon," used picturesque phraseology about the man who could not define an elephant but could recognise one when he saw it, to which the very appropriate reply was made that the trouble with the Foreign Secretary was that, while he could apparently recognise an elephant, he could not recognise a whale when he saw it.
In the result, of course, the experts in every country showed conclusively that the weapons that they were interested in were only defensive and could not possibly be aggressive weapons. Instead of adopting the definition of the Treaty of Versailles and sticking to something solid as regards aggressive weapons, the whole thing was thrown into the melting pot by this qualitative disarmament resolution and it gave the technical experts their opportunity, which they used to the full, to defeat any possibility of a disarmament programme. Then there fol- 689 lowed the private talks which the right hon. Gentleman initiated at the Beau Rivage Hotel, which became known the Beau Rivage talks, from which Germany was excluded, and, being excluded, of course she had her suspicions aroused This was in the summer of 1932. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman was, perhaps, staying at the Beau Rivage Hotel. It sounds rather like it. Then there was the Hoover proposal, which amounted, practically speaking, to a cut of a third in capital ships, a third in sub- marines, a quarter in cruisers and a quarter in destroyers, and which would, so far as this country is concerned, have meant a reduction in some 76 units in the Navy. That was rejected and an alternative proposal put up accepting a reduction in submarines, because of course we have always been keen to get rid of the submarine which is the thing we are afraid of. [Interruption.] Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that we are not afraid of submarines?
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I thought it was a matter of the commonest knowledge to everyone in this country that the weapon we were most frightened of was the submarine. Instead of that we proposed the substitution, after 1937, of smaller battleships for those battleships which we have at present.
I promised the right hon. Gentleman that I would let him start as near 20 minutes past ten as I could, and I must, therefore, hurry through the rest of the sad story. [Interruption.] I wish I could complete it, but I am afraid I have not the time. In July, 1932, Germany left the Disarmament Conference, and it was not until December that she came back and in March the Draft Convention was submitted by the Prime Minister, again in our view hopelessly inadequate as regards a basis of disarmament and, in fact, if adopted, leading in the net result to the rearmament of Germany. It is impossible in the time to criticise it detail by detail. I must finish up by dealing with the main underlying point which we say has been missed by the Government and to which I would ask the right hon. 690 Gentleman to give us an answer. Is this country prepared, either as regards the definition of the aggressor or the taking of action against the aggressor, to sacrifice its own individual right to decide its own individual action? If it is not, if it insists on maintaining its individual rights in all circumstances, the League of Nations, the collective peace system and the whole of the rest of it is absolutely useless.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I am saying that, unless the Government are prepared to accept the position as regards aggressor and aggression under the Disarmament Conference, the League of Nations will be of no use. You will not be able to support the collective peace system in the Covenant of the League unless you are prepared to sacrifice to the idea of the international collective peace system some portion of your own domestic sovereignty. You cannot remain absolutely independent and at liberty to arrive at your own decision in these matters and give that security which is essential if a collective peace system is to work. Where we differ from the attitude which is taken up by the Government is that we believe that that sacrifice must be made in the interests of peace, and that unless this country is prepared to make it—and I quite understand that some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are not—and to say definitely that in these matters it does not want the last word, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested it should have in the Locarno matter, then in our submission the whole of the collective peace system will inevitably fail. Nobody will feel safe in relying upon that peace system if they know that this country or any other country can dodge in or out of it as they wish. For these reasons, which I should like to have been able to elaborate had there been time, we say that His Majesty's Government, whatever their good will and wishes may be, have adopted a policy which has made it impossible to get the security which is necessary if disarmament is to come.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The hon. and learned Gentleman at the beginning of his remarks dealt with, or attempted to deal with, the speech which he made on the subject of Britain's contribution towards disarmament from which I felt it my duty to quote in the Debate last week, and now that we have heard from the hon. and learned Gentleman there is no difficulty in fixing the facts. First of all, there is no dispute that he did say what I quoted. There is no doubt about it. There is no doubt that that has reference to the Treaty of Versailles. He said that in reference to disarmament:We have done nothing.The hon. and learned Gentleman had an example before him, if he had cared to use it, in the way in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) had dealt with a faulty statement on the same subject. