§ Mr. CHARLES EDWARDS
I beg to move,That, while reaffirming its adherence to the system of collective security under the League of Nations and accepting its obligations thereunder, this House regrets that, despite negotiations for a Disarmament Convention and for European pacts of nonaggression and mutual assistance, His Majesty's Government should enter upon a policy of rearmament neither necessitated by any new commitment nor calculated to add to the security of the nation, but certain to jeopardise the prospects of international disarmament and to encourage a revival of dangerous and wasteful competition in preparation for war.I move this Motion formally in order to enable the Lord President-of the Council to make a statement at the commencement of the Debate.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Mr. Baldwin)
The procedure we have adopted in this Debate is a little unusual, but I think it may be for the convenience of the House, and, being of a sanguine temperament, I like to hope that the Opposition have allowed me to speak first with a view to reconsidering their Motion when they have heard me, and possibly later on joining in a unanimous vote in support of what the Government are proposing to do. I should like, also, before I proceed with my argument, to say that I shall endeavour to make a case for the Government and thereby to help the ensuing Debate. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who will speak at the end of the Debate, will deal in terms with the various parts of the various Motions which have been put down, and I would like at this point to say with regard to the undertaking I gave in the House the other day that I would consider the possibility of issuing a White Paper, I did consider that possibility, but in the present form in which the announcement was made, and in the present circumstances, I found 2326 it impossible to give any information which would have been of any use for the purposes of the Debate, and I hope that what I may say to-day, which will give the House the fullest information in our possession, will be of service.
This question of Imperial defence and of disarmament has occupied the minds of Governments and of the House itself for a great many years past, but never has the never-ending survey of international affairs and international disarmament been conducted in conditions of greater difficulty, of greater perplexity and of more constant change of environment than in the last 12 months. The barometer, if I may so express it, has never been stable, and I regret to say that its trend on the whole has been downward, and the difficulties of those working for a convention have been made far more difficult, not only by the absence of Germany from international councils, but from the fact that there has seemed throughout the year but little probability of getting Germany in the near future to join once more in those discussions. More than that, there have been events in various parts of Europe that have not only tended to make the task more difficult, but that have created a greater sense of uneasiness, of malaise in Europe than we have hitherto experienced. In the Saar, in Memel, in Dantzig, there have been disturbing events, and the recent most tragic incidents in Germany itself, and, last of all, in Austria, have shown us that there is a spirit abroad in parts of Europe which, if it cannot be curbed or exorcised, may some day make the task upon which our efforts to-day are centred impossible of achievement.
It is in circumstances such as these that we have seen the majority of the nations who are working on this question of disarmament, whether actively at Geneva, or with sympathy, as on the part of the United States, not a member of the League—we have seen in nearly all these countries within the last year or two a move towards the increasing rather than the decreasing of armaments. The future is uncertain, as uncertain as is the immediate past. We cannot tell yet whether success will or will not attend the formation of that Eastern Agreement which has commended itself, in principle, to the British Government, and, I believe, to this House. The uncertainty of the 2327 fate of that agreement must have its reactions to-day on the work of those at Geneva, and another factor, the results of which must exercise an important influence on the whole question, is the success or otherwise of the Naval Conference which is due to take place next year.
I am not going to spend much time on what is familiar to everyone in this House. Probably something will be said about it during the Debate, and my right hon. Friend this evening will give the House all the information in his possession as to what efforts we are prepared to make in the immediate future with regard to disarmament. But I must, for the purpose of my argument, remind the House, familiar as they may be to them, of the circumstances in which 11 years ago we made the announcement as to the increase in the Royal Air Force, and to remind the House that, owing to what we have done during those 11 years, what we are now in effect doing is practising unilateral disarmament—a form of disarmament which has been condemned on every bench in this House—in the one region where it is most dangerous to do so. When the 52 squadron programme of 1923 was announced, it was expressly stated by the Prime Minister of that day that this programme was but the first step towards rectifying a weakness which had become intolerable. That was the language which was used in 1923. He stated that those squadrons were tobe created with as little delay as possible," and that "The details of the organisation will he arranged with a view to the possibility of subsequent expansion, but before any further development is put in hand the question should be re-examined in the light of the then air strength of foreign Powers.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th June, 1923; col. 2142, Vol. 165.]
I am not aware that any Government in power since that date dissented from what was then done, but every Government since then has followed the same course of proceeding with the utmost slowness, in the hope that our example might be followed by the world. Again and again in the interest of disarmament that modest programme has been postponed. In 1932, when the Disarmament Conference opened, the programme of 1923, already overdue for completion, was 2328 still 10 squadrons, or one-fifth, short of its total force. Nevertheless, for the first two years of that Conference that programme was allowed to remain completely stationary. I think it is well to keep firmly fixed in our minds what the Government of the day thought it necessary to do in 1923, and for the House to remember how each Government since then has acquiesced in the retardation of that programme, not on the ground that that programme was unnecessary, but on the ground that we must set an example to other countries. That was the sole reason for the delay of that programme.
There are three main fines of criticism of what the Government propose to do according to the announcement I made in the House the other day. We are criticised on the ground that our programme is excessive. We are criticised on the ground that it is insufficient; and we are criticised on the ground that, whether it be excessive or insufficient, it is at all events inopportune. I propose to say a few words on those various lines of criticism, but, though I do not propose to deal specifically with the terms of the Vote of Censure, I cannot help noticing—I do not know what the reason is; it will probably be explained to us in the Debate—that the Vote of Censure begins, apparently, with defining its faith in collective action, and, for myself, I am very nervous of accepting obligations if I have not the means in my hands to carry those obligations out. Unless those means are provided, our contribution to collective security is not only meaningless, but it will be regarded by foreign nations as meaningless, too. And I must confess that I have heard in the whispering gallery of Europe that our defences today are so small as to offer but little contribution to collective security. The contribution which any nation can make to collective security is not absolute but relative. If other nations, whether for good reasons or bad, do, as a fact, increase their armaments then, if our contribution to collective security as a deterrent is to be of any value, we must to some extent increase our own strength; and I want the House to consider briefly what other countries have been doing.
There has been a general tendency in recent years to increase air armaments 2329 throughout the world, and there is a general trend towards the adoption of a definite air strategy, in which aircraft is contemplated as the primary offensive arm. That is reflected in the increase in the percentage of the bomber and fighter units in foreign air forces, intensified by the fact that in some countries, as in France and Italy, where no great increases are proposed, extensive re-equipment programmes have been or are to be undertaken. In the United Kingdom our actual increase of strength in the last four years has been trifling—42 machines—and the new programme will raise the number of machines from 844 to 1,304 if the programme as I retailed it to the House is carried out in its integrity to the term of the five years.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
No, that is the total number of aircraft. France has increased her machines by between 300 and 400 in the last four years. As I said, her scheme is for re-equipment and reorganisation rather than making a further increase, but for that purpose she has taken a budgetary credit of £15,000,000 Over and above the annual air estimates. Italy- again, like ourselves, has increased her strength only by 65 machines, She has, roughly, between 1,000 and 1,100 to-day, and she has provided a sum of £2,750,000 for reorganization—she calls it the renovation of her air force—in addition to her annual expenditure. l3elgium, whose air forces have remained practically stationary far many years, is increasing her first-line air strength by 30 per cent. The United States has increased her strength by 240 machines in the last four years, but she has just made an announcement that approval has been given for an addition cf 1.184 aircraft to the naval air service for the Fleet- and shore-based naval units. The Russian increases are difficult to get at exactly, but to the best of our information, she is making considerable increases to an already very large force.
The position in Germany again is difficult to estimate. There is no doubt that under the present régime the greatest interest is being taken in aviation. We know that this is so from the speeches that are made and from what we read, and from the secrecy which is being maintained with regard to manufacturing and the preparation of aerodromes, but we 2330 have little doubt that it is her intention —and we have always recognised that—that the moment she feels free to rearm, the air will be one of her principal considerations. Indeed, it stands to reason, as has been said in this House, that if Germany has that right, or seizes that right, to rearm, she has every argument in her favour, from her defenceless position in the air, to try to make her-self secure. I say no more at this moment, nor shall I on what may lie behind that, but there is a situation of potential gravity there which it would be idle and foolish to ignore. Apart from the question of increases in armaments, if they are to be of any value in collective security—and I lay stress on that, not with any desire to make a debating point on certain speeches that have been made from the Opposition on collective security, but because it is a fact, and it may yet be, before we are through, that collective security may be the ultimate security in Europe. I cannot say yet, but we must remember that if armaments are to be of any value in collective security, the forces must be properly equipped. Shop-window defence forces will deceive nobody in Europe to-day, and to-day all our forces are not properly equipped.
For many years, partly for financial reasons, but mainly with our desire to achieve disarmament, we have held our hands, and arrears have accumulated, and they can only be overtaken by serious efforts. The acting Leader of the Opposition, as recently as the 13th July, disclaimed the idea of the necessity of parity in the air with other nations. He stated that he stoodunequivocally for a system of collective security under the League of Nations.But these are the words to which I would call the attention of the House. He went on:We recognise clearly that that does mean undertaking responsibilities.—[OFFICIAL], REPORT, 13th July, 1934; col. 685, Vol 292.] There is no one in the House who will quarrel with those words, and I may say, quite frankly, that I was glad to hear him say that, because I do believe that an immense responsibility rests on this country for the peace of Europe, and I hope to show before I have done that the steps which we are taking will not militate against that peace, but may 2331 rather aid us to secure it. The proposals that I announced on the 19th July are a step, and a considerable step, towards parity, and I shall try to show that they are as far as I think it is practicable and wise to go within that limit of time. They do not bring us up to full parity, but without this increase which we are proposing, we shall certainly not be capable of effective co-operation in any system of collective security under the League of Nations.
Is this an opportune moment or not? There are many who say it is not, but there are many to whom the moment never would be opportune. There is an implication that so long as any negotiations or discussions are in progress, we should not take such a step as this, but, as I pointed out in my statement, the disarmament negotiations have been going on for eight years, and the Disarmament Conference itself has lasted for two and a—half years. It may continue yet for a long time. No man, as I said, can tell now whether this new Pact will come into being or not, but this is the lamentable fact, that there is no sign that nations which are taking part in the disarmament talks or which are trying to arrange this new Pact are themselves desisting in any way from rearmament, and it must be remembered that during this time of indefinite waiting, while other people are reorganising and increasing their Air Forces, if we stood still where we are, we should only be deteriorating progressively during the next few years. That would not matter if it were true of other nations, but the other nations have felt that they could wait no longer, and we believe, however reluctantly, that it is impossible for us any longer to remain as we have been, but that we shall have to follow the example which is set by these other countries, because if we do not, we may find ourselves later on in terrible jeopardy.
We have time to spare to put our own defences in order. I will say here for the first time what I propose to repeat later on before I sit down at a little more length. There is no cause at all for panic of any kind. Greater wisdom, as I hope to show, dictates our conduct. There is, so far as I see, no risk in the immediate future of peace being broken.
2332 It may well be that peace will not be broken. There are a great many people in Europe who will do all that they can to see that it is not broken. I want to emphasise, and I shall go on emphasising, that as my firm conviction. But we do believe the time has come now when a start in this particular Service, in equipment and in increase, should be made, because, the House must remember, years 'are required—not months, but years—to make good the deficiencies in this branch of the Services. The Government have assumed no new commitment, but one of the results of the inquiries we have been making during this last year has been to emphasise the importance of making up some of the accumulated deficiencies of these last years and of increasing this particular Arm if we are to be able in case of need to fulfil our existing commitments. Without the additions now proposed to our air defence we should be unable a few years hence, when the foreign programmes of which I have spoken have all been completed, to carry out in such a world as would then exist the Locarno commitment. To the extent to which these measures might add to our capacity to carry out that commitment they do add to the security of the nation in the event of the Locarno commitment materialising. More important still—and on this I shall have a word to say later—they do provide a powerful deterrent to an aggressor.
I cannot agree that what we are doing jeopardises one iota the prospects of disarmament, and on that I shall have a word to say. The main obstacle, as the whole House knows, to the conclusion of the Disarmament Convention to-day is the insistence of Germany on an immediate measure of rearmament and France's refusal to agree to it. This gulf is not easy to bridge, but it is not likely to be made any wider by our remedying the deficiencies in our own national defences. It is even possible that had our own scale of armaments been higher we should have been better able to influence the course of the Disarmament Conference. Our representatives at Geneva have not always had an easy task in making proposals which involve much greater concessions from the more heavily armed nations, and they have got tired of hearing us descanting on our own virtue in not having increased our armaments. On the other hand, if the other nations find 2333 that we are no longer content to remain comparatively disarmed in this respect when they are ail armed, and that increasing expenditure on their part may be met in like manner by ourselves, that in itself will be no mean weapon to use in inclining them to discuss more seriously than some of them have yet done the question of aerial disarmament.
The figures which we have announced do not achieve that parity which is our ultimate aim within the next five years. We would much rather, if it were possible, attain that parity by agreement at the lower figure for which we have worked so hard at Geneva. But remember this: If we were to wait until danger was imminent—and again I say a second time it is not imminent—if we waited till that time, which is what many people would do, we should run the risk of precipitating that very danger which we seek to avoid. No expectant intending aggressor would give us time, and as I said a few minutes ago, air defences cannot be improvised, nor can they be brought about in a moment. It takes time, and there must come a moment when it is necessary for this country to put its defensive house in order unless we can achieve the disarmament for which we have been trying. No Government dare take the responsibility of reducing this country, in the world as it is to-day, to a state of defencelessness, and from a careful review of the whole situation and from a study of the information of every kind at our disposal, we are convinced that we shall be neglecting our duty to the people of this country if we delay any longer bringing these proposals forward.
Let us reflect on this point for a moment—not now at the way we held up the proposals of 1923—but at what we have actually done, proposed and worked for at Geneva. The British Draft Convention went so far as to propose the complete abolition of military and naval aircraft, subject to an effective supervision of civil aviation to prevent its misuse for military purposes. With a view to facilitating the attainment of this object, we made proposals that by the end of the period of the Convention there should be a reduction in the number of aeroplanes that each country should have, the maximum being placed at 500. We proposed a limitation of the maximum unladen weight of aeroplanes.
2334 There has never yet been a solution of that difficult question of control of civil aviation. I do not say that there may not be some day, but it has not yet been found.
I do not want to detain the House a moment longer than I feel absolutely necessary, and I will not therefore go over the ground that has often been the subject of debate in the House and will unquestionably be the subject of debate in the autumn. I would rather pass now to the criticism that what we are doing is insufficient. To those who take that view, I would point out that the proposals we have put forward for air defence form part of a comprehensive scheme covering Imperial defence as a whole. We have to provide for the safety not only of these islands, but of a widespread Empire with trade routes that run from country to country. A glance at the map of the world will show that on these trade routes the power of air, unless it be used from shipboard, is very limited and that the bulk of the trade routes are on the open sea where they can be attacked only by ships and defended only by ships. In the long years of financial depression—and do not let us think we are through those years yet; I throw out that caveat—we have regretfully allowed, and every Government has allowed, deficiencies to accumulate. Those deficiencies, so far as if may be possible, will have to be rectified in the next few years. I do not propose to-day to enter on that question. There will be many opportunities for discussing it when the Estimates are put forward dealing specifically with it.
This increase has beer studied in relation throughout to the other services, And the House must remember how interdependent the services are. There is much that the Army has to do, closely allied to the Air Force, in the provision of air defences, searchlights, guns and so forth, primarily directed to the safety of these islands. In the same way, the Army is responsible for the defence of coaling stations And harbours that exist throughout the world to ensure the mobility of our naval forces in time of war. We have not got in this country a bottomless purse, and we have had to allot to this great Service—the one that perhaps interests the people of this country the most as being the one about which they hear and read the most dis- 2335 cussion as to its potentialities in times of danger—the utmost that we believe we can—until the time comes, which I hope and believe will not come unless the situation greatly deteriorates and we shall be in obvious peril—without Accelerating the programme which we have put forward. I would repeat here, apropos of a Motion which is down in the name of some of my hon. Friends, what was implicit in the statement I made in the House of Commons, that, built on this broad basis, it will be perfectly possible to accelerate the programme in case of need, just as it will be perfectly possible to decelerate it should there be a happier outcome of the conversations that will shortly take place at Geneva.
