HC Deb 06 February 1934 vol 285 cc985-1108

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Margesson.]

3.40 p.m.


I will endeavour, Sir, to comply not only with the spirit of your suggestion, but with the wishes just voiced by my hon. and gallant Friend opposite, and, whether in the character of a Privy Councillor, of a Front Bencher, or of an alleged leader of an alleged party, compress what I have to say into the shortest possible space of time, because I desire to make as good a speech as I can. I am afraid, however, that it will hardly be possible to undertake to sit down in 10 minutes by the Clock.

The last date when disarmament was discussed in this House was the 21st December, on the Motion for the Christmas Adjournment. Hon. Members may recall that I then had to point out that, though it was natural enough that, the question should be raised on the eve of the Recess, the moment was not then opportune for a Government declaration. That was not due to any preference for being secretive or to any desire to treat the topic of international disarmament, which closely affects every man, woman and child, as though it were a mystery unfit for profane ears. It was simply due to the fact that in the third week of December last diplomatic exchanges were actually going on which were being treated by other Governments as confidential until they were concluded, and because the best hope of promoting agreement was to avoid any hardening of the attitude of different parties by premature disclosure when there was still a prospect that adverse points of view would approach one another and be further modified.

Now the situation has changed, it has developed, and candid examination of the present position is not only possible, but may well be useful, and I have no doubt many hon. Members of the House will contribute what they have to say this afternoon. Not all the earlier exchanges between Governments have been made public, though the substance of some communications in the month of December has appeared in the Press. But four very important documents of later date have now been textually published, and I have no doubt that, if it is the desire of the House, those from foreign Governments could be included in a White Paper. These four important documents may be treated as summing up the present points of view of the four Governments which have been principally concerned in these recent conversations.

I will tell the House what these four published documents are. There is, first, the last French Memorandum—there were earlier ones that have not been published—handed to the German Government by the French Ambassador in Berlin on the 1st January, a Memorandum which was published by the French Government, with the consent of the German Government, exactly a month later, on the 1st February. Secondly, there is the German reply to that document, a reply that was dated the 19th January and was made public in Berlin on the 3rd February. A full summary of it appeared in the "Times" newspaper yesterday. Thirdly, there is the Italian document, published on the 31st January, which follows the general lines of a Memorandum which was shown to me confidentially by Signor Mussolini in Rome on the 3rd January, though it was not exactly in the same terms. It had been somewhat modified. Lastly, there is our own document, dated the 29th January, which was handed to the German Chancellor in Berlin before he spoke in the Reichstag the next day, and was at the same time confidentially supplied to the French and Italian Governments.

Those are the four documents which may be regarded as forming the basis of our discussion to-day, and the House may have noted that Chancellor Hitler, in his speech last Tuesday, after he had received the British document and had had time to study it, made a reference to it in these words: We welcome gratefully the efforts made by the British Government to help in opening the way to more friendly relations. The Memorandum, which was handed to me yesterday by the British Ambassador, will be examined by us with the greatest good will, in the spirit that I have tried to define as the spirit which controls our foreign policy. Then, after Chancellor Hitler had made his speech, and after Signor Mussolini had taken the opportunity of publishing his own Memorandum the next day, then, as the House knows, the British Memorandum was published as a White Paper, and it has been in the hands of hon. Members and the public for the best part of a week.

Before coming to the British Memorandum, it will be convenient if I indicate briefly to the House some impressions which we were led to form on studying the series of documents and communications proceeding from other countries and certain answers which had been given to ourselves. We must get the setting right before we can judge the merits or demerits of the British Memorandum. Those impressions, I think I can satisfy the House, at once explain and justify the publication of the British Memorandum. I will mention two points. First of all, I can assure the House that the periods, of confidential, bilateral interchange have been useful, but, useful as they have been, it did appear to us that after this method had been pursued for some six weeks or two months it was in danger of exhausting its utility. We never imagined that it was the substitute for a more general discussion. It was merely a method, a possible method, of approach. Secondly, we formed this clear conclusion, that although differences, even serious differences, still existed, still there was a greater approach to common ground and sufficient encouragement to justify a new effort at reconciliation on our own part.

Let me just explain those two points a little further. In the first place, as I have just said, we are satisfied that this method of diplomatic exchanges has at this stage of the Conference proved definitely useful. This is what it has done. It has brought out, not only points of difference, but points of agreement, and it has brought out clear explanations on points of doubt which certainly would not have been obtained otherwise. It would, therefore, be a complete misunderstanding to say that, because this method has not produced actual agreement, the method has been useless and a waste of time. Secondly, these recent exchanges have brought out in the clearest way how the key to a dis- armament arrangement lies in the finding of an accommodation between France and Germany.

But it is a very great mistake to base oneself on that undoubted fact and draw a false inference from it. It is a great mistake to draw from that fact the conclusion that a Franco-German Agreement is most likely to be promoted and reached by leaving France and Germany to argue it out between themselves without any assistance. The interest of other nations in the regulation of armaments and the avoidance of a new armaments race is so great that any State which can do anything towards helping agreement along is bound to do its utmost both to compose the differences of others, and to contribute what it can of itself. In our case our own country has a special interest and a special connection in this matter. It has a special interest, for it is certain that if a satisfactory Disarmament Agreement cannot be promptly arrived at we shall have to face the question of the state of our own armaments which stand at a level which will have to be re-examined if we are to live in a world of unlimited re-armament.

We have a special connection with this matter too. We have a special connection with these efforts at reconciliation, because we are the authors of the Draft Convention which was put before the Disarmament Conference nearly a year ago, and which still remains the basis upon which a Convention may be framed if the necessary adjustments can be promptly arived at. Hon. Members will have observed in the White Paper the statement that His Majesty's Government have never departed from the principles and purposes of the Draft Convention, though they have always recognised that it might call for agreed modifications. It is worth noticing that in the French Memorandum of the 1st January France twice refers to this British plan as the basis and describes her own suggestions as adjustments of the British plan—aménagements is the word she uses.

If we come more closely to these recent discussions, I would like to call the attention of the House to two or three points. First, there is no controversy at all that Germany would be prepared in a Convention to transform her long term professional highly trained army into a short service force. There is a difference of view as to what the size of the new army should be. Germany has claimed that, having regard, among other things, to the length of her frontiers and her geographical position, her new army should consist of 300,000 men recruited on the basis of 12 months' service. One of the reasons which Germany advances for so large a figure is the present size of the armies of her neighbours, and one expects therefore that the figure may be revised if those other armies are reduced. Signor Mussolini in the Italian document to which I have referred makes this very point. I will read a sentence. He says: It should be borne in mind that the German claim for an average daily effective force of 300,000 men is governed by the hypothesis that other armed Powers do not reduce their effectives to the figures put forward in the MacDonald plan but keep to their present figures. He goes on: If it were found preferable to face the problem of reduction, Germany declares herself ready to rediscuss the figure given above. I think that is worth noting. This figure of 300,000, of course, contrasts with the figure of 200,000 on the basis of eight months' service which is contained in the Draft Convention put forward by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on behalf of the British Government in March last. These are some of the impressions which hon. Members will gain if they study the documents to which I have referred.

Let me briefly indicate some of the points made in the documents from the French side. We have to look at both sides. It is no good pursuing the process of trying to persuade others unless all the time we have both sides of the problem before us. France insists on the absolute necessity of adequate supervision by which she means the application of a system of international control which would be what is called periodic and automatic, so as to secure that the limitations laid down in the Convention are being observed. On that point it is satisfactory to know from these recent documents that Germany agrees, provided that control is international and is identical. I do not think we can expect her to accept some specialised control. On the other hand, she says openly, boldly and without qualification that she is prepared to submit, if others will do the same, to an adequate system of international control which will be periodic and automatic; that is to say, which will come into operation, not because one side lays a charge against another, but because the Permanent Disarmament Commission itself organises a continuous system of supervision. I think that the House will see that this position is one that, having regard to our position and traditions, is not easy to accept. There are many technical difficulties to be surmounted. Hon. Members will have noticed that in this White Paper we have in very plain terms stated in paragraph 18: His Majesty's Government are well aware of the great importance attached by various Governments to the institution of a system of permanent and automatic supervision to control the observance of the Disarmament Convention. There is obviously a close connection between mutual agreement about levels of armament and a system of adequate international supervision. There are, however, many technical difficulties which arise in this connection and which must be practically met. His Majesty's Government affirm their willingness, if general agreement is reached on all other issues, to agree to the application of a system of permanent and automatic supervision, to come into force with the obligations of the Convention. Then again, France makes the point in her document—a perfectly fair point—that in reckoning effectives the existence of what are called para-military forces cannot be left out of account. That is a very serious point which will require adequate provision. Running through the French case is a preoccupation of great importance for us all, as to which I will say something in a few minutes, namely, the provision of security. I have tried to put to the House as plainly and as fairly as I can a sketch of the documents out of which the British Memorandum emerges.

Now I will take our own document. Hon. Members have, I am sure, read it and studied it, and I shall not therefore be long about it. I would like to make three points of a general kind about the British Memorandum. The first point is this: The British Memorandum is not a document putting forward some ideal plan without regard to the needs, or the claims, or the anxieties of others. Quite deliberately we make our choice, and we believe that we shall do more to help on this vital matter if we approach the actual situation in a spirit of realism. More than two years have passed since the Disarmament Conference first assembled. Time is running against the friends of disarmament. Brave words may be more exhilarating, but they are less useful, and this is not a unilateral declaration containing what may give great satisfaction in certain undoubtedly sincere quarters, but it is an attempt to provide a basis for prompt agreement. Idealism is the steam without which no great instrument of reform can proceed, but though it may be the steam of the locomotive, we shall not make any progress by merely blowing off steam, and here we have deliberately faced the facts as we find them and the difficulties as we know them, and the Memorandum must be studied in that spirit.

In the second place, approaching the whole thing in a spirit of realism we reach—I ask hon. Members to give special attention to this—the inevitable deduction from two propositions, neither of which can be effectively challenged. The first proposition is that Germany's claim to equality of rights in the matter of armaments cannot be resisted, and ought not to be resisted.


Why not?


For the reason which, I think, will be the first to appeal to any Scotsman, that there is little likelihood of peace in the world if you try to put any country or race under an inferior jurisdiction. I am meaning, of course, that that is a situation to be met in a new Convention, and if you are going to negotiate a new treaty, I think it must be on that basis. Secondly, no practical solution can be found on the basis that all nations throughout the world immediately abandon all weapons denied to Germany by the Treaty of Versailles. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] I hear an hon. Member say "Why not?" I reply to him by saying that if anyone pretends or professes that this is the immediate practical solution, well, then, he is preferring the luxury of his own illusions to the opportunity of supporting a practical plan. If those two propositions are correct, if you are going to negotiate a new Convention, you will have to recognise the equality of rights, and you must face the fact whether you like it or not, that you cannot bring everybody down at once to the level permitted in the Peace Treaties. Then what is to be the conclusion? There is only one possible conclusion, and the conclusion to those two propositions, it appears to me, is that in a new Convention you will have to face some rearmament by Germany. We should recognise that that conclusion does flow from both, and proceed without delay to negotiate a treaty on that basis.

There is a third general proposition. It is the question as to whether the heavily armed Powers are simply going to hold all the armaments they have, or whether it is possible to combine with other features in the Treaty provisions which will, according to a programme, as I stated, effect some reduction in the armaments of highly armed Powers. In other words, we have our choice—no reduction in armaments at all, or a Treaty which provides for some moderate, reasonable programme of the abandonment of the very biggest weapons by the most heavily armed Powers. Germany, in her document, assumes the first. Italy, in her document, regretfully contemplates that possibility. I have to say, on behalf of the British Government, that His Majesty's Government would view, not only with reluctance but with repugnance, a settlement which provided, it might be, for equality of rights, but provided for it without any reduction of armaments in any part of the world. We are bound to resist so melancholy a conclusion with all our might. The object of this Memorandum is to show how it is possible for highly armed Powers progressively to get rid of their heaviest weapons.

I must not detain the House for more than a few minutes—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on!"]—but perhaps it will avoid misunderstanding if I make one or two additional remarks. If the hon. Members will look at the Memorandum, they will see, in paragraph 8, which contains a second and more detailed part of the document, reference to the three heads of security, equality of rights and disarmament, and, of course, it is very necessary to see how far the British Memorandum carries out those three principles in the proposals which follow. As regards effectives, His Majesty's Government insist on the principle of parity between the home forces of France, Germany, Italy and Poland. That was the principle of the British Draft Convention, which both France and Germany in principle approved. In regard to land war materials, we would be prepared, for the sake of agreement, to accept Germany's own proposals as to how her short-service army should be equipped. Let me point out to the House that it is a mistake to suppose that we have conceded, or, indeed, that Germany suggests, the authorisation of further weapons to the existing German military organisation. It is as the new army proceeds to become embodied, and as the old army proceeds to be disbanded, step by step, that you will gradually get, according to this scheme, the provision of the weapons which Germany proposes. It should be equipped—so Germany claims—with certain additional mobile guns. To our regret, the figure which is approved by some other Powers, as well as demanded by Germany, is 155 millimetres. As regards tanks, Germany has declared in express terms that she asks for no tanks except some up to six tons, and as regards tanks our proposals reassert that which was suggested in the British Draft Convention, namely, that there should be a tank inquiry, a further international examination to take place within three years, in which, of course, Germany would have a part.

In regard to air arms, it is true that His Majesty's Government urge that the States at present not entitled to possess military aircraft should not claim this right pending the result of the inquiry into the possibility of the complete abolition of military aircraft, which was proposed, and very largely supported, in the Draft Convention. I wish to say that it does seem to His Majesty's Government that if Germany were to be given permission to set up a military air force at the very moment when the possibility of complete abolition is being discussed, that manifestly would not be to the advantage of that most important investigation. Germany, with her vast, highly developed civil aviation could play, of course, an important part, but we provide that if at the end of the two years a decision has not been reached on the question of abolition, then, undoubtedly, it is necessary to face facts as they will be, and this is a change in regard to the Convention. While the Draft Convention made no provision for military aircraft for Germany during the five years' life of the Convention, the Memorandum, having regard to what has passed since, lays down that if absolute abolition of military aircraft is not reached at the end of two years, Germany will be entitled to begin building military aircraft herself, and during the next eight years the necessary reduction or increase will take place, and the principal air Powers will reach equality in military aircraft. I do not wish to spend more time on that point now, but it is one of very great difficulty and of immense importance.

Then I would draw special attention to the British proposals in regard to para-military formation, that is to say, military training outside the army of men of military age. Obviously if such training—military training—were widely indulged in abroad, the careful provision about the number of effectives would be waste paper. The Memorandum does not lay down a cast-iron definition as to what constitutes military training. We feel that this is a question which must be settled on practical lines in an atmosphere of good faith by the permanent Disarmament Commission and its advisers. Herr Hitler has promised to provide full proof to the Supervisory Committee of the non-military character of the bodies referred to, including the Labour Corps, and His Majesty's Government feel that it is essential to a settlement that any doubts in regard to these matters should be settled and kept at rest, and they entirely concur that the question of effectives and para-military training are closely inter-connected.

I desire to say a word about security. If hon. Members will look at paragraph 9 of the Memorandum they will see what the proposals of His Majesty's Government are. They will see that, in addition to what is already contained in the Draft Convention, we propose further Articles which are printed at the bottom of the page, and I hope everybody will study them. I may be asked, Is this a new commitment? If by a "new commitment" is meant a new undertaking given in advance to adopt a definite repressive action in ignorance of the circumstances hereafter arising which may be alleged to call for it, the answer is "No." This country will do its utmost faithfully to fulfil any obligations, and, indeed, its authority in the world would not be strengthened by casting any doubts on our intentions, or on the validity of those obligations. But it is not the Anglo-Saxon habit—that applies to America as well as to ourselves—to make defined engagements for undefined circumstances. We are entitled to say that our past history shows that when the occasion arises this country has not been found wanting. But if a Convention can be negotiated and signed, as we are prepared to sign it, which contains the provisions set out in our Memorandum under the head of "Security," then we are confident that a very material addition will have been made to the influences and forces which buttress the Convention and secure its loyal observance. I venture to repeat here, on behalf of the Government, the words in paragraph 9: The insertion of these articles would, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, emphasise the inescapable duty of all signatories of the Convention to keep in the closest touch with one another, and to do whatever is right and possible to prevent or remedy any violation of so important an international treaty. In addition to that, the paragraph calls attention to the non-aggression pacts which Herr Hitler is prepared to enter into, and since that declaration of the Chancellor was made we must take due notice of the fact that a very effective non-aggression pact has been negotiated between Germany and Poland. Obviously, again on the subject of security, it is very material to consider what I have said about supervision. I hope that a careful study of this Memorandum will convince our fellow-citizens and others throughout the world who are keen supporters of the reduction of armaments that our new proposals constitute a really serious advance. This advance consists largely, it is true, in formulating very definitely how disarmament can begin at once. In this connection it should be remembered that by the end of the first year the heaviest guns and heaviest tanks are intended to be abolishd. No such heavy weapons could in future be constructed or acquired. The same thing applies to aircraft. The British Draft Convention would secure that at least half the military aircraft of the world above the unladen weight of three tons must be de- stroyed, and no others of that type constructed or acquired by the middle of 1936; but quite apart from the definite prohibitions and destructions provided for there is the provision for the tank inquiry and for the aeroplane inquiry to which I have already called attention; and I maintain that His Majesty's Government have shown in this document the utmost limits of what is possible through strong but practical support of the cause of disarmament. They have endeavoured to go into the question and to sympathise with the points of view of many countries of the world. They have tried to set them down in a form which they consider fair, and they hope others may consider acceptable, and if such a Convention could be reached, ratified, brought into force and observed, then it would be beyond all question not only a provision for the next 10 years in which we might place some strong, clear hope, but the beginning of, probably, greater things in the future.

I shall be asked, What is the next step, what are you going to do now? It is all very well to have this document distributed, but what is to happen next? The Government have caused this Memorandum to be communicated to all the countries represented at the Disarmament Conference, and we hope that it may be widely regarded as providing the best basis for agreement. More particularly, we are concerned to urge the conclusions at which we have arrived upon the other States with which we have recently been in especially close communication. It is difficult, except by personal contact, to make sure that the intention and purpose of a necessarily elaborate State document like this is completely understood abroad, or to make sure that we in our turn, fully grasp the central points of difficulty which we are doing our utmost to meet. It is still more difficult to form what I may call the comparative view, the view which we get in contact with other nations, the comparative view which is gained by giving and receiving explanations in each of the principal capitals in turn. His Majesty's Government therefore intend to follow up the issue of this Memorandum by arranging for my hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal to visit Paris, Rome and Berlin as soon as possible for the purpose of explaining our point of view, and of learning by direct contact what is the attitude of other Governments to our Memorandum, in order that when we have my hon. Friend's report the next step may be decided upon and undertaken with that knowledge. It had been intended that the Lord Privy Seal should start on his mission immediately, but the French Government are, for the moment, much occupied with the domestic situation, and we must consult them as to the earliest date on which this visit would be convenient. Directly the situation becomes favourable for it, we shall invite the French and other Governments to concur in the action which we propose.

I do not think that the step I have just indicated calls for any defence. I believe it to be supported by the whole House. In the matter of disarmament every increased delay makes the solution more difficult. Everything must be done, therefore, not only to improve the chances of decision but to accelerate them. The British Government have thrown all their efforts, all their energy, into the pursuit of this objective, and the White Paper indicates very clearly how completely we realise the gravity of the situation which will result if agreement is not promptly attained. I would ask the House to observe that if, indeed, the world is to be thrown into a competition of unrestricted armaments, well, we must face that eventuality and act accordingly; but our first duty is to do all that lies in our power, as we are doing, to formulate and press upon others the best practicable basis for general agreement. In the troublous times through which we are passing Britain has the advantage of a free Parliament and a stable Government. There are many parts of the world which cannot make that double claim. Our responsibility and our moral authority in the councils of the nations are immeasurably enhanced by that fact. More than that, our right to speak, our duty to give a further lead, is reinforced by the fact that we have offered the most striking proof to the world of our good faith. We, at any rate, have, not under compulsion, but voluntarily, translated the desire for disarmament from words into deeds. I trust the course and outcome of this Debate may be to show that the Government have truly interpreted the united resolve of Britain to do everything that can be done to bring about, in spite of all difficulties, international agreement about armaments, to strengthen in every possible practical way the peace structure of the world, and so to deliver ourselves and others from the dangers and the burden that would follow on final failure to agree.

4.27 p.m.


On this side of the House we never professed to be satisfied with the proposals of the Draft Disarmament Convention, and we are certainly not the slightest bit inclined to be satisfied with the new Memorandum put before us to-day. The Foreign Secretary has said that the Government are realists and, indeed, this document says the same thing. It says that they cannot move according to their own volition and get what they want, but have to get a measure of agreement and so forth, have, in fact, to deal with conditions as they find them. But we have to see how far they have made those conditions themselves, and when we come to this document, which seems to me a most lamentable production as the result of deliberations on disarmament, we have to realise how far this result is due to the past failures of this Government as well as of other Governments. There are one or two things that I agree with in what is said in this Memorandum on Disarmament. The first sentence I would call attention to says: His Majesty's Government regard agreement about armaments not as an end in itself, but rather as a concomitant of world peace. And, further, they say: Protracted debates on disarmament in its limited and purely technical aspect can lead to no conclusion, unless wider considerations touching equality and the security, of nations are borne in mind and provided for. The right hon. Gentleman has dealt with this document. He seemed to me to deal more with the disarmament side than with the other parts of the wider considerations, particularly with the consideration relating to disarmament. The Foreign Secretary told us that the one great and important thing was security and then he passed to other matters. It seemed almost as if security was to be left out altogether, but it came in, just towards the end, for an extraordinarily inadequate treatment.

I want to deal with these three points put forward in this White Paper, security, equality of rights and disarmament. I propose to treat them in a reverse order. We have, in these discussions, a gradual change of terminology. Once we talked of disarmament solely; then there were brought in questions of possible rearmament, and now we come down, in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, to regulation of armaments and to rearmament. We started on a basis that the world was to disarm. We are now told that there is no possibility of any immediate abandonment of the weapons which were forbidden to the disarmed Powers because they were offensive weapons. We are told that such a solution is unobtainable and impracticable at the present time. The White Paper is rather reticent as to why the solution is unobtainable. It does not tell us that it was proposed by the United States Government, by Italy and by Russia, and that it was steadily opposed by our own Government. We are merely told that it is unobtainable. Instead of that solution we are, as they say, to come half-way down the stairs and the others are to come half-way up.

As a matter of fact, this Paper is, in the main, a proposal for the rearmament of Germany. First of all, we deal with effectives—an increase. I thought the sentence an extraordinarily naive one in which the Government say that they are particularly glad to be informed that the German Government have freely promised to provide proof, through the medium of control, that the S.A. and the S.S. are not of a military character. I hope that that proof will be very closely looked into. In effect, you are again to say that Germany shall have an army—an increased army—and more guns. The prohibition of anti-aircraft guns disappears. I am always interested in these incidentals. There is to be a commission to consider the abolition of hostile, fighting air forces, but there is so little faith that there are to be special anti-aircraft guns to cover the two years while the commission are deliberating. It is perfectly obvious that the Government do not believe that there is to be abolition of air forces.

We then come to tanks. There have been interesting discussions before, as to whether tanks were offensive weapons and as to what size of tank was to be an offensive weapon. At one time, the size was 16 tons. Now 20 tons is to be allowed for the third year, and 16 tons by the end of the fifth year, while, as a reward for her acquiescence, Germany is to be allowed 6-ton tanks. There is relativity, no doubt, in tanks, but the whole point of forbidding tanks was that there should be no offensive armament, or armament that was deemed only capable of attack. The whole purpose of the convention forbidding offensive armament was to stop sudden attack. If you once admit some offensive weapons, you admit all. If no one is allowed a 30-ton offensive tank, but is allowed to have a 20-ton offensive tank, you have at once allowed the principle of offensive weapons.