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs made a speech in which he declared and truly declared:Germany disarmed; Britain followed, and even anticipated that process of disarmament, but she stood alone in carrying out her obligations.When I called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that he had not repeated the wording of that exception in favour of his own country in some subsequent declaration, the right hon. Gentleman did what we should expect him to do—what I think we should have expected almost any hon. Member in this House to do—he was ready to admit that he had made a mistake, and he put himself right with the House and the country by a manly admission of the truth. There is, however, another method, and that is the method of trying to brazen it out. The particular method by which the hon. and learned Gentleman is trying to justify his statement is one which is almost more amazing than the original misstatement itself. He tries to excuse his statement by referring to the fact that the actual amount of our annual expenditure expressed in coin of the realm in 1933 is greater than it was in 1914. Then he offers some calculations which are perfectly fantastic and which I will now proceed to try to correct. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
This is a very important Debate and we should get on better if neither side interrupts.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I hope the House will be prepared to listen to these figures. In 1914 the net total Vote for the Navy was £51,500,000. In 1933 the net total Vote for the Navy was £53,500,000, but if you will take the Navy Estimates for 1933, namely, £53,500,000, at pre-war rates and prices the figure will be £34,250,000. Therefore, as regards the Navy, the actual fact is that there is a reduction as compared with the figures of 1914 of approximately 34 per cent. As regards the Army, the net total of the expenditure in 1914 was £28,800,000 and in 1933 it was £37,900,000. You can test these figures either way. While the Army Estimates in 1933 were £37,900,000, if you were to express the 1914 expenditure in present prices it would be over £40,000,000. There is not a vestige of truth in the hon. and learned Member's arithmetical justification if proper calculations are made. One further point, on which I hope to secure the support of everyone. One of the reasons why there has been, on the figures, an apparent increase is that the percentage increase in the remuneration of the men of the Navy, compared with 1914, is 114 per cent., and in the Army about 62 per cent. There is not therefore the faintest shadow of excuse for the statement which the hon. and learned Member made when comparing the expenditure of 1914 with the expenditure of 1933. The total expenditure from 1914 was £80,000,000 and in 1933 £108,000,000. These two figures together alone are sufficient to enable any fair-minded person to see at once that, having regard to the fall in the value of money, there must have been a material reduction in armaments.
I now want to refer to the speech made at the beginning of the Debate by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) and I hope he will excuse me for mentioning a correction, the importance of which he will see. The hon. Member quoted from an Italian newspaper and, by mistake, said that the author of the statement was Signor Grandi. Signor Grandi, as is well known, is the welcome and honoured Ambassador of Italy in this country, and it is my duty to say—and the hon. Member agrees with me—that it was a mistake for him to say that the author was Signor Grandi; it was not Signor Grandi. A more remarkable case of forgetfulness occurred in another portion of the hon. Member's speech. He 693 made an allegation that in some quarters of the House there had been a strong expression of views which amounted to backing Japan against China, and be selected as the particular source of these assertions the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). The hon. Member got quite cross when he was asked to give a quotation. I will give a quotation. The occasion to which the hon. Member was referring was the Debate of 27th February, 1933, in the course of which the right hon. Member for West Birmingham made a very powerful speech which was received with general acceptance in the House. Who followed the right hon. Gentleman in that Debate? It was the hon. Member for Caerphilly.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I can only express my extreme surprise because the sentiments of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham in the speech I refer to dealt with the subject of the Japanese and Chinese situation. Who followed him? It was the hon. Member himself. I will only quote the opening sentence of the speech of the hon. Member for Caerphilly, who immediately followed my right hon. Friend in that Debate:I think the whole Committee will join with me in expressing thanks to the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken on the very valuable contribution he has made to our discussion. The right hon. Gentleman knows that I rarely find myself able to congratulate him upon the sentiments that he expresses, and it is a pleasure therefore to do so to-day."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1933; col. 71, Vol. 275.]I can only say that I hope that the gratification was mutual.