The cost of the scheme, I may just repeat, is £20,000,000, spread over the years 1934 and the four succeeding financial years, which could not be increased without reduction in the cost of the other Services, which would involve greater risks, but it does provide for our future defensive needs in the air so far as they can be judged in the light of all indications at present available. That is the judgment of our experts, and it is the judgment of the Government as a whole. As I mentioned in my statement, the position of Imperial defence as a whole will have to be kept under continuous and close observation in the light of the international position in every part of the world, and also, I should add, in the light of financial considerations.
There is one question on which I should say a word, that of the civilian population. I have been asked in questions in this House what we are doing for the civilian population in the event of air raids, whether we are considering the question of organisation, and so on, and I have given, the answer more than once that these questions have for many years been under close and careful investigation. As we all know, that is the case in, so far as I know, every country in Europe; but they have carried their work a great deal farther than we have carried ours. We feel with regard to the protection of the civilian population that our plans have been carried as far as is possible without wider publicity than has hitherto been deemed to be in the public interest. The next stage involves communications with local authorities, with public utility companies, and so forth, 2336 and with all those on whom responsibility for action would fall in the emergency contemplated, 'and before long steps will be taken to communicate the necessary instructions to the general public.
I would like to make a few final observations summing up what I have said, and I desire, if it will not weary the House, to say a few words about some of my own speeches on this subject delivered in the House of Commons. I am ashamed to find, on looking back, for I never read my own speeches, how many I have made, but I am also gratified to find that they do not contradict one another, which is a great comfort to a public speaker. And I may say that in reading them again I think that one or two of them are rather good, but that is a matter of my own opinion. That they have not always been understood in the country I am not surprised. I see that a lady, obviously a powerful advocate of the Opposition, speaking in the country, said that I made a statement that we had come to the end of our peace policy—but I cannot find anything in my speeches which bears that out—and that I also had said that in the next war we shall have to kill the women and the children of the enemy before they kill ours. I do not know exactly what that is based upon, but I want to make one or two observations upon it.
That speech, the first one I made on the air, in the autumn of 1932, was a short speech, and therefore it was impossible to put everything in it by way of explanation, but I had as my object the desire to make people think, not only in this country but abroad. I felt that if I could make them think it might facilitate the work of air disarmament. Mr. Keynes told me 10 years ago that it is quite impossible to make the English people think, and that I was wasting my time, but I did make a great effort then. This lady whom I quoted has evidently been thinking, but she has been doing so with incomplete apparatus, and I want us just to think together for a few moments.
What I stressed in that speech was this: I made perfectly clear my meaning, but when I put it into a statement to try to attract attention I put it in this form—that there is no defence. The truth is that a bomber will always get through. That is perfectly true, but it is not true to say that because of that it is waste of money 2337 to increase your air force. The stronger your force to attack the enemy when he tries to bomb you the inure difficult you make it for him. Some will always get through; but there comes a point when he has to think very seriously whether the game is worth the candle. The last German air raid on London was a very severe one, but it was the last, and I may remind the House that a large number of those raiders were turned back at the coast. Of those getting across the coast a quarter were brought down and killed. That kind of proportion is true of later raids over Paris. Sixty per cent of the raiders were turned back that night at the coast and more than a quarter of those crossing the coast were destroyed.
Have hon. Members ever asked themselves this question? No naval authority would guarantee to us that in the event of war a submarine of the enemy will not sink one of our ships or will not sink one of our food ships. No naval authority will assure us immunity for all our food ships, however many cruisers we have got. Do we therefore say, "We will do without cruisers altogether, because there is no defence?" Do we say, "We will do without attempting to destroy the submarine, because the submarine will always get through" Of course we do not; and that is true of the air. There is no deterrent to any country which is contemplating the use of the air like knowing that the other country which it may be thinking of invading is not going to sit, shivering, waiting for the invasion, but is, while realising perfectly well that it will suffer, prepared to defend itself and to make it as difficult for the aggressor as possible. That is our position.
In exactly the same way let us just remember this. The President of the Board of Trade, at the end of last week, was speaking about his trade agreements. We all remember, in the lifetime of the last Government, our late friend Mr. William Graham going to Geneva full of hope, but weaponless, unarmed, to make trade agreements on the Continent. We know that that visit was a complete failure, in spite of his being, so far as arguments went, and qualifications, as well equipped for that purpose and that task as any man in this country. My right hon. Friend was successful, not because he is a better man than the late president of the Board of Trade but 2338 because he was armed. That lesson shows that there is a certain truth in what I hinted at in the earlier part of my speech, that we may well have suffered in the past at Geneva in having so little to give away and nothing with which to bargain. Hon. Members opposite will, of course, think that a ridiculous statement. Hon. Members opposite, even my right hon. Friend the Leader, has not, I think, been in a Cabinet that has had to consider these matters, and to take the responsibility of decisions on their shoulders and justify them to the country. Let me remind him, and I shall be glad to hear his criticism on it, of these words:We wish to reduce armaments and expenditure, but we cannot get anything accomplished with a diplomacy that is impotent for want of power behind it.'Those words were not written by me; they were written by Lord Haldane to the present Prime Minister after the defeat of the Labour party in the Winter of 1923. Lord Haldane was a man who, on questions of defence and armaments knew as much as if not more than any man in that Government or in any Government since the War. That was his deliberate opinion, written privately and published in his autobiography, and I think those words are well to be considered.
I would remind the House of one other thing. I do not believe that in this House there are any isolationists. We meet them sometimes in our Press, but though they may be isolationists they are not historians. There never was a Minister who made peace his object more than Robert Walpole, and I am going to venture to read a short quotation from Mr. Oliver's great work on Robert Walpole, because I think it says more clearly and in far better words than I can command, what the fallacy of isolationism is. Walpole, with all his efforts for peace in this country, with all his efforts to keep this country out of war, never lost sight of the fact that the well-being of this country depended on the well-being and the security of the whole of Europe. He wanted a lasting peace, but he did not believe it could be got by an insular peace, but by a European peace, and that is what we are all working for in this House and what we all hope to achieve. This is what Mr. Oliver says:whose home is Britain cannot escape from their particular environment. 2339 Isolation is the bubble of a distempered imagination. Weary with an apparently insoluble confusion, tested by endless provocations, haunted by the memory of a thousand blunders in the past, British statesmen have sometimes been tempted to bid the other nations of Europe go their ways and let us go ours in peace. But the very essence of the matter is that no one of us can go his own way. Individual men may go, as the Pilgrim Fathers went, but the nations cannot go; and it is not the worst of human kind who choose to stay where they are born, and since we are forced to stay we must play our various parts manfully or be borne under. If we allow our prestige to become impaired, if we shirk responsibility and let things of moment go by default; in other words, if we cease to care whether our strength is recognised or not, whether our voice is audible or not in the councils of Europe, we lose the chief security for our independence. We risk our own ruin, we injure the whole Continental fabric. Confusion and disaster will follow as certainly as if one of the planets in the solar system should cease to pull its weight. If aloofness is inconsistent with our own safety, it is equally inconsistent with public morality. To be a good European is no mean patriotism.I think those are great words. There is one other thing. The greatest crime to our own people is to be afraid to tell the truth. I notice with great regret that in a good deal of the propaganda that goes about in this country the truth is not being told. We are too apt in this country to believe that all the peoples of the world are animated by the ideals which animate us. That is not true at this moment. There are in this world signs of a form of force being used which shows a spirit which, if it became powerful enough, might mean the end of all that we in this country value and which we believe makes our life worth living.
Let us never forget this; since the day of the air, the old frontiers are gone. When you think of the defence of England you no longer think of the chalk cliffs of Dover; you think of the Rhine. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, Hear."] That is where our frontier lies. To show that I am no alarmist in what I have said of the air, I would remind the Liberals in this House who put that Amendment down, that on the occasion of the Labour party's Budget 10 years ago, Mr. Asquith, while critical of the amount of the figures of the Defence Services in that Budget, said that he had no disposition to pare down defensive expenditure to danger 2340 point, and this is what he added, and it is a remark to which I would call the attention of the House:In regard to the Air Service, I have more than once expressed the view that we were spending not too much but too little.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th May, 1924; col. 261, Vol. 174.]Having regard to the circumstances existing in the world to-day, circumstances which I have endeavoured to make clear to the House and which are connected both with our own position and with the position of other countries; having regard to political tendencies in Europe to-day and having regard to what our own people stand for, I am confident that I am asking the House to-day to approve not only what is absolutely necessary but what is the least that I think we ought to ask the House to give its assent to, and I ask for that confidence in the certainty that the vast majority will agree with the proposals.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The Lord President of the Council said this afternoon that he had made a number of speeches on the air and that he had re-read them, and that they did not contradict each other. That is probably right, because each of the speeches contained within itself its own contradiction, and the speech which he has delivered this afternoon is no exception to that. That fact came out most strongly perhaps when he explained to the House, for the benefit of some of us, that these increases were for collective security, and for the benefit of others that they were for Imperial defence. That is what runs through the speeches and policy of each Member of the Government who talks of disarmament, or defence or of foreign affairs. They may do lip service to the League of Nations and to collective security, but at the back of their minds there is 'always the belief in reliance on the old, anarchic principle of self-defence.
When one discusses any questions of air armaments one necessarily goes back to the classic passages of the speech of the Lord President of the Council, of November, 1932. Attempts arc sometimes made to put a gloss on that speech, but I listened to it, and I was enormously impressed by it, and I had not the slightest doubt of what the right hon. Gentleman meant. I do not think that he can complain of being misquoted in 2341 the country. What he meant, and the effect that he wanted to produce, were perfectly clear. The first point that he made in that speech was a vivid presentation of the danger threatening civilisation. The second point was the practical impossibility of any effective defence, and the third was that the only effective form of defence—if you can call it defence—was counter-attack. There was no doubt about what he said. He said at the end, in unmistakable language:when the next war comes, and European civilisation is wiped out, as it will be.There is nothing hypothetical about that. It is a statement of belief. In a statement with regard to air defence he said, speaking of the man in the street:There is no power on earth that can protect him from being bombed. Whatever people may tell him, the bomber will always get through.He tells us to-day that this or that percentage of attackers may be brought down before they get home again, but it is no good putting that up, because he has told us not to deceive the man in the street, and we shall tell the man in the street what the right hon. Gentleman said in November, 1932, and that is that the bomber will always get through.
The question comes: "What can you do?" and the right hon. Gentleman gave the answer to that when he said: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; cols. 632-638, Vol. 270.]I cannot see that he has any complaint against the lady who quoted him, because his statements were perfectly clear and very grave. They were made with the deliberate intention of making people realise the gravity of the position. Here is where the contradiction comes in: the speech to which we have listened this afternoon went on the assumption that national defence against air attack is possible. The right hon. Gentleman says "We must now defend ourselves," as if there were a choice in the matter. He made it abundantly plain in November, 1932, that there were not two choices before us and that there was no defence. Have counter-attack if you like, but you could not say, "We will give up all these arrangements, and 2342 all this trying to get disarmament and so forth, and will go in for national defence." He told us that there was no defence. We have therefore to treat the position which is before us in the light of the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman.
I think the whole world was impressed by that speech. The terrible contrast is between the urgency of that warning of what might happen to civilisation, and the behaviour of our representatives when they were engaged in discussing disarmament. The right hon. Gentleman gave a travesty of the facts of what happened at Geneva. He said that if we had been stronger we might have been more effective in disarmament, but France had a much stronger air power than we, and yet she went much further in disarmament than we. The French proposals went infinitely further, and it is our representatives whose record all through is one of obstruction and unhelpfulness and of constantly sacrificing the prospect of world disarmament to some particular considerations in regard to the Empire or commerce. Read the discussions. I have the discussions here which took place in the League with regard to the abolition of bombing. You read all the pleas put up for the preservation of the bomber, and you find that it is unsupported except by Iraq and Siam, and that the proposals for the abolition of bombing are wrecked by British reservations. Then you have proposals put forward in regard to civil aviation, and you see the kind of opposition there was from the Secretary of State for Air when he was talking of commercial considerations. He said that he was not prepared to hamper the fullest development of civil aviation in every country for civil and commercial purposes.
We are told that one of the vital things is the control of civil aviation, but the Noble Lord thought that the question of the full development of commercial aviation was more important. Then we had the Under-Secretary for Air, who thought that there were very grave objections to internationalising civil aviation, because the removal of competition would hamper its development. It might mean that you could not make a profit out of it, and it would have to be subsidised. What a contrast there is when we come to the 2343 statement of M. Pierre Cot, the French Minister for Air, who, in his reply, said that if it could be proved to him that in order to prevent air warfare it was necessary to hinder trade to a certain degree, he would have no hesitation as to the choice that he would make. It is distressing to read the objections which were put forward by our representatives, in the light of the Lord President's speech on the 10th November, 1932. Then we had the Prime Minister, who examined the matter not merely from the military but from the commercial point of view, because civil aviation must not be retarded. It is no wonder that the Turkish delegate hoped that the United Kingdom delegation would preserve some sense of proportion, and it is no wonder that representatives of one country after another got up and declared their disappointment. To-day we see some difference in the Lord President. In November, 1932, he made an appeal to the young men. I noticed that to-day he appealed to old men, who were dead. He appealed to Walpole, who lived at the heyday of the balance of power in Europe. He appealed to distinguished statesmen, but statesmen of the past, and he seemed altogether to have forgotten the young man.
Now we come to the reasons that have been given for this development. We have to remember that armed forces depend on policy. What armed forces you have depends on what your foreign policy is. We hoped that we were going to get something out of the Disarmament Conference, but we now have the ominous words of the Lord President, that "we have by no means abandoned hope of reaching some limitation." The Secretary of State, speaking the other day in another place, spoke in just the same way. He took off his hat to the dying conference, and passed on towards national defence. But the statement that the Lord President read in this House did go a little further, because it professed to give the reasons for this policy, and they were very curious. We were told that the reasons are our commitments under the Covenant of the League and under the Locarno Treaty, and then followed a reference to symptoms of unrest on the Continent. That led up to the non sequitur that we must get our Air Force on a level more 2344 closely approaching that of our nearest neighbours. In the statement made to this House the words used were, "our nearest neighbours," but the statement in the other House said "our nearest neighbour," and we all know to whom it refers—the nearest big Power.
What are our commitments under the Covenant? The right hon. Gentleman rather challenged me, I think, on the allegation that we on this side had said that we must fulfil all our obligations under the League of Nations, and had then run away from providing the necessary force. What are our obligations? The League of Nations Covenant does not say that you must keep a force of this or that size. The League of Nations was founded on the idea of the reduction of armaments, and not the increase of armaments. Article 16 of the Covenant says:Should any Member of the League resort to war in disregard of its Covenants under Articles 12, 13 or 15, it shall ipso facto be deemed to have committed an act of war against all other Members of the League, which hereby undertake immediately to subject it to the severance of all trade or financial relations, the prohibition of all intercourse between their nationals and the nationals of the covenant-breaking state, and the prevention of all financial, commercial or personal intercourse between the nationals of the covenant-breaking State and the nationals of any other State, whether a Member of the League or not. It shall be the duty of the council in such a case to recommend to the several Governments concerned what effective military, naval or air force the members of the League shall severally contribute to the armed forces to be used to protect the Covenant of the League.It is not a matter of our having to provide a certain force of a certain size; it is a recommendation; and I think it is a little cynical of a Government that left China in the lurch to talk in this way. We have a definition that was given at the time of the Locarno Treaty. The Locarno signatories stated very clearly what they thought our obligations were under the Covenant. It was then stated that each State member of the League was bound to co-operate loyally and effectively in support of the Covenant. I do not know whether hon. Members below the Gangway thought that we would act disloyally when they made an interjection just now about war. We understand that we are to act loyally. It is no 2345 use shouting out "War." This is the obligation that the country has under-taken—
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The hon. Member cannot have been attending here very recently. If he had listened to the Leader of the House, he would have heard him quote a statement of mine which was not repudiation, but, on the contrary, acceptance of the principle. The signatories at Locarn said that Members of the League were bound to act, in the event of any act of aggression, to an extent compatible with their military situation, and taking their geographical position into account. I do not think that that interpretation will be denied; I think that it would be the interpretation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) if he were here. We are bound to take action compatible with our military situation, but we are not bound to put our military situation into such a condition, that we can be called upon to act in all circumstances. The whole object of the League was to reduce, and not to increase, armaments. Therefore, it is a ridiculous suggestion to make that we are bound to increase our forces under the Covenant of the League.