Weapons of aggression are, in fact, to be allowed to-day. There are to be bigger guns and anti-aircraft guns—anyway, for two years. I notice that we agree thoroughly with our own proposals under Articles 34 and 41 of the Draft Convention. Bombers are to be allowed for police purposes only. Naval armaments are remitted for further consideration. This document is really a proposal for the rearmament of Germany. The right hon. Gentleman made a great point of the absolute necessity of conceding German equality. He laid it down as if it were one of those axioms that no one could possibly dispute. What struck me was how recent had been his conversion and the conversion of those who applauded him in this House. Germany's position under the Treaty of Versailles has been brought up over and over again, and her claims have been rejected over and over again. It is only now that suddenly a great light has come upon the right hon. Gentleman, and he discovers that it is axiomatic that you must have equality of status.

The right hon. Gentleman is a great lawyer. The question that has been agitating the world since the War is as to whether we are to have the rule of force or the rule of law, and the great lawyer has done more to support the rule of force as against the rule of law than any other Foreign Minister. German equality is conceded too late. It is not conceded to reason; it is conceded to force. What the right hon. Gentleman says, in effect, is that the way to get anything is to leave the Disarmament Conference, go out of the League and talk war, and then you will get concessions. He has done that before. He did that very overturning of the rule of law, in favour of force, over the question of the Far East. It is openly said by the rulers of Germany that the Japanese model is the way to treat the rest of the world. The real failure of the Disarmament Conference is not primarily due to the difficulties of discussion about 60-ton tanks or 30-ton tanks or air forces; it is because there is no acceptance of the principle of the disuse of force altogether in world affairs. It is perfectly clear, if you read this document. One can see it. On page 2 it says: The main objective to which all proposals on this subject are directed …. is, as article 8 of the Covenant declares, the maintenance of peace. Even though increase of armed strength may be actuated by reasons of defence, it is an index of fear of attack from another quarter, and a measure of the alarm and disquiet existing between peoples. I think that it is an index of the lack of faith in the League's system of collective security and in the paper safeguards that were given. That is the real test of security, and is the real test when you look at this document. The right hon. Gentleman says, quite rightly, that France is preoccupied with security. He claims to be a realist. He is not so much a realist as the French people. They want to understand clearly what is meant by security. We have said—and I am not going to repeat it at length—that the whole idea of security went when the world failed to assert itself in the matter of the Sino-Japanese dispute. That meant that there was no trust to be placed in world guarantees. When I spoke on this subject here on 24th November last year, for certain purposes, I was denounced, and so was my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), because we suggested that we had to honour obligations. We were called warmongers. If, in 1914, we had suggested that we should not honour obligations, we should have been called all sorts of things, such as pro-Germans. It was quoted against us by the Foreign Secretary that it was a bad principle to start a larger fire to put out a small fire. I do not think that he knows much about fighting fires.


Viscount Grey said that, with reference to the suggestion that we had not intervened effectively in the Sino-Japanese dispute.


The right hon. Gentleman quoted it with approval.


Certainly I did.


In this very City, during the Fire of London, a King of that day and his brother took an active part in clearing away the debris. In prairie fires in which I have taken some part you sometimes have to do a similar thing. I suggest that when there is a fire, it is unwise to drench all the surrounding area with the highly inflammable oil of hypocrisy by pretending that there is no danger, and that everything is quite secure, if, when you say, "Let the fire burn away there; it will not catch anything," you have, as a matter of fact, done away with your entire security. That is really what happened in the Far East. It has happened since, not in deeds but in words, in this House. We have had a discussion upon Locarno. Ask any Frenchman what value he puts upon Locarno after the Foreign Secretary's speech in this House. You will not find that he puts any value upon it at all.

What is the good in this White Paper of the Government thinking they are meeting the case of security by assembling a number of paper safeguards and saying at the end that they have a right to expect that, if these provisions and pledges were solemnly entered into, they would not be lightly violated, and that any violation of them would be met in the most practical and effective way by immediately assembling Governments and States in support of international peace and agreement against the disturber and the violator. That is exactly what was done in the case of China and Japan. What is the good, when you have a fire, of assembling a number of fire assessors to sit down and talk about the fire, especially when a good many of them are financially interested in arson? When a fire breaks out in the Far East, or in South America, people all come round and implore the firemen to put it out, but at the same time they sell buckets of oil to the people who are making the fire. That is where the hypocrisy comes in. You can pile on pacts of non-aggression, but you do not get any further. I know now why it was that, when the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) asked the Foreign Secretary why we are not to have a pact of non-aggression with Russia, the Foreign Secretary said that we did not, need it, because there was the Pact of Paris. They are bound under the Covenant, and yet we are adding another piece of paper to that piece of paper. The trouble is that there is not at present a real belief in security. I read the interesting broadcast of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), giving us his views on the future of the world. He said that: We ought to have a clear and honest foreign policy which anybody could explain and everybody could understand. He, a supporter of the League of Nations, said that we must take our place there, and: take our share in building up a confederation of nations so strong and so sincere that at least no aggressor would dare to challenge it. Further on he said: Surely, the least we ought to do now is to have an Air Force as strong as that of the nearest Power at hand. I hear hon. Members laugh, but that is the whole attitude of the Government's foreign policy. If you really believe in these paper safeguards and in these serious words about agreements solemnly entered into and so forth, what is the good of being frightened if your next-door neighbour, who has also signed and who is obliged to come to your help, has a strong Air Force, or an Air Force with which yours is not exactly on an equality? That, to my mind, exposes the hypocrisy of the whole business. We have never concealed our belief that you have to go for security and total disarmament. We are denounced as warmongers if we suggest that we should honour our word. It does not mean that you have necessarily to go to war; there are many other ways of enforcing peace; but, if you do believe in a collective system, you have to have some sanction behind it. Perhaps the knowledge that the right hon. Gentleman is never prepared to stand pat when it comes to the point accounts for his having to give way all the way down. It is no use the right hon. Gentleman rattling the sheath, because they know that he will never draw the sword for anything at all, not even for collec- tive security. We say that, if you really believe in this League system, you have to live up to its obligations; you have to be prepared to act.

There is another very serious point here, and that is as to the 10 years period. The right hon. Gentleman did not mention that. The first idea was that there were going to be two periods of five years, two steps down from armament to disarmament. Now it has all gone into one. I agree that there is one good point in Germany's not being put on trial; but for 10 years you are going to continue armed, there are to be stabilised armaments. For 10 years you can make no approach to real disarmament. I suggest that it is necessary to look a good deal further than merely at disarmament, or even at security; it is necessary to consider the economic circumstances of the world. What is the use of the right hon. Gentleman in-geminating peace while the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State for the Dominions have their little wars with their neighbours? As long as the world is torn by internecine competition, as long as contending factions are using national enthusiasm for their purposes, we shall not get very far with disarmament. We on this side say that the most that can be got out of this document, even if it be accepted by France, Germany and the other Powers, is a very short breathing space, and a breathing space that will not be filled with work for peace, but will be filled with manoeuvrings for the next crisis.

4.52 p.m.


I agree very cordially with the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore) as to the proceedings in this Debate to-day. I do not think that I myself have often been guilty of the prolixity which the hon. and gallant Member so rightly condemns, but at all events to-day I shall endeavour to keep myself within the strict limits that he would wish to impose generally. Indeed, there is not very much to be said by the House of Commons in this Debate. The proposals which are now before us arouse no enthusiasm in any quarter. The demeanour of the House to-day, during the speech of the right hon. Gentleman and since, has been evidence of that, and I think that uppermost in the minds of most of us is the thought that it is lamentable that we should find ourselves in a situation in which these proposals are the best and the most that can be put forward. At the same time, however, if a convention on these lines would give rise to disappointment, no convention at all would be a cause of dismay; and the House of Commons would accept and endorse these proposals if in the opinion of His Majesty's Government they are the best that can be obtained in the present circumstances, and will hope that the mission of the Lord Privy Seal to the capitals of Europe will succeed in securing at all events these measures of assent.

The right hon. Gentleman began by describing the procedure which he had followed during the last few months. Clearly it was right, and, indeed, inevitable that, the Conference having reached a deadlock, these negotiations should be pursued apart from Geneva; and it was right also that they should not be kept private or secret, but that, by this White Paper and other documents, their progress should be made public to all the world; and I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will do as he said he might do if the House so desires, and publish in a supplementary White Paper other documents which connect with the Memorandum which has lately been laid before us. Another matter on which I think we can commend, and indeed congratulate, the right hon. Gentleman, is that he has succeded in arriving at an agreement with Italy that the question of the reform of the League, which was initiated by Signor Mussolini, has been, at all events for the time being, postponed in favour of what is undoubtedly the more urgent and immediate problem of arriving at a disarmament convention.

Furthermore, there is this complete difference between the present White Paper and the previous proposal, that the right hon. Gentleman has now dropped altogether what was called the probationary period, which was unhappily accepted as a proposal last October. He objected to the name "probationary period," and I suggested, as an alternative, "promissory period," for it was a period in which various undertakings were to be fulfilled, and in the meantime Germany was to be left almost exactly in her present situa- tion. That was really an impossible proposal. As the "Times" newspaper said, the Government made a slip when they accepted it. It threw back the whole course of the negotiations for some time, and may have contributed to the more intransigeant attitude of Germany. I am exceedingly glad that no such proposal now appears in the White Paper. Furthermore, we may rejoice at the emphasis laid in this document upon the necessity for not being content with a mere limitation of present armaments, but insisting upon a reduction. One of the most important passages in the White Paper is this, which is to be found on page 7: His Majesty's Government must insist that the only agreement worthy of the name of a disarmament convention"— those are very strong words— will be one which contains reduction as well as limitation of armaments. I hope that they will be able to adhere to that attitude and secure some measure of agreement on those lines. I do not think it would be helpful to-day for the House to go into questions of detail with regard to the size of tanks, the number or size of aeroplanes, or the calibre of artillery. If we did so, we might easily lose ourselves in a mass of technical details. In general we on these benches would be prepared to endorse the lowest level for which general agreement can be obtained, and, the lower the level in these matters, the better from our point of view. But there is one specific proposal to which I would venture to refer, because, when I was at Geneva in the summer of 1932, and, as a then member of the British delegation, had the pleasure of co-operating with the Foreign Secretary, I was able to discuss it with a number of the delegations of other Powers. It does not directly affect us, but affects the Continental armies. It relates to the period of military service.

At that time this question had not come very prominently forward, and the conversations that I had at Geneva during those weeks convinced me that that was the only line on which progress was likely to be made. So far as the Continental armies are concerned, to abolish conscription is impossible. Their ideas of what constitutes democratic equality make it impossible for them to abandon conscription, and the only course by which progress can be obtained is to convert the highly trained long-service professional armies into forces more in the nature of a militia—in fact, to introduce more the Swiss system throughout the Continent. If we could "Swissify" Europe, we should be able to make a very long step in advance. I rejoiced in the previous proposal of the Government. It was suggested that the term of service of these armies should be limited to eight months. I hope it will not be found necessary to extend that period. In the present White Paper the Government, perhaps too readily, have said that, if it is desired to extend it to 12 months, they would concur. But 12 months' service instead of eight months means, in the first place, that the army will become a much more highly efficient attacking force, and it is the object of the proposal to make the armies less efficient, and less formidable: and secondly, if the period be 12 months instead of eight months, all the burdens on the Exchequers of the various countries for the maintenance, the feeding, training and clothing, of these men, would be increased by 50 per cent.

There are two omissions from this White Paper which I, for one, note with great regret In the first place, no mention whatever is made of any restriction of expenditure, and that is a very grave omission. Undoubtedly there are difficulties in the way of budgetary limitation, but I feel convinced that with good will those difficulties can be overcome. The work done at Geneva by the Budgetary Commission of the Conference has shown the way in which limitation can be made really effective, and the Commission has proposed the forms of accounts and the methods of control necessary for that end. If that is not done, you give free permission to all the Powers, after this Convention has been signed, to increase their expenditure upon armaments to any extent provided only that they do not adopt prohibited weapons, and, if there are limitations in the number of ships, that they do not spend more than is allowed on the number of those ships. Apart from that, Budgets may be enormously increased within the limits of the Convention and you may find that there is still a race of armaments, though it may be a race of smaller armaments instead of big ones. The Government say in the White Paper: His Majesty's Government regard agreement about armaments not as an end in itself but rather as a concomitant of world peace and as an outcome of political amelioration. These latter purposes are undoubtedly the most important, but I suggest that disarmament is an end in itself in that it relieves the taxpayers of the various countries of the enormous burdens which they now have to bear—this country and the others. The Budgetary Commission of the Disarmament Conference has recently reported that the countries of the world are now spending a sum which, translated into our currency, is equal to about £2,500,000 every day, during every week, during every year, and that is a colossal charge, particularly in these days of economic stress. The second defect is that the White Paper does not even make mention of the private manufacture of arms and of the necessity of taking some measures to eliminate private profit as a motive in the manufacture and the sale of arms. Thirdly, although to-day the right hon. Gentleman laid emphasis in reading one of the last paragraphs of the White Paper upon the willingness of His Majesty's Government to join in a system of inspection and control over armaments, still the Government have never been very forthcoming on that point. They have always held back. They have emphasised difficulties, indeed they dwell upon them in the White Paper, and even now they say that, if everyone is willing to agree on everything, they will conform to that general desire—a very limited declaration indeed. That indicates an attitude which in my view is very regrettable, for this matter of control is of the very essence of the whole question, and, unless you have a permanent, constant, effective control over the observance of a Convention such as this, whatever its terms may be, you cannot expect any country wholeheartedly to accept the Convention or to disarm itself with any feeling of moderate security. It will always suspect its neighbour of infringing secretly in some important matter the terms of the Convention and will thereby itself be placed at a strategic disadvantage. I trust that in future the hon. Gentleman will remove any suspicions in the mind of other nations that the Government are reluctant to adopt effective measures in this regard.

Unquestionably, this White Paper means a measure of re-armament. It is the re-armament of Germany. It is what the Foreign Secretary on a previous occasion called a tragic paradox that one of the outcomes of a conference for disarmament should in fact result in an increase in some quarters in the armaments that already exist, and that armaments now forbidden are to be authorised under this Convention. But, as the Foreign Secretary pointed out, unless you have disarmament down to the German level, this is the inevitable outcome of accepting the principle of equality. It is not to be regarded, I think, as a surrender to Herr Hitler, because every German Government has made the same claim, and Herr Bruning at the beginning of the Conference declared that Germany could not agree to any proposal which did not concede in principle equality of treatment. While I should infinitely prefer general disarmament down to the German level—that is the right course, but, if you cannot achieve that, it is difficult to contend with sincerity that Germany must, nevertheless, remain in the position in which she was left after the Treaty of Versailles.

As I suggested on a previous occasion, if after the Napoleonic Wars, at the Congress of Vienna, the Powers had said to defeated France, "You are now to remain disarmed in perpetuity while other countries are to retain their armaments," that is an arrangement which could not possibly have endured through the 19th century, and the French themselves would have been the first to say that it was an intolerable arrangement. So we can see also that, if it is wrong for ourselves to be disarmed in the presence of an armed world—and we could not consent to that—no German Government could be expected to accept in perpetuity a situation in which they alone were to be disarmed and all their neighbours were to be armed. There is this small measure of satisfaction to be derived from the White Paper that if there is a certain rearmament in Germany permitted, if this White Paper in carried out fully in all its implications, there will be a far larger measure of disarmament in the other countries of Europe, and on balance it will result in there being fewer and not more armament in Europe. Secondly, if a Convention is agreed to on these lines, the rearmament of Germany, such as it is, would be limited, specified and controlled. But, if there is no Convention, one cannot be certain that those conditions would permanently obtain.

Passing now from the actual proposals of the White Paper, I would invite the attention of the House to one matter which was not mentioned by the Foreign Secretary. If all these conditions are agreed by the Powers of Europe, still we shall not be secure of obtaining a Convention, because in the Far East there in Japan, and the attitude of Japan towards all these matters has hitherto been almost entirely negative, and she has given no indication that she would accept conditions such as those here proposed. But I trust that the Government will not be deterred, by the possibility that they may have at a later stage a formidable note of dissent by one of the principal Powers of the world, from proceeding with this matter. The right course in my opinion—and I have no doubt that it will be the one pursued—is to endeavour to secure as large a measure of agreement as possible, to make the whole matter public, and, if one Power dissents and by its dissent should bring the whole edifice to naught, the public opinion of the world, and public opinion within that country, will become operative and, one hopes, would be able to bring pressure to bear. I cannot believe that the governors of Japan—I say this in no spirit of hostility, but in an entirely friendly spirit—would view with equanimity a situation in which they were isolated diplomatically by their action in Manchuria, to a great extent isolated economically by world trade conditions, and would then be isolated morally, and possibly strategically, by being the one dissentient who would bring to naught a general disarmament convention.

Finally, I would refer to another question which has not been previously raised. This is a Debate upon the White Paper. The White Paper proposes conditions of disarmament, but recognises that security is a point of necessarily fundamental importance, and security raises many questions not specifically relating to disarmament but to foreign policy, from which it cannot be dissociated. The root difficulty of the whole matter is that, so far as Western Europe is concerned, France fears for her own future. She remembers that for a whole generation she lived under the menace of the Triple Alliance—Germany, Austria and Italy—a menace which ultimately resulted in a terrific conflict in which the French people suffered most tragically. Then she was insured by an alliance with Russia, which in present circumstances is not possible. She has, indeed, guarantees under Locarno, but the French people are not wholly satisfied with that, and the point to which I wish to draw attention is that in these days there is proceeding in Austria a series of events which have an exceedingly close bearing upon the whole of this problem. The situation there is very tense and, if it results ultimately in a situation not unlike that of the Triple Alliance, the position of France will become even more difficult and dangerous than it is at present, and all these questions of disarmament would become even harder to solve than they are now. The Foreign Secretary on 21st December used these words: A question was asked about Austria to which I will only reply in a sentence that the policy of His Majesty's Government is and remains directed towards doing all that we can by our influence and by our advice to sustain the integrity and the independence of Austria. We maintain most strictly the rule, the only wise rule, that it cannot be any part of our business to interfere with the internal Government of another country, but at the same time the independence and safety of Austria are an essential object to which British policy is directed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st December, 1933; col. 1538, Vol. 284.] Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman gave an answer in which he referred to this statement and confirmed it. A question which I think many Members would be very glad to have answered is, what steps His Majesty's Government are taking in the present tense situation to promote what is an essential object of British policy, namely, the independence and safety of Austria. I feel sure that, if the Lord Privy Seal would make reference to that subject, a statement from him would be cordially welcomed. An appeal is apparently to be made to the League, and I hold, as a believer in the League that it is better that it should be dealt with by the League than by the four Powers, and I trust that, if and when it comes before the League, some effective measures may be taken to give comfort and assistance to the Austrian Government, subjected as they are at present to extreme pressure from their great and powerful neighbour. In any case, a measure of full publicity will be given to all the facts of the case, and that itself will be an advantage. When the Disarmament Conference met two years ago, great hopes and great expectations were aroused and the whole nation was moved at the prospect that at last the world would rid itself of these enormous burdens of armaments and inaugurate a period when the reign of peace might seem closer. I remember attending a service at St. Paul's a few days before the opening of the Conference at which all the members of the Government were present and at which the prayers of the nation were offered for the success of the Conference. Most earnestly do we trust that now these are not among those hopes of which it was said that they were "Hopes that bud but fail of fruit." The House of Commons, I feel certain, will welcome, at all events, the initiative and energy which has now been displayed by the Government in endeavouring to secure some conclusions, and will applaud those efforts, and will rejoice if they reach success.

5.16 p.m.

Vice-Admiral CAMPBELL

I do not propose to offer many criticisms of the White Paper which we have before us this afternoon, because everybody knows that the Government have been going through very difficult negotiations for some years, and that these negotiations are still going on. I do not believe in those circumstances that it is desirable to interfere with the man on the bridge or at the helm, and any sailor is naturally very cautious when he enters the Garden of Eden. Everybody in the country is well aware of the great example which this country of ours has given in the way of disarmament. I think, personally, that we have been morally right in the way in which we have disarmed, and have shown a very high standard in setting an example to the rest of the world. At the same time, it gives great confidence to us to hear from the Foreign Secretary that we do not intend to continue any further with unilateral disarmament. It appears to me that for many years on the question of disarmament we have been playing a sort of game of "Here we go round the mulberry bush." In addition to the White Paper, we should be looking ahead to see what the next step is going to be towards disarmament.

It has frequently been said that if you want peace, you must remove the causes which break the peace. It is common knowledge that most peace treaties are made in very disadvantageous circumstances, because undoubtedly at the time of any peace-making there is the question of the victor and the vanquished, and so the peace treaties have frequently in the past been, and may be again in the future, the cause of other wars. The other causes of wars are trade, outlet for population, ill-adjusted territories, or the spirit of revenge, which, however regrettable it may he, is but human nature. I cannot help thinking that if we had lost the last War we should very likely in this country have been feeling very much the same as they feel in Germany at the present time. Unless one is able to annihilate a country—we could not do it in the last war—there is always bound to be the question of that country rising up again and wanting to be put upon the same level as other countries. If there is another European war, I am afraid that there will be a case where some country, if not the whole lot of us, will be annihilated from the air. I suggest that in dealing with these causes of war, and in trying to remove them, there should be set up under the League of Nations something, not in the way of a super-State which I have heard referred to, but something in the way of a tribunal, such as the Lytton Commission, rather than a whole general meeting of the League of Nations. If such tribunals are set up, it is only natural that they should have some sort of force by which to assert their authority or their findings.

That brings me to the question of the international police force. Nine people out of 10, if you ask their opinion about an international police force, will simply brush it aside by saying "Impossible." I am well aware that I could ask myself a hundred questions about an international police force, and I should have to give myself very silly answers, or else no answer at all, because it is a very complicated and difficult subject. If the principle of a tribunal and an inter- national police force is logically sound, the whole matter ought to be investigated further than it has been at the present time, and not just brushed aside by saying that it is impossible. I have in mind that it might be possible to start with a European air force. Even if all military aircraft are to be abolished—we hope they will be—I have often thought that an international air force in the form of a police force would be of great value to the peace of Europe.

In this connection I want to make a suggestion to the Prime Minister. I assume that at the present time the advisers of the Prime Minister on these technical matters are the Admiralty, the Air Ministry and the War Office. It occurs to me that, as these three Ministries are chiefly concerned with the defences of the country in the world as it is at the present time, that is to say, they are responsible for the proper defences in the present circumstances as they exist at this very moment, nobody is going to thank the Admiralty if they wake up one morning and find that they have not got their breakfast, or the Air Ministry if they wake up one morning and find that all their aerodromes have been bombed. I do not think that it is fair to those Departments that they should be asked to investigate Utopian ideas, such as an international police force.

I suggest to the Prime Minister that he should set up a committee—nothing in the way of a Royal Commission or anything of that sort—to advise him on the possibility or otherwise of some form of international police force or European Air Force, or whatever it may be. I think that if that were done it would clear the air a good deal, and we should know whether the French scheme, for instance, or any other scheme, was practical or not. I suggest that there should be on that committee, in addition to legal persons, lawyers and judges and so on, representatives of the Foreign Office and officers who have held high posts in the Army, Navy and Air Force, such as Commandant of Camberley, the Presidents, Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and the Imperial Defence College, and positions of that sort—men who have studied every side of this question. Of course, it could be helped by young staff officers who have not actual responsibility for the defence of the country.

Another point in the White Paper to which I should like to turn is that of the question of naval armaments. Very little is said about naval armaments. Once more they are to be shelved until the end of the London Naval Agreement. I hope that the Government before the next Naval Conference takes place will have some more definite proposals prepared and put forward well in advance, because if there is to be another Naval Conference, and they are to sit round a table and talk about tonnage, size of guns and submarines, and things of that sort, I do not think we shall get any further than we are at the present time. We ought to start at a new angle. Several ideas have entered my mind, but I only intend to make one proposal this afternoon dealing with the question of naval disarmament. Instead of starting at the top, we should start at the bottom. As things are at present, we start at the top and say: "We have 40,000 ton battleships. How much can we scale them down? Shall we scale them down to 30,000 tons or 25,000 tons?" I suggest that we should start at the bottom. If all the nations are really in earnest and do not wish to go to war any more, we can assume at the start that no nation requires a navy.