We have also had a very able contribution from the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), and there are one or two things that I should like to say with reference to his speech. The right hon. Gentleman expresses the view that the policy and conduct of the Government in the matter of disarmament has been "inadequate throughout." My right hon. Friend left the Government at the end of September, 1932, and therefore during almost the whole of 1932 we had the full advantage of his co-operation. It is, of course, not the fact that his leaving the Cabinet had anything to do with disarmament; he left it on the fiscal issue. 694 It is natural and pardonable, perhaps, that my right hon. Friend should think that things have gone worse for the country since the country has been deprived of his aid in the Cabinet, but I must make it entirely plain that his colleagues, before they parted with him, took care to ascertain that it was not on the disarmament issue that he was obliged to leave us. As my right hon. Friend said, neither he nor I can go into our Cabinet discussions on that point. But I reflect with some consolation that my right hon. Friend was party to all the Cabinet work on the subject of disarmament right down to the moment when he left us, and that he himself took part as a delegate at Geneva. Therefore, I can only express some respectful surprise that lie now finds it proper or consistent to declare that the work for which he was responsible was "inadequate throughout."
My right hon. Friend, if he will allow me to say so, made a most acute analysis 01 one of the eight items which are listed in this Motion—the item about the international police force, the method, one might suppose, by which the collective peace system is to be sustained. If the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite really takes the view which he appears to take, as to the way to maintain the collective peace system of the world, I am not surprised that he is anxious to insist that we have not reduced our armaments. But there are indeed extremely great difficulties in the way of an international police force. An international force involves an international general staff. But, though a general staff may he international, the individuals who are on the general staff are nationals. The object of a general staff is to make secret plans in advance to meet hypothetical cases, as for example, if you have to put pressure on A, B or C, what is the best way to do it. I must say that I see some difficulty in imagining that distinguished officers coming from country A and country B and country C will continue to work out these plans in complete secrecy, so that they may be used in the only way in which the plan of a general staff can be used, without previous communication, if the occasion unhappily arose.
What exactly the international force is to be composed of, or how it is to act. I have not the least idea. Most people 695 who talk about it think it as an air force. What kind of air machine is suitable for the international police? I cannot conceive of any, except that which is condemned in advance by the first of the eight paragraphs of this Resolution, namely, the sort of machine which drops bombs from the air. I recall and repeat with great pleasure the only joke that was made at Geneva in six months, and it was made by M. Litvinoff. He was discussing this subject and he referred on the one hand to the proposal that there should be an international air force, and on the other hand to suggestions for defining the aggressor. He went on to say that he thought there were certain attractions about the plan but that experience showed that it was very difficult to define which of two people was the aggressor. So he supposed that the idea would be that the international air force would drop bombs, at the beginning of the dispute, on both sides, to make sure that the aggressor was bombed. Anybody who believes in that will vote for the Motion of Censure.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen expressed fears for the working out of a system of budgetary limitation. I do not think my right hon. Friend was quite fair in what he said about that, but after all it is since he left the Government. As a matter of fact this difficult question has been very closely and laboriously examined. There is a great deal in the point made by an hon. Member behind him (Sir B. Peto) that while we in this democratic country have a budgetary system under which we can make quite certain how much is spent on various objects, it is by no means certain that similar figures can easily be ascertained in all the other countries of the world. We have a gentleman here called the Comptroller and Auditor-General who cannot be removed except by a vote of both Houses of Parliament, and whose duty it is to see that every penny that we vote is spent for the purpose for which it is voted. How many other countries have such an official? How many countries may there not be whose expenditure on armaments is to some extent wrapped up in other votes? How do you propose to make sure that countries, some of them unhappily not members of the League of Nations like Russia, are really themselves going to comply with the strict rules which may be drawn up in theory?