There is a further point. The League of Nations is not a unilateral undertaking; the Covenant is not unilateral. We are bound no more and no less than any other State. What surprises me is that the right hon. Gentleman comes down here and reads out a list of other countries that have increased their armaments. He says, "Look what France has done; look what the United States have done; look what Italy has done," with a view to showing that that is a threat to us. But really it is the reverse. If we really believe in the League of Nations, every one of those States is bound to assist us just as we are bound to assist them. Then we are told that we must provide a bigger force because of Locarno. What are our obligations under the Locarno Treaty? It was not laid down that we alone were bound to support German territory if it were attacked by another Power, but that we were bound to support France, Italy and Bel 2346 gium against Germany, or Germany, Italy and Belgium against France. What possible purpose can there be in our having parity with either Germany or France under the Locarno Treaty? The only effect would be to make us a principal, instead of, as was proposed, a balancing factor.
We agree with the Government that there are symptoms of unrest in the world, and no one deplores more than we do the outbursts of bestial ferocity that we have seen on the Continent. We believe that you have to make a peaceful world, but not by encouraging world armaments. The right hon. Gentleman gave us a number of reasons, and a number of reasons were given in the other House. Some of them were very remarkable. We are told that we have to be a little stronger to make our word effective in the world. That leads us back to where the right hon. Gentleman wanted to take us; it leads us back to Walpole; it leads us back to the balance of power; it leads us back to the days when for purposes of argument you put the sword into the scale. What relevance can that have in a world where the renunciation of war as an instrument of policy has been solemnly sworn by all nations? They either believe in that or they do not. Then we had the statement that, after all, everyone knows that England keeps the peace, and that, if we have a great force, world peace will be secured. It is not a matter for surprise if people on the Continent think that that is just cant and hypocrisy. I looked up a parallel statement:Our army is there to ensure for us the maintenance of peace, and if, in despite of us, it is broken, to win it for us again with honour. That task it will be able, with God's help, to accomplish, thanks to the strength it has received by the Army Law which you have just unanimously voted. To employ this strength for wars of aggression is far from my heart.Really, it is about time that we got away from cant of that kind—from saying, "Lord, we thank thee that we are not as other people are." Even the right hon. Gentleman said that we must not imagine that other nations are people like us. Would not that be said in other countries as well? Does not Hitler think that the Germans are the salt of the earth? Does not Mussolini think that the Italians are the heirs of ancient 2347 Rome, and that others are merely barbarians? We ought to get away from that kind of idle national boasting.
Then I think there is something rather peculiar in the timing of the increase. Of course, we know that there has been great pressure as regards time, that it was necessary to do something before the House rose for the vacation. But, the last time we were discussing foreign affairs, the Foreign Secretary had a well merited success in announcing to the House that he had had conversations with France and that it was hoped to do something to bring about an Eastern Locarno to supplement the Western Locarno, that it was hoped that Russia would come into the League of Nations, and that there would be a. number of other pacts of non-aggression and mutual assistance. Has the position become less secure in a fortnight? Did these events make for greater or less security? They must have done one thing or the other. They cannot have left things exactly as they were.
We want to know what is this increased danger. You cannot arm yourself against some vague danger coming from somewhere you know not where, particularly in the case of the air. We talk about our nearest neighbour. Is the danger from France? Is the danger from States within the League? Do the Government believe that most people in the League will break from it at any time? If they believe that, they had better get out of the League, and not continue a mere farce. If you believe in it, you ought to have some trust in your fellow-signatories. Does it come from States outside the League? If so, it should be met by the whole force of the League, and therefore it should not need a special provision for national armaments. We should really try to make up our mind exactly on which leg we are standing. Are we for national defence or are we for collective security I Have we been asked by other members of the League to strengthen our forces in order to do our duty under the Covenant? There was some indication by the Lord President that someone had murmured that we were not strong enough to carry out our obligations. I should like to know something more about it. Has someone said we are not strong enough to carry 2348 out our obligations under Locarno, or have they perhaps said they doubted whether we would ever live un to our professions for carrying out Locarno? Have arrangements been made with any other Government? We have had arrangements made before behind the back of the House. I should like to have a specific denial from the Government that this has been caused by some conversations with some other Power. We cannot forget the days before 1914 when Ministers stood at that Box and denied there being any military conversations or anything whatever, and in 1914 the people of the country found that they were bound.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
Again and again the question was put from the ranks of the Liberal party as to whether we were in any way bound, and again and again it was denied.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
The hon. Gentleman says that again and again denials were made by Members of the Liberal Government from that Box that any conversations had taken place with the French with regard to military preparations. Will he give quotations?
§ Mr. ATTLEE
They denied that they had had conversations or had military and naval arrangements and, in fact, in 1914 this country found itself tied and bound, and we are resolved that we on this side will not hold ourselves bound by any secret agreement whatever. We have not been parties to any discussions on defence. Our policy is perfectly plain. We are standing on the principle of collective security under the obligations which have been taken up by Governments of all parties, from the time of the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), under the League of Nations—no less and no more. I know we have had attempts made, and we shall have them again, to represent the Labour party as wanting to send British men to be killed in every part of the world in every sort of quarrel. That is a calculated misrepresentation. We have not suggested that anything should be done more than what has been solemnly promised under the Covenant of the League of Nations 2349 by the Government of this country. As a matter of fact, a great deal of the unrest abroad in the world to-day is just because the world does not know where this Government stands. They do not know whether these bonds under the Covenant are worthless paper or not. Our alleged weakness in the councils of the world is not because we have only so many aeroplanes. We were in just the same position three years ago, but when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clay Cross (Mr. A. Henderson) was Foreign Secretary he was able to lead the world on the way to peace, and England's word counted in those days. It is only the vacillation of the present Government and the fact that it runs away from everything and never stands up to this or the other. That is not a matter of party prejudice. You hear the same thing when you talk to anyone on the Continent. We deny the need for increased air armaments. The Lord President of the Council begged the whole question, because he never made an attempt to show that this extra air armament would give us any security whatever. The whole of his speech in 1932 was directed to showing that in three dimensional warfare you had no real defence. There is no suggestion that this increase can give security.
We deny the proposition that an in creased British Air Force will make for the peace of the world, and we reject altogether the claim to parity. We think that parity is an out-of-date, pre-war conception of the balance of power. It is obvious that, if you are to have a League of Nations all bound by similar obligations but differing very much in size, in composition and in geographical situation, it is impossible to make them all exactly like peas in a pod as regards their armaments. Then what is the case for parity with our next-door neighbour unless you are afraid of your next-door neighbour and think he is going to attack you? If you believe that, what on earth is the good of being in the League of Nations with them? We accept the Lord President's diagnosis of the air peril. We say you cannot take refuge in individual national security. You have to go forward to an ordered world system. We believe you have got to have the absolute abolition of national fighting air forces. We believe in an air police force, and we believe in the internationalisation of 2350 civil aviation. The condition of the world worsens as long as no real remedy is put forward, but there is no reason whatever why the beginning of an international system should not be built up with those countries that are faithful to the League. When the Lord President spoke not long ago about the difficulties of the internationalisation of civil aviation, I imagined that there were some great technical difficulties, but I found nothing but the most paltry considerations about money, commerce and this and that, as if you had to imperil the whole question of the safety of the air in order that the Prime Minister might be able to fly to Lossiemouth. We are profoundly dissatisfied with the action of the Government. We believe that in saying that because France, because Russia, because the United States have increased their forces we must increase ours, they are beginning again the old competition in the air. We believe it is entirely fallacious to think you can measure your force by merely counting men or material. They do not do it when the Air Estimates come on. They tell us that, though our Air Force may be small, it is far more efficient than any other in the world.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
Is it not a fact that at the time of the Naval Treaty of 1930 the Government refused parity to Japan and carried out the whole negotiations on the basis of parity?
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I do not believe in a system in which you have a League of Nations all demanding parity, because we do not believe that you can get peace by these rival national forces, and it is clear that, as long as you are always measuring yourselves against your neighbour and asking yourselves whether your neighbour is stronger than you are, you have no trust or confidence, and that is the trouble with regard to the league, that most of the Powers will not put their faith in the League and therefore they do not get faith put in them. There is always an afterthought. "I would do this, but I must retain this for my own defence." The right hon. Gentleman says no Government could take the responsibility of not increasing the Air Force. Sooner or later there will be a Govern- 2351 ment which will have to take the responsibility by telling people that there is no such thing as national defence in an armed world and they will have to work for a world organised for peace and for collective peace, and tell people to put aside their old idea of defending this little country by their own little force, because it is entirely out-of-date. We complain that this Government, by talking in terms of the past, by endeavouring to persuade people that they are going to get some sort of defence by this addition to air armaments, is really deceiving them. The Lord President has gone back from his speech of 1932. That was a realist speech. He has now fallen back on a mere appeal to sentiment. We are not in the least convinced by his defence, and we shall certainly press this Motion to a division.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
Before I come to the matters which are strictly relevant to the Motion, I would ask leave of the House to refer to one observation that the hon. Gentleman has just made. As one of the few surviving Members of the pre-War Cabinet—the Foreign Secretary will, no doubt, confirm what I say—I think it incumbent on me to refer to what the hon. Gentleman said—it is not the first time he has said it—with regard to declarations made by Liberal Ministers in that Government. He made two statements. He first said that, although conversations of a military character had taken place between our military authorities and those of France, Ministers in that Government again and again stood at that Box and denied that any such conversations had occurred. I challenged him to give any such quotation, and he was unable to do so. The observation is completely unfounded and, I think, when he refers to his authorities, he ought to withdraw it.
The second statement that he made was that there was a secret understanding which had the result, in the circumstances of 1914, that this country was bound in honour to come to the support of France on account of those military conversations and other arrangements which had been made. The hon. Gentleman has perhaps forgotten that in November, 1912, in the most formal manner, the British Cabinet communicated with the French Govern- 2352 meat, stating that it must be quite clearly understood that those conversations, and also the allocations of the fleets in the Mediterranean and the North Sea, must not be taken as a commitment of any sort or kind, and that this country was in no way committed by those preliminary conversations to take any action of a military character if contingencies that had been anticipated did arise. The French Government acknowledged that, repeated the letter in similar terms, and stated that they had placed all this on record, and at no time did the French Government claim, either in August, 1914, or at any other time, that this country had entered into any commitments which pledged it to come to the assistance of France in the event of her being attacked by Germany. Whether in all the circumstances of the case it was right and expedient or necessary for us to take that action is another matter, but commitment there was certainly none. I see that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary indicates assent, and I hope that when he speaks he may perhaps find it possible to confirm these observations.
With regard to the Motion before the House, I think that we are all indebted to the Lord President of the Council for having taken the unusual course, with the approval of the whole House, of opening the Debate and making a preliminary statement of the Government's case in these matters. I believe that every Member of the House, even those Members who regard this increase in our armaments as inevitable, must regard it as regrettable, and, if a necessity, a deplorable necessity. No one would agree that expenditure on armaments is a good thing in itself. It may have to be undertaken, but regretfully undertaken. The Lord President of the Council said that we had to consider these matters partly in the light of financial considerations, and although that is not the final or the supreme factor, it is one of very great importance to any country which has to consider necessarily its financial obligations and its financial resources. The Secretary of State for Air in another place said that, after all, this means less than a penny on the Income Tax. Yes, but it is not the first penny, and it will not be the last penny. Our expenditure upon all our defences, now amounting to £113,000,000 a year, is equal to 2s. 6d. 2353 on the income Tax, and if you add to that the expenditure upon past wars, that is to say, the interest on our War Debt, and the cost of War pensions, our total expenditure on present defences and past wars, amounting to £357,000,000 a year, it is not a question of a penny on the Income Tax, but more than the whole of the Income Tax, the whole of Surtax, and the whole of the Death Duties, and then needing £12,000,000 to make up the balance.
The Lord President quoted the late Mr. Asquith as having said that he regretted that more was not spent on the Air Force, but I would remind him that since that date the Air Estimates have gone up by 25 per cent., and that now it is proposed, apparently, to increase them by 60 per cent., if the Air Force Estimates go up in proportion to the increase of strength that has been announced. When we consider the social condition of our people as a whole, the grave defects in our society, in matters of education, and of environment, in many of the crying necessities of a really civilised life, when we consider how far we are from rising to our full height of greatness as a nation in these respects, every one must agree that it is profoundly to be deplored that we should be spending these vast and increasing sums upon the purposes of armaments. In the Preamble to the Appropriation Bill, which we passed through the House earlier this afternoon, there is included the old form of words that this House has "cheerfully granted" the year's Supply. Not so cheerfully in these days, and I fear that the ancient formula does not really represent the present actual conditions.
It is not only ourselves who are so burdened with these enormous charges for armaments now being increased, and not only with respect to the Air Force but the Navy. If you take the seven great Powers in the world, the figures supplied by the League of Nations show that in the pre-War years, taking the average of the four years pre-War, the expenditure of those seven great Powers upon armaments and defences was 376,000,000 gold pounds, and on the same basis now the figure is not 376,000,000, but 695,000,000. It is true that prices have enormously increased, and that the value of the gold pound has changed; still, that increase, not far short of double, is a terrible satire upon the course of modern history when 2354 we consider the expectations which were aroused during and after the War for world peace and greater disarmament. It is an immense increase—although the German Navy, which was one of the prime factors in the race of armaments in those days, is at the bottom of the sea and the British Navy was greatly reduced as a consequence.
Take the world as a whole. The expenditure now is between £900,000,000 and £1,000,000,000 a year, or more than £2,500,000 every day. There has been some check upon expenditure owing to the Washington and London Treaties. There are those who say that all these international conferences are useless, that we should not place our faith in them, and that they could in no case result in anything. The Washington Conference, the House was told, would save, and it did save, this country £88,000,000 in a period of five years, which would otherwise have had to be spent on the building of ships, and the London Conference, the First Lord of the Admiralty told Parliament, had saved from £60,000,000 to £70,000,000 in a comparatively short period. So that when we consider this increased expenditure and its relation to the present Conference, the one thing we must realise is the gravity of adding fresh burdens on the people. The present heavy burden of taxation, undoubtedly, is one of the causes of bad social conditions, and consequently we should remember the precedent in regard to the Navy which should have given good hope for possibly more definite results in the consideration of other armaments as well.
I think that there will be general agreement in the House—even the hon. Gentleman the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) would agree to this, and the Labour party certainly would agree to it—that disarmament cannot be one-sided. If we must have armaments, if other nations have them, they must be well equipped and adequate to their task. Suppose the risk, which we know is a risk, were to be realized—it may be a distant risk but still it exists—some day we might find that events had occurred which we all would most deeply deplore, and that we were engaged in some hostilities. If then our Air Force were to be found out-numbered, out-distanced, ill-equipped and ill-trained, what conscience would anyone of us in this House have if we had sent out our men to face 2355 the perils of such a conflict in those circumstances, because the Members of the House of Commons had not the courage to provide the finances which were necessary? That is true, and it must be present to the minds of everyone of us whenever we discuss these matters of armaments and defence. But that plea can be used, and has been used, to support any increase of any force at any time. It might be used by advocates of a great standing army in this country of 1,000,000 or 2,000,000 men. It might be used by advocates of conscription. We might be told that we shall again be in grave peril and we must have adequate forces and take measures now, and that it is unfair to send out a small army unprepared to meet great forces. The conclusion which I would suggest to the House is the simple and obvious one, that each case must be examined most carefully on its individual merits, and if the Government can make out a case on its merits for the increase which is now proposed, the House ought without demur to vote the money even if they were to put a strain upon our resources. But if the case is not clearly made out, then the House should say, "No, there is no reason for imposing this increased burden upon the people."