If we start from that basis and then someone breaks away and runs riot, what could they do? The best they could do would be to arm their merchant ships. What do we require to deal with armed merchant ships? The answer is, Quite small cruisers with small guns in them. From that principle I would start, and go no higher than that cruisers should not exceed 10,000 tons. I imagine that 8,000 tons would be quite sufficient if armed with guns. We could rule out submarines altogether and torpedoes as being weapons of offence, and not of defence. All we should require would he cruisers for police duties, and for protecting the shipping of the world. We should then come to the difficulty as to what number of cruisers should be allowed to each nation. I think that that could be settled by a formula based on the length of coast-line, volume of shipping, and the length of the line of communications upon which various countries depend for their shipping and food supplies. With some formula on that basis it would be very simple to work out the number of cruisers which should be allocated to each country. To some nations cruisers for the protection of their merchant shipping would be a necessity, but to other nations they would be merely a luxury.

I noticed the other day that the Lord President of the Council referred to the fact that ex-Service men are just as interested in peace and in working for peace as anybody else. I am very glad to hear that that is so, because those who went through the War and are still alive and have their experience behind them, should work in every possible way to urge on this question of disarmament, try to make the world a better place in which to live and ensure that, as far as possible, there shall be no further war. Possibly the only difference between some of us and what we may call the pacifists is that we, like most nations in the world, and quite rightly, want peace with honour and security, and not peace at any price. I for one and, I think, most ex-Service men are only too ready to contribute in any way we can by making suggestions, and I only hope that if such suggestions are made, they will be of some use.

5.29 p.m.


Listening to the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) this afternoon, I thought that he was probably the best judge of the hypocrisy of which he accused the Government. But his remarks set going in my mind a train of thought. I shall not keep the House more than a few minutes in developing this train of thought, nor do I intend to attempt to analyse the White Paper which has been so ably dealt with by the Foreign Secretary and touched upon by subsequent speakers. I should like to point out one thing about it. There has been fault found that it differs from the original Draft Convention. I will take one point only. There is criticism that whereas the duration of the Draft Convention was suggested for five years, the duration of the new proposals is suggested for 10 years. This duration of time fits in pretty closely with the proposals which have emanated recently from Germany. I have said very hard things of Germany in this country, and in this House, but I believe now that, whatever the motive, there is at least a sense of the apprehension of peace in the mind of Herr Hitler. He has just concluded a pact with Poland by which he undertakes that Germany shall not use force in her regard during the next 10 years. That pact has been dealt with in the newspapers, and has been mentioned this afternoon, but I confess that I have not noticed so far that sufficient importance has been attached to it. To anyone who has been to that part of the world it would seem that the key to peace may well be found in that pact. I will not trace the historical side of the relationship between France and Poland, but I would draw attention to the fact that there has been no objection raised by France in respect of the pact which Germany has concluded with an ancient ally of the French people. That is a significant fact, and I find in it good reasons for hope.

It is undoubtedly true that Herr Hitler's methods have been open to grave doubts, but something has emerged at the end of his year of office which is worth while, and that is this Pact with Poland, which means that the question of Dantzig is no longer the powder mine that it was six months ago. That must, at any rate, alleviate the tension in that part of the world. I do not think that it would be fair to say at this moment that the domestic concerns of France are preoccupying her mind to such an extent that she has allowed the Pact with Poland to escape her. I think there is more solid feeling in France than might appear from the perusal of the French newspapers which are published at Paris. It is a very old remark, and a very sound one, that Paris is by no means France. I would remind the House of those rolling plains in France, and those solid, slow-thinking, fine-thinking French men and women who till that land, who are not easily moved by excitement, who have very little regard for the caperings of politicians and who are united, as a rule, in their contempt for whatever form of Government happens to be administering the taxation of the country.

I have allowed myself that remark, but in reality my admiration for the French people, not for the people of Paris, is profound, and it is at this juncture that we can rely on the solidity and the wisdom of the French people; the people who live in the length and the breadth of the land, and not those people who live in the crowded streets of Paris, who reflect passing excitement in a way that is foreign to the majority of the French race. Let me say one word more with regard to France. There is a better feeling in France for Germany than I have ever known. There is more understanding of the fact that you must live and let live, especially where it concerns a neighbouring nation of immense vitality.

Coming now to our own position, it has been defined this afternoon in no uncertain terms, but I would add one thing more. From the middle west of America to the confines of Europe I have heard expressed admiration and respect for Great Britain. That admiration is not entirely based on the growing success of the National Government in pulling this country together, but on something else which has to do with the people as well as with the Government which is there by their will, and that is their standard of international morality. We as a nation have made it perfectly plain in every effort that we have matte towards peace, that we are not out for ourselves, that we are not out to be pro-German or pro-French, but that we are out to further the cause of peace. We have been accused, and the National Government have been accused, of an infinite variety of methods, but our aim has been entirely constant.

I will not trouble the House with the history of the past ten years or with a recital of the variety of methods which have been tried in order to emphasise the constancy of that effort for peace. I believe that it will be found by the historian in looking back in years to come on these days, that the world owes a great debt to Great Britain in the cause of peace, and that the maintenance of the ideal of peace is due to the standard of political and international morality which this country has developed. May I add this? Nearly 300 years ago John Selden, once member for Oxford University, described a friend of his, Sir Robert Shirley, and I would like to quote his words because they describe to-day no less than in those troubled days some of the characteristics of our people and of the Government which they have put into office. John Selden said of Sir Robert Shirley that he was one whose singular praise it is to have done the best things in the worst times, and to have hoped them in the most calamitous.

5.39 p.m.


Many of us who have followed the statement of the Secretary of State this afternoon felt that he was speaking in an atmosphere of unreality. Very few in this House, not even Members of the Government, really expect anything to came out of the White Paper. It is only another seed thrown upon barren land which will never take root, and it is a good thing that it never will take root, because if it grew it would be seen to be a weed. Something has been said this afternoon about the terrible indignity that has been imposed on the German people by the fact that they have been denied up to now equality in armaments. There has always been a great many decent, friendly, kindly peace-loving people in Germany, and they exist to-day, but, unfortunately, they are less vocal now than in previous periods. Those people never felt indignant about the fact that they were not allowed to be conscripted. They were not anxious to be taxed heavily for the benefit of German armament firms. They were content to live in a disarmed nation under the Treaty of Versailles, in the hope that other nations would follow their example and be put in the same privileged position. And when the Prime Minister of this country, on 11th December, 1932—when Germany had left the Disarmament Conference and in order to get her back—signed a declaration guaranteeing her "equality of rights"—we did not understand then, that it meant equality in armaments in a system which would provide security for all nations, it is the second part of that sentence which is the most important for us to consider to-day—when, as I say, the Prime Minister signed that Declaration, he struck a blow at the peace-loving people in Germany who did not want their country to become militarised again. He also struck a blow at the Disarmament Conference. Before then the German rulers were attempting to make the Disarmament Conference a success, knowing that they had few arms, by bringing other nations down to their level, but once the leaders of the German Government—I will not say the leaders of the German people—were promised equality, the debate passed from the sphere of disarmament to the sphere of equality, and all that they strove for then was to obtain equality, at whatever level they could secure it, and for some of them the higher the level the better.

The point I wish to make is that for the past two years every concession that has been made to Germany has only increased the appetite of the German Government. The more they have been given, the more they have asked. It was only last March that Herr Nadolny at Geneva said that Germany would agree to a period of transition. It was only last May that Herr Hitler, in the famous speech that surprised the world, because it took on a peaceful garb instead of the warlike garb of his previous utterances, said that he was ready to agree to a five-year transitional period. It was only last September that the German delegates at Geneva said that all they meant by equality was that they should be granted samples of the various arms forbidden to them, and that it would satisfy the point of honour for them if that were conceded.

All that has gone. The transition period has gone. The claim for samples has gone. Owing to the policy of the Government in taking off its hat to Hitler, and edging away from our ancient ally France, insead of standing by her as we ought to do, all these things have gone and Germany is now demanding full equal and immediate rearmament by land, by sea and in the air. In every weapon which other nations possess. She is doing that because Pacifism has long ago been banished from the Nazi vocabulary; in the words of Herr Hitler, "I am not a pacifist because I believe in power. I reject internationalism." The aim of the German Government is to build up again here forces and to make herself the strongest military power in Europe. That is the meaning of the suggestion that she must increase her army because of her long and indefensible frontiers. That is the reason why she seeks to make herself the strongest military power in Europe, to enforce her will on her neighbours, whether they be little unarmed Denmark or Austria, to tear up the Treaty of Versailles, which Herr Hitler some years ago said it was his intention to do, and to enlarge her territories to accommodate a growing population, as General Goering has said is the policy of Germany. She intends to carry out these designs by naked, brutal force, by armed forces; and that is war. That is the Government which His Majesty's Government propose to support by allowing them to have arms which are refused to Germany under the Treaty of Versailles.

The White Paper speaks of the value, so far as security is concerned, of the non-aggression pacts which are being signed by Germany, although only yesterday the Foreign Secretary said that he did not think that to conclude such a Pact with Russia would add to security at all. To-day the Foreign Secretary spoke of the value of the non-aggression pacts now being signed by Germany. Does anybody believe that these non-aggression pacts signed by the present Government in Germany have any value at all? Do not we remember the neutrality of Belgium? Do not His Majesty's Government know how at the present moment the German Government is breaking the military Clauses of the Treaty of Versailles under which she is supposed to be disarmed? At the present moment the German Government is entirely disregarding the provisions of that Treaty and is arming as rapidly as she can, above the level laid down in the White Paper, by the aid of supplies and munitions and metals which I regret to say, are being poured into Germany from other countries. In view of the present position in Germany, the proposals in the White Paper are ludicrous and absurd. They suggest that Germany should be allowed a force of between 200,000 and 300,000 troops; yet, everybody knows that 2,000,000 men in Germany are being drilled in the field for war. It is very easy for Herr Hitler to say that he is quite willing, under certain conditions and if everybody agrees, to provide proof that these formations are not of a military character because he knows that he will never be put to the test. He knows that no agreement will ever be reached on this point of supervision and, that therefore he will not be called upon to provide this proof.

In the White Paper Germany is allowed 6-ton tanks: yet it was stated in the French Chamber the other day that one armaments firm alone has supplied Germany with 500 tanks. We are also told that if military aircraft are not abolished by all nations, in two years' time Germany will be able to have an air fleet again. She has it already. This question of the air is, in my view, extremely important. It is said in the White Paper: The abolition of military and naval aircraft must be dependent on the effective supervision of civil aviation. That is a very difficult thing to accomplish, as the Lord Privy Seal knows. In fact, in the view of many Governments it is impossible to control civil aircraft in such a way that they cannot be turned into military aircraft unless you have an internationalised air force. The White Paper, however, omits to say that throughout all the discussions at Geneva the German Government have always opposed the internationalisation of civil aircraft, which has also been opposed by Italy and Japan. Japan, in fact, is opposed not merely to the internationalisation of civil aircraft, but also to the abolition of military aircraft. In view of all these circumstances, it is nonsense to suppose that the nations will agree on a policy of abolition of military aircraft in the next two years, and that means that Germany will be able to build up a great air force in order to shower bombs on Paris and London and seek to gain her revenge for her defeat in the last war. But Germany is not waiting for two years to get this air fleet; she has it already. I have here a document, translated from the German, which gives an elaborate and detailed account of the present air organisation in Germany and of the Air Ministry which has been set up. I do not propose to read more than one paragraph which describes the present position of German air forces at the moment. The German air fleet, ready for action up to the spring of 1934, is composed of

  1. (1) Transport planes which can be transformed in a very short time into war planes. The number can be estimated at about 500 to 600.
  2. (2) Schooling and sport planes of the German Air Sport League and co-ordinated organisations (S.A. and S.S. Air Groups, the German Air League, Aero-Klub of Germany, etc.). These are for the most part light planes usable for chasing planes, whilst the first-named transport planes can be used as day or night bombers. The number in this case is about 500 to 600.
  3. (3) Experimental planes and new constructions of the big aeroplane factories, which can be estimated as between 50–100.
  4. (4) Military planes, which are stored in the foreign 'daughter' firms of the 1023 German factories. Careful estimate, about 300.
  5. (5) War aeroplanes of all kinds which are being secretly built in Germany itself and whose number is not too highly estimated at 400–500. All this shows that by 1st May, 1934, Germany will have an air fleet of 1,750 to 2,100 aeroplanes at her disposal. The number of engines which will be ready by this time may be estimated at 5,000 to 6,000.
Still more important however is the question, which in the coming war, where an air fleet will be the principal weapon will be decisive; how high will the production capacity of the German air industry be? In the last year of the war, 1918, Germany was producing per month on an average about 2,500 aeroplanes and 4,000 aeroplane engines. If we consider the great progress of technique, the development of German industry and especially its adaptation to mass production, the entire production capacity of the war industry for air armaments can be estimated as 3,000 to 4,000 aeroplanes and 10,000 aeroplane engines monthly. In other words, Germany would be able to construct within a year about the same air fleet as France for instance possesses to-day.


What is this document?


It is a document put into my hands, translated from the German. The only authority I can give for it is my own. You may doubt these figures, but I believe them to have a certain amount of accuracy behind them. I will leave it at that.


Can the hon. Member say whether it is a private communication from a German correspondent or the translation of some official German document?


It is the translation of a document which has been put into my hands. It is not an official document. I am afraid that I cannot say any more about it. I do not ask hon. Members to accept it. They can take it or leave it. But this is a Government which His Majesty's Government are trying to coax back into the League of Nations. In my view, Germany having left of her own volition, no attempt should be made to bring her back, because her whole policy, as well as that of Japan, is against the principles for which the League of Nations was founded. As she is out, let her stay out, unless she obeys the provisions of the various treaties she has signed. I would far rather work in the League of Nations with those who believe in international law and arbitration, in an association as close as possible with the Governments of the United States and Russia, than with Germany, and these two Powers would make up for the loss to the League of the two Powers which have left. This brings me to the question of security. I have said over and over again in this House that no progress will be made towards disarmament until a system of security has been set up. Our proposals in regard to security were laid down last year, and I want to read to the House what those proposals were.


They are not now our proposals.


No doubt they have been added to. The proposals, as far as a breach of the peace is concerned, are: Article 1.—In the event of a breach or threat of a breach of the Pact of Paris, either the Council or Assembly of the League of Nations, or one of the parties to the present Convention who are not members of the League of Nations, may propose immediate consultation between the Council or Assembly and any of the said parties to the present Convention. Article 2.—It shall be the object of such consultation (a) in the event of a breach of the Pact to exchange views for the purpose of preserving the peace and averting conflict; (b) in the event of a breach of the Pact to use good offices for the restoration of peace; and (c) in the event that it proves impossible thus to restore the peace then to determine which party or parties to the dispute are to be held responsible. The only addition to that in the White Paper is the proposal that the same method should be applied in case of a breach in the Disarmament Convention. It is said that on one occasion Queen Victoria heard a "pretty-pretty" piece of music and sent out to ask what it was. She was told that it was a drinking song. She replied, "I could not drink a cup of tea to that." As far as security is given by these little conversational parties, I do not see any country reducing its forces by a single submarine. Picture the position. War breaks out. An aerial force descends upon capital cities. The cities are ablaze. The other Powers will meet and have a conversation while people are dying and victories are being won and nations are being destroyed. Perhaps if they get on fairly well with their talks they will have another conversation to decide who is the aggressor. Security of that sort is utterly useless. I believe there is only one way by which security can be obtained and peace preserved, and that is for all the nations to join together in a definite pact. If any one of them is attacked illegally after arbitration, it should be helped by all the others. Part of that pact must be a clear definition of what an aggressor is. May I quote the following passage from Sir Arthur Salter's book "Recovery"? The task of fundamental importance is to fortify the collective system itself, to restore confidence that it will function effectively and to make this confidence a basis of the policy of every country. All must unite to support by attitude and action if necessary the observance of the pledge. As far as each nation feels confident that the universal system will be effective it will make it an integral feature in its own defence: just as far as it distrusts it, it will turn to armaments. It is not enough that it should be effective when the day of danger arrives. It is essential there should be confidence beforehand that it will be effective, so that it will affect current politics during years of peaceful relations. Armaments will then be reduced by natural process: the desire for economy, having the constantly diminished fear of insecurity to contend against, and alliances will be dissolved under the solvent of their overriding collective obligation. We have been told over and over again that this country cannot increase its responsibilities in that way. I believe that if any war takes place in Europe to-day we shall be dragged into it anyhow. Surely it is better to enter into a collective system deliberately and boldly for the purpose of preserving peace, than to be dragged into it after war is declared in order to take part in the war? Surely of those two alternatives the former is the better? Anyhow, I am confident that unless you take that step you will not get disarmament and you will not get peace. I believe it is only by taking that step that the catastrophe which we all so greatly dread may yet be averted.

6.7 p.m.

Brigadier-General SPEARS

A foreign affairs Debate in the House of Comomns not only gives the Government an opportunity of enlightening the House and enables Members to put forward their point of view, but it serves also to inform the nation and the world at large what is the point of view of this Chamber on these most important matters. It is for this reason that I feel compelled to draw the attention of the House to a very serious matter which has a direct bearing on this vital subject. No one will dispute that public opinion plays a most important part in shaping foreign policy. No Government can possibly take action against the wishes of a nation; nothing can be done contrary to its views. But there is now an influence at work which is far more powerful than the Debates in this House, with a far more direct influence over public opinion than even the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the British Broadcasting Corporation. The British Broadcasting Corporation seems to be set upon shaping public opinion on foreign affairs regardless of the policy of His Majesty's Government, regardless of the League of Nations, directed by what is in the minds of a small and all-powerful oligarchy. It is a very serious matter. Not only is British public opinion influenced, but the world at large which listens comes to the conclusion that the views expressed on the wireless are the views of the British nation. It is no use for us to state that that is not the case. We possess no means of drowning or counteracting the voice of the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Most people who take an interest in foreign affairs will remember what occurred on the night when Germany left tfhe League of Nations. The House will agree that no more important or delicate situation has arisen within recent months. One would have expected that the greatest possible care would have been taken to present to the people of this country an authoritative, balanced and unbiased view of what had actually occurred. It would have occurred to no responsible person that the most suitable way of performing that task was to allow a private individual, with no special knowledge of events either in Berlin or in Geneva, to broadcast to listening millions his own personal and uninformed version of what had occurred, and his own interpretation of Germany's reasons and motives for taking the action that she had taken. Yet that is actually what happened. Mr. Vernon Bartlett, speaking that night, actually interrupted the News Bulletin, in itself an almost unheard-of thing. The impression made on those who heard the statement and to whom I have spoken, was that it was a very sympathetic justification of Germany's action. That is certainly the impression that it made on me. The version he gave in any case differed very widely from that which was eventually given by members of our own Delegation and by the President of the Disarmament Conference. I submit that it is intolerable that any individual should be permitted to make such an ex-parte statement in the name of what is supposed to be an impartial and non-political body.

Vice-Admiral TAYLOR

In all fairness to Mr. Bartlett, it should be stated that he gave it as his own opinion.

Brigadier-General SPEARS

Certainly, but my hon. and gallant Friend will not deny that Mr. Bartlett was speaking as the representative of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and that his was the only view put forward. The House will remember that the impression made on the Continent was such that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had to take the earliest opportunity of placing the views of the Government before the country. But it was too late; the impression made by the broadcast was too deep, and the circumstances could not be retrieved. I had hoped that the British Broadcasting Corporation would have learned its lesson from that incident, and I certainly would not have referred to it now but for another broadcast by Mr. Bartlett, which was even more tendentious and on a subject at least as delicate as that of Germany leaving the League. I refer to Mr. Bartlett's broadcast on Austria, which was delivered on 25th January and published in "The Listener" of 31st January. The whole key of that speech was contained in a sentence at the beginning: We cannot get away from the fact that Austria is German. I am certain that the impression made by that broadcast on any listener would be that the heroic struggle which has been put up by Dr. Dollfuss on behalf of the independence of his country is doomed to failure, and is against the real desires and interests of the Austrian people as a whole. Furthermore, the impression to be gained from that broadcast speech was that we and other countries which are in sympathy with the Austrian cause were engaged in a wrong-headed, hopeless and disastrous attempt to postpone the inevitable absorption of Austria, by the German Reich. That may be Mr. Bartlett's sincere opinion, but it is monstrous that——


I must remind the hon. and gallant Member that the Government are not responsible for the British Broadcasting Corporation organisation, and that therefore it is hardly in order for the hon. and gallant Member to raise the matter in this detail.


On a point of Order. The other day I had a question on this point. I understand that it is within the power of the Government to order the excision altogether of any particular part of the programme of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Would it not be in order for my hon. and gallant Friend to put forward reasons why the Government should exercise their authority and order the excision altogether of comments by the British Broadcasting Corporation on foreign affairs? I think that that is within the Government jurisdiction?


That does not apply to the general programmes of the British Broadcasting Corporation but only to particular cases.


Is it not the case that under the Charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation the Government have absolute power to forbid the broadcasting of any particular item, and also to demand from the British Broadcasting Corporation the broadcasting of any item which they require?


The hon. and learned Member has put in more legal terms what I was trying to convey to the House. The Government have not charge of the general programmes of the British Broadcasting Corporation.


Is not the hon. and gallant Member entitled to call the attention of the House to the fact that the Government have not intervened in regard to the broadcasting of such information and news as he has described, and to submit that they ought to do so?


The hon. and gallant Member has already been doing that for a quarter of an hour.

Brigadier-General SPEARS

I hope I may be allowed to continue to do so a little further. This is an all-important question. It is a question of how our people are being informed on these matters which are of supreme interest. Surely nothing could be more unfair than that at the very moment when Austria is about to present her case to the League of Nations, when that little country is fighting with her back to the wall, the British public should be informed—and it must think that it is being informed with some authority—that Austria's case is in any event hopeless, and that the policy of Dr. Dollfuss is not in conformity with the views and desires of the majority of the citizens of his own country. What is so tremendously unfair in all this is that not the least attention is paid to what actually is taking place in Austria. A short time ago 120,000 farmers and farm labourers made their way to Vienna to support Dr. Dollfuss in his policy. They passed a resolution saying that their demonstration was the reply of the peasants to the barbarous methods of Nazi agitators.

I hope I shall be in order in putting one question to the Government. I understand that a Member of the Government who is about to broadcast is compelled to submit his script to the authorities at Broadcasting House. If that be so, I would like to know whether these weekly talks on foreign affairs are submitted to the authorities? If not, why not? If "yes," in pursuance of what policy are they allowed to be broadcast? It seems to me that as this broadcasting authority makes no attempt whatever to put both sides of the question it is at this moment nothing more or less than a Nazi agency in this country. I would ask another question. Can my right hon. Friend tell me whether on the day that Germany left the League of Nations, either the British Broadcasting Corporation or Mr. Bartlett asked the Foreign Office before the broadcast was made, to give them an account of what actually occurred at Geneva that day?

There is another point which I wish to snake. The gentleman who has been giving these talks to the nation has joined the staff of the "News-Chronicle" news- paper. We in this House are well aware that that organ exercises the closest scrutiny and control over the political views of its staff. We have had an example of that recently. This newspaper is the organ of a political party. It represents a strongly partisan point of view. Presumably it was satisfied, before engaging Mr. Bartlett, that his political views were in sympathy with its own. How is that compatible with this gentleman's weekly delivery of a broadcast on foreign affairs, for the rigidly non-party British Broadcasting Corporation? If a Liberal journalist is to deliver the weekly broadcast one week, why should not a Conservative journalist do it the next week and a Socialist journalist the week after?


The hon. and gallant Gentleman is now going beyond the line which has been indicated. The Government do not control the whole broadcasting policy.

Brigadier-General SPEARS

I bow to your Ruling, Sir, and thank you for the indulgence which you have shown me. I conclude by again drawing the attention of the Government to what I consider to be a very serious matter indeed. There can be nothing more serious than to misuse the power of informing the whole nation on the extremely important subject of foreign affairs. I hope the Government will consider the matter, because I am convinced that there is a great deal of feeling about it, if not in this House, certainly in the country.

6.23 p.m.