696 I hope I shall not be felt to be speaking too well of my own country when I say that one of the prominent facts about this country is that when we have signed a convention which requires that we shall endeavour to apply our local law to carrying it out, such as the Drug Traffic or the White Slave Traffic Conventions, we have really and truly done our utmost to apply that law. If you are going to make a success of budgetary limitation you must be reasonably sure that everyone else will do the same. Therefore, what has been done recently at Geneva, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen may perhaps not have observed, is this. We have urged that we should at any rate make a beginning by having budgetary publicity; that we should get machinery which will bring out the facts as to how much is being spent in the different countries. All that will be necessary if you are going to have budgetary limitation. If you can get such machinery as that working so that the facts will be on the ground and you can see what you have to handle and provide for, then you will have made a very suitable beginning to budgetary limitation.
I regret very much that I must spend a few minutes in going back over some portion of the history of the Disarmament Conference especially as the popular vogue in certain quarters seems to be to say that the account which I gave last week was selective and imperfect. The suggestion is that nothing whatever happened in 1932. Really, we must get some sense of perspective in this matter. The Disarmament Convention that we are all trying to bring about is one of the most complicated tasks in the world. It does not mean that this House, or this Government, or that Opposition is prepared to proclaim certain propositions either in general or in detail. It does not mean the stringing together of seven or eight general headings such as we find in this Motion. It means detailed clauses covering the whole ground accepted by 64 States throughout the world.
When we went to Geneva in February, 1932, there had been a vast amount of work most laboriously done to clear the ground. It was surely right to see whether the scheme, which had been prepared over five and a half years, was one that could be practically applied. I regret very much that by common con- 697 sent it was found not to be as useful as some had hoped, for the reason that it did not contain a single figure, or a single date, or a single size, and because if, indeed, it had been accepted, it would have maintained the differential provisions as regards armaments of the Treaty of Versailles. It is true that, as the hon. and learned Gentleman said, the United Kingdom put forward the proposal for qualitative disarmament, but I should like to ask: Is that a proposal which is regarded as useless, futile, and misleading? Let me remind the House that some 15 months later, in May, 1933, President Roosevelt issued a Message addressed to the heads of 54 States of the world taking part in the Disarmament Conference, and this is a sentence from his Message:If all nations agree wholly to eliminate from their possession and use weapons which make possible successful attack, defences automatically will become impregnable, and the frontiers and independence of every nation will he secure. The ultimate object of the Disarmament Conference must be the complete elimination of all offensive weapons. The immediate objective is a substantial reduction of some of these weapons and the elimination of many others.That is the solemn declaration of the President of the United States, in May of this year, and I should have thought it was very good common sense. I am not dealing in the language of complacency—everyone seems to think that because you do not fall into hysterics, you are complacent—but I am entitled to say that that very proposition, worked out with a good deal more detail, was laid before the Disarmament Conference by the United Kingdom Government, not in May, 1933, but in February, 1932. Then came, in July, a declaration of British disarmament policy, which is Command Paper 4,122. There may be hon. Members in this House who think that that declaration did not go far enough. I am very willing indeed to listen patiently to that criticism, but I must point out to them that it was a declaration that went a, great deal further than many other States at Geneva were prepared to go. Frankly, our object in this matter is to try to propose a basis upon which agreement is possible, and we repudiate altogether the idea which is found in the always welcome speeches of the Leader of the Opposition, that we should go on disarming, disarming, disarming, whatever other people do.
698 The proposal which we made in July, 1932, was such strong meat for the Disarmament Conference that before it could be put into a resolution, it had been whittled down into the meagre language of a resolution which anyone can find on the records, and it was that meagre shadow of the British proposal which immediately preceded Germany's first withdrawal from the conference. I do not consider, looking back, that that was in any way the fault of this country. We insisted, though Germany had gone, that an adequate scheme must contain more drastic measures. There was a declaration—the date was the 17th November, 1932, and it is Command Paper 4,189, which can be obtained in the Vote Office—and it was that declaration and the negotiations which followed it which brought Germany back into the Disarmament Conference in December, 1932.