Let us examine point by point the case as presented by the Lord President of the Council in his speech to-day and in the speech of the Secretary of State for Air in another place. In the first place great emphasis is laid upon our obligations under the Covenant of the League to which no small part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was devoted. He mentioned the Saar, Memel, Dantzig and the unrest in Europe, and said that we in this country might be called upon to take common action with other members of the League in order to make really valid a collective system for the maintenance of peace. But as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lime-house said, and indeed it is obvious, there is no solitary duty imposed upon us. We are not universal policemen to carry out all the obligations of the League. If such eventualities were to occur, and if there was to be real collective action, it is an action in which not we alone should be engaged but all of us—or almost all the countries of Europe. Therefore, to suggest this as a reason 2356 why we should have parity in the air seems to me to be totally unconvincing. There may be other reasons for parity as has been suggested, but that this is a reason is wholly unconvincing. Indeed, it would have filled the founders of the League with amazement to be told that after a few years the British Government might come forward to Parliament and say that because of the existence of the League you must increase your armaments. There is an obligation in the Covenant of the League. It is in Article 8:The members of the League recognise that the maintenance of peace requires the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations. The council, taking account of the geographical situation and circumstances of each State, shall formulate plans for such reduction for the consideration and action of the several Governments.But the opinion that when we signed the Covenant of the League we thereby covenanted to make ourselves into a more powerfully armed nation is one which is wholly antipathetic to the spirit of that document and of its purpose—an inverted perverted argument. The right hon. Gentleman said—and it was also mentioned in an earlier statement to the House—that the Locarno Treaty involved similar obligations. But that action is a joint obligation. When we signed the Locarno Treaty we were not of the opinion that it would mean that each of the signatories was to arm against the others and that if anyone increased its forces the other must do the same in order to fulfil the obligations of Locarno. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), the prime author on the British side of that Treaty, commended it to this House and to this country, did he ever suggest that one of the consequences would be that 10 years later a Government would come here and say, "Because you signed those Articles you must add 60 per cent. to your Air Force?" For our part we wholly repudiate this course of argument that, having signed Treaties, which are supposed to maintain and buttress peace—the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Locarno Treaty—that thereby we are compelled to increase our armaments pari passu with the armaments of any other country.
2357 There is a third argument, that this has been done in order to help disarmament, in order to bring pressure upon the other countries to reduce their armaments, or to discourage them from increasing them. We are very familiar with the doctrine that the best way to get tariffs down is to put tariffs up, and we know that there are those who think that the way to end war is to wage war. Certainly, it is a very strange doctrine that the way to encourage disarmament is to increase armament. I have been reading an amusing book written by Mr. Llewellyn, entitled "Confound their Politics," which is a satire upon our times. In that book there is an imaginary disarmament conference, which is considering this matter. At that conference the Foreign Secretary of one of the great Powers, who also happens to be a very eminent lawyer, of tall and distinguished appearance, used, this language—his name in the book was Sir Gallio:It is quite clear that we all of us desire security.That statement was applauded by the conference.But all are agreed that disarmament is not to be had without security.That statement was also received with applause.It is clear further that the security of each must depend upon the strength of their own armaments.Consequently, it logically followed that since disarmament depended upon security and since security depended upon armaments, the greater armaments they had the more disarmament they would reach. That statement was received with great applause by the conference.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir John Simon)
Is not the book prefaced with the usual statement that all the characters are entirely imaginary?
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I do not for a moment suggest anything else. One expects such an argument in a book of imagination of that sort, but to-day from the Lord President of the Council we had something strangely similar. Step by step the logic is the same and the conclusion is the same, that the more armaments we can pile up the greater disarmament we shall achieve. 2358 The next part of the case in favour of an increase of armaments was made both by the Secretary of State for Air and by the Lord President of the Council. The Secretary of State for Air said:We have for some years ranked fifth among the nations in terms of first line strength.That is supposed to be the reason why it is urgently necessary that we should increase our Air Force. The four Powers whose Air Forces are larger, some much larger than ours, are the United States of America, France, Italy and Russia. Japan also is largely increasing her Air Force. Is it seriously contended, as Lord Londonderry in the other House Apparently did contend, that because of the great Air Force of Russia we must increase our own Air Force? To-day, the Lord President of the Council mentioned Russia as one of the countries which has been largely increasing her Air Force. We know the reason for the increase of the Russian Air Force. There is no secret about it. She has great interests in the Far East and the Pacific. Her communications from her metropolis to that distant province are extremely difficult. There is a formidable possible competitor in the Pacific, in Japan, and Russia has been immensely increasing her Air Force in the Far East in order to deter any possible act of aggression on the part of her neighbour there. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] In similar circumstances we ought to do the same. Certainly, I quite agree. But because Japan builds up a great Air Force and because Russia builds up a greater Air Force as a measure of protection, is that any reason why we here in Great Britain should have an Air Force which is comparable to theirs?
If the United States, which Also has great interests in the Pacific, feels that her Air Force may be a possible factor in any future conflict and she builds up an immense Air Force in connection with her fleet arm, ought that to be taken into account by this House now as a reason why the strength of our own Air Force should be increased? It seems to me that these considerations are wholly irrelevant. Indeed, they are immediately abandoned by the Government and by the Secretary of State for Air, who says that our formula should be parity in the air with the strongest Air Power within reach of these shores. That 2359 is the real basis of the case, and to suggest that because we are the fifth Air Power, because the United States, or Russia, or it may be Japan, have larger Air Forces than ours, that that is a relevant consideration, seems to me to be most unconvincing. So also with regard to Italy. The Italian increase, which was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, is only £2,250,000. We have to remember that Italy has to protect three fronts. I do not want to go into details in such matters, but the Italian situation is in some respects a special one.
Therefore, when we analyse this case, point by point, as the House will agree that it ought to be analysed if we are asked to vote these large sums of money, the only factor we have to consider seriously is the question of the Air Forces that are within reach of our shores. The arguments based upon obligations to the League of Nations, or obligation's under the Locarno Treaty, or the fact that we are the fifth Air Power, and the probability that by increasing armaments we can get others to reduce armaments, merely confuse the issue. We come back to this one single point, that there are only two Powers which come into consideration. It is exceedingly invidious and unpleasant to name countries with which we are on terms of great friendship—so far as France is concerned we have memories of comradeship in the War and we are on terms of real affection—but since this formula is being adopted we must see exactly what it means.
There are two Powers to consider, France and Germany. With regard to France, my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill)—I quoted him the other day in the House—who is one of the greatest advocates for an increase in our Air Force, says that we ought to concert plans for mutual protection with France to meet the menace which he says exists in regard to Germany. He regards the French Air Force as a force that makes for peace and stability. He would, I have no doubt, be very glad if the French were to increase their Air Force by 20, 30, 40 or 50 squadrons. I should not regard that as a good thing, but he would urge them to do it and, having done it, he would immediately say that we must build another 30, 40 or 50 squadrons, 2360 regardless of the fact that we are to look upon the French as a probable coadjutor in any kind of difficulty in the future, but because of the word "parity" we must have an Air Force equal to any in Europe. I think that is the right hon. Gentleman's formula, but I will come to that again in a moment. At any rate, those who believe in parity would say that we must have an Air Force as strong as that of our nearest neighbours, and that is the position of the Government. They would certainly say that in proportion as France increases her Air Force, even though it were built in common purpose with ours, we must go on spending and building pari passu.
What is the case in regard to Germany? Unquestionably, those who have studied the present regime in Germany must realise that the spirit which animates the German people is one which involves danger to the rest of Europe. Where you have a dictatorship uncontrolled by popular opinion, where you have the younger generation trained up in militarist ideas and every agency which would bring home to them what are really the horrors of war kept from their cognisance, unquestionably a real and great peril arises. When you have a people who regard such words as ruthless, merciless, blood and iron as good words and such words as justice, liberty, toleration, and good will as weak words, then indeed all those within range of them must look to themselves. Now we come to the question whether our present Air Force is or is not adequate to meet a possible menace from that quarter. There we have no information. The Secretary of State for Air in the other House said not a word on that point.
The Lord President of the Council to-day used the most guarded language. I could well understand why he should have done so, because if any Member of a British Government or a French Government were to say in so many words that Germany is building up a great air fleet, and that we know it, at once the question of the Treaty of Versailles and the question of the enforcement of the provisions of the Treaty would arise. It is difficult for us to form an opinion in the absence of any statement, but nothing that we have so far seen or heard would suggest that our present Air Force, which is not a 2361 negligible body, which is highly efficient, a most devoted force, and well equipped, is not adequate to meet any peril at the present time from that quarter. If it were not so, then I agree that we should have to revise our opinion. All that I am pleading for is that until the case is made out Parliament should hesitate to vote so large an expenditure upon this particular arm. The conclusion of the matter, as the Government case appears to be, is that in order to meet a possible menace from Germany we have to accept an air standard equal to that of France.
The word "parity" is a new kind of formula for the Air Forces and for my part I am very suspicious of formulas in matters of defence. My memory goes back to the days when the accepted formula for the British Navy was that it must reach a two-power standard. That standard was accepted, I think, by all parties and was acted upon for many years. It was thought to be a very simple rule. If we were to accept the two-power standard to-day it would mean that we should have to build a fleet equal to that of the United States and Japan, although the possibility of our ever having to meet such a combination is more than remote, it is almost unthinkable. Without anything very much being said, later on the formula of a one-power standard was accepted, and that is, I presume, the formula that is accepted to-day. The right hon. Member for Epping has his own formula. Speaking in the country a week or two ago he said that wee ought to have a vote of credit now and to double our Air Force, and that we ought to have a larger vote of credit as soon as possible and to redouble our Air Force. Why? He did not give the reasons why we should double our Air Force and then redouble it, which would mean quadrupling it. It would seem as if he were engaged not in giving sound, sane advice to the country but as if he were engaged in a reckless game of bridge, doubling and redoubling, and for terribly high stakes. All these formulas are dangerous. We have to consider the precise need for the particular increase that is proposed at a particular time in the circumstances that exist.
Further, there is the question of the present state of the Disarmament Conference. Have the Government definitely abandoned hope of an agreement coming out of the Conference, or not? At one 2362 moment the Secretary of State for Air says he has abandoned hope and the next moment he said that he has not. He said:Until recent months the Government have had every reason to believe, and every motive to encourage the hope, that something might be achieved out of the Disarmament Conference which would render unnecessary any substantial addition to the size of our Air Force. Now, the situation has become unhappily all too clear. We can no longer hope that an International Convention will solve the problems which agitate the whole of Europe. His Majesty's Government have therefore decided"—
Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I must remind the right hon. Member that he must not quote a speech made in another place.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I apologise. I am afraid that these words have been quoted on previous occasions, although in fact they ought not to be quoted. However, a statement has been made somewhere outside this House by a representative of the Government to the effect that since hope has been abandoned of an adequate outcome from these conferences the Government must now ask Parliament to increase greatly our air arm. Yet the Lord President of the Council has stated that there is still hope of a satisfactory out-come. We know his words in this House, they have often, been quoted. Last March he said:Suppose the convention fails; I would not then relax for a moment, nor would the Government relax, the efforts, if a convention on our lines failed, to start work the next morning to get an air convention alone among the countries of Western Europe, even if we could not get in some that are far away, for the saving of our own European civilisation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1934; col. 2077, Vol. 286.]This is the next morning. Has he started work the next morning? If it is unsafe to delay because there is no hope of a general convention then this is the next morning, and the Government ought to be awake and alert in order to carry out the promise they made. Did that statement mean anything or nothing? Was it merely a show of vigour and resolution, intended to pacify the country and the House of Commons, or did it mean that he was going to make a supreme effort to secure international agreement? The House has a right to know.
Here we are discussing these matters in the House of Commons 20 years 2363 after the outbreak of war. The Government have so little faith in the success of the Disarmament Conference that they think we must now, straightaway, increase our Air Force and abandon hope of any effective result. Is this to be written down as one more failure of the many international efforts made by the present Government in the last two or three years? If so, it will be received with intense disappointment by the whole nation, and with grave anxiety by our Dominions, which have watched from afar the course of events in Europe with deep concern.
We see, 20 years after the declaration of war and nearly 16 years after peace, a Europe with her frontiers seamed by fortifications, the peaks of the mountains bristling with guns, £2,500,000 per day being spent by the peoples on armaments, this Parliament, and other Parliaments, engaged in considering further increases of armaments, and each one putting the blame upon its neighbour. Now, apparently, the Government are letting go their hold, are abandoning any effective efforts, they have thrown the reins on the necks of the horses letting them go where they will. And what horses are they? They are the horses of war, pestilence, famine and death; the four horses of the Apocalypse which are now careering over Europe. I believe that the British nation views this step not merely with regret, but with resentment and anger, and will not forgive its statesmen that they should have brought it to this pass.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I gather from statements made in the public Press that this is not only a Vote of Censure but the first Vote of Censure which we have been favoured with during the lifetime of the present House of Commons. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Whether that be so or not, it is, at any rate, a most remarkable Vote of Censure. I do not remember in my experience one quite like it. I have never seen a Vote of Censure on a question of this grave importance brought forward with so little evidence of conviction or indignation on the part of those who invite the House of Commons to censure the Government of the day. The tameness of the speech of the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) was hardly counteracted 2364 by his imaginative excursion upon the four horses of the Apocalypse. The reins having been thrown upon the necks of these grim and sinister animals the right hon. Gentleman feels himself dragged along at the chariot wheels, but, nevertheless, he has maintained considerable composure under all the circumstances, and if he is about to participate in a Vote of Censure on His Majesty's Government it can at least be said that he must express his opinion by his vote rather than by any argument he has adduced.
The position which has been unfolded to us to-day and the state of the world leave us in no doubt that the situation is most serious and grave. Europe is moving ever more rapidly into a tightly drawn condition. Hatreds are rampant, disorder is rife, almost all the nations are arming, and everyone feels, as the Lord President of the Council has admitted, that the danger which we dread most of all and which we seek most of all to avert is drawing nearer to us. If this be the state of Europe, what is our position in relation to Europe? We are deeply involved in Europe. We are more deeply involved, much more precisely and formally involved, in Europe than we were 20 years ago. I think that is indisputable. We have signed the Treaty of Locarno. It is quite true that that Treaty has a double action, which is largely theory at any given time, but there is no doubt that we are at the present moment under obligations in regard to acts of aggression by Germany which are far more precise than any which bound us 20 years ago.
Ministers with the full assent of Parliament have repeatedly affirmed the sanctity, reality and modernity of these obligations. There is the Eastern Pact, which the House approved of so generally and warmly, which does not add to our obligations but which certainly increases the contingencies in which existing obligations might become effective. Only last week we had a declaration from the Foreign Secretary, a very important speech, reaffirming our interest in maintaining the neutrality of Belgium, even stronger, I think, it was than before the Great War. Then there have been declarations, made as far as I can gather with the assent of Parliament, both sides as far as there are two sides, which have associated us with other great and 2365 friendly Powers in earnestly desiring to maintain the independence of Austria. We are to hear more about that to-morrow. Lord Halifax, last Saturday, in a public speech which no doubt will be studied with great care abroad, made it clear that we were not to be excluded as a factor in a possible European conflict, and now, finally, the Lord President of the Council uses a phrase which I am sure by now has travelled from one end of the world to the other, when he said, with his customary directness, that our frontiers are the Rhine. If the Labour Opposition, if the Socialist Opposition, had their way I gather that we should now have added the cold, unforgetting, unforgiving hostility of Japan to all these other serious preoccupations, and that the acting Leader of the Opposition would be reminding us that our frontiers were the Yangtse. These are the world conditions, a state of alarm and disorder, and uncertainty, our own country intermingled with them, and it is in the light of this situation that we are invited to pass a Vote of Censure on the Government because they come forward and make some proposals for strengthening our defensive forces.