Before turning to the question of Disarmament, I should like to refer to the situation in Austria. It is clear from what we learned yesterday that this question will come before the League of Nations at an early date, and I venture to put before my right hon. Friend the possibility of proceeding upon these lines. No doubt when the matter reaches the Council it will be extremely difficult to get evidence which will satisfy everybody concerned as to the facts. Would it not be wise, and in accordance with the precedents of League procedure, that a neutral commission of a fact-finding nature should be sent out to be situated upon the border between Germany and Austria, partly as a moral deterrent to transfers of contraband and propaganda across the frontier, and partly for the purposes of supplying the Council with the accurate information which they will desire. I think this suggestion has already been made in a leader in the "Times" newspaper. Such a method would provide the Council with the information which they must have if, at a later stage, they are obliged to act firmly and vigorously in the maintenance of the Covenant of the League and the independence of Austria—as I hope they will do should the necessity arise.

May I say a passing word as to the references of the hon. and gallant Member for Carlisle (Brigadier-General Spears) to the British Broadcasting Corporation? I think it would be profoundly unsatisfactory if we had in this country what they have in Germany and Russia, namely, Government control of policy statements by broadcasting. It would be far better that we should continue with the wise and discreet way in which, I think, on the whole, the British Broadcasting Corporation have acted in regard to statements of public policy on foreign affairs and other matters.

With regard to the question of Disarmament, many of us have been appealing to the Government for weeks and months past to give a lead and to bring forward fresh proposals of their own, and one cannot help being very glad that they have at last responded. Even if their proposals err on the side of caution and are far from what one would like to see, I hope sincerely that they will attain the utmost degree of success. Almost any agreement would be better than no agreement at all. I believe that at an earlier stage more far-reaching proposals were not only desirable but possible and I think the delays and missed chances which have occurred are deplorable in the extreme. The Foreign Secretary talked about "blowing off steam." There is not much use in doing that, but I do not think there is danger of the Government blowing off much steam on the question of Disarmament. They have not yet succeeded even in getting the water tepid, and I think we shall have to wait some time before the steam whistle is heard. I believe the Foreign Secretary would have been glad, months and even years ago, to have had more rapid progress, but I suppose he has in the Cabinet reactionary colleagues who are intractable and who have to be played with and gradually moved on with the changing situation. I suppose we ought to be glad that the Government have at last come forward with concrete proposals of this kind. On page 4 of the White Paper the Government say: It is sometimes urged that the solution of the disarmament problem lies in the immediate abandonment by all the world of all the weapons which the Peace Treaties withhold from certain Powers. But it is manifest that such a solution is in practice unattainable at the present time. Have the British Government ever made such a proposal themselves and have they tested it out? Have they seen what would be the effect of the British Government meeting Germany's demand with the reply, "You asked for certain weapons; in our opinion you cannot have them because we are not going to have them either"? It may be that at the present time there is difficulty in obtaining agreement on those lines, but I feel certain that, many months ago, success might have been attained upon those lines if there had been bold leadership from the British Government. I do not for a moment accept at their face value statements made by the present German Government, but I think it is interesting to note what the Germans said in their last communication to the French: Germany wishes nothing better than the most comprehensive general disarmament. The best solution would be for all countries to reduce their armaments to the Treaty level. That would he the simplest settlement of Germany's claim to equality of rights. Germany will accept any measure of quantitative or qualitative disarmament which the other Powers will similarly have carried out. I think it a great pity that Germany's bluff, if it is a bluff, on this matter cannot be called, and that proposals of that kind cannot be made to them. No doubt the question of these weapons is a difficult one. It is more difficult to-day than it was in Old Testament times. I noticed the other day a passage—I think it comes from the 46th Psalm—in which the Psalmist was able to sum up the disarmament situation—[HON. MEMBERS: "German version?"]—in these words: He breaketh the how, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. The position is more complicated now. I think that the Government, however, might have dealt with tanks, big battleships, and heavy mobile artillery, and that we might have seen them being broken or cut in sunder or burnt in the fire. I join with my right hon. Friend in deploring extremely that no reference is made to the control of the private manufacture of arms, to which the French attach enormous importance. Indeed, when the matter was discussed on the British Draft Convention, they made it clear that unless something were done about that, they would not give their consent to the Convention, and I hope my hon. Friend will refer specifically to both those points—the private manufacture of arms and budgetary control—and state the policy of the Government.

Let me refer for a moment to the air. I am afraid that the French have gone back on the proposal, which they were prepared to accept at one time, to abolish entirely all bombing from the air. It looks like that, and, if that is so, I am afraid it is because of our Government's reluctance themselves entirely to abandon bombing under certain circumstances. I know the Government were prepared, in an extreme effort to get agreement, to abandon that, and I am sorry they were not more definite about it, and that no reference is made in the White Paper to that matter. The proposal to spend the next two years studying the question of the abolition of military aircraft has its possibilities and attractions. It will be possible for disarmament opinion in this country to concentrate upon that one feature and mobilise the overwhelming amount of public opinion that I believe there is in this country behind such a proposal. I hope my hon. Friend will be able to make it clear that the Permanent Disarmament Commission will be a body that will sympathetically consider a matter of this kind, and that it will not be composed of Service experts whose main interest is in the maintenance of armaments.

Vice-Admiral TAYLOR

I protest against that statement. It is not their interest to maintain armaments.


I said I hope it will not be composed of Service representatives who are interested in the maintenance of armaments, psychologically if you like, and as a matter of long training. There are Service representatives of all kinds—those who want disarmament and those who are not so friendly. I hope it will be the former kind that will be represented there, and that experts on the subject of disarmament will be specially consulted about the possibilities of progress in this direction. Personally, I believe what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Burnley (Vice-Admiral Campbell) said just now, referring to it in another way, that in the long run the most effective way of dealing with the questions of the abolition of military aircraft and the control of civil aircraft would be the formation of an international aerial force under the control of the League of Nations. But it is of the utmost importance that in dealing with the air the Government should be very much more in earnest about it than they have been at conferences in the past, that they should have definite and specific plans, and that the whole of the advocacy should not be left in the hands of the Secretary of State for Air.

Let me for a moment call attention to a sentence on page 5, where the Government say that if no agreement is reached, there will be unrestricted competition, "the end of which no man can see." But surely, unfortunately, we can see only too plainly what is going to be the end of it. The end will be a race in, armaments and another world war. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs referred to the question of security and the advance that the Government have undoubtedly made in the proposals in the White Paper. It all depends on the meaning of those words. Does it mean that there is simply going to be consultation, that the same situation will arise as in the case of Manchuria, that lamentable precedent, when, in the face of a whole world's mobilised opinion against the aggressor, Japan, no action of any kind was taken? Does it mean that we are going to say, "We are not committed in any way; we are perfectly free to be the judge of what we will do," or does it mean, on the other hand, that there is going to be firm, definite action against any country that breaks the Disarmament Convention, ending, if necessary, in sanctions, economic or otherwise?

I cannot help feeling, as my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) said just now, that we may have reached a situation when we are too late. I think it may have been too late when the present German Government reached power, that possibly the last moment when firm action might have brought about a satisfactory situation was in May, when they were to some extent frightened of public opinion and, I believe, would have responded to definite pressure from the other countries. But when one bears in mind that we have in power in Germany to-day a Government which is animated by all that we fought the War to destroy, by a pre-War mind of frank brutality, which has got hold of a fantastic and entirely mythical idea that the Aryan race are superior in blood to all others, and that it is their duty, by force if necessary, to impose their superior culture upon other nations—because that is undoubtedly and unquestionably their creed and desire—I think it gives us cause to doubt the present situation.

You have on one hand the generous, democratic régime of the Western democratic Powers arrayed against the intolerance, hate, and brute strength of the present Nazi régime. I am afraid I do not altogether believe, and I think people are far too easily taken in by, any statement by the German Chancellor in favour of peace, goodwill, and general reconciliation. I believe that they are re-arming, that they are determined to re-arm, and that nothing short of pressure of the most formidable kind will ever in the long run prevent them doing it. None the less, I think the Government are right in the next step which they have put forward, and I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will be successful in the visits that he is paying to other Powers, that, as a result, a conference of the leading statesmen, the Prime Ministers and Foreign Secretaries of five or six leading Powers, will be held, when they will, across the table, come to a definite agreement, if that is possible, as was done by my right hon. Friend at the time of Locarno. I wish them, while I am doubtful, all possible success, and I am sure that if they will put their shoulders to the wheel and press with all vigour, they will have behind them an overwhelming volume of public opinion in this country.

6.38 p.m.


It would be quite impossible in the time within which I hope to confine my observations to cover the whole of the ground traversed in this Debate, but I would ask leave to make an observation or two on some of the speeches that have taken place, and I would like, first, to make one observation which I am sure will meet with the assent of the whole House, without exception of parties or individuals, and, at any rate, I am certain that it will meet with the assent of all those who were in the House at the time of the speech to which I refer. I listened with almost complete agreement and with very great pleasure to the very remarkable speech made on the bench behind me by the hon. Lady the Member for South Hackney (Miss Graves) at an earlier stage of the Debate, and, if I may venture to say so, as an old Member, about a speech of a recent corner, it was a model of Parliamentary style, it was beautifully reasoned, and it was full of sound sense.

I turn for one moment to the subject raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Carlisle (Brigadier-General Spears). I do not think that this is the occasion to discuss the dangers of broadcasting in the international sphere, hut I desire just to record my opinion and my agreement with him that some of the recent broadcasts tend, not to promote peace, but to disturb it, and that a very serious problem is opening before us in relation to these broadcasts on foreign affairs. The occasions on which they are delivered, the circumstances in which they are delivered, and the people and the points of view to which they are confined are matters, I think, unless a change takes place, to which it will be the duty of this House presently to direct its attention.

I come to the speech which immediately preceded my own, only for the purpose of one observation, or perhaps two. The first is, that in these matters concerning the progress of international agreements, it is not sufficient to know our own mind; we must ascertain the mind of others, we must be prepared to give as well as to take, and we must be content to accept the practical, even while reserving to a future time that further progress towards our ideal which it is the right of every individual to cherish in whatever sphere of life he moves. I hope the House will never lose sight of the fact that the Government are not dictators outside this country any more than they are dictators within this coun- try, that, just as they have to secure a body of public opinion sufficient to support and carry their proposals within this House, so, in an international conference, they must look to currents of opinion which are not within their control, and must seek to secure, in that international gathering, some majority, failing unanimity, or the standard by which we judge of any action is at once a false standard, having no relation to realities. It makes it easy for those who want to condemn the Government, but it does not advance a solution of the problem, unless there is an underlying unanimity in this House and in this country.

I turn aside at this moment to touch a particular point on which the hon. Member dwelt. He deplored that the Government had made no reference to the control or suppression of the private manufacture of arms. I, on the contrary, am glad that they not pursuing that will-o'-the-wisp. I agree that control of the traffic in arms and publicity about it are very desirable, and perhaps even necessary, in connection with any project for disarmament, but I believe that to attempt to control the private manufacture of arms is an impossibility, so complicated are the processes to-day, so easily are machines turned from one purpose to some other cognate though different purpose, and so many are the products which enter alike into the daily civil life of any civilised community, and at the same time can be diverted to, or are equally requisite for, many warlike operations. I venture to say that the practical step on which we should concentrate in this respect is the control of the international traffic, and that we should use our utmost endeavours to get a ratification even in its present form of the Draft Convention for the control of the traffic in arms and of an amended Convention if experience shows that that is insufficient. The control of the international traffic is an easy and a most effective method of dealing with the difficulties which arise out of the uncontrolled manufacture of arms whether in Government arsenals or private factories. That is all I want to say about the comparatively minor matters raised in the course of the Debate.

I come now to my right hon. Friend's statement. I would like to ask that he would, as I think he himself suggested, lay a complete Paper giving us at least the four fundamental documents to which he referred in his speech, and I trust that he will reprint in that Paper with the other documents the White Paper now before us, so that we may have easy of reference on future occasions the original documents within one cover. I will go on to say in the next place that I have never thought it possible to lend support to the suggestion that we and the other nations not bound by these particular provisions of the Treaty of Versailles should be required to disarm down to the level imposed by that Treaty on the vanquished Powers. I have never felt that was a reasonable demand to make on ourselves or to present to others who are nearer the danger than we are and who are far more acutely alive to the possible peril of the situation. I go further and I say that while I was responsible, I never did admit the right of Germany to parity of armaments with the Powers to whom those provisions of the Treaty of Versailles did not apply, and I take no responsibility for that concession, which was made in guarded terms too often forgotten in controversy or discussion. I take no responsibility for the particular circumstances in which that claim was conceded. I think it was a mistake to concede it; I think it was a greater mistake to concede it in the particular circumstances in which it was conceded. But there my disagreement ends.

When I come to the particular question of disarmament I think that the Government intervened with their first scheme at the right moment. I do not agree with those who think they ought to have put their scheme forward earlier. I think they chose the right moment, the most effective moment, and that they were neither too soon nor too late. I do not agree with those—we have not heard such voices to-day—who have criticised the Government for holding their hand during the bilateral conversations. I think they were wise, but I agree again that they have chosen the right moment for a fresh intervention, that the bilateral conversations had fulfilled their purpose, that they had for this stage exhausted their usefulness, and that the time had arrived—and the Government properly seized it—to put forward new proposals. I heard with particular satisfaction my right hon. Friend's statement that the Government, recognising the difficulty of conveying in cold print the meaning and purport of their policy, had decided to send my hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal to the great Capitals in order further to exchange views, to offer explanations, and to learn the exact reaction and comment of these Governments when they fully understand the purpose and intention of the Government of this country. Not only do I welcome their decision to send a responsible member of the Government to discharge that task, but there is no man in this House to whom I would more gladly or with greater confidence entrust that mission than my hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal.

Holding these views, I am not going to enter into a discussion on the details of the White Paper. I desire only to say one word, and that perhaps rather for other audiences than those composed of my countrymen, about one particular passage in the White Paper. I refer to paragraph 9, which deals with security. I do not think it likely that at any time, and I am certain that at no time within my experience, has this country been ready or willing to bind itself specifically to particular actions in circumstances which it is wholly unable to foresee, and anyone who looks to us for that kind of guarantee will look to us in vain, for it is something that no Government of this country can offer. That is not to say that we have not made and cannot make a most valuable contribution, not merely to our own security as involved in that of others, but to the security of other countries themselves.

We shall in the last resort always reserve to ourselves the right to judge whether the casus fœderis, the situation foreseen in the engagement, has actually occurred. Then I would say to others to whom our purpose and intention are all important that they must have some regard for our history. "A gentleman's engagement" is an English phrase, but it is known all over the Continent. We keep our engagements as gentlemen in the spirit in which they are made, and while we must preserve this liberty of judgment as to whether the casus fœderis has arisen, we shall judge it in the spirit in which we took on the engagement and not in a narrow spirit, in a coward's spirit trying to avoid his obligation when the occasion of its fulfilment arises. When, therefore, I read the article which the Government propose to introduce into their original proposal as to the action to be taken if the Control Commission report that a particular country is not keeping the Convention and that country does not put itself in order as rapidly as possible, then I say that to any Englishman, any Briton reading those words, they are words of serious import; that if we pass them we are taking a solemn engagement of honour; and that if we accept them we shall fulfil it in the spirit and not seek to escape from it if ever we are called upon to face it. I refer to the end of the first part of paragraph 9 dealing with security, which states: It shall be the object of such consultation to exchange views as to the steps to be taken for the purpose of restoring the situation and of maintaining in operation the provisions of the present Convention. When a British Government supported by the British Parliament uses language like that, it means what it says. We are going to seek effective steps to prevent a breach of the Convention. We are not going to say that that meant nothing and that we never meant anything when we signed it. That is all I want to say really about what is in the White Paper and what was within the speech of my right hon. Friend when he expounded the White Paper to the House.

Listening to this Debate, and hearing some talk in the Lobbies outside, I got the impression that other people feel like me that there has been a certain unreality because we have been too much skimming over the surface without looking below to the underlying conditions which alone can justify disarmament and which alone can promote it. I think it is time that His Majesty's Government should make clear where they stand on certain matters. The hon. Member quoted from the Psalms, but the hon. Gentleman who sits beside me, whose memory is better than mine, has supplied me with another quotation from the same source which is not inappropriate to the observations that I am now offering: I labour for peace, but when I speak unto them thereof, they make them ready to battle. What is the purpose of disarmament? Is it to secure peace?—and by peace I do not mean merely abstention from arms; I mean peace: good neighbourly relations between States—or is it only, by the diminution of armaments and offensive power, to license every other form of attack upon the independence of your neighbour? This question is very material. The hon. Lady, to whose speech I have already referred, spoke with satisfaction of the recent Polish-German agreement. I share her satisfaction, but I do not express mine exactly in her language. Germany was already bound, not for 10 years only, but without limit of time, not to resort to force for the settlement of any difference existing between herself and Poland. She was bound by the Covenant, and is still bound by the Covenant. Her withdrawal from the League is not yet complete. She is bound, was bound, and remains bound, whatever happens to her relations with the League, by the Kellogg Pact, and she is bound by the Treaty, signed quite voluntarily by the German Government at Locarno and approved by the German Parliament, for the resolution by peaceful means of every dispute arising between her and Poland. If, therefore, we for one moment thought that this Treaty, lasting for 10 years, releases Germany from her obligation not to seek a solution of those difficulties by war after 10 years, it would not be an added security but a diminished security.

It is not for that cause that I welcome it; I welcome it because it would appear to put—and I hope it does put—these differences which have been acutely rankling and stirring all these years, on the shelf, in the cupboard, not to be looked at again for 10 years and not to be spoken of within that time. It gives a lull and a respite, and that is a great thing for the world, and most of all for the two countries immediately concerned, because only time can so alter national feeling, as to enable a permanent solution to be reached by agreement between the two countries. I therefore regard that agreement with unmixed satisfaction—always on the condition that it detracts nothing from the previous engagement but adds something to it. Nevertheless, I should view it with much greater satisfaction if Germany had not, in the meantime, taken on another quarrel, and if I were quite sure that Germany's gesture of appeasement to Poland were not merely a gesture intended to persuade the world of her peaceful intentions and her conciliatory attitude and thus to set her free in other directions; if I thought that what she had done with Poland yesterday she was now endeavouring to do with Austria.

I must not dwell too long on this question. We are discussing disarmament, but we must not level down armaments only to make more easy an attack without arms by other methods on the independence of a neighbouring nation, on the Government which it has chosen and which it can change whenever it likes—and whether we like the change or not we shall have no right of interference as long as that nation itself decides its own fate free from outside interference. But if we diminish armaments only to license unarmed aggression, then I, for one, see no really serious purpose in the reduction of armaments. The whole thing depends on the spirit which you bring to it and the purpose with which you pursue it. It is vital that Germany should understand that if we are to endeavour to meet her—and heaven knows that the Government has made one concession after another to German demands and that other Governments have made repeated concessions to German demands—if we are to make these concessions, they shall be made to serve the cause of peace and on no other condition. It is time that a fair warning was given to Germany that one condition of the acceptance and—I had almost said—of the consideration of her claim is that she should show that she has no aggressive intent against the independence of any other nation, whether by force of arms or by force of propaganda.

There are other matters in which we find more immediate concern. I want to speak without offence, and it is difficult to find the exact language in which to convey my thoughts without leaving myself open to misconception. You will do a great deal to conciliate and to please a man of whose good intentions and friendship, and of whose perfect sincerity and clarity of purpose you are sure, and who, you know, does not conceal behind the demands which he is urging upon you ulterior ends which he has not disclosed, but which are material for the decision which you are about to make. On the path of concessions to Germany we have already gone a very long way, and the time has come when we ought to indicate, on some points at any rate, quite clearly that there are limits, and that we make these concessions or come to these agreements in the hope that there will be a settlement and only in the hope that there will be a settlement; and that we are not ready to make all these concessions and then be faced next day with a new and more extreme set of demands, using what we have conceded merely as a jumping-off ground for these fresh claims.

Is it not time to ask the German Government to tell us frankly all that she claims, so that we may know and tell her how far we are prepared to go, either now or at a later time? We want at some time to know whether at that point Germany will accept an agreement as conclusive of the questions open between us or whether, if we reach the extreme limit of the concessions which we think safe or possible, we shall not be immediately met by a new set of demands. Where does the German Government stand in relation to the claim advanced in some quarters, not without authority, that there can be no settlement of these matters in dispute without a return to Germany of some, at any rate, of her old colonial possessions? It is not in the power of this Government, even if it wished, to surrender our mandates. Many of them are not within the control of His Majesty's Government in Great Britain. We cannot bargain with the property of other people, even though those other people are our own kinsmen. For ourselves, had we better not say quite frankly, and let it be known, that this is not a question which is open in our minds, and that if we are to accept the German claims on other points, they must withdraw their claim on this, and so reach a compromise in which each party gives something, and each takes something?

I come to another and still nearer matter. My right hon. Friend used a single phrase to-day which I thought dangerous and very unlike my right hon. Friend, who is a master of precise language—and precise language is needed in these matters. He said: The claim of Germany to equality or armaments cannot be resisted. I hope that in the course of this Debate we shall have an explanation of that phrase. I shall sit down in a moment but I want the right hon. Gentleman to be in possession of my thoughts. We have, in connection with disarmament, been thinking in these recent days of land and air forces, and we are apt to talk as though those were the only forces concerned. We are the more apt so to talk because there has been an international convention on the limitation of naval armaments which still continues, and the continuance of the naval convention tends to throw back the questions in issue in that sphere until the expiry of the Treaty of London. I want from my right hon. Friend or whoever speaks for the Government here to-day an express disavowal of any interpretation which could be put upon his words which should imply that we have accepted or will accept equality with Germany on the sea. I think that is essential for our own security. I do not doubt that the Government share my view, but I think it essential, in order that our purpose should be clear and that Germany should not be under any misapprehension, that it should be made as clear to her as it must be to Members of this House.

I am sorry to speak so long, but there are one or two other points I wish to put. Again, this phrase "equality of armaments." It used to be "equality of status by stages." When those words were chosen every word had a meaning; do not let us forget what we meant. In using colloquial language, let us be careful that we do not convey to others something which can be brought within the scope of the language which we have used but which was not in our minds and which we had no intention of conveying. I regard it as vital to peace, absolutely vital, that the character of the demilitarised zone should be preserved. Before we go any further in this question of disarmament, I want the Government to tell us and to tell the world that the maintenance of that demilitarised zone is a cardinal feature of British policy, and that it is unaffected by any phrases or language which we have used in relation to equality of status between Germany and the other great Powers.


I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman would like me to answer that point now, but I think it is desirable that it should be answered without delay. Nothing in the proposals of the White Paper, and nothing in the mind of the Government or what I said involves any change in the position as regards the demilitarised zone—nothing. Perhaps I may say that if I used the phrase "equality of armaments" I must have used the phrase unwittingly. The phrase which is used again and again in the White Paper and which I certainly intended to use is the phrase "equality of rights in the matter of armaments." I cannot, I think, put it more clearly than it is put in paragraph 10, and nothing I said was intended to go beyond that. As regards the subject of naval armaments, as indeed of all armaments, we are proceeding on the assumption that we may be able to negotiate a new agreement, and so far as naval armaments are concerned they are provided for in paragraph 17 of the White Paper as being entirely separate subjects and for entirely separate negotiations. I would like to make it entirely plain that I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and that what I was saying is to be understood in the sense which I have now indicated.


I am very much obliged to my right hon. Friend. I think the statement he has made is of great consequence, of very great consequence, and may prevent some very dangerous misapprehensions. I conclude with one last suggestion. At the end of the White Paper the Government say: If agreement is secured and the return of Germany to Geneva and to the League of Nations brought about—and this ought to be an essential condition of agreement—the signature of the Convention would open a new prospect of international co-operation and lay a new foundation for international order. I most heartily agree with the Government that this ought to be an essential condition of the agreement, and for my part I should be inclined to say that unless Germany accepts that essential condition of the agreement we ought not to put the signature of this nation to it; for the refusal to take again her place in the League, to renew or resume the obligations which she entered into in common with every other member, would indicate a spirit of isolation, of separation from common interests which would make a Disarmament Convention not a security but a danger.