The other criticism which is made, and which I want to clear out of the way, is this, that we have departed from the British draft of March, 1933, and substituted some other and conflicting document. This is the true relation between the British Draft and the Report of the Bureau of 14th October. We have never abandoned the British Plan; the plan, however, became so overloaded with reservations and qualifications by other people that the Conference itself determined that it could not go on until those modifications had been sifted. The Conference itself adjourned in the month of June in order to give opportunity for conversations to be held between the various interested parties. The Bureau was to meet on 14th October to hear the result of those conversations. That is not a case of substituting one draft for another. It is a complete confusion to treat it as if it were the introduction of a rival or contradictory plan. What was presented was a Report confirmed by a series of other States as to the trend of suggestions made for modification. The British Government was not the author of those modifications. The part which we played—the part which we were asked to play—was to try to arrive objectively at a judgment of what was the greatest common measure of opinion in the light of the actual situation.
Can it be disputed that the actual situation had become seriously overcast by recent German declarations? I 699 recall, and other hon. Members will, I dare say, recall, a Debate here last May—which was two months after the British Draft Convention was presented, in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham West took part and in which, I recall, my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) spoke for hon. Members below the Gangway on this side. What was then said by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland is exactly in point. This reflected last May, not merely the attitude of my hon. Friends there, but the general feeling in the House. He said:The attitude that Germany, unfortunately, adopted recently, had the most disastrous results. France, who was beginning to look at things in what the Englishman is inclined to call a more reasonable light, immediately took fright again. This country, which had growing feelings of amity and friendship towards Germany, was horrified at what took place and drew hack. We have had the speech of the Chancellor, which has indicated to the world that the attitude of Germany is not to be what we feared it might be, and we can only hope that what the speech of the Chancellor does really indicate is what the attitude of the German nation is to he, and that that speech will be translated into effect, and will not merely remain in high phrases."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th May, 1433; col. 1478, Vol. 278.]Thereupon it was confirmed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen himself.
The real situation was this. When we were invited to consider what were the possible adjustments of this Plan which might commend themselves to a large number of Powers, we were dealing with a situation which, whether we liked it or not, had changed for the worse, and inasmuch as the only thing which we can hope to do at Geneva is to make proposals which may meet with general agreement, it is not a case of proposing a different Plan. We were merely concerned in working out for the Conference as a whole, with the assistance of others, a scheme of discussion with Germany on lines which we thought might be acceptable. I should be glad, if I had time, to point out further the complete confusion that exists if everyone imagines that we were proposing to deny Germany equality rights. It is utterly fallacious to suppose that we were imposing upon Germany in the first instance what is called a "period of trial." Of course, if supervision were 700 only going to apply to one Power, then that would be a period of probation; but it was not. All the other countries were bound by terms which were supposed to operate in the first place. Thay were not to increase their armaments to any degree; they were, in the case of continental Powers to transform their own armies with the result that France, for example, would very considerably reduce her military strength. The whole subject from beginning to end is misunderstood if it is imagined that we are trying to substitute a new draft for an old one.
Very little has been said in this Debate about what is the kernel of the Motion, namely, the eight propositions which are formulated. When I read them, I felt that I had made a mistake when I referred the hon. and learned Gentleman the other day to Gilbert and Sullivans "Mikado." The right reference would have been to another of those musical comedies, namely, "Utopia, Limited." What we are engaged in is not to strike an attitude, but to get agreement, and for that action we have to take a more sensible line. We want a Disarmament Convention. That has been our object throughout. That was the purpose of our Draft Convention. We hoped, and we still hope, to secure by negotiations in this first stage that there might be established an equality for Germany by coming down as near as possible, and perhaps very close, to the present German level. But the broad point is this. What is the alternative to international agreement? It is no agreement. And what is going to happen then? That will get us back not only behind the British Draft Convention, but behind the disarmament discussions altogether. We can only succeed by getting the world to act with us. The fundamental danger is differential treatment. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has completed only two volumes of his war recollections, we do not know yet who is responsible for the Treaty of Versailles. In the meantime, it seems to me that the only sensible basis of policy in this matter is to remember that wise French saying:La politique est l'art du possible.It is no good trying to perform the impossible in order to comfort your own moral sense. What we have to do is to strive by every possible means to secure agreement, to try for the reduction of 701 world armaments to the lowest possible measure, and to secure limitation of armaments in every country of the world in an agreement into which every country voluntarily enters.