What are the measures which the Government propose, for which they fire to be punished by a Vote of Censure? As I understand, no White Paper has been produced, we do not know how the money is to be distributed or in what form; no details are provided; we have a general scheme to spend £20,000,000 in five years upon increasing our Air Force. Within the period with which this House will be concerned, which is what immediately concerns us in the discharge of our responsibilities, the proposal is to spend £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 on the Air Force by the end of the financial year ending on the 31st of March, 1936. Shortly after that, as hon. Members no doubt are aware, there will probably be a General Election and a new situation may occur. At any rate, dealing as I am with the responsibility of Members of the present House of Commons, that is the sum and total of the proposals which the Government make; that we should spend £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 before the end of this Parliament.
I gather—I speak under correction in this matter—that probably means an addition to our fighting aeroplanes of 2366 perhaps 50 machines in the lifetime of the present Parliament. Instead of 550, which is our present home defence air strength, we shall have about 600 by the end of the financial year. I hope that we shall have some figures, because it is important, not merely to deal with this matter in broad and general terms, but to produce figures which can be comprehended. We shall have about 600. At the present time we are the sixth air Power in the world. But every State is rapidly expanding its air force. They are all expanding, but much more rapidly than we are doing. It is certain, therefore, that when the Government, this National Government and this National House of Commons, go in 1936 to the country and give an account of their stewardship, we shall have fallen further behind other countries than we are now in air defence.
I take it that that is the position. And we shall be relatively weaker than we are now if we imagine that what is being done in this and other countries is all carried out, even if we execute that portion of the programme now proposed, for which the Government is to be censured. If you extend your view over the five-years' programme I believe it is also true to state that, having regard to the increases which are being made by other countries and which are projected, even if the whole programme is carried out, at the end of the period, if there is continuity of policy between the two Parliaments, we shall be worse off in 1939 relatively—it is relativity that counts in these matters—than we are now. By that time France, Soviet Russia, Japan, the United States and Italy, if they carry out their present intentions, will be further ahead of us than they are now. I believe there is no dispute about this, just in the same way as there is no dispute about the gravity of the European situation or the extremely deep manner in which we are involved in it. Yet even for this tiny, timid, tentative, tardy increase of the Air Force, to which the Government have at length made up their mind, they are to be censured by the whole united forces of the Socialist and Liberal parties here and throughout the country.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The Opposition Liberals throughout the country. I assure my right hon. Friend and Parliamentary landlord that I did not mean any reflection on him. I will recast my remark to meet the actual facts of the Parliamentary situation: The Government are to be censured by the united forces of the Socialist party and of such portions of the Liberal party as follow the leadership of the right hon. Member for Darwen.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I really do not think we must get into such depths. The mere technicalities of the Air Force and the different kinds of machines and so forth are so extremely complicated, that if I were to add to them a consideration of those political ramifications I am sure I should detain the House much too long. My point is that the Government are to be censured for making this very minute and moderate increase in air defence at a time of so much danger, when we have obligations of the most vital character. One would have thought that the character of His Majesty's Government and the record of its principal Ministers would have induced the Opposition to view the request for an increase in the national defence with some confidence and some consideration. I do not suppose there has ever been such a pacifist-minded Government. There is my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, unhappily not with us, who in the War proved in the most extreme manner and with very great courage his convictions and the sacrifices he would make for what he believed was the cause of pacifism. My right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council is chiefly associated in the public mind with the repetition of the prayer, "Give peace in our time."
One would have supposed that when Ministers like them come forward and say that they feel it their duty to ask for some small increase in the means they have of guaranteeing the public safety, the mere fact that Ministers of this character do come forward would weigh with the Opposition and would be considered as a proof of the reality of the danger from which they seek to protect us. Then look at the apologies which the Government have made. No one could have put forward a proposal in such extremely inoffensive terms. Meekness has charac- 2368 terised every word which they have spoken since this subject was first mooted. We are assured that we can see for ourselves how small is the proposal. We are assured that it can be stopped at any minute if Geneva succeeds—on which, of course, we all have expectations; I beg pardon, official expectations. We are assured of that. And we are also assured that the steps we are taking, although they may to some lower minds have associated with them some idea of national self-defence, are really only associated with the great principle of collective security, which, I understand, is the only principle that will induce hon. Gentlemen opposite to make any preparation for the defence of this island.
But all these apologies and most soothing procedures are most curtly repulsed by the Opposition. Their only answer to these efforts to conciliate them is a Vote of Censure, which is to be decided tonight. It seems to me that we have got very nearly to the end of the period when it is worth while endeavouring to conciliate certain classes of opinion upon this subject. We are in the presence of an attempt to establish a kind of tyranny of opinion, and if its reign could be perpetuated the effect might be profoundly injurious to the stability and security of this country. We are a rich and easy prey. No country is so vulnerable and no country would better repay pillage than our own. With our enormous Metropolis here, the greatest target in the world, a kind of tremendous fat cow, a valuable fat cow tied up to attract the beasts of prey, we are in a position in which we have never been before, and in which no other country in the world is at the present time. Let us remember this: Our weakness does not only involve ourselves; our weakness involves also the stability of Europe. I was very glad to hear some admission from the Lord President of the Council of how he had found himself hampered, or his representatives had found themselves hampered at Geneva by our weakness. It is pretty well known that when you could say a word which might avert catastrophe, if it is thought that there is nothing behind your words, when you are in fact in a position of great danger to yourself, not much attention is paid to your word; the march of events takes place regardless of what was done. That march has been set in motion. Who can 2369 say that you will not yourself be dragged into it. There is also a European duty. Talk about being a good European. The best way in which a British Member of Parliament or statesman can be a good European is to make sure that our country is safe and strong in the first instance. All the rest may be added to you afterwards, but without that you are no kind of European. All you are is a source of great embarrassment and weakness to the whole of the rest of the world.
Yet when this Government, this peace-loving Government, makes this modest demand upon Parliament, when these world-famed pacifist Ministers—I use the term in order to put myself in harmony with modern modes of thought, because it is the greatest compliment that can be paid—when they feel driven by their duty to ask for additional security, what is the attitude of the Opposition? They have the same sort of look of pain and shocked surprise and disgust which came over the face of Mr. Bumble when Oliver Twist held out his little bowl and asked for more.
Then we are told that this might be all right for some other time, but not now. That was dwelt on by both the Opposition speakers this afternoon. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the particular section of the Liberal party to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Sir I. Macpherson) does not belong, begged that at any rate we might put these measures off for at least a few more weeks in order to see what would happen at Geneva. Eight years ago disarmament began to be discussed at Geneva. For two-and-a-half years the actual conference has been proceeding. The right hon. Member for Darwen has, therefore, had a good run for his experiment. His hope has been abounding. It has preserved him at, every stage from seeing the facts. Now when even those who have worked for it as no other Government has ever worked for disarmament, when even they say that they cannot take the responsibility of remaining in the present condition, the right hon. Gentleman gets up and asks for a few more weeks' delay.
I should have thought that the time had come when Ministers must not complicate the problems that already have to be solved by endeavouring to square the dis- 2370 charge of their duty with the particular formulas which have gained such popularity during the course of the Disarmament Conference. If they are only doing what is their duty they have no need to apologise to the House, and still less to the public out of doors. Of course, no one wants to spend money on armaments needlessly. But the mass of the electors of all parties in the country expect a Government to provide for the safety of the Homeland. That is what, the ordinary man regards as the Government's first duty, and that is what he considers they are paid for—to make sure that the country is safe. If Minister's especially with the record and temperaments of these, come forward and demand a certain measure of additional force and personnel, they have only to put that forward with courage and conviction to gain an enormous measure of support throughout the country.
I cannot think of anything more likely to rally their forces than that the issue should be joined as it is more or less suggested by the Vote of Censure this afternoon and that we should see the two Oppositions—or one-and-a-half Oppositions—presenting themselves on the ground that they will not support the necessary defence of the country and that they intend to utilise all the prejudice and unpopularity which they suppose may be brought against a Government which has to propose an increase of armaments. I believe if they do that they will only be making another of those historic miscalculations upon large issues —[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—for which they have so often, as the hon. Gentleman opposite feelingly agrees, been severely chastised but from which they seem incapable of learning wisdom. I may say that it is a source of wonder to me that public men who have filled high office and who aspire to fill it again, should be prepared, like the leaders we see opposite, to vote for either of the Motions which are put forward from the Opposition side. Such an act is of a far-reaching character. It will not affect the decision of Parliament, but by so doing hon. Members opposite place themselves in an invidious position as to which they may be required to give an answer, in circumstances which no human being can foresee. Surely, they might at least say: "If the Government hold this view and sincerely believe it to be 2371 necessary to take these steps then while we are not actually prepared to shoulder any part of the burden ourselves we will not obstruct those who are bearing the burden." I still hope that there may be some among them who will refrain from committing themselves to a vote which would deny even a minimum step towards security.
All this argument which I have been endeavouring to offer to the House of the need and the interest which the Government have in doing their duty, turns upon the point as to whether the measures which the Government propose are really a contribution to our security or not. If they are not, then I think the Government run the risk of falling between two stools. Their duty is to provide adequate measures of defence before it is too late. Whatever they propose, they are going to be assailed by the pacifists throughout the country with all that interested and unscrupulous vituperation which we saw in the squalid election at Fulham some time ago and which finds an echo in these Votes of Censure this afternoon. Whatever the Government do they are going to have that thrown at them and it is vital therefore that they should so shape their course as to gather around them and behind them all the forces upon which they would naturally rely and to whom they would naturally look for support upon a question of this character. To encounter all this storm, for something which is insufficient to meet the need is to have the worst of both worlds. The Government will get the abuse but may not get their support. The Government will get their abuse, but we shall not get our defence.
We must assume, of course, that Ministers have considered this aspect of the matter and that they see where their duty and their interest lie but I must point out that there are no grounds whatever for suggesting that it is not possible to increase the Air Force more rapidly than is now proposed. I do not intend to argue that matter, but I conceive that there are many ways in which our Air Force could be rapidly augmented which the Government have not adopted at present. The decision which they have just taken is a deliberate decision, and I confess I find it difficult to believe that it makes adequate provision against 2372 the dangers which we have to face and which are admitted. I hope therefore that we shall be further reassured this evening when the Foreign Secretary addresses us.
It is no use examining national defence in the abstract and talking in vague and general terms about hypothetical dangers and combinations which cannot be expressed. Of course, before the War the Liberal Government of those days did not hesitate to specify the quarter from which they expected danger and they did not hesitate to specify the navy against which we were determined to maintain an ample superiority. We measured ourselves before the War publicly and precisely against Germany. We laid down a ratio of 16 to 10 against existing programmes and of two to one against any additions to those programmes. Such calculations are perfectly well understood abroad. They were stated publicly and they bred no ill-will and caused no offence. As a matter of fact, the contrary was the case, and I think I shall be borne out in that statement by those who remember what happened in those days. As the preponderance of our Navy grew stronger our relations with Germany steadily improved and they were never better than in the last few months before the War. [Laughter.] I hope hon. Members will allow me to complete what I was saying. As a matter of fact, the relations between Great Britain and Germany were never better than on the eve of the War which arose from troubles entirely outside our relations with the German Government and from that very quarter in Europe which hon. Members opposite are laughing at and where at the present time there is such a shocking and unmanageable state of affairs. I say the fact that our Navy was measured against the German Navy played no part in bringing about that struggle, and therefore I propose to speak quite plainly about Germany. It seems to me that that is the specific danger—we all know it—which we have to be prepared against and even if the Government prefer to cast their statements about it in more general terms it is absolutely necessary and right that the country should know what the position is.
The first question which I want to ask the Government is this: What is their 2373 view about the German military air forces? My right hon. Friend used some sentences upon this point which I think were not cast by him with the intention of achieving any special degree of clarity. I understand, of course, that, officially, Germany has no air force at all. She is prohibited by the solemn treaties which she signed after the War from having any military aviation. But after all the right hon. Gentleman said that the worst crime is not to tell the truth to the public and I think we must ask the Foreign Secretary and the Government to assure us that Germany has observed and is observing her treaty obligations in respect of military aviation. If so, I shall be greatly relieved, and I think the House will be greatly relieved. But if that assurance cannot be given—and, of course, it cannot be given—then I say we are bound to probe and examine what is taking place as far as we are in a position to do so. I am, naturally, not going into details, nor would I ask the Government at this stage to make a statistical pronouncement upon the highly complicated and disputable figures of German air forces. It was a different matter when we were talking about Dreadnoughts. You could not build Dreadnoughts in boat houses on the Elbe and what Admiral Von Tirpitz said before the War was found to be true that nothing outside the regular programme was being embarked upon. It is a different matter with regard to aeroplanes which can be so easily constructed and the component parts of which can be so easily assembled and military aviation shades into civil aviation by such indefinable processes that I dare say the Government are right in not making statements which would in fact be charges and no doubt would be capable of being rebutted or denied.
I will venture however to assert some broad facts, and I hope the Government will be able to contradict them. I shall be delighted if the Government are able to contradict them. I first assert that Germany has already in violation of the treaty created a military air force which is now nearly two-thirds as strong as our present home defence air force. That is the first statement which I put before the Government for their consideration. The second is that Germany is rapidly 2374 increasing this air force, not only by large sums of money which figure in her estimates, but also by public subscriptions very often almost forced subscriptions, which are in progress and have been in progress for some time all over Germany. By the end of 1935 the German air force will be nearly equal in numbers and efficiency—and after all no one must under-rate German efficiency, because there could be no more deadly mistake than that—it will be nearly equal, as I say, to our home defence air force at that date even if the present proposals are carried out.
The third statement is that if Germany continues this expansion and if we continue to carry out our scheme, then, some time in 1936, that is to say when this Government will be giving an account of their stewardship, Germany will be definitely and substantially stronger in the air than Great Britain. Fourthly, and this is the point which is causing anxiety, once they have got that lead we may never be able to overtake them. If these assertions cannot be contradicted, then there is cause for the very grave anxiety which exists in all parts of the House not only because of the physical strength of the German air force, but I am bound to say also because of the character of the present German dictatorship. If the Government have to admit at any time in the next few years that the German air forces are stronger than our own, then, they will be held, and I think rightly held, to have failed in their prime duty to the country.
I ask, therefore, for a solemn, specific assurance from the Government that at no moment for which they will have responsibility, will they fail to have a substantially superior military Air Force at home to that which they have reason to believe has been set on foot in Germany. Can that assurance be given? Will it be given? I think it will make a great difference to the judgment which must be passed upon these proposals if the Government are in a position to say that that is their resolve.
But in this connection we must face some of the facts about German civil aviation and British civil aviation. I am assured that the German civil aviation is three or four times as large as our civil aviation; but that is only a part of 2375 the story. The British civil aviation is in its character purely commercial, and the machines cannot be converted for military purposes without falling far below the comfortable standard of war machines. Our civil machines would have little war value, if they were to be converted. We are, I think, the only country whose civil aviation is so completely divorced from the technical and military aspects. The German machines, on the other hand, have been deliberately and scientifically planned by the Government for the express purpose of being converted into war machines. Not only have they a speed and a design suited for this purpose, with machines going at over 200 miles an hour, but the whole scheme of conversion has been prepared and organised with minute and earnest forethought. I am perfectly ready to be corrected, and no one will be more pleased than I to hear a convincing, an overwhelming, answer on the subject, but I am informed that the bombing racks which would be substituted for the passenger accommodation in a great number of these fast German civil machines have already been made and delivered, and it would be a matter of only a few hours to unbolt the one and fasten in the other.