7.22 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

I would like to express my appreciation of and my thanks for the speech with which the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary opened this Debate. It was one of the clearest and most unequivocal statements which has been made on foreign policy during the past two or three years. Also, it indicated that at last we are determined to take back that leadership in foreign policy as to which some countries at any rate, and some of our own people, have thought we have allowed ourselves to get slack. Appropos of that remark, a few months ago I was abroad, and a certain distinguished European statesman, not a German, said to me, "I do not understand you English. You have the greatest moral prestige in the world, to-day you are backed by the greatest Empire the world has ever known, and you are therefore entitled to come into the councils of Europe and the world and say 'Britain insists'. Why don't you do it?" I do not recommend that procedure to the right hon. Gentleman, because it might not be sufficiently diplomatic or tactful, but there is a great feeling, or rather there has been a great feeling, throughout the country that possibly we have not been using our great moral force sufficiently in questions of foreign policy. I feel now that the right hon. Gentleman has taken the lead which we have long wished Britain to take, and therefore I congratulate him on the situation.

Since the War we seem to have lost a sort of individualism in our foreign policy, to have taken the line of least resistance and allied our policy to that of the strongest country in Europe. But now, through the present Government and my right hon. Friend, we have emerged from that position, we have seized the leadership again in foreign policy in Europe, and have assumed once more the old traditional, historic rôle that Britain has always played with such skill, distinction and benefit to the world, that of the arbiter of peace. I have omitted to mention that one must give credit to the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) for the wonderful step forward in that direction which he took by the Treaty of Locarno. By that Treaty he brought comfort to France and confidence to Germany, and it was the wisest, sanest and most far-sighted step we have taken towards the pacification of Europe up to the present day. I cannot understand the policy of isolationism advocated by certain popular newspapers in this country. How can we divorce ourselves from responsibility for Europe? We are tied to Europe geographically, strategically and economically. Transport and means of communication have so modified distance and space that we are no longer an island nation. Our economic tie is equally unquestionable. If Europe were ravaged by war, which God forbid, we should inevitably lose our most valuable markets for generations to come, and in the general economic collapse we ourselves would be overwhelmed.

But it is in the strategic field that our link is most obvious. Here are our great ports, the arteries of our food supply, exposed to attack from the sea, and here lie our cities, laid bare to the attack of poison gas dropped from the air. From land and sea and air the attack would come. On the next occasion it would not be a case of Britain going to war, it would be a question of war coming to Britain, and coming from every angle. It would not be our soldiers who would be the heroes or the victims of that war, it would be the old and the young, the crippled and the blind and the babies—they would be the ones affected by a future war. So whatever position we may take up we cannot neglect that one essential fact, that we have responsibilities in Europe which we cannot evade, and which we should not evade, and it is our duty to take full cognisance of it.

I have not alluded to the purely ethical side, although it is a strong one. I cannot see that we are in a position to divorce ourselves from the care of humanity as a whole, and if we take that line we must decide in our own minds to go forward and keep the lead which we have taken, and ensure that by our activities we will bring permanent and lasting peace to harassed Europe. For all those reasons I was more than glad to welcome, in the first place, the initial White Paper produced by the Government. To my mind it was the sanest document that has been brought to life since the unfortunate Treaty of Versailles. For one thing, the policy outlined in that White Paper implied that we were basing our future foreign policy on justice and fair play, and it also implied—another matter in which I take great interest—that the question of treaty revision was being definitely raised as an issue of high international policy. Although I have every respect and regard for what my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham has said, we cannot keep a virile, strong and progressive people down indefinitely. I refer to Germany. We have to recognise that if we deny them colonies and pen them within narrow borders, inevitably there will be an explosion, and when that explosion takes place the victim will be civilisation itself.

I wish to congratulate the Foreign Secretary on this further Paper, which elaborates and widens the scope of the original White Paper of last year, and makes it more suitable for the difficulties that have been advanced by the various nations concerned. The advantage of the revised policy—if we can call it so, because it is not revised, since the basis of the original White Paper has been retained—is that it means that we have some base-line from which disarmament can start. In other words, it recognises that we must produce parity before honest disarmament can take place.

I hope that in this scaling up of armaments to meet the scaling down, Britain's commitments and responsibilities will not be forgotten by the Government. Locarno raised that very question in regard to our commitments. I do not see that we can be honest to the French or to the Germans if we continue assuming those very grave responsibilities which we have assumed, and rightly assumed, at Locarno, with an Army 7,000 under strength—and a police force at that—with a Navy possibly of a one-power standard but out of date to a great extent, and with an Air Force which, as General Groves has said, is the sixth lowest of the air forces of the world. We lack a realistic sense of honesty if we do not, in a spirit of loyalty to the people for whom we accepted this obligation, make ourselves sufficiently strong to carry the obligation out. Then there is the question of responsibilities. We have responsibilities for our Dominions in regard to Empire defence. We have responsibilities for our food and raw materials on the high seas. We are not honest with our own people if we allow our land, sea or air forces to get into such a state that we are unable to fulfil the obligation which every Government owes to its own people.

The world, I think, recognises that we are a peace-loving people, as the hon. Member for South Hackney (Miss Graves) has said. We do not desire war, and we do not want to gain anything. The countries of the world recognise that, too, and more so than we do ourselves, possibly. Furthermore, we are an objective people. If there is trouble or danger in the world we look at it as a question of sheer justice, and not merely from the point of view of how it is going to affect us. We are not like our Continental friends in that. We are therefore more suitable than any other nation to be armed to such a capacity that we can hold a balance of power and maintain peace in the world when other divergent and conflicting interests might wreck it. If in 10 years we get to the state of parity which the Foreign Secretary has outlined, we can start a genuine disarmament, by 10 per cent. a year or any other proportion, because once there is parity, and the sense of envy, hatred, injustice and fear have been removed, the nations of the world will have a psychologically different outlook. That will be the real time. What are 10 years in the history of the world? If we can secure a breathing-space during which this parity can be achieved, in 10 years we can start progressive disarmament right down to the merest police forces sufficient to protect us from marauders of the sea, and from people who owe no allegiance to honesty or decency. If we can achieve that, we shall do something which is really great and necessary for the general peace of the world.

I am going to try to observe the limits of speech which you, Sir, kindly conveyed to the House, and I will not trespass any further upon the time of the House, except to remind the Government that they were given at the last election, by the people of this country, and, I believe, by God, the power to lead. They are supported by a strong and united party and Parliament. I do not regard, as having any effect upon that strength, the few isolated objects whom I see upon the Opposition Benches, and who refused to stand by the country at the last election. We have shown the whole world that we have a united Parliament behind us. I ask the Government, now that they have started on this path, which I hope will lead to success, that they should pursue that path with courage and resolution. Let them hold the lead, supported by the righteousness of their cause and by the united goodwill and loyalty of the people.

7.36 p.m.


I congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore) on having just kept inside his time limit, and no more. I noted the time very precisely when he rose to his feet, and I had prepared an appropriate interruption for the period when he stepped over. I thought that his usually very fine oratorical style was somewhat cramped by the limits which he imposed upon himself, and which he endeavoured to impose upon others. I was surprised to see an experienced Parliamentarian like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) looking so frequently at the clock. He also seemed to be worrying about the proposed time limit. I am unmoved by the proposal to impose time limits on the Members of the House. Those time limits are usually imposed at the wrong time, upon the wrong people and on the wrong subject. Any attempt to guillotine us in that way, would, I am sure, detract much from the interest and variety of the proceedings in this House. Having said that, let me now relieve the mind of the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Wallace) who, I see, is looking rather alarmed. I do not propose to take the attention of the House for more than a very few minutes.


I always listen to the hon. Member with great interest.


I am glad of that. The hon. Member will not have to do it for too long on this occasion. My own views upon the fundamental issues behind this problem of disarmament are so much at variance with those of the overwhelming majority of hon. Members that I have seldom or never intervened in Debates upon international disarmament. I disagree with the view which is honestly and genuinely held by the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs that the superior character and moral of the British people is so much in advance of the peoples of the world, or that we have any special capacity for acting as moral directors over the others. I often wonder where these superior Britishers are, and who they are, because a very large part of our time is spent in passing legislation to control the moral characters of a very large proportion of our population.

This is a remarkable change-over from the type of Debate that we had yesterday, when we were discussing how we could moralise our own people who are unemployed and are on the Unemployment Insurance Fund. They are about 12,000,000 of the adult population, and that is a very big proportion. We were devising ways and means to train, teach, control and direct them. To-day we say that those 12,000,000, whom yesterday we were regarding as crooks or inferior people, are capable of the moral leadership of the world. My mind does not get that. I know that the overwhelming majority of hon. Members hold that view, and for that reason I do not frequently obtrude my own point of view on this subject.

I believe that the pursuit of peace and of permanent disarmament among the nations is, in existing economic conditions in the world, the pursuit of a fantasy. It is sheer romanticism to think that world peace is to be secured by nice, paper pacts between nation and nation, by tank inquiries or by various agreements of one kind or another, while the economic interests which actuate mankind's other activities are acquisitive and antagonistic. It seems to be a complete contradiction of common sense. If we are to get world peace, we have to get a society, throughout the nations of the world, based, not upon acquisitiveness and national aggrandisement, upon the establishment of the power of one man over another or one group over another, but upon a basis of common equality and of common responsibility for the economic welfare of all. That is the general philosophic background that I bring to this problem.

I smile, perhaps in a cynical way, at the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clay Cross (Mr. A. Henderson), the late Foreign Secretary, has spent over two years engaged in Disarmament Conventions since he was elected to Membership of this House. He has been so taken up with those responsibilities that he has only appeared on one occasion, which was when he took the Oath, to carry out his responsibilities to his constituency. There is something deplorable in the fact that two years of this man's time have been taken up in the attempt to get disarmament, and that the net result of those two years' work on his part in the international field—which earned him, I think, the Nobel Peace Prize—is the production of the White Paper which we have before us to-day, and the statement by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), who is leading his party in this House, that this is not a disarmament proposal, but a proposal to re-arm—a statement with which I agree absolutely.

When the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs and several other Members here have congratulated themselves or the Government upon Britain having resumed the leadership in the matter of disarmament, my comment is: Cannot we be quite honest with ourselves, and admit that this document does not represent British leadership? That document was not prepared, or the circumstances which created it were not prepared, by the British Government, but by the German Government. It is a document that only became possible and feasible in Europe after the accession of Herr Hitler to power. From 1918 to 1930, 1931 and 1932, a democratic Germany, a peace-loving regime in Germany, pressed the nations of the world to give Germany something like fair play, to admit her to equal standing among the nations. That was resisted. To-day, however, when a bellicose Government appears in Germany, which, while it coos like a dove on occasion, has a philosophy of conquest, a philosophy of war, a philosophy within its own land of rule by force and not by law—when that Government comes into power, we take the lead by running to concede to the warmongering Government in Germany what we would never concede to peace-loving Governments in Germany. Progress along those lines depends entirely on whether the men who are now ruling Germany are honourable men who can be trusted with the management of human affairs, and on whether their word is to be taken as the word of ordinary human beings in a civilised society.

I, for one, have not the faintest confidence in any undertaking that would be given by the present regime in Germany. Has there ever occurred in any civilised nation anything so despicable as what is going on now in Germany with reference to the four men who were tried in connection with the Reichstag fire? Can anyone mention any case in modern times in a civilised nation where four men, after a prolonged trial which took place before the eyes of the world, were acquitted by the highest court that the country itself could produce, and then were told by this civilised State, "While you were found to be not guilty, we are going to treat you as if you were guilty, and you are going to remain in prison all the same"? Our Foreign Minister asks me to agree that Great Britain must treat this Government as honourable, reliable and having an understanding of what human decency and honesty is. I cannot believe it. Laying aside the doctrine of force, laying aside the doctrine of rule by terror, the nation that cannot treat four individuals in its own land well cannot be trusted to take its place among the nations of the world and play a fair game in the affairs of the world. I regret very much that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister, and the Government generally, are going cap in hand to this regime, crawling and grovelling before it, saying, "What is the least you will take in the way of your present instalment of preparation for another war? What is your minimum demand? We will concede it to you." The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should rather say to them, "Clear up your own domestic problems first, show us that you know how to act with decency and humanity in your own internal affairs; and then we will consider our future relations with you."

7.50 p.m.


The Secretary of State, in the course of his speech, claimed that the White Paper was realist, that it was a real effort to bring about some agreement among the nations of Europe, to reconcile conflicting interests, and to allay those fears which have made the conclusion of a Disarmament Convention so difficult. But that opinion has not been unanimously held. There are still a great number of people who think that we can remain detached from the pro- blems of Europe, and that we can stand aside from the conflicts which may arise on the Continent. There are others who would agree to a certain extent with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) when he talked about places which were nearer to danger than ourselves. At a time when rivers, mountains and seas have been swept away as defensive frontiers by the aeroplane, when international and military relationships have been entirely changed by the appearance of aircraft, I do not think we can regard ourselves as further away from the danger than any other country on the Continent. The choice for this country is really not between isolation and close international co-operation, but between close international co-operation and a return to the old system of the balance of power—a system which has been described by a recent writer as balance, unbalance, rebalance, and then war. In these circumstances I feel that the air sections of the White Paper are of immediate and vital importance.

The Government have laid down a period of two years in which to arrive at some agreement with regard to the control of international aircraft. We must realise, as I do not think we do in this country at present, the nature of the aeroplane and of the change which it has brought about in the whole conduct of war. The aeroplane is, after all, essentially an offensive weapon, and not a defensive weapon. It can punish, but it cannot protect, and the punishment which it will inflict in future will be a punishment on the civil populations of the world. I do not see aerial warfare as a struggle between combatants; it will be a war against noncombatants. There have been certain rules of warfare in the past, though it is true that in the last War they fell into disrepute—very largely, if not altogether, as the result of aerial warfare. If we are unable to conclude any convention which will place any restriction on aerial warfare, or to come to any agreement between the nations on this question, I believe we shall return to savagery—we shall go back to warfare which is nothing more or less than international lynch law.

In these circumstances I would urge the Government to do everything they can during this period of two years, if an agreement is reached, to carry through the scheme included in the draft convention for the control of civil aviation. The Government, when they were putting forward their proposals at Geneva, referred to the scheme for the control of civil aviation as part of their long-range policy, but I believe that it has become part of a short-range policy, and it is imperative that we should consider the question immediately. I hope that the Government will look at this question from a broad political aspect, and not from a narrow technical point of view. I fully realise the risks that are involved; I fully realise that, whichever course we take, there will be risks; but I believe that a real effort to control civil aviation, to bring aerial warfare entirely under international control, will be a less risky course than a race in aerial armaments.

I do not think that it is fully appreciated in this country how great is the change which has taken place during the last two years in international affairs. The disappearance of reparations was the signal in Europe that the whole Versailles structure was beginning to crumble. Few people believed, except in the first post-War years, that it would be possible indefinitely to collect these vast sums from Germany, but every effort was being made during those years to keep up some kind of pretence. The Dawes Plan and the Young Plan were facades put up by one conference after another in order to hide the weakness of the structure. With the disappearance of reparations, we were forced out of a position which everyone knew to be both unhealthy and unsound—partly by the pressure of events, partly by the depression, but very largely by the fact that Germany had seized the initiative.

We have been compelled by that fact to revise our point of view on a large number of questions in addition to reparations, and I would point out that Germany regained the initiative before the Nazi revolution, before Herr Hitler came into power. I wish neither to underrate nor to over-estimate the Nazi revolution, but I feel that it is necessary for the countries of Europe, and especially this country, not to get into the frame of mind which feels that, while Germany is of opinion that she has regained her soul, we have lost ours. I believe that at this moment it is essential that we should face facts, and should be prepared to abandon those parts of the Treaty settlement which we regard as impracticable, and those which are a legacy of the bitterness and distrust which followed the War. But, as a corollary to that policy, we must decide definitely where we are going to stand, and there must be a point at which the Government will make up its mind that there will be no further concession. I believe it is essential that we should have a spearhead for our first advance, and should hold to a strong line from its beginning to the end and give our support to the League of Nations, and insist on a fair and just disarmament convention.

There is nothing that I welcome more in the White Paper than the clearly expressed view of the Government that they are prepared to intervene in Europe, to become a guarantor of the convention. We cannot have peace unless we are prepared to undertake obligations. The position of this country is pivotal; our action means the success or failure of the new international order. I trust that the Government will not be led away into agreeing to some kind of economic sanction which would really be another pretence, another facade. A statement that we should be prepared to enter into economic sanctions without also saying that we would be prepared to back them up by force in the last resort; would mean that we should be misunderstood in those quarters where it is most important we should be understood. We must in any agreement that we enter into go forward with the full force and authority of this country. After all, internal peace has only been preserved in the last resort by the knowledge that force is behind the central Government and is behind the peace. I have never heard of any case in which internal peace has been built up by a system similar to economic sanctions. I hope the Government will pursue this policy which they have set forth in the White Paper. While I agree with the matter of the White Paper, I could wish that it had been much more forcefully put when it was communicated to the public and to the various Powers. It is essential that, if the policy that we are pursuing is to be successful, we must consolidate public opinion in this country in such a way that there will be no doubt that the country is determined to follow the path of close co-operation in Europe.

8.1 p.m.

Vice-Admiral TAYLOR

I most firmly believe that every nation is sincerely desirous of peace, and I do not think we shall do any good to that cause by not acknowledging that Germany also is sincerely desirous of peace. For years every nation has been endeavouring to bring about a measure of disarmament, all desirous of peace, and yet those endeavours have failed. It shows that there is something outside the question of disarmament in itself. There is some fear, something which prevents nations from disarming, some causes of war existing. We shall never bring about peace through disarmament. We shall only bring about a measure of disarmament agreed to by all nations through peace and the removal of the causes of war. In the Draft Convention we have proposals which, so far as Germany is concerned, go further than any proposals have gone before in the endeavour to bridge the gap between the demand of France for security on the one hand and the demand of Germany for equality of status in armaments on the other. I cannot understand how the Foreign Secretary thinks that to-day he is more likely to achieve success and get France to agree to reduce her armaments. How is he likely to induce France to imagine that she is going to get security to-day any more than six months or a year ago? France has always stood out for security. The League of Nations and its obligations of collective action was not enough for her, so there followed the Locarno Pact. Still she was not satisfied and cried out for security. What will she be satisfied with? How is it possible to give France this security which she has never yet defined by asking her to reduce her armaments while allowing Germany to increase hers? I cannot understand how it is considered by the Government that these proposals are going to meet with any more success than the proposals that have been put forward in the past.

I am entirely opposed to the principle of trying to obtain peace through disarmament. We cannot possibly obtain it. It is not enough. We must have some policy running alongside of it, which will remove the real causes of war. For 13 years we have been talking about war and armaments and nothing else. If during those 13 years, instead of discussing disarmament, we had devoted the time, the energy and the talent that we have put into it, in talking about peace and the removal of the causes of war, I am sure the world would be much nearer a solution of the difficult problem of disarmament and peace than it is. It is impossible to imagine that Germany is going to be kept down for all time in the position she is in to-day. During all these post-War years in which we have been trying to bring about a measure of disarmament, the national ideals and aspirations in Germany, Hungary and Austria have been growing, they have not been standing still. Germany has brought about a treaty of non-aggression with Poland for the next 10 years. To my mind that merely means a breathing space. It has not removed the thorn in Germany's side, the Polish corridor. That question will have to be settled either between Germany and Poland or by the Great Powers. It cannot drift on for ever. A solution has to be found. There is a tremendous Nazi movement taking place in Austria. We all give due credit to Dr. Dollfuss for the very gallant stand that he is taking to maintain the independence of Austria, but it is more than probable that he will not succeed and that Austria will have a Nazi Government and she will then, to all intents and purposes, become Germany. What are the Government proposing to do to check the results of this Nazi movement? If Austria goes Nazi, you will have Germany, Czechoslovakia and Austria, Czechoslovakia being the nut between the crackers, and 60 per cent. of her population desirous of putting an end to Czechoslovakia as it is to-day. The nationals of Germany, Austria and Hungary want to go back to their own country. They are not satisfied as they are. What is going to happen in Hungary? Are we going to allow this Nazi movement in Germany to spread to the South-East, through Austria and Hungary, to the Balkans? We are taking no action in that matter.

The causes of war, the injustices which are admittedly in the peace treaties are still there. The minorities are not being safeguarded by the clauses in these treaties as they ought to be, and the time will come when, if nothing is done to remove them and bring justice, undoubtedly there must be war. There cannot be anything else. It is incumbent upon the Government to take the lead not merely in the matter of disarmament, which we have done, but to give a lead to Europe and declare our policy with regard to the removal of the causes of war which exist at present in the Near East due to the peace treaties. I am sure they are looking to us to do so. They would be only too glad if we would take the lead in that respect and stand for a policy of the revision of the treaties to remove the injustices that exist. You will never satisfy everyone, but it must be to the benefit of the peace of the world that Austria and Hungary should maintain their independence, and that we should check the spread of the Nazi movement right down to the South-East. We cannot dissociate ourselves from Europe. We are far too closely bound up with her, and, if a quarrel breaks out, we are bound to be implicated.

I beg of the Government to take the lead and to declare to Europe that we stand for the policy of the revision of the Treaty of Trianon and thereby the removal of the injustices that exist, and that we will do our utmost to remove the real causes of war. I am certain that disarmament will then follow. We have disarmed our forces to such a level that we cannot give security to ourselves, neither can we carry out the very serious responsibilities which we have taken upon ourselves in the defence of other nations should war, unfortunately, break out. If the Locarno Treaty means anything at all to France or to Germany, it means strength from this country. Remove the strength which we can give to those Powers and the value of Locarno is diminished in proportion as that is true. I hope the Government will therefore in addition to endeavouring to bring about a measure of disarmament, on which everyone agrees, take such steps as are necessary to remove the real causes of war.

8.12 p.m.


I welcome the declaration that has been made by the Foreign Secretary, but I sincerely hope it will not lead us to a false security. The proposals before the House in my view take us a long way forward to the goal that we have been endeavouring to reach for so long. I am not one of those who would distrust Germany. I feel that, if we are going forward to achieve disarmament and world peace, the first thing that we must do is to clear out of our minds suspicion and fear. The proposals to-day refer entirely to the States of Western Europe, but, in considering world peace, I should like to take a very much broader aspect of the question. I consider that the position in Central Europe is most dangerous. While we are prepared to make concessions to Germany, there is in Central Europe a small country, Hungary, which is suffering an even greater humiliation than Germany has suffered under the Versailles Treaty and, unless we are prepared to recognise the injustice under which Hungary is suffering, I fear that, however desirous we may be for the success of the Foreign Secretary's proposals, they will not succeed unless we look in other directions.

I would also look further than Central Europe. The relationships between Japan and America and between Japan and Russia are to-day by no means encouraging. We, having obligations throughout the world, cannot feel that we should be disinterested in the decision of those countries to-day. There was a very encouraging remark made by the Foreign Secretary in his speech to-day regarding our position and disarmament, and I am encouraged to think that the Government have made up their mind that we must look into our own position as far as defensive armaments are concerned, if there is no immediate agreement upon the proposals which have now been placed before Germany. It is essential, with the obligations that this country has throughout the world, that we should have sufficient powers of defence, and, whatever that may mean from the point of view of expenditure, we should be ready to face it. In the past the strength of Great Britain has preserved the peace of the world, and in her weak position to-day, as far as defensive forces are concerned, I fear that it cannot last indefinitely, and that we must be prepared to strengthen our forces and so enable us to retain the respect which hitherto we have held from the rest of the world because we have had the strength to defend ourselves.

The hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) has referred to dealing with the causes of war. I have felt for a long time that we have been trying to tinker with the effects and not dealing with the causes. Look round the world, into every civilised nation, and examine the conditions which have been in existence practically since the War. In a discontented community, seething, in many countries, with unemployment, with the general condition of the standard of living quite incapable of being sustained due to the failure of distribution, you have the very seeds for war, and it is these causes which I should like to see dealt with. I believe that it is possible to achieve peace more readily through the economic avenues than through the political avenues. Let us restore to our people the purchasing power that they have lost and give to them, in the interests of world peace, greater continuity of employment and a standard of living which will make them feel contented. I feel that by achieving these conditions the disarmament which we desire and the peace which we are out for will be more readily restored. I sincerely hope that the League of Nations, if it comes to be reformed, will pay more attention to this side, because as long as the world is grappling and struggling for markets which are limited by its monetary policy, as long as that fight goes on—to-day there is the bitter fight for gold—it can only result, if it continues for long, in a repetition of the World War. Let us substitute in our fight for international markets an exchange of goods instead of an exchange of gold, and by that means I believe that the goal of peace will be brought nearer.