This is a Vote of Censure, though a very odd one. It is put down to get discussion much like an hon. Member gets up and says, "On a point of Order," while it is not a point of Order, and he only wants to interrupt. I am entitled to appeal to the House, and I appeal to it now, to give the Government its support in the Division, for I claim that if this record is fairly considered it will be seen that in the face of difficulties innumerable we have with constancy and courage pursued the course we will continue to pursue: that is, to leave no stone unturned to secure for the world the enormous benefit which international disarmament accomplished by world agreement would bestow upon us and our children.
That this House regrets that the strong desire of the country for international
§ agreement on disarmament has not been reflected in the policy pursued by His Majesty's Government at the Disarmament Conference and, realising the growing opinion in favour of the total disarmament of all nations throughout the world, this House calls upon the Government to submit to the Conference proposals for—
- (a) the complete abandonment of all air bombing;
- (b) the general abolition of all weapons at present forbidden to Germany by the Treaty of Versailles, namely, tanks, heavy artillery, capital ships, aircraft carriers, submarines, and all naval and military aircraft;
- (c) the international control of civil aviation;
- (d) an immediate reduction by all nations in their expenditure upon armaments;
- (e) the suppression of all private manufacture and trade in armaments;
- (f) international inspection and control of armaments in all countries;
- (g) the creation of an international police force; and
- (h) the definition of aggression on the basis of the proposals made by the Conference Committee."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 54; Noes, 409.705
|Division No. 301.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maxton, James|
|Banfield, John William||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Milner, Major James|
|Batey, Joseph||Groves, Thomas E.||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hicks, Ernest George||Price, Gabriel|
|Buchanan, George||Jenkins, Sir William||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Thorne, William James|
|Cove, William G.||Kirkwood, David||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Daggar, George||Lawson, John James||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Leonard, William||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, Rhvs John (Westhoughton)||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Dobbie, William||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Edwards, Charles||Lunn, William||Wilmot, John Charles|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||McGovern, John||Mr. John and Mr. D. Graham.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Brass, Captain Sir William|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Briscoe, Capt. Richard George|
|Albery, Irving James||Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm Ih.C.)||Broadbent, Colonel John|
|Alexander, Sir William||Belt, Sir Alfred L||Brocklebank, C. E. R.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Brown, Ernest (Leith)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Bernays, Robert||Brown.Brig.-Gen.H. C(Berk.,Newb'y)|
|Anstruther-Gray. W. J.||Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Browne, Captain A. C.|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reqlnald V. K.||Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Buchan, John|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G T.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Blaker, Sir Reginald||Bullock, Captain Malcolm|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Bossom, A. C.||Burgln, Dr. Edward Leslie|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Boulton, W. W.||Burton, Colonel Henry Walter|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Butler, Richard Austen|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Butt, Sir Alfred|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Cadogan, Hon. Edward|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Boyce, H. Leslie||Caine, G. R. Hall-|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Bracken, Brendan||Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm|
|Bateman, A. L.||Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Caporn, Arthur Cecil|
|Carver, Major William H.||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.|
|Cassels, James Dale||Gower, Sir Robert||Lyons, Abraham Montagu|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Mabane, William|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Granville, Edgar||MacAndrew, Lt.-Col C. G. (Partick)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Chamberlain, Rt.Hon.Sir J.A.(Blrm.,W)||Graves, Marjorle||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Chamberlain. Rt. Hon. N.(Edgbaston)||Grenfell, E. C.(City of London)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Chapman, Col.R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Grigg, Sir Edward||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Christie, James Archibald||Grimston, R. V.||McEwen, Captain J. H.F.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Gritten, W. G. Howard||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||McLean, Major Sir Alan|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Gunston, Captain D. W.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Colman, N. C. D||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Macmillan, Maurice Harold|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. Sir Ian|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Hamilton, Sir Georqe (llford)||Magnay, Thomas|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Hammersley, Samuel S.||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Cooke, Douglas||Hanbury. Cecil||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hanley, Dennis A.||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Copeland, Ida||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Harbord, Arthur||Mayhew, Lieut. Colonel John|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Meller, Sir Richard James|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)|