The same story can be told about the pilots. Germany has a trained personnel of pilots which is many times more numerous than our own. Gliders are a wonderful process for training pilots, giving them air sense, and there are, I believe, over 500 qualified glider pilots in Germany.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Whereas we have only about 50 in this country. As to those figures, I do not know. The ones that I am quoting are good enough, and I have been careful to take minimum figures. If, therefore, you have to add to the regular increase in German military aeroplanes, which we have to expect and which, I imagine, the Government are well informed about, and which alone will bring the forces almost to equality by the end of 1935—if you have to add to that an enormous and indefinite transference of pilots and machines from civil to military aviation, it would seem that there 2376 is a very obvious danger that before the end of next year we shall be definitely weaker than the German aviation. I have tried to state these facts with moderation, and, as I say, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to learn that I have discovered another mare's nest. I will rejoice at my own discomforture if these facts are able to be overturned or superseded by other more reassuring facts. But unless these facts can be contradicted, precisely and categorically, it seems to me that our position is a, very serious one, and that not, only should we brush aside a, Vote of Censure on this small increase, but that we should urge a much greater degree of action, both in scale and speed, upon the responsible Ministers.
Our weakness in the air has a very direct bearing on the foreign situation, and on those foreign obligations to which I ventured to refer at the beginning of my remarks. So long as our policy harmonised with that of France and that of other countries who were the Allies or associates of France, the preponderance against Germany, if Germany became an aggressor, would be so large as to, constitute a deterrent against any action other than action so desperate as to be Almost insane. But a new series of questions arises. We must ask ourselves whether we wish to be dependent on France for our domestic safety. We must ask ourselves whether we can accept the protection of a foreign country for any long period of time without losing that freedom to place our own interpretation upon our Continental obligations, which it seems to me is absolutely vital to the sound conduct of our affairs. We have these obligations, but we still have the right to judge according to our sense of justice and the circumstances of the time. If you are going to be in a position where you could not defend yourself and where you would be in a position of far greater danger but for the exertions of a neighbouring Power, that is not a position into which anyone should be drawn.
I should have thought that the pacifists and the isolationists would have joined with the main quarter of His Majesty's Government in urging that we should at least make our island for its safety independent of foreign protection. If, however, owing to the long delays to 2377 which we have agreed in the hope of arriving at some arrangement at Geneva, we have fallen behind and are not able to put ourselves in a secure position, it seems to me that we must regulate our policy so as to harmonise with that of France and of the other powerful countries who are associated with France. That, it seems to me, is absolutely necessary. But what is the course of those who now urge us to pass this Vote of Censure? They have been doing all that they could to urge France to disarm and have pleaded for German equality of armaments.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The hon. Gentle-man and his followers are the driving force. What I have regretted so much as the attention that has been paid to these evil counsels. The hon. Gentleman has shown more sanity than many of those among whom he sits, but undoubtedly the course which hon. Gentlemen opposite have adopted would have the effect of weakening France, and, if France had disarmed or Germany rearmed, I shudder to think what the state of Europe might be at this very moment. The hon. Gentlemen opposite are very freely spoken, at most of us are in this country, on the conduct of the German Nazi Government. No one has been more severe in his criticism than the Labour party, or that section of the Liberal party which I see opposite. And their great newspapers, now united in the common cause, have been the most forward and effective in the severity of their strictures. But these criticisms are fiercely resented by the powerful men who have that great country in their hands. So that we are to disarm our friends, we are to have no Allies, we are to affront powerful nations, and we are to neglect our own defences entirely. That is a miserable and perilous situation. Indeed, the position to which they seek to reduce us by the course which they have pursued and by the vote which they ask us to take is, indeed, a position of terrible jeopardy, into which we should fall if we followed their counsels, and in fighting against them to-night we shall hope that a better path for national safety will be found than that along which they would conduct us.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General CRITCHLEY
I rise to intervene in this Debate, because I feel that it is the wish of this House that anyone who has any special knowledge or experience of a subject should take a suitable opportunity of doing so. I think that the Members of this House will agree that my task has been made very much more difficult by the able speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. It is quite an ordeal to make your first speech, but I feel rather as if I were taking part in a tight golf match in which I had been out driven by my opponent from the tee, and had to play the long second shot first. I am left to play a much more difficult second shot by virtue of the ability of my partner in this game. I trust, however, that I may convince the House that I am not speaking lightly but because my experience of the subject of preparing for aeronautical warfare perhaps justifies it. I know that the hon. Members of the Opposition deplore deeply that there should be any fear that the working people of this country should be set at the throats of the working people of another country. I know how deeply they deplore the lack of international good will and how deeply they feel that international good will should replace the long era of international distrust. They believe that Great Britain should continue to take the leadership in disarmament and that she should still make a gesture of confidence towards the entire world by continuing to remain almost defenceless. I applaud the sentiment which they represent; I deplore their judgment.
At this very hour we find Italian forces massing on the frontiers of Austria. We have in Germany a dictator whose nerves are at breaking point. We have a situation of government by the assassins' bullet. To deny these facts or to attempt, not to realise their import would be an act of the blind leading the blind. It is a situation fraught with great difficulty. I hate the barbarities of war, and, if given one wish, I would ask that the youth of this country should never he called on to face the cruelty and the senselessness of war; but good intent and finer feeling cannot alter the terrible and inevitable trend of events. It is true that we are the centre of a huge Empire and that within that Empire our destiny lies, but geographically we are part of the Continent of Europe, and the develop- 2379 ment of aircraft, as the Leader of this House has said, has made the English Channel, once our surest line of defence, no bigger than a mill pond. I wish we could declare ourselves no longer a European nation, but it would be just as easy for Japan to say that she no longer belongs to the Orient. Therefore, we must face the facts. We are a section, an isolated section, of sanity in a vast asylum of the insane, and we must be in a position to stop a madman's attack.
The whole world knows that Great Britain has no predatory designs on any other country. That is a tribute to the character of the British nation, and more especially to the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, and the Leader of the Conservative party, and I say that it is a fine thing that at this time this Government has men at its head of fine and Christian purpose. It seems strange that I should move from sentiment of that kind to the question of air defence, and yet the spiritual and the practical travel, in this case, on almost parallel lines. The Opposition should realise that they have no exclusive right to the ideal of peace through international co-operation. It is the earnest desire of all Englishmen, but in the present situation in which Europe finds itself it is impossible.
It has been said by critics that every new war is fought at the commencement with the tactics of the previous war. In other words, the military commanders are always one war behind and there is justification for this charge. When the South African War broke out, our infantry was trained in close formation, our artillery was heavy and immobile, and our cavalry was poorly trained and believed in mass attack. It took the losses of the South African War to teach us the necessity of extended order for the infantry, of mobility for the artillery, and the uselessness of the rapier technique for our cavalry. As a result of that war, our cavalry became the finest in the world and our light artillery the envy of our neighbours, but to learn that lesson we had buried thousands of our best men in the soil of Africa. In 1905–6 the Russo-Japanese War broke out. It was a long way away, and only one detached nation bothered to learn anything from it. That was Germany, and the military commanders of Germany altered considerably their tactics and their equipment. We 2380 learned little and made few alterations. When we went into the War of 1914, it is true that we had advanced on the methods of the South African campaign, but we had failed to grasp most of the developments that had come about because of the Russo-Japanese War. Some genius had taught the British Army to fire 15 aimed shots a minute, and that saved us, but we had utterly failed to understand the need of greater use of machine guns and high explosives and the important part that medical requirements and equipment would play in a war of great magnitude. In other words, our Army leaders had looked backwards rather than ahead.
In this country there is the most terrible and most cynical popular phrase of all time, and that is the phrase, "We muddle through." In the name of sanity, why should we muddle through? Let us come through, if possible, with efficiency. We have the graves of hundreds of thousands of men in France who died on the field of honour. If we were honest, we should say that they died on the field of honour while we were muddling through. The art of organisation is the ability to look ahead. This time we must look ahead and organise ourselves properly. There will be no time to reorganise when another war breaks out. The Leader of the House has outlined development for our Air Force. It takes the popular form, more or less, of a five years' plan. I loyally support my Leader in any development of our defence force, but I want to bring to the House the conviction that my words are right, that we cannot afford a three, or four, or five years' plan to reach our maximum strength. Science has become the handmaiden of war, and if this country becomes embroiled in a European conflict, we cannot go into it in the same way as we did in 1914. No longer can we create a breastwork of human lives in trenches. In the past all wars devolved on the infantry at the finish, but it is not the finish that will matter so much in the next war as the beginning.
It is not possible by any defensive system to protect London from air attack. By good fortune we may bring down some of the invading aeroplanes, but others will still get through, and one need not paint any exaggerated picture as to what will happen if they do get through. Suffice it to say that the biggest 2381 bomb dropped on London during the last war weighed some 300 lbs. That, I believe, killed 76 people and wounded some hundreds more. To-day, foreign machines are carrying bombs weighing 4,000 lbs., some of them filled with high explosives, others filled with gas. The only real defence against air attack today is offence. If, in a moment of madness, a European nation contemplates attacking this country, we must be prepared to teach that country so terrible a lesson that even the greatest megalomaniac of all dictators will hesitate before attacking this country.
Therefore, I put it to this House that there must be no question of graduated development. We must with the utmost expedition reach a point where, if the tragedy and necessity of war be forced upon us, our strength is at the maximum at the moment we are attacked. This maximum must be at least equal to that of our nearest Continental neighbours. It is no good five years from now, in 1939, having an Air Force equal to France's present force. The present programme calls for 440 aeroplanes to be built over five years. This is not enough nor is it fast enough. Do not let us play with this idea. Either we arm or we do not. I say it is essential that we should arm, and I ask the Government to build at least 1,000 additional aeroplanes, and to complete their building under three years.
Now we come to the most important part, namely, the training of personnel, and this is perhaps where I may speak with some authority. The Royal Air Force did me the honour in the last year of the War to put me in charge of their cadet training. Many thousands passed through my hands, and such was the demand for their services that we had to do in three months what normally takes years. Many of those splendid lads went to their death, not in conflict with the enemy, but because there was not the necessary time for their training. This must not happen again. To keep one man in the air to-day takes 43 men on the ground, so I ask the Government to have a training programme such that by the end of 1937 there will be an increase in the present establishment of at least 1,000 fully-trained pilots and enough ground staff to look after the machines and the aerodromes. The selection and building 2382 of aerodromes must, of course, keep pace with this development.
Tens of thousands of youths each year come to the employment age for whom no jobs can be found. These fellows are now forced to walk the streets or to form up in heart-break queue outside the Employment Exchanges. This is a mechanical age. Instead of giving these lads the "dole," take and train them in mechanics, engine running, engine construction, lorry driving, and so on. Set them up physically—from 16 to 20 is such an important age—and whatever you do you will make them much better citizens; and when you have trained them take what you want for your increased Air Force and turn the others out to mechanical jobs and to an Air Force reserve. We cannot and we dare not leave the technical and human side of training to the time when the enemy strikes.
Therefore, I urge on the Leaders of the Government that they should plan the swiftest possible attainment of maximum air strength, that they should make it a matter of months, not of years; and I say to the Members who sit on the Opposition benches that when we have a fleet of aeroplanes, manned by the best personnel in the world, adequate to our responsibilities, that will do more to bring about a re-awakening of sanity and civilisation in Europe than anything else. I would end my address to this House with one sentence: Let us be so prepared, so invulnerable to attack, that it will never be necessary to give the order to go into action. My plea is, peace through strength, not war through weakness.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
It falls to my lot to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Twickenham (Brigadier-General Critchley) on his first participation in the Debates in this Chamber. He chose, as he rightly said in his opening remarks, a very difficult occasion, and I congratulate him on having filled that difficult occasion in a more than adequate fashion. He will not, I know, expect me to agree with the content of his remarks. I only agree with one point that he made in the whole course of his speech, and that was when he spoke of the heart-breaking spectacle of the unemployed queued up outside the Employment Exchanges. I agree with that, but having agreed with 2383 that, I am afraid I must disagree with, every other point made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I wondered while I was listening whether the Government, When they think over to-day's Debate, so far as it has proceeded, will be more upset by the speeches of the spokesmen of the Opposition or by the speeches of their own supporters.
I found something very terrifying in the speech of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). The real significance of to-day's Debate and the proposals of the Government is not whether we are going to have a few hundred more aeroplanes or not. The significance of to-day's Debate lies in this fact, that after a period of time, practically from 1918 up to 1934, with Governments of various kinds in power, each one pursuing a peace policy, each one in some respect or another bringing about progressive disarmament, this proposal today represents the first time since 1918 when it is proposed to send our armaments along the upward line of the curve. It seems to me implicit in the proposal that the hope of world peace, which was very strong in men's minds even up to two years ago, has now been thrown aside as a fatuous dream and that we are becoming what is called realists again and are basing our policy on the possibility or the certainty of a world in which the might of arms is to be the great arbiter in human affairs. I think that is a frightful thing to have to face in this year 1934. Many Members of the House will have seen a lady whose form of social service ever since I came to the House has been to bring men out of the Ministry of Pensions hospital and to take them round the House of Commons on Friday afternoons, after the House is up. She has been doing that for years, and only a, fortnight ago I saw that lady at 4.15 on Friday afternoon still leading men in hospital blue. They are broken earthenware of the last War that ended in 1918, and now we are calmly and deliberately discussing how we can more efficiently smash humanity on the next occasion.
I do not like to throw myself in with the general cynicism, but I want to say that I am very suspicious about the, happenings in Austria over the last weekend or even the happenings in Germany of a week or two before being reasons 2384 for this proposed increase in our Air Force. The decision was made long before those events. I am also very interested to note the synchronising of the decision to make this increase in the Air Force with the sudden deterioration in the Prime Minister's health that compelled him to be thousands of miles away at a time when he, the great pacifist Prime Minister in Europe, was being made responsible in the eyes of the world for the preparation for a war policy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping said one thing with which I most heartily agree. If this country is faced now with an urgent war menace, this is a trivial and childish proposal. If that war menace is even five years distant, it is still a trivial proposal. The right hon. Gentleman made that abundantly clear, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman who followed him made it clearer still. An additional few hundred aeroplanes five years hence is not going to make the difference between national security and national destruction if there is a real urgent menace anywhere in the world. Yet to-day, from this House, from the Treasury Box, and from the seats below the Gangway, we send out to the world a sabre-rattling message, a message deliberately designed to raise fears, doubts and suspicions in the minds of every country in the world. The Lord President of the Council made reference to the Rhine being our frontier. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping in his own phraseology talked about our frontier being round the globe. His phrase about London being a great mulch cow with beasts of prey all over the world ready to attack it is now chasing the Lord President's phrase round the world. I am afraid that by this time the cow will have caught it up. Such a big general phrase, including every nation in the world will lead every country and every statesman to wonder, "Did he mean us? Whom did he mean?"
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping must remember from his position of relative irresponsibility below the Gangway that his name is still a big name in international affairs, that the reputation that he has in this country is held in other countries in the world and that there is an idea that if he is not in this Government he will be in the next. His cynical, sarcastic words in this House are taken much more seriously abroad 2385 than he takes them himself. He looks for phrases that will delight his colleagues, as they always do. I sit in admiration as they come trippingly from his tongue, but his personality is not there when they are repeated in cold print abroad or go in Morse code over the wire. He depicted Britain to-day as a country encircled by a world of enemies, all anxious to plunder our capital city. Is that a reasonable picture of modern civilisation? Are we still living in the jungle? Is this country a cow, and is the rest of the world inhabitated by man-eaters? I cannot believe it. I can agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he points to the enormities and the atrocities that are being committed in certain European countries. Let him remember that during that period in this country which he regards as a degenerate period, when our armaments were decreasing, when efforts were being made by various statesmen towards world peace, it is a fact that we were not involved in any war. Nor were there civil disturbances of any account in Great Britain during that period. We have had as cool, as calm and as confident a civil population as there was anywhere in the world.
Now you spread panic, and every mother who reads the newspapers tomorrow morning will see Shells hurtling down through the air on to their babies' cradles. That is the war of the future about which the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council told us. We are asked to prepare for it scientifically. We are asked to prepare for it calmly and boldly. I could summon up no enthusiasm for war in the past, but I could visualise myself in given circumstances fighting with men. I could see men shooting me or me shooting men, but I hate to think of myself going up in the sky and killing babies. I hope that that is not the only alternative that confronts the world, and I hope that His Majesty's Government, having made what I regard as a frightful mistake without any return whatever in the form of security, and having got their vote, as they will get it from this House to-night, will redouble every effort possible that they can make to secure something like an intelligent peace system in the world.