8.20 p.m.


I had intended had it been my good fortune to catch your eye only to make a brief speech to-night, but it seems almost likely to be in the public interest that I should extend my remarks somewhat beyond 10 minutes. The hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Craven-Ellis) mentioned on several occasions in the course of a very interesting speech what he regards as the possibility of our increasing our powers of defence. With very great respect, I believe that my hon. Friend begins with an entirely wrong premise. I invite him to re-read the speech delivered in this House—certainly the most remarkable speech which have heard delivered on the Floor of this House during my career in Parliament—of the Lord President of the Council on 10th November, 1932. I make no apology for referring again to that speech, because with regard to the problem of the air it seems likely to become the standard work of reference. If my hon. Friend will do me the kindness of re-reading that speech he will see proof in contempt of question that there are no longer any powers of defence possible on the part of a sovereign Power acting alone. Indeed he will see from the conclusion which the Lord President of the Council then drew that: The only defence is in offence, which means that you have to kill more women and children more quickly than the enemy if you want to save yourselves."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1932; col. 632, Vol. 270.] Therefore, it seems unwise to continue upon the basis of the narrow and sovereign insularity. If that is the kind of thing which will defile the world in the case of any future war, it is perfectly true to say, is it not, that the last grains of romance and chivalry have departed from warfare. My hon. Friend referred to various causes from which war might be said to originate, and one of them, he said, was fear. I would suggest to him that competitive armaments are both the cause and the effect of fear. That proposition is borne out by the disputes which now prevail in Europe, at Geneva and elsewhere through the diplomatic channels with regard to this bone of contention. The whole problem is how to reconcile the security of France with the equality of Germany, and the whole issue revolves immediately round the question of armaments. You cannot, in my humble judgment, separate armaments from fear.

Immediately before my hon. Friend made his interesting speech we heard a very eloquent speech from the hon. and gallant Member who sits for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) and he too, I think, used a phrase in this Debate a little rashly, namely the word "security." He said that he did not see any means by which security could be devised for France. The only logical conclusion from the speech of the hon. and gallant Member I shall venture to draw in a moment. He said that you cannot obtain peace by disarmament only, and with that proposition I cordially agree. You have to join it, as he said, to another policy. The kind of disarmament at which we must aim is not fortuitous budgetary cutting, leaving the various sovereign powers in the same relative position as they were before, but a definite scheme of planned disarmament. He will find the answer to his problem in an enlightened treatment of the air problem because there is only one means by which we can both prevent the misuse of the air and give to the international tribunal which sits at Geneva the means of enforcing its decisions. The answer to the hon. and gallant Member was given earlier in the Debate to-night in another speech delivered by a Member who is no less honourable and equally gallant, the hon. and gallant Member who sits for Burnley (Vice-Admiral Campbell).

I was delighted and very interested to hear the advocacy of an international police force by my hon. and gallant Friend. I regret that he is not in his place. There is no need for him to call an international police force Utopian, when it is advocated by himself, one of the most practical and gallant Members of this honourable House. Reforms and schemes for re-arranging the polity of the world are only Utopian provided there are only a few people who desire those reforms to be implemented. To make it non-Utopian enough people must desire it. That is the first step towards realising the ideal to which the Lord Privy Seal has said that he is not opposed.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carlisle (Brigadier-General Spears) went to some length in dealing with certain broadcasts delivered by a gentleman upon the European situation and in doing so he was held by Mr. Speaker to have contravened the rules of order. The hon. and gallant Member said that they had produced deplorable circumstances both nationally and internationally, and he added that in his view it was too late to retrieve the situation. That phrase "too late"—how bitterly it sounds when one considers the policy pursued by the victorious Powers since the War! I am not making a charge against any particular one of the successive Governments of the various victorious Powers when I say that since the imposition of the Treaty of Versailles upon the defeated Powers the whole of their subsequent policy has been distinguished by un-punctuality. They have missed a series of 'buses in their treatment of Germany both over the question of reparations and of armaments. They missed the Stresseman 'bus and later on they missed the Bruening 'bus. Still, for further reasons, which I hope to deploy in a moment, I do not think we need yet despair of the European situation.

When I hear the charges made against the present rulers in Germany—and I destest and loathe the Nazi r.gime and all that it implies as much as any Member of this House—I cannot eliminate from my mind the conviction that had the victorious Powers observed those principles of rudimentary sportsmanship that one is supposed to learn at school there would certainly have been no excuse for the emergence of Hitler, there would have been none of the gross ill-treatment of the Jews and certainly none of the schooling of the youth of Germany in the spirit of war—the schooling of a youth which is too young to remember the horrors which war necessarily implies. When we consider the deplorable r.gime which now exists in Germany, and seems as if it might be copied elsewhere in the world, we have to remember the causes of it, and in fairness the victorious Powers cannot divest themselves of a measure of responsibility.

Earlier in the Debate a very brilliant attack was made upon the foreign policy of the present Government by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee). What he said was a little inconsistent with something which comes from contemporary literature. I refer to the "Daily Herald." On the 31st January this year a very remarkable statement appeared in the leading article of that paper which is, I believe, the official organ of the Labour party. I will read two paragraphs: The new British memorandum on disarmament provides an opportunity to both countries"— meaning France and Germany. It is an honest attempt to find a solution not merely honourable to both parties, but affording them a chance for that reconciliation which is the only real security for both. A day later there appeared something even more striking in a leading article of the same journal, headed "One more chance," to which there was a subheading, "If France insists." In the middle of the article, beneath the subheading, were these words: But between these two positions there should be a middle path and Sir John Simon has set himself the task of acting as pathfinder. His memorandum accepts frankly the plain fact that the promised equality has to be fulfilled in practice as well as in principle. Since the other Powers clearly will not disarm to Germany's level Germany must, by consent, rearm to the extent which they are prepared to accept for themselves. That is axiomatic. Such slogans as "Disarmament—not Rearmament" mislead by ignoration of facts, which may be hard but are none the less facts. Mr. H. G. Wells, in his work "The Outline of History"—a curious title for something which is so amorphous as history—says: The League of Nations has no powers even to inspect the military preparations of its constituent States or to instruct a naval and military staff to plan out the armed co-operation needed to keep the peace of the world. The first of these two deficiencies, namely, no control of armaments of the various constituent States and no means of enforcing the decisions of the League, is in danger of falling to the ground owing to the extremely welcome acceptance on the part of the Foreign Office of the principle of the permanent and automatic supervision of armaments. I would add, in parenthesis, that there will be no sure means of settling disputes or curbing aggression unless certain physical powers, particularly the Air power, are reserved to the League of Nations.

The acceptance of the permanent and automatic supervision of armaments constitutes such an enormous leap forward and is so gratifying to me, and I am sure to other hon. Members and to the great majority of our people in this country, that it would be churlish if I failed to say "thank you" to the Government. It seems to me now that to men of good will who refuse to believe in the inevitability of warfare amongst adult groups of individuals hope has flashed forth with the salutary suddenness of a dawn in the tropics. I refuse to believe that there is no longer any hope of disarmament. One of the necessary principles in connection with planned disarmament has been accepted by His Majesty's Government.

Let the House consider the magnitude of the concession that the Government have made. Is it not a startling thing that the British Admiralty, with its long record of victorious independence, should have admitted this principle of permanent and automatic supervision? Only those who conceal something have anything to fear, and it is the proud boast of the English people, it is our traditional boast, that we do not conceal things in dealing with our neighbours. The necessary condition of this principle is that supervision is to apply equally not only to France, Germany and ourselves but to the other signatories to the Convention, and I hope that quite soon a new rule will be laid down in our foreign policy that all licences for the export of arms and munitions will be permanently withheld, and will only be granted when the competent authority, presumably the Council or the Assembly of the League of Nations, decide that a nation has been attacked and needs these armaments and munitions for self-defence.

The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) and the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) mentioned the traffic in arms. Mine is an immediate proposition which might be implemented to-morrow. I have always urged on His Majesty's Government that it is an indecent thing for private individuals to make profits out of the disputes of foreigners, and here, I suggest, is an effective and sincere method of control which is within the hands of His Majesty's Government. Let me come more particularly to the document itself, the Memorandum on Disarmament. It is necessarily an imperfect document, indeed, it is bound to be imperfect as so many hopes have been frustrated for the last two years. There are points in the Memorandum about which a fractious person could easily find something to criticise. With great respect there is something on page 4, which invites a shout of criticism. It says: It is sometimes urged that the solution of the disarmament problem lies in the immediate abandonment by all the world of the weapons which the Peace Treaties withheld from certain Powers. But it is manifest that such a solution is in practice unattainable at the present time. The Memorandum is careful not to specify what Governments would not consent to such a general solution as this and, indeed, I am not aware that our own Government has at any time expressed its willingness, if other Powers agreed to the same course, to abandon the weapons which were forbidden to Germany under the Peace Treaty. One of the reasons, I am sorry to say, why no better result seems in immediate prospect is this: that His Majesty's Government, or perhaps not His Majesty's Government so much as a majority in this House of Commons, displayed towards disarmament and kindred problems comparative indifference at the beginning of 1932 when the Disarmament Conference was in its infancy. There seemed to me, if I may say so with due courtesy, too great a readiness on the part of hon. Members to rely on our good will and our past achievements in the matter of disarmament, and we fell into the fault of excessive subjectivity. It has been said that the House of Commons constitutes the heart of government and the Cabinet the brains. The House of Commons, if you may call it the heart of the Government, did not in those days pump that warm stream of invigorating blood to the brain which consisted of the Cabinet. I have never yet discovered what possible valid objection there could have been to His Majesty's Government at least expressing their willingness to abandon all the aggressive weapons prohibited to Germany under the Peace Treaties provided other nations did the same. But the offer was not made at that time, and we have been urged to be realists to-day. It may not be possible to get that general measure of agreement now.

I go back to the beginning of 1932, and I should like to have it on record that in my belief the wider and more generous the proposals that might then have been made the more certainly we should have had a wider area of general agreement. Indeed—I expect this argument will appeal to the House of Commons which must be the trustees of the public finances—if that kind of scheme of disarmament had been put forward and had been generally accepted, as indeed it might have happened before the advent of Herr Hitler and the Nazi r.gime, this country and others would have been saved mountains of treasure. The Foreign Secretary in the course of his illuminating speech this afternoon said that we had a special interest in this position. Of course we have. We have two interests, first, a financial interest, and secondly, the concern that we shall have to determine what our policy shall be if the Disarmament Conference finally fails. He said that we should have to reconsider our position in regard to armaments. I am afraid that a good many hon. Members inferred from that, and indeed may have been entitled to infer from what the Foreign Secretary said, that we should have to restart rearmament. That kind of mentality, that condition of mind, that outlook, absolutely amazes and startles me. I should have thought that anybody who has read carefully the history of the first quarter of the twentieth century would have known that any nation which indulges in the Gadarene enterprise of rearmament is merely accelerating the general stampede over the precipice. The Foreign Secretary stated that we should have to face the calamity and act accordingly, and that we had, moreover, taken a comparative view of armaments. We are to-day taking that comparative view; unfortunately, in the course of 1932 the Government took an exclusively subjective view. There is one other thing in the Memorandum which I should like to quote. The devotion of the whole British people to the cause of disarmament is deep and sincere. That is not only true, it is profoundly true. That devotion is deeper and more sincere in all parties and in all sections, and in all classes, than the Government were willing to recognise in the course of 1932. But certain domestic incidents in our history may have brought home to them the measure of that sincerity. It may be perhaps fair to say that although the finished article, the present diplomatic crisis, is certainly of German origin the raw materials for that crisis was derived from the territories of the victorious Powers. I am not speaking, it would be presumptuous on my part, of the Foreign Secretary or the Lord Privy Seal. If language means anything at all both of these right hon. Members have been very zealous in the cause of disarmament for the last two years. Any criticism which can be offered from either side of the House has to be spread over the shoulders of the whole Cabinet, and that which I may not presume to criticise I may at least take leave to deplore.

There is one important defect, one important omission of detail, under the Air Section. I refer, of course, to the bombing reservation. I hope sincerely that if and when conversations are renewed at Geneva that that reservation will be withdrawn. It would not be appropriate, nor is this the time, to rehearse the arguments we have used inside and outside this House against that reservation, which in my judgment absolutely neutralises the generally good policy of the Government with regard to air. It is really part of the whole problem of modern diplomacy which, I think, can be epitomised in this form—competitive sovereignties wielding competitive armaments. Until this country and other countries of the world approximate more closely to the French ideal and are willing to surrender a measure of their sovereignty to the cause of justice, until that time, the nations of the world, which is hourly, daily, monthly and yearly getting smaller and smaller and fuller and fuller, will continue, as they have all through history, to exhibit the characteristics of quarrelsome children playing in a yard with deadly contrivances whose terrible destructiveness they only imperfectly understand.

8.45 p.m.


The hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. V. Adams) quoted some words from the White Paper: The devotion of the whole British people to the cause of Disarmament is deep and sincere, but the hon. Member omitted to continue that quotation, and I will read the next line: as is sufficiently proved by the present position of its armaments in comparison with those of other leading Powers. I feel that this devotion to disarmament, although sincere, is tinged to some extent with anxiety as to our present state in relation to other forces in the world, anxiety which is not allayed either by the wording of this document or by consideration of the strength of those forces which we possess. There has been some discussion to-day of the question whether we were taking on a new commitment in the obligations on the question of security. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary gave it as his opinion that we were not taking on a new commitment, in that we always had the ultimate free will to decide our own course, and that no Government to-day could obligate this country in the future in circumstances that were undefined and under conditions that we know not of at present. That is quite true. Then the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) said that if those words meant anything, they meant, at any rate, that we were going to fulfil in a "gentlemen's agreement" spirit any breach of the undertaking of the Disarmament Convention.

I submit that we cannot have it both ways. This is a new commitment very definitely if we are to fulfil it in the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman for West Birmingham said that this country would always deal with any problem. The wording is vague, quite rightly. I do not think there is anyone in the House who would support a definite commitment, if the Government were so bald as to make one, for some indefinite circumstance in the future. The wording is vague and it is straining the friendship of our allies and friends in Europe, and their belief in us, for them to accept these words in this White Paper as being sufficient security. The only possible justification for their accepting them as security is that we interpret them in the way that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham stated. If we do not, the words are meaningless, just a conversation, just vacant words. I suggest that unless we are able to fulfil this undertaking in that spirit, the whole thing is valueless as security, and, furthermore, that we cannot possibly fulfil that undertaking unless, first, the House of Commons is behind the Government, and then the country is behind the House of Commons, if such circumstances were ever to arise.

The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) and his friends are, I believe, the very worst enemies of security, in the way they preach the whole time that we have to pledge our resources, come what may, in circumstances we do not know, in order to interfere in some problematical dispute in future. We are always having thrown up to us—the hon. Member for Limehouse used the example this afternoon, and he has not been alone in that—the Sino-Japanese dispute. Perhaps the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) may bring in this old friend of his.


indicated assent.


I am glad to hear that he intends to do so, because if we had followed out logically the policy that he advocates in the Sino-Japanese dispute it would certainly not have had that essential support in this country without which the Government cannot move.

We have had some words to-day about the Austrian question. I submit that whatever the Government do here, as in other questions, must be regulated, and is regulated and limited, by the amount of public support that they know they can obtain. Would the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol and his friends advocate what would result? In opening their "Times" some morning they would see the headline, "War on the Eastern European Frontier," and then would read, "We regret to announce the following casualties," and they would find this followed by the names of men in the Gloucester Regiment, the Kent Regiment, our own county regiments. Would they care to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day come into this House and introduce a supplementary Budget which put burdens on every class of the community in order that we could fulfil our obligations in Eastern Europe? Definitely to undertake a policy with those reasonable possibilities would be to pursue a course that would never obtain the support of this House, and one which, if it did, would not get the support of the country; and should we give it our support we should deserve to be kicked out neck and crop within a week, as we undoubtedly should be.

I agree entirely with the right hon. Member for West Birmingham on the need for interpreting our obligations in a broad spirit, but I would utter the warning that that spirit can only be the spirit just so far as British public support allows the Government to go. If the Government wanted to give greater security to-day, I do not believe they could. They have to educate the British public to agree before they can put our resources, pledge our resources, life and money, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, and put them at the disposal of some unknown force in some unknown circumstance.

I want to touch for a few moments on the question of traffic in arms, to which the hon. Member for West Leeds referred. It is a grand idea to stop all the manufacture of arms for provate profit—splendid if you can first define what an arm is. In war a motor-car, the conveyance which we all use in peace time, immediately becomes a method of communication and therefore an arm. According to the hon. Member you must control it at once in peace. We now come to the next example—ploughs, a very useful thing. But they can be turned into tractors to haul guns, and the Minister of Agriculture must at once control the ploughs in this country.


Surely the hon. and gallant Member means tractors, not ploughs.


I apologise. I meant tractors.


Did not the Government know perfectly well 12 months ago when they put on a two-sided embargo on the export of arms?


And took it off again almost at once. Motor cycles are an excellent thing in peace time. Our young men still have enough courage to go about the streets on them, and great courage at that, but in war time they are weapons, and they therefore must be controlled in peace time so that our number of motor bicycles does not exceed the number in another European country. We have read in the "Times" correspondence about various old war horses. So with horses. There was one old war charger belonging to General Seely, "Warrior," which carried him through the War. You would have to put "Warrior" under international control as a possible weapon in the next war. I admit that I have prolonged the argument to a logical absurdity, but nevertheless there are points which have to be considered in this question of the nationalisation of arms. It is a glorious expression to use on a platform, "Let us control the manufacture of arms."


My hon. and gallant Friend appears to be answering me substantially. I did not suggest control of the manufacture of armaments. What I said might immediately be done was to withhold permanently any licence for the export of arms, unless some competent authority decided that a certain nation had been attacked, and needed those arms for its defence.


Then at once, to-morrow, you would have to stop the export of motor cars from Birmingham, because a motor car is a potential weapon. You have to get your definition right first. If you stopped international traffic in arms, you would probably encourage smaller countries to build up, behind their tariff wails, inefficient industries manufacturing arms themselves. I think there are better ways of approaching the attainment of peace than by following will-o'-the-wisps and impracticabilities such as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have suggested. There is one point with which I would ask the Lord Privy Seal to deal in his reply. I think that the White Paper is rather ambiguous on this point. It seems to me that it can be read in two ways. I may be reading it wrongly and if so I am sure that the Lord Privy Seal with his great ability for clearing up these points will make plain the meaning of the document. On page 11, the White Paper deals with the question of the Permanent Disarmament Commission considering during a two years period whether all countries shall possess aircraft or whether military and naval aircraft can be abolished altogether.

I have flown aeroplanes both in the service and out of it. I have earned my living and still do to some extent by building aeroplanes, the majority of them civil aeroplanes, though some go to the Air Force. When I first took my pilot's certificate we were called pioneers. Later we became captains of industry, and now, apparently, we have graduated to the rank of arms racketeers. If you could abolish not merely military and naval aircraft but all aircraft it would be another matter. Though I am connected with flying I am not sure that aircraft have brought any happiness to the earth, and if you could make it a world-wide criminal offence for any man to leave the ground in a mechanical contrivance I would go into the Lobby in support of such a policy. I fear, however, that such a policy is unattainable and we have to deal with these problems as realists. On this question as to whether or not military aircraft should be abolihed during a period of two years, assuming the answer to be in the negative, then for the following eight years we are allowed to go up, while the other countries come down to the Draft Convention figures, or such other figures as may be determined. Is that so?


indicated assent.


The White Paper then goes on to say: It is, of course, understood, that all construction or fresh acquisition of weapons of the kinds which are to be destroyed during the life of the convention would be prohibited. For the two years during which the Permanent Disarmament Commission are investigating the problem, the question as to whether these weapons shall be or shall not be permitted, is, so to speak, sub judice. It is undecided. Therefore, presumably, for those two years we are unable to increase our Air Force or to buy one single machine in excess of our present level. Is that so?


I think that is governed by the articles of the Draft Convention itself.


I have looked at the articles and I still submit that there is an ambiguity here. When the next Air Estimates come up, presuming that the present Government wish to proceed slowly with the 1929 home defence scheme envisaged by the Lord President of the Council, shall we be entitled to do that? Or, will the Government have to say to the House and the country, who, rightly or wrongly feel deeply about this question, "Owing to having subscribed to this White Paper we are unable to advocate the construction of machines for one more squadron of the Air Force in accordance with our home defence requirements"? I think we ought to have clear "Yes" or "No" from the Government on that point. Let us leave aside for the moment the question of whether hon. Members agree with me or not that our home defence should be built up to the 1929 programme immediately. What I want is a clear interpretation of this point.


Clearly we should not be bound by any document which we had not signed. Until the Draft Convention is signed we should not be bound by it.


I know that we should not be bound by any signed document, but would we be bound morally?


indicated dissent.


The Lord Privy Seal shakes his head. That is the point I wished to get quite clearly from the Government. Therefore in spite of the White Paper we may go forward, reasonably and slowly, fulfilling the defence requirements of this country irrespective of the fact that at Geneva we are trying to advocate disarmament with the possibility of the total abolition of air weapons. I congratulate the Government. I cannot say that I regard the position as exactly consistent. Nevertheless it is satisfactory for those who, like myself, feel that at the present time the commitments of this country are such that our defences are inadequate.

9.0 p.m.


In the very interesting Debate to-day reference has been made to the fact that there has been a certain feeling of unreality in regard to the discussions of this subject. I cannot help thinking that that is partly due to the long period during which the Disarmament Conference has been sitting. It is nearly two years since the Conference first assembled. We had a period during which the Conference was being gathered together. Then we had the incident of Germany leaving the Conference. Then we had the return of Germany at the end of 1932, followed by a period in which the Draft Convention was proposed by this country. It is nearly 10 months since that Draft Convention was placed before the Conference, and to-day we are still facing the problems which were then presented to us.

I cannot help feeling that one of the chief causes for the feeling of uncertainty which exists has been the attitude of Japan and the repercussions which have resulted from that attitude. Many of those who are sincerely anxious to promote peace have suggested that certain action should have been taken when Japan refused to bow to the decision of the League. Personally, I was never convinced by any of the arguments presented to us that those proposals would have been effective in achieving the object in view, namely to impose the will of the League on one country which refused to abide by the League's decision. One suggestion was an organised boycott by the rest of the world. If one nation is surrounded by a boycott then inevitably, unless that nation is going to bow to the decision of the majority, it will endeavour to break the chain which surrounds it at the weakest link. In the case of Japan that link was obviously at hand in China, and if Japan had seized the Chinese ports what action could have been taken by other nations to enforce their will? In a short time you might have found that only two nations could have taken any action, namely, the United States and our own country, and we might easily have been involved in war.

While I was fully convinced that the policy carried out by the Government and the League was the only one which I could see was possible in that case, it undoubtedly had the effect of creating in the minds of many people the dissatisfaction and the uncertainty connected with an instance in which a nation has absolutely refused to abide by the decision of the League. Now we are faced once again with the same problem in the case of Germany. Whether we believe in the new regime in Germany or not, it is exceedingly difficult for any other nation to know actually what is the guiding principle of Germany to-day. We have, on the one hand, a system which is based, obviously, upon a large measure of what one would connect with military organisation. The ideals that are being promulgated there to-day are virtually and fundamentally to a large extent the same as those that were being taught to young Germany when the German Emperor was in control. On the other hand, undoubtedly we have had from the Chancellor certain very definite offers and indications of a willingness to meet the special problems with which Germany is connected, and it has been truly said that the recent agreement with Poland is an illustration of that fact. I feel, however, that the remarks of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) were exceedingly true and represented the views of many of us, when he indicated that we could not help asking ourselves, with regard to that agreement, what would be the repercussions on Austria.