|Cranborne, viscount||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Milne, Charles|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tl'd & Chisw'k)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Strealham)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Heneage, Lleut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Mitcheson, G. G.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Hepworth, Joseph||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)|
|Cross. R. H.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Moreing, Adrian C.|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Morgan, Robert H.|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Hore-Bellsha, Leslie||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hornby, Frank||Morrison William Shephard|
|Davidson Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Horobin, Ian M.||Moss, Captain H. J.|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Howard, Tom Forrest||Munro, Patrick|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Murray-Phillipson, Hylton Ralph|
|Dawson, Sir Phillip||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney,N.)||Nail, Sir Joseph|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Nall-Cain, Hon. Ronald|
|Denville, Alfred||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.|
|Dickie, John P.||Hurd, Sir Percy||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Dixey, Arthur C. N||Hurst, Sir Geraid B.||Nicholson, Rt. Hon. W. G (Petersf'ld)|
|Donner, P. W.||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)||Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid|
|Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||North, Edward T.|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Iveagh, Countess of||Nunn, William|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||O'Connor, Terence James|
|Duggan, Hubert John||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||O'Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Jamieson, Douqlas||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Eales, John Frederick||Jennings, Roland||O'Neill. Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Eden, Robert Anthony||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Edmondson, Major A. J,||Johnston. J. W. (Clackmannan)||Peake, Captain Osbert|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Pearson, William G.|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Peat, Charles U.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Ker, J. Campbell||Penny, sir George|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Emrys-Evans., P. V.||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Kimbali, Lawrence||Petherick. M.|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Knight, Holford||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Erskine-Boist, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada|
|Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Pike, Cecll F.|
|Falie, Sir Bertram G.||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Potter, John|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Law, Sir Alfred||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Leckle, J. A.||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Flint, Abraham John||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Lees-Jones, John||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Leiqh, Sir John||Purbrlck, R.|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Lennox-Boyd. A. T.||Pybus, Percy John|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Levy, Thomas||Ralkes. Henry V. A. M.|
|Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Lewis, Oswald||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)|
|Gauit, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Lindsay, Kenneth Martin (Kllm'rnock)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Gibson, Charles Granville||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunllffe-||Rankin, Robert|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Ratclifte, Arthur|
|Gledhill, Gilbert||Lieweilln, Major John J.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Ray, Sir William|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Locker-Lampson. Rt. Hn. G. (Wd.Gr'n)||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney. C.)||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-|
|Goff, Sir Park||Lockwood, Capt, J. H. (Shipley)||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Goldie, Noel B.||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Somervell, Sir Donald||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Remer, John R.||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wlck-on-T.)|
|Rentoul Sir Gervals S.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Soper, Richard||Train, John|
|Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Ross, Ronald D.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Runge, Norah Cecil||Spens, William Patrick||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield,B'tside)||Stevenson, James||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Salmon, Sir Isidore||Stones, James||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Salt, Edward W.||Storey, Samuel||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Stourton, Hon. John J.||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Strauss, Edward A.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Strickland, Captain W. F.||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Savery, Samuel Servington||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Scone, Lord||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Selley, Harry R.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Summersby, Charles H.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Sutcliffe, Harold||Womersley, Walter James|
|Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E.A.(P'dd'gt'n,S.)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Simmonds, Oliver Edwin||Templeton, William P.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'V'noaks)|
|Slater, John||Thompson, Luke|
|Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.|
|Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Thorp, Linton Theodore||Captain Margesson and Mr. Blindell.|
§ The Orders of the Day were read, and postponed.