§ 7.41 p.m.
So many hon. Members are anxious to speak that I will contract my remarks to the narrowest 2386 margin. The Lord President of the Council covered so wide a field that I do not think it will be out of place to dwell more particularly on the programme of air expansion which he announced a few days ago and which is reaffirmed in his statement to-day. There are one or two points which I and some of my hon. Friends want to raise which, I hope, will receive a reply from the Under-Secretary of State for Air, if not to-night, on some other occasion. I welcome this pronouncement of expansion, because I have a great belief in the Government, and I believe that underlying the proposals are both determination and elasticity. I am no more desirous than anybody else of spending the taxpayers' money unnecessarily, nor am I desirous of seeing Britain engaged in a race of armaments. I welcome this programme as being capable of acceleration and retardation. I only hope that the Government of the day in two years' time will bear in mind that the programme may have to be accelerated or may be allowed to take a slower speed. I am glad for another reason that the programme has been announced, for I think it will have a helpful effect on German mentality in the higher command. It will point out to them the wisdom of joining an air convention under which air armaments and the use of aircraft may be limited. It may have that effect, and if it has it will be a very good effect indeed.
I am, however, frightened by a sentence used by the Under-Secretary of State for Air in a speech last night, because it makes me think that the margin of safety is a very small one. He stated that there was no time to waste. That must be either an encouraging statement or an alarming statement. If the calculation as to the time of possible danger is that it is near at hand I can only take it as an alarming statement. There is a side of this discussion which was dwelt upon by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), and I would like to add to it a little. It is our business on the Air Committee to make a close study of the relative strengths of countries and to be as well informed as it is humanly possible to be of facts and figures. Civil aviation, I submit, is inextricably wrapped up with military aviation: and the way in which it is inextricably interwoven in Germany is an example of how 2387 important it is for a nation, and this nation in particular, to realise that the foundation of all military aviation is civil. That would give me too big a subject to develop this afternoon; but I believe that a civil aviation Debate will take place to-morrow, and therefore I will not waste the time of the House now.
As the strength or otherwise of German aviation has been referred to, I would like to add something to what has been said. My right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), in a very pertinent speech, indicated that if he were satisfied that Germany, the potential enemy of this country, were really stronger than Great Britain, he would not adopt the attitude of criticism which he took up in his speech this afternoon. We can, as best we are able, assure him that it is the greatest mistake to imagine that German aviation is not in a very advanced state. Whether or not Germany possesses military squadrons of exactly the same nature as other European countries possess is hard for us to say, but we have reason to believe and reason to fear that it is true; but even if it be not true, I wish the right hon. Member for Darwen to notice the increase of civil aviation in Germany, which can be seen by anyone who takes the trouble to visit that country. The number of civil aircraft which are capable of immediate conversion number over 1,800. The number of pilots they possess to-day is more than 3,000, as well able to fly military machines as any of the pilots in any other country. We possess, at the present minute, about 1,500 war pilots and a reserve of about 1,000. So it will be seen that on the basis of pilots alone there is very little difference between the strength of the two countries even to-day. The rapidity with which the great factories in Germany can turn out aeroplanes is known to everybody who has ever visited that great country, and that capacity for turning out aeroplanes, if the order were once given, has been quoted at something like 1,000 a month.
Gliding has been referred to. In my opinion, gliding has not been studied as profitably as it should have been in this country. It is the preliminary step to making a country air-minded. The man 2388 who has the courage, in a little, light ship such as a glider is, with no engine to rely upon, to find his way happily through the clouds and currents of the sky, is surely much better raw material for making into a pilot than the man who has never left the ground. Unfortunately, I misheard what my right hon. Friend said in connection with the figures of gliding clubs in Germany and in this country. The gliding certificates, Class A, obtained in Germany number 10,000 to-day; similar Class A licences in England number 350. B licences, which I presume are of not so high a value, number 915 in Germany and 78 in England. I only quote those figures to show that in Germany, at any rate, those who control civil aviation are of opinion that the way to learn to use the air is to get into it. When once they have broken the ice and obtained security, as these people have, they become potential war pilots very soon indeed. For another proof that the right hon. Member for Darwen has cause to fear the relative strength of Germany and ourselves one might look to the question of how much money Germany is spending. She is spending it nominally on civil aviation, but we have tred to show that that is really war aviation in very thin disguise. Germany spent last year 177,000,000 marks, and has budgeted this year for 210,000,000 marks, which, translated into pounds, is £17,000,000. If they can put that amount of money, just the same as we have been spending here on our military side, into a camouflaged civil aviation it does not look as though they are wasting so much time.
I pass rapidly from that to say a word or two on the skeleton programme which has been announced to us. It comes out in the "Times" to-day in, I think, a very thin and unsatisfactory manner. I almost wish it had not been published at all, because it may well be misleading. If three subjects, aerodromes, personnel and research, are concentrated upon and seriously undertaken, I feel big strides have been taken towards the ultimate object which the Government have in view. I do not propose to waste the time of the House on the details of aerodromes or of personnel, because my hon. and gallant Friend who made so excellent a maiden speech has dealt with that subject. All I say in conclusion is that the phrase "no time to waste" must be 2389 either restated in some different form, or we must be given an assurance that there really is no immediate fear, for at the present time the average man in the street would be left wondering how to translate those words into a thought which is either satisfying or alarming.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. MANDER
Some reference has been made this afternoon to the noise of the recent aerial manoeuvres over London and to the fact that it had wakened people. I suggest it is a very useful function to perform, to wake people to the real dangers that are facing the country at the present time, but, of course, the whole point is how we are to deal with the very real situation of prospective danger which does face this country, and on that point there is the widest difference of opinion between the two sides of the House. One side stands for the old system of national States warring against each other, while those of us on this side stand for the prosecution at all costs of the collective system. The test to apply to the proposals brought forward by the Government is this: Have the Government taken at Geneva every possible step which was open to them to secure a satisfactory disarmament convention, or, if they have not, do they show any inclination to mend their ways and to use all the influence and power which they undoubtedly possess to secure such an agreement now? If it were possible to answer that question in the affirmative, and the Government then came to us and said, "This new collective system has failed and we have to go back to the old," undoubtedly there would be a case for the proposals they are now bringing forward.
The anxieties expressed by many hon. Members, and the figures which my right hon. Friend gave just now as to the disparity which exists now and will exist in the future between our forces and those of our European neighbours, are very real anxieties, and from that point of view the proposals of the Government are, of course, utterly inadequate. If we are to rely on the old world fight we are in a. very weak position; but the division between us does not lie there, it lies between the clash of two systems of defence in this country. If we take up the old pre-War attitude, when it was every man for himself and the devil take the 2390 hindmost, which appears to be the attitude taken up by the Government, we have got to win, we have got to have the most powerful force—of course we have; and on that showing the Government are not taking the necessary steps. I notice that the Lord President of the Council does not take that view. He says that he is still hopeful that success is going to be achieved at Geneva. It has already been pointed out that that has not been the view of another Minister, but it does appear to be the view of some Ministers, I presume the majority of Ministers, because the Secretary of State for Air quite clearly said—and here I think he blurted out the real truth—that the Government have given up all hope of securing anything satisfactory in the way of disarmament. In my view that is very largely their own fault, owing to the lack of resolution in the way in which they have pursued the disarmament policy at Geneva.
When I heard it said to-day that no Government had worked so hard as this Government in the cause of disarmament, I began to wonder whether my ears were not betraying me, because I believe many Ministers have been singularly lacking in taking the necessary steps. I notice one phrase in the speech of the Lord President, that in which he said that unfortunately, and particularly in the light of past experience, we cannot count on an early result. I quite agree, but let us see what the past experience of the Government has been, because that is really the test. Our main contribution to the Disarmament Conference has been, of course, the production of the Draft Convention on 8th March, 1933, and undoubtedly it was a very valuable contribution. Then there were discussions in the Air Committee in March and April of last year, when the whole matter was considered from a technical point of view. Rough schemes for internationalisation were submitted by the French and Swedish delegations, together with constructive suggestions by other delegations, notably the Belgian, and in the discussion of these declarations of the various Governments there was an indication of a considerable degree of general agreement. Unoftunately, the contribution made by the Secretary of State for Air and, I am sorry to say, by my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, was limited to obstructing and pointing out 2391 difficulties, and no really helpful word, so far as I have been able to discover, was spoken by them on behalf of the Government. In April of last year the United States, the Argentine, Canada, and Japan submitted a joint declaration stating that they would submit their civil aviation to drastic measures of regulation and international supervision if the European countries decided on internationalisation or comprehensive control among themselves.
I would like to point out that in the very interesting debates in the Air Commission on the French proposals for the abolition of military aviation and the internationalisation of civil aviation there was included a proposal for the setting up of an aerial police force as a necessary part and a safeguard. The whole proposals were urged with great ability and ingenuity by M. Pierre Cot, the very able French Air Minister; and I would like in passing to make reference to the growing interest that there is in this country in the possibility of setting up, under certain conditions, an international aerial police force. Opinion on it has undoubtedly advanced. For some time now it has been part of the official policy of the Labour party, and I notice that at the annual meeting of the National Liberal Federation at Bournemouth this spring the following resolution was passed:The Liberal party also urges the consideration of the establishment of an international aerial police, under the League of Nations, as part of a plan for the abolition of military aviation, and the international control of civil aircraft, as well as generally, with a view to increased security and the better maintenance of world order.More recently, at the annual council meeting of the League of Nations Union, held at the same place, the following resolution was passed by a majority:In the opinion of this council the abolition of national military and naval air forces should be combined with the establishment of an international air force.I am not suggesting that that resolution binds members of the Union, and it is well known that a, number of prominent members are unable to agree with it, but I think it is fair to put it forward as an indication of the majority opinion of the members of the Union; and many are coming round to the view that it is worth while to make an experiment of this kind 2392 if, as the price of it, we can secure disarmament. If such a body ever does come about, I am sure that British pilots will be able and willing to play their part, and a very noble and effective part I am perfectly certain it will be.
The next and last Debate which took place was on 27th May of last year, in the Air Commission. It remains a lamentable fact that the British Draft Convention has not been discussed, nor have the very detailed Spanish proposals which ran to 20 Clauses on the subject of military aircraft. If the Government had been sincere and had been anxious to see a convention on air disarmament go through, they would have been dissatisfied with a delay since April of last year, and they would have insisted upon the Air Commission being called together. They would have placed before the Commission a constructive proposal, and would have done their utmost to drive it to a conclusion of some kind. If the Government had done that and their proposals had been rejected, and they had then come to this House and asked for an increased Air Force, a wholly different situation would have arisen, but they signally failed to make any constructive contribution in the discussion which took place in the Air Commission on this subject.
§ Mr. MANDER
I quite appreciate that. I said just now that the British Draft Convention was an invaluable contribution, but since then a number of other proposals of great importance and detail, such as the Spanish, French and American proposals, have been made, but they have never been adequately discussed. The contribution of the British Government, so far as they have made any contribution, has been in the way of obstruction and the pointing out of difficulties. That conduct is inconsistent with the Government's declared anxiety to achieve a convention on air disarmament. I understand that more than one Minister has stated that during the last year or so an elaborate and detailed investigation has been taking place as to the practicability of the internationalisation of civil aviation. If that is so, there should be nothing secret about it, and the Government ought to say, for the information of 2393 the public, just what schemes they have been considering and why they have had to reject them. It may be that many who are interested and who have technical knowledge, could assist the Government, as many people have been trying to do.
It might be wise for the Government to appoint a Select Committee or a Royal Commission to go into the whole question. The country is not going to be satisfied indefinitely with the mere statement that the Government can find no plan. This will be one of the major issues of politics in years to come, and the Government will be acting wisely, as well as in their own interests and those of the country, if they give the country an informed opinion and information to act upon. I am afraid that the trouble is this It is notorious, and it is not unnatural, that the Services and the Service Ministers are hostile to disarmament, or at any rate they have not any vivid sympathy with it. I regret the appointment of the Under-Secretary of State for Air to the Air Commission in Geneva. I have the greatest admiration for him. He looks after the affairs of his office with the greatest ability and concentration of effort, and he conducts the Air Estimates through this House with distinction and ability. I cannot pay too high a tribute to the way in which he performs his duties. I do not think he will take it as an offence if I say that he is not over-enthusiastic about the cause of aerial disarmament. Perhaps, in the circumstances, one could hardly expect it, but it would have been happier for the cause which the Government have at heart in regarrd to air disarmament if some Minister other than a Service Minister had been appointed a member of the committee.
Whatever individuals have done—I know their sincerity and how they have worked—the Government as a whole have never sincerely and whole-heartedly tried to obtain a successful disarmament convention or to put into it that effort, determination and resolution which were theirs to command. The Lord President of the Council referred to the commitments which we have under the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Treaty of Locarno as arguments for supporting the proposals to-day. That is a very astounding point of view for the Government to put forward. Have we 2394 any reason to think that the Government are so enthusiastically in favour of working the collective system? Have they ever shown it? Is there any indication that these new aircraft are to be used as part of the collective system for the preservation of order in the world? If there were any evidence of a willingness to hold joint aerial manoeuvres with those nations with whom, on paper, they are supposed to be going to co-operate as part of the collective system under the Covenant, that would be an indication that this was seriously meant in that connection, but I cannot call to mind any enthusiasm or eagerness on the part of the Government, or even a willingness, to co-operate effectively for the maintenance of the collective system. Did they show any anxiety in the case of Manchuria when there was the clearest breach of all Treaty rights? Were they willing to lift a finger? I am not suggesting that they should have taken military action, but were they willing to take economic or any other measures, to support the cause of collective security? I believe that the world will long suffer for the fatal error and the dereliction of duty of the Council of the League, in connection with the Manchuria question.
It is said that we have an obligation under the Locarno Treaty. A very interesting point arises, and I should be glad if the Minister who is to reply would make some mention of it. I have always understood that it was contemplated under the Treaty of Locarno that as far as practicable the Army and Navy would be called in to play their part, but that the question of using aerial forces had never been contemplated. It is perfectly clear from what has been said by the Lord President of the Council that we should, if necessary, come to the help of Germany and France with the whole of our Air Forces, as well as with the remainder of our armed Forces, but I should like to have that confirmed. It seems to follow, but I have heard it argued in other quarters that the air was overlooked at the time when the Locarno Treaty was signed.
With regard to those obligations, the Foreign Secretary has made the position only too clear; he has gone out of his way to point out that the matter rests with us, that we have to take the decision and that no other country or com- 2395 bination of countries can force us to act if we do not wish to do so. He has done his utmost to minimise and to whittle down our Locarno obligations. It is therefore all the more astounding to find the importance which the Government now apparently attach—for the purpose of getting this proposal through—to our obligations under the international treaty. There is no reason to think that this increase in the Air Forces is to be used for collective action. To pray in aid these treaties, as has been done by the Government to-day seems to be—if I may use the expression without being offensive—really hypocritical. I hope the House will not grant this to the Government, who have shown such a lack of sympathy with the League of Nations, not in words but in deeds. I am referring to the Disarmament Conference; in other respects the Government have supported the work of the League. The Government are running two policies on this question. They have perhaps taken an example from a Measure of theirs which has been in Committee upstairs, arid in which it is proposed that betting and the totalisator are to be permitted only on two days a week. If I can properly understand the policy of the Government it is that they shall pursue disarmament on two days a week, and on four days a week they shall pursue rearmament. I presume that they will use the seventh day for pious reflection on their handiwork.