I listened with a good deal of surprise to the speech of the hon. Member from the Labour benches earlier in the Debate dealing with Germany. He referred to the growth of armaments in Germany, and he read out a document dealing with the purported increase in aircraft there. I confess that it seemed to me that if one were to accept his view of the position—it was the most pessimistic view with which we have been favoured in this House—it would be difficult to come to any other conclusion upon his arguments than the necessity for the immediate rearmament of this country and of many other European countries. I cannot help feeling that his remarks were fundamentally unsound in that respect, and I hope they do not represent the views of the Labour party, because, however uncertain we may be about the policy of the German Chancellor to-day, we should be making a fatal mistake if we were to refuse to recognise the offers that he has made.

In the first place, we should inevitably strengthen the Chancellor's position. He could appeal to his own people by saying that his offer of an understanding and of better relationships had been rejected by the League, or by the other nations, or by his country, whichever was concerned, and the only result would be to encourage the very elements in Germany which we are least anxious to see in control of that country to-day. We might then also have been faced with the fact that any other steps that might be taken in Germany with regard to rearmament might have been more open than they are to-day, and we might have been faced with the problem of what we should do in regard to that attitude. The point, therefore, that I wish specially to stress this evening is to congratulate the Government on the step which they have taken. They have often been criticised as to whether they have done this thing or the other at the right moment, but it is exceedingly difficult for any of us who do not know what is actually passing in regard to negotiations to express an opinion as to whether or not the right moment has been seized. At any rate, the Government have the satisfaction of having had from the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, than whom there is hardly another Member sitting on the back benches of this House who has had an equal experience of foreign affairs, commendation not only as to the scheme, but as to the moment at which it has been brought forward.

Finally, in regard to what is termed security, it seems to me that the great problem that is still awaiting solution is that of how you are going to deal, in the years that are to come, with nations that might act, like Japan did, against the desires of the other nations. It seems extraordinary, when we come to think of it, how easily we talk about what might happen if this attempt to bring about disarmament fails. I might remind the House that, although we talk about rearmament so glibly, an enormous expenditure would have to be incurred by nations many of whom are supposed to be bankrupt to-day. It is true that the slowness of negotiations is very disheartening, but the closing sentence in the White Paper, in which the Government once again renew their allegiance to the League of Nations, is, after all, the fundamental principle upon which alone we can act. If once we lost even a League of Nations damaged, as it has been, by the action of Japan and by the loss of Germany, the loss to the world would indeed be irreparable. I cannot help feeling that, although there must be difficulties, the one thing is to work for the ideal that we have set before us, and I should like to offer my congratulations to the Government on the plan which they have presented to the House to-day.

9.14 p.m.


It is not my intention to enter on any examination of the details of the Memorandum which the House has been considering to-day. The proposals contained therein represent a compromise; and I do not propose to examine the question whether that compromise be good or bad, or whether it inclines rather to the one side or to the other. I desire to take this opportunity of considering certain principles that are implict in the Memorandum. If I thought that there were any real prospect of the acceptance of the proposals of His Majesty's Government by all the nations whom they concern, I should welcome them without qualification. I should welcome them because then we should be nearer the settlement of the most vexed question of our time, the question which, to the damage and distortion of international relationships, has become a morbid obsession in the minds of peoples. I use the word "obsession" advisedly. This question has been agitated continu- ously since the year 1926. Hon. Members who have spoken to-day have mentioned the commencement of the Disarmament Conference two years ago; but it is a fact too frequently ignored that the Preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference commenced its deliberations so long ago as 1926.

One of the most deplorable results, in my view, of the long and tedious deliberations that have occupied the last eight years is the acceptance by many people of the assumption that the preservation of peace does in truth depend upon the disarmament of nations. I challenge the truth of that assumption. I believe that peace depends, not upon disarmament, but upon policy. The potential causes of war are in the minds of peoples and their rulers. They are particularly to-day in certain political and economic circumstances of Europe; and unless we deal with these things the heart of the matter has not been touched. The value of disarmament as a means to the preservation of peace can, I think, be tested by a question. Conceive the rest of Europe disarmed to the level of the Central Powers: would the probability of war be diminished thereby? In no degree, as I believe. Indeed, in that event the probability of war would rather be increased, and for this reason, that the nearer you are to setting upon an equality the nations of Europe in regard to the possession of armaments, the greater are the chances of victory for one nation which, having secured by treaties the neutrality of some nations and the promise of the assistance of others, contrives—and such contrivance would certainly not be impossible—to fasten the character of aggressor upon another nation and to provoke armed conflict. In this event, it is relevant to point out, the proposals of His Majesty's Government having been adopted, and offensive armaments having been destroyed, defensive weapons would assume the character of offence. Some at least of the weapons which we now class as defensive would in this event assume an offensive character.

Is it really true that the realisation of the principle of mathematical equality contributes to the preservation of peace? To that question I return a negative. Burke somewhere observes that reason is never inconvenient but when it comes to be applied. I might say equality is never inconvenient but when it comes to be applied. Where do you find the principle of equality? You find it neither in nature nor in human life, neither in nature nor in the relations between individual men. It is a necessity of mathematics, not a true principle of politics. I believe that into the system of international relationships the principle of mathematical equality can rarely be imported with safety and success. The instance of the current naval agreement between Great Britain and the United States of America shows that the application of the principle of mathematical equality is possible, where it is possible at all, only where the contingency of armed conflict is ruled out of account. Another instance, that of Italy and France, shows what I believe to be the general truth. Until recently, difficulty and unfriendliness characterised the relationship between these two countries, and the chief reason for that situation was the continued assertion by Italy of her right to naval parity with France, who continued to deny that right. Now, the cessation of the assertion of that right has effected a great amelioration in their relationship. In fact, I believe that it is impossible without great danger to import the principle of mathematical equality into the relations of nations which are near neighbours to each other and whose history and circumstances by no means exclude the possibility of conflict.

The attempt to reconcile the positions of Germany and the other nations of Europe may be made in one of two ways. On the one hand, there may be a simple recognition of equality of rights, qualified or unqualified. If it is qualified it may be qualified in the way in which it is qualified in this Memorandum. There may be a simple recognition of equality of rights, accompanied by an agreement among other nations to abstain from increasing their armaments above a certain level. In this case there is laid upon the other nations no obligation to destroy their armaments; while Germany has liberty, if she chooses to use it, to acquire armaments to the stated level. On the other hand, there may be a precise mathematical calculation of permitted strength of arms. In that case, there is laid upon other nations an obligation to diminish their effectives and to destroy their material, in order to reduce them to a certain strength; while Germany has liberty to raise her armaments to that strength. His Majesty's Government prefer the second course. I have no hesitation in saying I consider that, in view of the circumstances of Europe to-day, the first course is very much to be preferred to the second.

I am extremely interested to observe that the Italian Government advocates the first method. The Italian Government, rightly, I think, and with that imaginative sense of political realities which is one of the most remarkable characteristics of that remarkable man, Signor Mussolini, confines itself to proposing, (besides the abolition of chemical warfare and the prohibition of the bombardment of civilian populations), the limitation, for the nations not bound by the Peace Treaties, both of their military expenditure and of their land armaments to their present level. I do not say that this proposal as it stands is acceptable to this country; but the principle of it I believe is right. The Italian Government does not call for a great reduction of effectives, or for destruction of great quantities of material. The Italian Government does not make these demands of France. Why should we? Are we to persist in pressing them upon her? If there must be parity of armaments at a certain level, I readily recognise that it is desirable for economic reasons to fix that level as low as possible. Financial considerations, indeed, are a powerful lever to effect the diminution of armaments. I trust that I shall not be accused of cynicism if I say that I should as soon rely upon the Income Tax and the tax upon beer to reduce armaments, as upon disarmament conferences. But then let us allow economic pressure to operate in its natural manner, and let us not confuse the political with the economic argument. If the choice be between parity at a higher and parity at a lower level, let us not attempt to enforce the abandonment of the higher level by nations who desire to retain it, by recourse to financial arguments which are quite separate from political arguments, and which are already present to the minds of those peoples and already fully operative upon them.

So it is in the light of general political considerations that we have to determine what policy we shall pursue. What are the circumstances in which we invite France to deprive herself of a considerable part of her armed force? It is no part of my purpose to attempt any appraisement of the National Socialist movement in Germany, but I permit myself a few comments upon it. Much good is there mingled with much evil. I should be the last to deny the good. The greatest good that has been wrought is that Germany has now found what all peoples to-day long for, but not all have found a leader. A leader with courage and eloquence to express, for weal or woe, the true mind of the German people. Under this man the German people have found a new national corporate life. In this man the German people have found a new hope.

But the new hope of Germany is the new fear of France. Chancellor Hitler speaks to France the language of peace, and it is not the policy of statesmen to refuse to him the opportunity to prove his sincerity. But there are earlier words that are difficult to forget. And in any case France requires not words but deeds. France hears incessant denunciation of the Peace Treaties. She observes the continued bullying attacks upon the Government of Austria. She notes with approval the agreement between Germany and Poland, but she may harbour an uneasy suspicion that Germany has secured her eastern frontier in order to assure to herself liberty of action upon the southern side. She notices the glorification of the military virtues and of war by German orators and writers. She believes that the industry of Germany is so organised as to be capable of immediate adaptation to the rapid and massive production of munitions of war. She looks across the Rhine, and she sees there a vigorous, prolific nation, whose population exceeds her own by 23,000,000, organised, regimented, and controlled by a ruler who wields a power greater than has been wielded by any previous ruler of Germany. She asks, to what ends will this nation turn? What objects will in time engage her energies? For the present time the German people may be occupied in tasks of constitutional and economic reform, but what of the future? It is the fear of France, not that Chancellor Hitler desires war, but that many of the objects to which the minds of the German people are being taught to turn will prove to be incapable of attainment without war. There may dawn a day when Chancellor Hitler will be driven to utter the words of Goethe's Magician's Apprentice: The spirits I invoked, I can no more get rid of. These are the causes of the fears and anxieties of France. Those fears will subsist until they have been dissipated, not by words, but by deeds evincing the mind and intention of peace. Such deeds require a period of time, and until that period of time has elapsed those fears must exist. And so long as they exist it is, I believe, not merely idle but wrong to urge upon France a great reduction of her armed strength. If they desire agreement on this subject, I earnestly hope that His Majesty's Government will avoid the heavy responsibility which the pursuit of such a policy will place upon them.

9.32 p.m.


Several hon. Members have commented on the air of apathy and dejection that has come over the House in a Debate from which great things might have been expected. No one who has sat throughout the Debate as I have can have failed to notice that air. It proceeds from two sources. First of all, may I say frankly that I believe that the attitude of nine out of 10 thoughtful Englishmen, when they read the White Paper the other day, was a curious mingling of disappointment and relief; deep disappointment that the Paper did not go a great deal further than it did, and relief that their disappointment was not greater and that the Paper went as far as it did. I do not think that any of us who apprehend the difficulties of the position expected a great deal, especially from a Government from which we have not yet received much in the matter of disarmament. Many of us, therefore, were relieved to find that here at least was a document that did not deal in generalities, but set down a number of perfectly definite propositions. We should have preferred that to a document which laid down nothing but large, vague hopes and ideals. The Government White Paper laid it down that one of their first objects was a practical one. They did not wish merely to insist on their own ideals and to make a communication for the purpose of formulating unattainable ideals, but in order to indicate the lines of a compromise. I would suggest that perhaps it would have been worth while if the Government had done both: if they laid down these lines of a compromise that they do lay down, and had also accompanied that statement with something more. There are times when an exposition of ideals is looked for and called for from a country such as this, and I believe that this was such a time.

There are, if I may briefly summarise them, three main points in which the terms of the White Paper fell short even of the modest limitation of its own purpose as the statement of a reasonable compromise. On the point of security, nobody can have read the portion of the White Paper dealing with that without being struck by its vagueness, and wondering what we should feel if we were in the position of one of those countries which most need reassurance on the subject of security. I notice that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), whose speech aroused more enthusiasm than any other in the Debate, defended the Government on this particular point. He said that although the Government could not be expected to say exactly what would be done in the event of breaches of the Disarmament Convention, that what was set forth was in the nature of "a gentlemen's agreement." That may be so, but a gentlemen's agreement to do what—to hold a consultation, "to exchange views as to the steps to be taken for the purpose of restoring the situation and of maintaining in operation the provisions of the present Convention." The White Paper says further that it is The inescapable duty of all signatories of the Convention to keep in the closest touch with one another, and to do whatever is right and possible to prevent or remedy any violation of so important an international treaty. Is there one of us who, if we were in the position that France or Austria or any other of the menaced countries may be, or who can envisage what their position may be, would feel any great security in that singularly vague utterance? It may be impossible to lay down in advance what should be done in certain hypothetical circumstances, but, after all, it was this country which put into the Convention Clause 16, which lays down the doctrine of economic sanctions. Is it beyond possibility to sketch out in some more or less definite form what kind of economic sanctions would be put into effect in the event either of a breach of the Disarmament Convention or an act of aggression. When we reflect how much the progress of disarmament depends on whether we can bring the menaced countries into the Convention, can we be satisfied with so vague a treatment of the subject of security?

The second point on which I think there is widespread disappointment is the question of disarmament itself. There, one cannot complain that the proposals lack definiteness, and it is quite possible that they do represent the maximum about which there is likelihood of obtaining unanimity, but would it not have been worth while for this country to state once and for all how far it would be prepared to go if other countries were prepared to go so far? For example, the expression is frequently used in the White Paper that a general agreement to carry disarmament as far as the immediate abandonment by all the world of all the weapons which the peace treaties withheld from certain Powers is manifestly unobtainable at the present time. That may be so in the sense that there is a belief on the part of His Majesty's Government that all countries would not accede to such a measure of disarmament, but would it not have been worth while to say once and for all whether this Government would have been willing if the other Governments had been willing? We complain that Germany puts forward ideals which it believes to be impracticable. Many of us would like a statement from the Government not only of what they think to be practicable here and now, in the sense that they may be able to secure the adhesion of the other countries, but how far they would be prepared to go if the other countries would go equally far.

The third point, which I think is perhaps the most unsatisfactory part of the White Paper, concerns the question of control or supervision of armaments. There the note of the White Paper is not merely a note of caution and of compromise, it is a note of unmistakeable reluctance. The White Paper says: His Majesty's Government are well aware of the great importance attached by various Governments to the institution of a system of permanent and automatic supervision to control the observance of the Disarmament Convention. And later: His Majesty's Government affirm their willingness, if general agreement is reached on all other issues, to agree to the application of a system of permanent and automatic supervision, to come into force with the obligations of the convention. Can anyone reading those words doubt that they express a mood of reluctance, of doubt as to the value of control and supervision, or, perhaps, as to the practicability of control and supervision, and yet is it not plain that the adhesion of other Governments to even the modest measure of disarmament proposed in the rest of the White Paper is likely to depend on the extent to which supervision and control can be enforced? Is there confidence in any country in Germany's willingness to carry out the provisions of the Disarmament Convention unless there is control and supervision? Why, many of us would like to know, are the Government so persistently unforthcoming as they have shown themselves throughout on the subject of control and supervision?

Those, I think, are the three points on which there has been most widespread dissatisfaction with the terms of the White Paper—its vagueness with reference to security, the smallness of the concrete proposals regarding disarmament, and, perhaps most important of all, the coldness of the attitude of the White Paper towards the question of security. There is, let us recognise it frankly, another reason for the general attitude of apathy and dejection which has hung over not only this Debate but the whole country. Those who care for peace most passionately in this country are, broadly speaking, those who are the most profoundly condemnatory of the attitude of Germany, and so we find a conflict of desires and motives. I think it must be plain to everyone in the House that the speech which most went home to the whole House was that of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, and that the parts of his speech which won the warmest applause were those in which he spoke out with the greatest frankness as to the attitude of profound distrust with which this House regards the present Government of Germany. Let one whose insignificance permits even plainer speech than is possible to those in more responsible positions say quite frankly that to many of us it is ever odious to think that the representatives of the British Government, when they go to Geneva or anywhere else to join in these negotiations, have to shake the blood-stained hands of the men who represent the German Government.

We all admit that Germany has to be treated with, met and dealt with, in the course of the present negotiations that are going on for closer alliance between the countries of the world at Geneva and outside Geneva, since Germany has insisted that those negotiations shall take place outside Geneva. Some of us think that there should be another kind of drawing together and rapprochement, and that is between the countries which are the remaining free democracies of the world. If that is not possible at Geneva, is it not possible outside Geneva? Must we not frankly realise that oil and water cannot mix, and that, while it may be possible and desirable, and is indeed inevitable, that our Government should continue to work out detailed and specific agreements for such disarmament conventions as we can reach, the best kind of security would be one which there does not seem much opportunity of obtaining from any Disarmament Convention that is at present possible? That security is in the drawing together of the free democracies of the world in defence of something which is even a greater cause than the cause of peace, the cause of the liberties and freedom of the world.

9.47 p.m.


I do not agree with the last portions of the speech delivered by the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone), but I do not propose to follow her in a detailed examination of the White Paper. I would like to make my observations rather more general. In view of the formidable array of ex-Cabinet Ministers and Privy Councillors who were billed for this afternoon, I did not intend to compete, but as their absence has been noticeable I would like to follow upon the remarks of one of them, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain).

If I remember aright, the right hon. Gentleman laid stress upon the point that physical disarmament was nothing unless it was backed up by a real desire for disarmament. With that I entirely agree, but I find it hard to connect that observation with the statement which ensued, which was that we had never supported, and would never support, the suggestion that in the matter of armament Germany should be given equality. When dealing with a nation of 60,000,000—a formidable nation—if we say that that nation is for ever and a day to be, in certain respects, in a position of inferiority, we are not harbouring the spirit which must be behind any genuine and successful disarmament. I am not sure, unless the future relations between France and Germany can be made durably and mutually satisfactory, that the right hon. Gentleman is not wasting his time talking about disarmament.

If that be the case, he should note the desires of France and Germany. We know, in one word, that France wants security, and that in two—or rather three—words that Germany is asking for equality of status. Herr Hitler is a man of considerable imagination. If I might, without being out of order, explain that statement, I would mention that I saw at the end of last year that, in an endeavour to combat the problem of unemployment, Herr Hitler had passed legislation to the effect that any prospective bride who would leave her employment and give way to a male employé, would receive a bonus of 1,000 marks. As a result of that, just before Christmas one firm managed to marry off 600 girls. I also heard that, in his original ideas, Chancellor Hitler had thought of painting the Black Forest white and putting a carpet down the Polish corridor. In view of recent events, I am not quite sure whether he has succeeded in doing that.

It is obvious that Herr Hitler wants equality of status. I do not believe that Germany as a whole would think that they had equality of status unless some revision of the Treaty of Versailles took place. We know that France wants security and would like His Majesty's Government to lay down in black and white exactly what they were prepared to do in circumstances not entirely covered by the Treaty of Locarno or the Kellogg Pact. Some time ago there was quite a Press campaign to advise and instruct us that the British nation as a whole were not prepared to undertake any commitments abroad. I believe that that statement and propaganda require to be qualified. I believe with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham that the one thing that the British nation wants, and the one objective to pursue, is peace. If we could be satisfied that all legitimate grievances on the Continent of Europe, and especially as between France and Germany, could be removed, and that there could be satisfactory and genuine disarmament as a result, the British people would be prepared to undertake reasonable commitments on the Continent.

The hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities ended her speech on a note which could not be described as anything but frightfully anti-German. I had never been particularly pro-German, but the anti-German spirit which has resulted from the Nazi revolution has been entirely overdone. We know that the early days of the Nazi revolution made pretty bad reading, but we also know that, had it not been for that revolution, within a month a very formidable Communist uprising had been planned. There is ample evidence to show that at Karl Liebknecht House in Berlin there was a formidable quantity of propaganda in English, destined to edify the natives of Africa and India. I would ask my hon. Friend if she would compare the atrocities of the Nazi revolution with those, for instance, of the first Soviet revolution? In order to get some idea of the balance of international affairs, I would ask hon. Members what they thought of the treatment meted out by France to another great Semitic race in the East; and, finally, I would suggest that the bad reading, the blood-stained part of the Nazi revolution will compare quite favourably with the early days of the Fascist regime.


Would my hon. Friend answer for me one question? Does he consider that the present treatment of Dimitroff and the other Bulgarian prisoners, the concentration camps, and the treatment of Mr. Spielmann, described in the "Times" last week, give any indication that the Nazi Government is behaving in a more civilised way now that the early stages of the revolution are over and it is firmly in the saddle?


I am not for a moment attempting to defend the Nazi regime. In the remarks I was making I was trying to give some explanation and some form of comparison as to why the whole of our spleen is concentrated against Germany, while we entirely forget the atrocities committed by other countries, to which we addressed no representations, although those atrocities were at least equal to what is going on in Germany at the present time. I would also suggest that you cannot compare conditions in Germany, or, for that matter, in other countries, with conditions in this country. A certain standard of living is required before the spirit of Liberalism can really have sway. I am not trying for a moment to defend that, but I would like to suggest to His Majesty's Government that, if I am right in that suggestion, until satisfactory relations can be assured between France and Germany all talk of disarmament is a waste of time, for the necessary spirit behind that disarmament is not there.

So far as the question of future war is concerned, I think that as a matter of practical politics it could not be in the interests of Germany or of Herr Hitler for some time to come to engage in war. The programme of internal reconstruction which they have set for themselves will take all their time. I will give one more reason for dispelling for the time being all idea of war, and that is that, if a war were to arise in the near future, Herr Hitler must obviously be afraid that the power which he now has would pass from him into other hands. I would in conclusion express the hope that His Majesty's Government and my hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, in his forthcoming visits and peregrinations, will try hard to concentrate on the cause of the disease, with the knowledge that without treatment of the cause the effect that we all desire will not be achieved.

10.0 p.m.


I think that the apathy which undoubtedly has been cast over the House to-day during this Debate has been perhaps due to the unreality of the Debate, because we are now talking about a mere skeleton of disarmament, which has had all the flesh of reality picked from it during the last two years. We find, in the document which the Government have put before the House to-day, a sort of arbitral award, the best that can be got out of the differences that are believed to exist between the various nations, rather than a vigorous and constructive document insisting upon a large measure of disarmament—an attitude which the Government so far have never taken up in the course of the disarmament discussions.

The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate said that he wanted to look at this question with realism, but I suggest that there is no realism in this document at all—that it misses the realistic features, many of which have been mentioned in the course of the Debate, and entirely fails to deal with them. It ignores known vital facts in the international situation, and puts forward a lot of suggestions which are supposed to meet the desires of one party or another, without going to the fundamental question whether, even if the suggestions were accepted, they would be of the slightest value. Time and again this Government has been asked, "Why do you think it is impossible for all countries to disarm down to the level of Germany?" and we have never yet had a reasoned statement as to why that is so. I think that, if we could have a reasoned statement from the Lord Privy Seal telling us why it is impossible, it might reveal a great deal of the mind, not only of the Government, but of the Disarmament Conference.

It is always assumed as axiomatic that of course it is impossible in existing circumstances to get that degree of disarmament. Every country seems to say or imply that of course it would be willing, but other people will not do it. Our own Government, somewhat self-righteously, repeat the statement, and certainly imply that, if others were prepared to disarm down to the level of Germany, we should be. Will the hon. Gentleman state specifically to-night whether, if other Governments were prepared to disarm down to the level of Germany, down to the Versailles level, getting rid of all offensive weapons, we should be prepared to do the same? Of course, if we are not, if the Government are unable to answer that question, it is all wrong that they should make the sort of statements that they make in the White Paper, clearly implying that the fault is not with them. I should be very much encouraged if the hon. Gentleman would stand up to-night and say, "I am prepared to say to the world that, if other countries would accept disarmament down to the level of Germany, Great Britain would do the same."


Does the hon. and learned Gentleman include naval disarmament down to the level of Germany?


Certainly, but I should be only too grateful if the hon. Gentleman would tell us with regard to the air arm, or any other arm, in order that we might know whether this impossibility which is always put forward rests entirely upon other people, or whether it is caused, partially at least, by the attitude of our own Government. I should also like to ask the hon. Gentleman what is the Government's fundamental conception of disarmament? Is it that disarmament should be to implement the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which definitely disowns war as a means of settlement of international disputes? If that be so, clearly the greater the measure of disarmament the nearer we shall be to the attainment of that desirable end, the implementing of the Kellogg Pact; and, if that be the end, there could be no argument against the greatest degree of disarmament. Or is it, on the other hand, to regulate or reduce the number and amount of armaments that will be available for the next war? Until we can know which of these two aims is the fundamental aim of the Government, it is difficult to assess the value of this document in reaching that aim.

The real truth seems to be, if one is going to be realistic in the matter, that no country is prepared, without something much better than paper security, to entrust itself to the risks of carrying out a real disarmament. That applies not only to France but to all other countries as well, including our own. The sort of compromise that is suggested here is based upon a nice calculation by the various Governments as to the likelihood of the armaments which they retain giving them success in the event of war, and each country wants to feel that its surviving armaments, after any Convention of this sort, are sufficient to assure it of success if it should embark upon another war.

Of course, if one adopts a compromise on that sort of basis, first of all it is obviously difficult to get a compromise if every country wants to be just a little stronger than its neighbour in order to ensure its success, and secondly, you always tend to get progressive increases of demands as regards armaments from any basic level from which you start, exactly as in the present case from the starting point of the British Draft Convention which was put forward many months ago you now have reached a stage when you have had to give way and increase the amount of armaments laid down as the basis in that Draft Convention. As the process of bargaining goes on on the basis of each country getting security for itself in the next war, you will have successive demands. As one country asks for more, the reply will come from another country asking for more in return. The underlying assumption of this document, that you are going to get security merely by paper agreements assisted by a nice measuring of forces between the different Powers which are likely to come into contact in a war one with another, and not by the genuine abandonment of force as a means of settling disputes, is what we believe has throughout vitiated the attempts of the Disarmament Conference to arrive at any solution of any value and has brought the world into the hopeless state in which it at present finds itself in that Conference.

It seems to us that the real problem of security has never been faced up to. Paper safeguards have been multiplied one after the other. We have had the Covenant of the League, the Locarno Pact, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the Optional Clause, the Non-Aggression Pacts between different countries and all kinds of declarations by eminent statesmen of all countries as regards the good intentions of their Governments, most of them refusing to make any commitment as regards the future security of other countries. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) said the Anglo-Saxon race is not one that commits itself in advance to doing definite things in unknown circumstances that may arise. But there can be no basis of law at all unless such commitments are entered into. It would be quite hopeless in the domestic law of this country if it was left to a party, when an action started, to say whether he chose to submit to the jurisdiction of the court or not, however much it cuts across the gentleman's agreement of English business as well as of international politics, and I am afraid the gentleman's agreement would not always stand up to the temptation of being able not to submit to the jurisdiction of the court. In the same way in international affairs, if any party insists upon retaining to itself the right to decide when the event has occurred what action it will take, inevitably the feeling of security must be largely diminished, however good the intention and however good the record of the party.


The hon. and learned Gentleman has quoted me quite correctly, but he has not quite understood. I agree with the proposition that he has just stated as he stated it, but that is not my proposition. It is not that we should have the liberty, when the event has occurred, to decide whether or not we will fulfil our obligation, but we must have the liberty to decide whether the event has occurred which involves our obligation.


That is a distinct point which I appreciate. It means to say that we must decide the point when the jurisdiction arises. When it has arisen we are prepared to submit.


It is not only a question of jurisdiction. It is a question of action. Has the event occurred which involves us in the obligation to take action? It is not a question of jurisdiction, which raises a different issue in which I do not think I should differ from the hon. and learned Gentleman.


I was merely taking an analogy from domestic law. Let me take the point of aggression, which is the key point. The right hon. Gentleman says we must be left free to decide whether there has been aggression. If we decide that there has been aggression, we shall be bound to do certain acts in support of the persons against whom the aggression takes place. I again point out that the fact that we leave it to our own determination to say whether there has been aggression leaves just that uncertainty in the mind of other parties which leads to the feeling of insecurity and leads them to say, "However well-intentioned the British Government may be, we may differ profoundly from them when the time comes as to their interpretation of aggression. We shall then be left without any hope of support from the British or other Governments which are entering into this Pact of mutual security, and we shall be bound to rely upon our own force." So long as that position exists, it is impossible to bring about any real effective disarmament, because you cannot get the absolutely basic security which is fundamental to people saying, "We will no longer rely upon arms, because we know we shall in any event have the support of our colleagues in the international field."

I believe the reality of the situation lies in a fresh approach to the question of security rather than trying, while security is uncertain, to make a fresh approach to the question of disarmament. There is no doubt, however sincere these paper Pacts may be, there has been experience in the past as regards Conventions of all sorts that, when the test came, those Conventions have been treated by nations which were considered perfectly honourable before as scraps of paper. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council in that very famous speech which he made on 10th November, 1932, dealt with the very point in dealing with the question of making Conventions as regards the non-using of bombs and so on from aeroplanes. He said: The first difficulty about that is this—will any form of prohibition of bombing, whether by convention, treaty, agreement or anything you like, be effective in war? Frankly, I doubt it, and in doubting it, I make no reflection on the good faith of either ourselves or any other country. If a man has a potential weapon and has his back to the wall and is going to be killed, he will use that weapon whatever it is and whatever undertaking he has given about it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1932; col. 634, Vol. 270.] That is exactly what has happened, and it is exactly that which makes paper safeguards of no value as regards security, because people are afraid that in the last resource those paper safeguards will not protect them and, therefore, they must retain their own armaments in order to keep their own protection if those paper safeguards are not sufficient. And, after all, there is the experience of the Sino-Japanese dispute before the world where China had the paper safeguards from the whole world, where it was decided that China was entitled to protection because there had been aggression by Japan, and where, owing to circumstances which I will not criticise at the moment, nothing was done, and Japan was allowed to go on. It is inevitable that in the light of that experience people should say—we will say France—"What is the good of mere paper safeguards if this happens when a big country like Japan chooses to go against the will and the wishes of the Security Pact?" The unwillingness of our Government and other Governments to take any economic sanctions against Japan on that occasion was, I believe, a great assistance to the feeling of insecurity which has largely lain at the root of the difficulties as regards disarmament.

The present document sets out very strongly that so vital is the connection of a feeling of security with the peace of the world that they would add to them yet further articles"— that is, further articles as regards security, merely further paper documents saying that in the event of a breach of the Disarmament Convention conversations will take place, but with absolutely no security that anything will happen if the conversations take place; left to the free decision of any party to the Convention, to do or not do as it likes, or as it may find expedient in the particular circumstances of the case. It does seem that merely to add a further paper safeguard to the five, six or seven which already exist is not going to be of any assistance to those people who do not at present believe or are not prepared to rely, upon the six paper safeguards which they have already. It seems to us that if one is to do anything along this line of security it has to be by acts and not merely by words.

The one good thing in this Disarmament Document is the acceptance by His Majesty's Government of the principle of inspection, because there, for the first time, you have some derogation from the National sovereignty. As I understand it, inspectors will be allowed to come and go through our arsenals, barracks, munition factories, inspect the naval yards and so on, at any time the Commission thinks fit and thereby keep a check upon what we are doing just as upon what other countries are doing. If any breach is discovered by these inspectors there will be no security that that breach will be rectified beyond the calling into the conversation of the various parties to see whether something cannot be done. The only possible thing to do is, as has been suggested by several hon. Members to-day, to set up some form of international police.


indicated dissent.


The right hon. Member for West Birmingham shakes his head. It is too Utopian for him. I am sure that he would like it if he thought that it was possible. As the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council said on one occasion, it is for the younger people in this country to decide whether they are going to take any steps for dealing with the danger of air armaments. He expressly disclaimed any power to deal with it; it was in the hands of the younger generation. Certainly, members of the younger generation in this House are, I am quite sure, prepared to embark upon the experiment as regards international police if the British Government are prepared to put their backing behind the proposition. That backing could easily turn something which is described as Utopian into a real practical question of international politics. Unless something of that sort is done, it seems to us that you are not going to be able to get over this basic difficulty of insecurity. Until you do that, the discussing of the precise number of effectives, the size of tanks, guns or anything else will be nothing but a waste of time.

There is one other point with which I should like to deal, and that is whether it is really desirable or necessary to try and get a general consensus of opinion. I would ask the Lord Privy Seal whether in that general consensus of opinion, Japan is included, because it is obvious that if Japan is included the whole of this document is waste paper. It is perfectly certain, and everybody knows it, that these things which are expressly only to come into force with general consent, will never come into force if Japan is one of the parties who have to give that general consent. Is it not time that those countries who sincerely desire disarmament should say to those people who are war-mongers: "You must either take it or leave it; you must go outside if you cannot attain to the standards that we desire." The right hon. Gentleman and his Government have had experience of this sort of thing before. The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) had to leave the Government because he could not aspire to the standards of the National Government. In order to become effective to do what they wanted to do, they had to get rid of people with dissident opinions.

If one is going to go out for something which is worth while there will always come a time when, if the minority stands out against it, you have to over-ride the minority. That is democracy. That is what always happens in this House. If the Government had to agree with the minority in this House they would never get anything done. I am interested in the analogy which the right hon. Member for West Birmingham drew between this House and the international councils of the world. He said that we had to get agreement, but we do not get agreement in this House. We get majority agreement, and that goes, and we act upon it, but in the Council of the League of Nations, in this document, we are insisting upon complete agreement.

Any country can stand out against our ideals or against the views which the majority of the countries believe to be correct and wreck the whole thing. Then we should find countries going out, putting a pistol to our heads and saying "we will not come back unless you give us all we want." We give them what they want; and the thing would be repeated on the next occasion. When anybody wants anything they will go out of the League and say that they will not come back unless we give them what they want. When people do that the time has come for us to say "You stay outside, we will go on. Those people who really believe in disarmament and peace will go on and themselves complete the Disarmament Convention. If other States like to come in afterwards well and good, but we will not allow the Disarmament Conference to be sabotaged by people who are really warmongers." If this country were to take up a firm attitude on these lines we should have an infinitely better opportunity of arriving at a Disarmament Conference which would be of some real utility to the world.

10.27 p.m.


The Debate has covered a wide range of subjects not by any means confined to the White Paper. I make no complaint about an extension of the discussion; on the contrary, I think it has been useful, and it may perhaps be for the convenience of the House if I deal first with the main topic which is not dealt with in the White Paper, namely, the present situation in Central Europe. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), in the course of a very remarkable speech, delivered with all the authority which attaches to what he says inside or outside this House, expressed the concern he felt at the situation in Austria, a concern, I assure him, which is also felt by His Majesty's Government. It is true to say that since my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary last made a statement in this House about Austria, on 21st December last, the aspect of that question has changed but the fundamentals of British policy towards Austria have not changed, and, if I may, I will repeat to the House two sentences from the speech which my right hon. Friend made on that occasion which crystalise far more accurately than anything I can say the policy of His Majesty's Government. the policy of His Majesty's Government is and remains directed towards doing all that we can, by our influence and by our advice, to sustain the integrity and the independence of Austria. We maintain most strictly the rule, the only wise rule, that it cannot be any part of our business to interfere with the internal government of another country, but at the same time the independence and safety of Austria are an essential object to which British policy is directed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th December, 1933; col. 1537, Vol. 284.] Since those words were spoken to the House, there has been a certain change in the situation. We understand from official statements issued in Vienna that the Austrian Government are about to submit their dispute with Germany to the League of Nations. As this action is pending, the matter must be regarded as being in a sense sub judice. We do not at present know, for instance, what will be the precise form of the Austrian Government's appeal, or what will be the nature of the evidence on which they will base their complaint against the German Government. We shall have to examine this complaint in conjunction with other members of the Council of the League, and consider with them how to deal with it. Any action to be taken will have to be joint action decided on by the Council, and not the action of individual Governments. So far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, the attitude which they will adopt at the Council will be guided by the principle I have already enunciated, that while it is no part of our business to interfere with the internal affairs of another country, Austria has a right, which we fully recognise, to demand that there shall be no interference with her internal affairs by any other Government.

Let me pass from that to the disarmament aspect of this Debate. There seem to have been two methods of approach to an examination of this Memorandum. The first method was that of which the chief opponent was the Leader of the Opposition, early this afternoon, ably seconded by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks). The Leader of the Opposition showed himself to be in a state of permanent dissatisfaction with the actions and the attitude of the Government. He was gloomily sarcastic at our expense, and he fortified a slender array of fact with plentiful support from fiction. For instance, he assured us that we had been reluctant in accepting proposals to come down to Germany's level. Why, he asked us, did we not do as the United States have done by offering to reduce our armaments to Germany's level? The United States have never done anything of the kind at any time in the course of the Conference, and I have yet to learn of any declaration to that effect by the Government of that country. Then the hon. Gentleman indulged in those generalities which are so easy on this subject, and which, I say without offence, I had hoped he had outgrown. He told us, for instance, that this Memorandum indulged in rearmament, and not disarmament. I was sorry that before the hon. Gentleman used that phrase he had not consulted the newspaper which, I have always understood, expressed the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite, for that paper on the occasion of the publication of our Memorandum showed a statesmanship which, unfortunately, has been absent from the Front Bench opposite in this discussion. The advice they tendered was this: Such slogans as 'Disarmament—not Rearmament' merely mislead by ignoration of facts which may be hard, but are none the less facts. I do not care much about the term "ignoration" but the context seems to make it reasonably clear. The newspaper continues—and this is a warning which I would beg the Leader of the Opposition to take to heart: Nothing is easier in such circumstances than destructive criticism. Agreed, that the new plan is not an inspired and sacrosanct document, that it is susceptible of amendment and probably improvement. But by and large it does provide a possible basis of agreement. It is for the critics to produce a better one, not to resurrect from pigeon-holes plans which have already proved impossible. May I say a word to the hon. Member for Broxtowe? He complained in passionate terms and on the basis of documents which for reasons I readily accept, will have to remain anonymous, that Germany was already arming at an alarming rate. He painted us a very gloomy picture. If all that were so, if indeed Germany's intentions are as he believes, is not that precisely an argument for trying to conclude a Convention, rather than giving up the attempt in despair. Surely if this is taking place shall not we know it more accurately than by anonymous documents, if we have the advantage of a supervision which we do not to-day possess?


You will never get it.


Will the hon. Member leave the German Government to say that? So far, the German Government have not said that. On the contrary, they have said they would accept this provision if it were generally accepted, and we must proceed on the assumption that the German Government's statements are to be taken at their face value. The hon. Member tells us that he places no confidence whatever in anything that the German Government says. To proceed from such an attitude, is to assume that there is no hope of any agreement of any kind whatever. That is a doctrine of despair which, for my part, I should be totally unwilling to accept. The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down asked a question which has occurred once or twice in this Debate. Why is it not possible, he asks, to disarm down to the German level? If the hon. and learned Gentleman looks at the amendments to our Draft Convention, which probably are still on record at Geneva, he will see the reason. In certain respects our Draft Convention does go down to the German level.

Take one example—guns. We propose, in guns, by our Convention to go down to the 115 mm. level which is approximately the present German level, and if the House will consult the French Memorandum, to which my right hon. Friend referred earlier, or our own White Paper, they will see that both the French and German Governments take the view that the limit to which they can go is 155 mm.—6-inch guns. So it seems not unreasonable for us to say on the face of that—and that is only one of multitudinous examples that I could give—that since we cannot obtain reduction down to the German level we have to secure agreement at the lowest level possible. The real complaint that ran through all this Debate and notably the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) was that we had not been brave enough in what we had done, that we had not gone far enough, that there had been too little of the Sir Galahad about the action of the Government. But our action far from being that of Sir Galahad has been rather that of King Arthur, that of trying to collect our friends however variously armed around a table, and to secure an agreement.


Will the hon. Gentleman answer the question whether the Government are prepared, if other Governments are, to disarm down to the German level?


The Government's policy is the policy of the Disarmament Convention, which in certain respects does go down to the German level, but if the hon. and learned Member means, Will the Government sink the British Fleet to-morrow? the answer is, No. The hon. and learned Gentleman was very indignant on the subject of paper safeguards. I tried to follow his line of reasoning, but it did not seem to me, if I may say so with respect, quite logical. He said, "What is the use of these paper safeguards?" And he claimed that the difficulty in the Far Eastern dispute had been that there was no agreement in advance to impose sanctions.


No action in advance.


But action could only take place as a result of an agreement to impose sanctions, and an agreement to impose sanctions could only be a paper agreement. Any safeguard, of whatever kind, must in the first instance be a paper safeguard. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Certainly. If you agree in advance that in certain conditions you will take certain action, you agree on paper to do so, and the paper safeguard must be the first step in any undertaking. We must really distinguish in our minds between saying that we take exception to paper safeguards because they do not sufficiently clearly delimit what we will do, and saying that we object to paper safeguards as such. May I turn to one or two points raised by the leader of the Liberal party—the leader of the section of the Liberal party in opposition, who made a speech for which the Government—[An HON. MEMBER: "Where is he?"]


He is at the Albert Hall League of Nations meeting.


Serve him jolly well right!


We have every reason to be grateful for the words which the right hon. Gentleman used towards the Government Memorandum this afternoon. He lent us, as did the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), his full support, and the criticisms which he made I would like very briefly to deal with. He was critical that in this Memorandum we prolonged the term of service for the conscript armies of Europe from eight months to 12 months. I should be sorry if that prolongation had to take place. We have always made it clear that we preferred eight months' service as being nearer the militia period, but it is difficult for us, who have no conscript army, to dictate to the nations of continental Europe what their terms and conditions of service shall be, and our Memorandum does no more than say that, if agreement can be reached on the 12 months, we naturally can do nothing but concur; but we should prefer eight months.

As to supervision, he thought our acceptance of that was churlish, and he thought we were anticipating difficulties. There will certainly be technical difficulties in the working out of the details of any system of automatic and permanent supervision, but I must make it clear that we are prepared to accept such a system, if and when it can be worked out—and I do not believe the difficulties will be so very great—as part of a Convention, if such a Convention can be agreed to. As to budgetary limitation, that has not been included because there has been no general agreement upon such limitation, but there is agreement, or something near agreement, on publicity, on national publicity, on figures, which does not exist in many countries at the present time. We think it desirable that publicity should be the first step which would enable us to decide at a later step as to budgetry limitation. The principle of budgetary limitation has never been rejected, but it is manifest that it presents technical difficulties in a world of changing currency values such as we have to-day.

As to the private manufacturer of armaments, the difficulties have been extremely well put to-day by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham. It is true that there is to-day in this country probably not one firm which is exclusively engaged in the manufacture of armaments. We would as the first step suggest and prefer that there should be a rigorous control of the export of armaments from all manufacturing countries, which will enable us to keep a control and knowledge of the trade as it takes place. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Burnley (Vice-Admiral Campbell), in a very welcome speech, made two suggestions to which I will reply. He asked that before work was done at Geneva for an International Police Force the Government here would examine the matter by a committee, and I should like to assure him that if this convention is adopted on these lines and this work has to be done at Geneva, there will have to be preparatory work by the Governments, and His Majesty's Government, like others, will engage in such work. I should like to assure him also that the plea which he raised for preparation now for the 1935 Naval Conference will not be forgotten.

The hon. and gallant Member for Carlisle (Brigadier-General Spears) made certain complaints about the British Broadcasting Corporation. He will appreciate that I have no authority whatever to answer those criticisms or to comment upon them, but he asks the Foreign Office two questions, to which I can reply. He asked if we see the text of speeches on foreign affairs before they are broadcast by the Corporation. The answer is that we do not. Secondly, he asks whether the Foreign Office was consulted before a broadcast took place on the 14th October, the date that Germany left the Conference, the answer is that it was not consulted.


Why not?


Does the hon. Gentleman think that it should be?


I would like to refer to an important item in the White Paper to which my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham drew attention, namely, the last sentence which reads: If agreement is secured and the return of Germany to Geneva and to the League of Nations brought about (and this ought to be an essential condition of agreement), the signature of the Convention would open a new prospect of international co-operation and lay a new foundation for international order. I am glad that my right hon. Friend emphasised the importance of that sentence, and I would like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that it is not only His Majesty's Government that takes this view. Signor Mussolini, in his statement of policy of the Italian Government, has this important paragraph: A final and fundamental counterpart to the acceptance of Germany's demand, representing in itself a new contribution to security, might be an undertaking on the part of Germany to return to Geneva, not only with a view to signing a general disarmament convention, but to resuming her place in the League of Nations. The Italian Government is particularly anxious to call attention to the first-rate importance of such an event. His Majesty's Government are in full accord with the view there expressed by the Italian Government. I will state what. I believe to be the attitude of the House to this effect. It would be fair to say that hon. Members welcome these proposals not so much for their intrinsic merits, but because they represent a new initiative. I believe that this Memorandum forms as fair a basis as can be put forward under present conditions. That, however, is not of course by any means its full significance. It is a solution, an acceptable solution, and above all a disarmament solution, at the end of two years' work. Of course it will be quite possible for experts to find many faults in it. With the passage of days I hope that foreign Governments will be less enthusiastic to do so. It is possible that in the first day or two Governments notice the items disagreeable to themselves, but that on the third and fourth days they sometimes note the items disagreeable to others, that process sometimes being a sufficient comfort to secure their acceptance!

We believe that the general balance of this document is just, and therefore, it should be maintained, and not be departed from. I should like the House to consider for a moment the position as it would be if the proposals in this Memorandum were accepted. There would be solid advantages. No country need then greatly increase its armament; many would be able substantially to reduce it. There would be no race in armaments; Nations would know their own commitments, their own programmes and those of their neighbours, for 10 years to come. Regulation would take the place of rivalry, limitation of laissez faire. Those would be substantial gains, and the net result, as the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) truly said, would be a substantial measure of disarmament. Even so, however, that is not what really matters. The stakes, in my judgment, are even greater than that. When the nations decided that the Conference should meet two years ago, they entered upon the greatest adventure in international consultation that the world has ever seen. They took an immense risk, perhaps a much greater risk than they then realised. It was rather like that of a painter in water-colours, who decides, in order to secure an effect, to experiment with a new combination of colours; if he succeeds, well and good; he has made a step forward in his art, but if he fails, the picture is destroyed. That was the risk which the nations ran. In fact, it was even a greater risk than that, for we must be under no illusion: if the Disarmament Conference fails, the world cannot hope to be in the same position as it was before the attempt was made. There would be a new situation, with new difficulties which we should then have to face. It is therefore not the future of guns which is at stake in our present work, but the whole future of the policy of consultation; not the future size of armies, but the future of the League of Nations itself; not the future of armaments, but the future of confidence between nations.

That is the plane upon which, in my judgment, we should examine this Memorandum. That is why we have asked the House unanimously to endorse it; not because the proposals are the expression of high idealism, but because they are a way out, and the alternative to a way out is catastrophe. It is in this perspective that we ask other Governments to accept it. It was my fate for more than a year to be associated with a great deal of the work of this Conference, and I say deliberately that I am convinced that, unless the nations of the world will accept the proposals of this Memorandum, or something very like it, then there will not be a Disarmament Convention.

If, as has been said, there is a great responsibility on His Majesty's Government for having put forward these proposals, there is an even more awful responsibility upon the Governments whom we are asking to accept them. Those in this country who have their fingers upon the pulse of trade have been telling us in the last few days that if we are to improve our national position it can only be as a result of an improved world condition. Just as only national confidence at home has enabled recovery to take place within the boundaries of this country, so also only a great recovery of world confidence will enable world trade to flow again. It is true that many, the majority, of the barriers of trade to-day are fiscal in character, but though that is their surface appearance their foundations are political, and the greater the political insecurity the more exclusively national does the fiscal policy of every country become. If by means of these proposals we can secure a relaxation of the political tension in Europe and in the world, we shall surely be providing just that stimulus which world trade needs and for which the peoples are longing.

If I might in a sentence try to interpret what I believe is the wish of a united House of Commons, and try to express that wish to other nations which have been our colleagues in Geneva, it would be this: We ask them to accept these proposals with the least possible delay, not because as a result of them this Government or that will gain some small advantage, but because by accepting them, and only by accepting them at this eleventh hour, will the world gain the greatest benefit of statecraft, which is greater confidence between the peoples.

Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Two minutes before Eleven o'Clock.