Some of my hon. Friends have objected that as a supporter of the peace movement I sometimes appear to be rather bellicose. I confess that I am violently opposed to the aggressor, whoever and wherever he may be. I would stop at nothing, and I would use every possible means of pressure, economic or otherwise, through the League of Nations and the collective system, to put the aggressor in his place and to prevent him from doing infamous work by which he might embroil the world. But that is not the proposal of the Government. Their proposal is entirely different. Their programme is part of the old-fashioned—and I had hoped out-of-date, but it does not seem to be so—armaments race between separate national States or groups of States, just as in the old days. By pur- 2396 suing a policy of that kind, the Government are making it much more difficult for the other race that is always going on to be run successfully between those who believe in the rule of law and order in the world and those who see no alternative to a rule of brute force. The Government are handicapping peace by their action and are strengthening the chances of war. Their foreign policy in the matter of disarmament has failed disastrously. On these benches we shall vote without hesitation for the Motion which has been placed upon the Order Paper in censure of the Government.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES BROWN
I have listened with great interest to the speeches which have been delivered in the Debate, and I am certain that the Government will feel indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who appears in a new role to-day as more or less a defender of the Government. I suppose that the Government will welcome his speech. The right hon. Gentleman has so often attempted to get at their vitals and strike them down before they expected it, that they will very much appreciate the effort which he has made this afternoon. I do not know whether they will be more grateful for the scorn that he poured on the Opposition for moving the Vote of Censure, or whether they will appreciate more the ridicule with which he described the pacifist proclivities of the Members of the Government, but at any rate they will be generally indebted to him for what he has done on this occasion. I was rather sorry, however, that he introduced into the Debate a note of levity and hilarity which I do not think ought to characterise a discussion of this kind.
The Lord President of the Council had no difficulty in conveying to us all a vivid impression of what he called the difficulties and the complexities of the present situation. I think he impressed most of us with the fact of the general uneasiness which he said prevails at the moment. I would only ask whether the speech which he has made here this afternoon, and the announcement of policy previously made elsewhere, but amplified in his speech to-day, will alleviate or will further aggravate the general uneasiness which he made us all feel exists? 2397 He reminded us of its reactions on, what happens at Geneva, and one cannot expect, in view of that uneasiness, that what he has had to say here to-day will be of very much further assistance in the disarmament negotiations which we are assured are still to go on.
I was not very much impressed by some of the arguments that he used in defence of the Government's policy. He told us that we had refrained hitherto from building a larger Air Force because we wanted to be an example to the world, but that does not strike me as being an argument of very great force. I know that every possible circumstance has been brought forward by the Government from time to time in order to try to demonstrate that they were as ardent in the pursuit of peace as anybody else—more ardent that most of the Governments of the world. I am not convinced, on reviewing the happenings of the last few years, by arguments of that kind brought forward by supporters of the Government. But there can be no doubt that the Government's recent announcement with regard to their air policy is of very great importance, and I think that that is shown by the character of this Debate. Indeed, it may be said—and I think that most of us on these benches take this point of view—to mark the beginning of a new phase in that process of re-arming which has gone on more or less since the signing of the Peace Treaty.
We are moving away from that revulsion of feeling which followed the conclusion of the Great War, when people were confronted with the desolation and misery and economic chaos that it left behind, and when millions of people realised the futility and insanity of the conflict which had been waged when they were in closer proximity to it. At that time, those who were militaristically minded had to walk warily, and were compelled by the force of circumstances at least to pay lip service to the cause of peace. They had temporarily to abandon their jingoistic talk, and to put their militaristic creeds in cold storage. But of course they knew that the time would come when the feelings engendered at the close of the War would be toned down, when the loathing of the War would to some degree die away as those who had fought in it and those who had had the experience of living through it got further 2398 away from those events. They knew that they would then be able to put forward again the old argument which had been used in the years before the. War—the same argument that has always been used by the militarists at all times and in all places—that the only way to preserve peace is to pile up your armaments. Now we are back again in at atmosphere in which that is being done in more places than one.
People who use that argument seem to me to forget that the practical application of their creed has more than once been responsible for the slaughter of millions of human beings, and the maiming of millions more. All around we have abundant evidence, both in history and in experience, of the falsity of their creed and the fallacy of their arguments, but we are hearing them all over again; they have been repeated here this afternoon. Put simply, the argument is that for a nation to be prepared, and to possess powerful armed forces on land and sea and in the air, is the surest preventive against war. An hon. Member behind me says, "Hear, hear," but I want respectfully to submit to the House that that proposition has been disproved over and over again, and all history and experience gives the lie to it.
We have before us at the moment a proposal to increase our air forces. I have been very interested, in reading debates which have taken place elsewhere, to find that already the Government have made the suggestion, which we are discussing this afternoon, to increase the air forces, and there are also being put forward arguments in favour of what are called balanced armaments. It is suggested now that it will be absolutely useless to build up our Air Force, even to the extent suggested by the Government at the moment, if we do not at the same time take steps to ensure that that Air Force will have fuel supplies and that those who man it can be properly fed. That, we are told, involves further protection of trade routes. In other words, we are already being told that this increase in the air forces must necessarily be followed by an augmentation of the Navy; and how long will it be before the Army comes along and suggests that its forces must be increased as well?
Really, we have started on a new armament race. The Government are already being asked—they have been asked this 2399 afternoon by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping—to speed up their programme, and they will be pressed from all sides to do so. If the argument be sound that the right hon. Gentleman and those who agree with him put forward, I entirely agree that they should bring all the pressure they can on the Government to speed up and to increase the programme. They must do it if they really believe that the safety of the country depends on having these large forces, and they ought not to stop even at defeating the Government if they will not put those proposals into operation. That is the logical thing for them to do and not merely to criticise and tell us the country is in danger. If they believe the truth of what they say, they must use every resource at their command to force the Government to speed up these armament developments and augment our Forces in every way.
What are likely to be the immediate effects of the proposals which have been announced to us? We have been told over and over again that they are designed to deal with some nation within striking distance of our shores which has more powerful air forces than ours. We are told that the possession of such forces by that State, unnamed, of course, up to the moment, is a menace to us and it may even be an encouragement to them to attack us because we are not possessed of forces likely to be effective in our own defence. We are told that other Powers have welcomed the announcement that has been made. If they have really welcomed it, it is only because they are going to find in it an excuse further to increase their own armaments. I can easily imagine that militarists in other countries will welcome the announcement, because they will not have a great deal of difficulty, on the basis of it, in putting forward arguments in favour of the further augmentation of their own forces. It is suggested that no other Power need be disturbed by our proposed increases because we only aim—this is a word that has been very much used in these Debates—at parity with that Power which, being within striking distance of our shores, might conceivably attack us.
In my view, this talk about parity is all make-believe and moonshine, because, if there is any truth at all in the proposition on which the Government's case 2400 rests, you must aim not merely at parity but at superiority, because only when you have superior forces will you deter a potential enemy from attacking you and, of course, if you aim at superiority, the moment you catch up with the Power against which you are defending yourself, that Power will immediately take active steps to increase its own forces. I feel that all this talk about parity is sheer make-believe. I cannot come to any other conclusion than that the policy announced by the Government must have the effect of speeding up the armament race. We are told it will reduce the difference between our inferiority and their superiority, and as that difference is reduced, inevitably greater efforts will be made elsewhere to augment their own forces. The armament race, then, is in full swing. The policy of the Government will merely quicken that race. I know that the Government will to-night receive formal sanction for their, policy, and that sanction may very well quicken the development of events which will result in the loss of millions of lives at probably no distant date.
Consequently, we on these benches feel that we are fully justified in moving this Vote of Censure. As I have listened to the Debate I have been compelled to recall the statements made by publicists and statesmen during the Great War, and towards its close, when they sought to encourage those who were participating in it, or bearing its burden, or suffering in any way from it, by telling them that it was a war to end to war, that it was a war to make the world safe for democracy and, because those things were said, how gladly were the burdens borne and how readily did men respond to the appeals that were made to them. Here we are back again in the midst of preparations for another conflict and statesmen are plaintively telling us that only in a multitude of armaments shall we find peace. In their hearts no one really believes it. No one believes that we are going to find peace that way. consequently I shall not, and I do not think any of my colleagues will have the slightest hesitation in going into the Lobby in support of the Motion.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
The hon. Member has effectively exposed the old fallacy that arms necessarily mean peace, but that, 2401 surely, does not carry with it the corollary that isolated disarmament means peace I remember very vividly, a few months after the famous pacifist motion at the Oxford Union, visiting Germany and having a talk with a prominent leader of the young Nazis, and I well remembered his room, which was so typical of the hardness and discipline of his creed. There were only two ornaments on the wall. One was a full-sized portrait of Chancellor Hitler and the other was a map with the lost territories of Germany marked in red. There was a hiker's equipment in one corner and a duelling outfit in the other. He was asking me about this pacifist motion, and I tried to explain it to him. There was an ugly gleam in his eye when he said, "The fact is that you English are soft." Then I realised that the worst enemies of peace might be the pacifists. The hon. Member said that parity was sheer make-believe. I should like to emphasise the question that I put to the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition. Who used the word "parity" first? It was at the Naval Conference of 1930 that parity was the dominant issue—that Naval Conference when the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown), was supporting the Labour Government. Really it is the sheerest humbug for hon. Members opposite to say that when the Government talk about parity they are starting another armament race.
I have taken part in many disarmament Debates in this House, and in each one of them I have joined my hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), in urging upon the Government the necessity for a courageous lead at Geneva, and I do not pretend to-night that that courageous lead has been forthcoming. There has been no answer to the charge made by my hon. Friend. Though the British Government subscribed to the Draft of 13th June calling upon the Air Commission to resume its work that Air Commission has never met, and in fact has not met for the last 18 months. Then there was the British reservation which, though it was subsequently modified in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, did east doubts upon the extent to which the British Government were putting driving force behind their disarmament programme. It can be argued that it is very difficult to justify the production at this 2402 particular moment of this expansion programme, and in this House among the 460 Conservative Members there is, and has been, little driving force towards an agreement on disarmament. This little driving force, and the refusal of a powerful section of the Conservative organisation to further the questionnaire of the League of Nations Union, are symptomatic of an attitude of mind which makes it very difficult for hon. Members like myself who are not Conservatives and yet sit on the Government side of the House and, are inevitably associated with them.
But let me be fair to the Government. I do not believe that any Government, even a Government exclusively composed of Members of my party, would have achieved a substantial measure of disarmament in the present circumstances of the world. There are forces of evil abroad and in this country so horrible that it is not surprising that the Governments of Europe are more concerned with isolating themselves from them as far as possible by a ringing of steel. The Opposition ask with an innocence that, seeing the inflamatory speeches which they make against Nazi Germany, is really surprising: Who is the enemy against which are taking these precautions. I believe that it is only right that we should, and must, say, if we are to justify this policy in the country, that the enemy is Nazi Germany. I need not labour the point. I have done it in several speeches in this House. But I would call the attention of the House to the secret instructions which have been issued by Dr. Goebbels to foreign agents. France, in those instructions, is described as the irreconcilable enemy of Germany, and since England is the most dangerous and most powerful ally of France, all the foreign political efforts of the Beisch Government must be towards disturbing the relations between the two countries. German agents abroad are warned that Germany cannot and will not tolerate much longer the Versailles Treaty, and that if negotiation fails Germany may be compelled to "take what is due to her by other means." They are very significant words. Germany strikes when Germany's our has struck.
Nazi Germany can only be met with her own weapon. She understands force and force alone. You have only to look 2403 at the situation in Austria. For the last year Germany has ignored the protests of the Powers at her intolerable interference with Austria's independence. They have been treated as scraps of paper, and last Thursday events reached a climax. Italy moves 40,000 troops to the frontier, and several squadrons of aeroplanes, and the whole situation is transformed and Germany is in a completely different mood. She recalls her Ambassador and expresses great protestations of horror and grief at the outrages. She dismisses Herr Habicht, the author of all the trouble, and she dispatches a special envoy, Herr Von Papen, to establish "normal and friendly relations." Germany sees the red light at last. My hon. Friends opposite may say that this is strange language for a Liberal to use. I can only say that I have been driven to these most unwelcome conclusions by the irresistible logic of facts and experiences. If they had seen what I have seen in successive visits to Germany—the last only a few weeks ago—they would tread the same dolorous path.
There are only two questions involved for me in this air programme of the Government. Is it a protection in the present temper of Europe against foreign aggression And, if that temper changes, will the Government be really willing to modify or abandon their programme? On this last question I am prepared to suspend judgment. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council expressly stated on 20th July that the Government's policy remained one of international disarmament and we had by no means abandoned hope of reaching some limitation. That pledge has been repeated and strengthener? by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, and those who believe in disarmament will anxiously watch how it is interpreted by the British delegation at Geneva. For my own part, I have not abated in any degree my belief in the all embracing importance of an agreed disarmament. I am certain that there is only one safeguard against bombing aeroplanes, and that is an international agreement to abolish them altogether. But in default of an aerial convention we have to ask ourselves whether we have at this moment disarmed to the edge of risk. That is a question for the experts.
2404 I have not heard a single argument by the Opposition to-night that would justify my voting for their Vote of Censure. It has been argued that this programme will wreck the League of Nations. I suggest that to place these 41 squadrons on one side and the League of Nations on the other, and to say that the support of the one means the betrayal of the other represents an antithesis as false as it is mischievous. I could understand it if the Opposition were opposed to all wars, but they are not. That cry was good enough to spin East Fulham, but the party opposite want more than a by-election victory. They want power, and so their programme has been altered, and we have a new Labour programme in which obligations are undertaken to enter any war which is going as long as it is directed from Geneva. The Deputy-Leader of the Opposition the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) said that we were guilty of misrepresentation of Labour's programme in that direction, but I would call the attention of the party opposite to the Deputy-Leader's speech on 13th July when he said that the League system really depends on the proposition that when war breaks out it is everybody's responsibility, and you are not entitled to say that you are not this or that nation's brother and that the belligerents can go on murdering just as they please. The hon. Gentleman said this afternoon that armaments depend upon foreign policy, but that foreign policy is a policy of joint commitments. I am not saying that it is wrong, but if you are to base your armaments on those commitments, it is the policy of unlimited guarantees. According to Labour we must enter every dispute, having first rid ourselves of the means of making our intervention effective. That is not a caricature of Labour's policy. They have voted against every Service Estimate put before the House this Parliament. If there is one thing more foolish than rattling the sabre, it is rattling an empty scabbard.
The Labour party say that they believe in pooled security. So do I. So do the Government. What is Locarno but pooled security? What are the party opposite prepared to put into the pool? The bon. Member for Wolverhampton, 2405 East, said he would stick at nothing in opposition to an aggressor. Will he be able to stop the aggressor even if he does stick at nothing? What have we to put into the pool?
§ Mr. BERNAYS
You must first get the whole world with you. We have to ask ourselves, what are we able to put into the pool with the whole world. There is the Army. It is an open secret that the Army to-day is not one-sixth as strong as it was when we were able to despatch the Expeditionary Force in 1914. It would take months before any military intervention of ours could be effective and perhaps years before it could be decisive. Then there is the argument that we can boast of our strength because we have the largest Navy in the world. The Navy, of course, is of enormous importance in a long war, but I suggest that what a country needs is help at once in a desperate emergency. That is the real need, and for that the Navy may be of no like. What a nation in the claws of an invader wants, is help, there and then. Much later, a week later, the help may be too late.
There are those who pin all their faith on economic sanctions. They think that Great Britain, with her wealth and prestige and her position as the financial centre of the world, could declare an economic boycott and the strongest nation would climb down. I wish I could think that that statement were true. It was the opinion of many experts, financial as well as naval, in the Sino-Japanese dispute that an economic boycott would probably be useless and very likely, without the presence of the Fleet, disastrous. The crisis in the last War was a question of weeks. If there comes another war, the crisis will be a question of hours. That brings me to what I regard as the most futile argument that has been brought forward this afternoon against the Government's programme, and that is that it means £20,000,000, and that that £20,000,000 will hold up expenditure on social reform. I wish the Government would spend the necessary millions on urgent social reform, but it would not be much comfort to me and my constituents in Bristol if there were 500 bombing aeroplanes, and I saw the filthy poison 2406 gas creeping up the line of the Severn, to know that instead of adequate aerial protection we had pensions for all at 60, and that we had raised the school-leaving age.
The essence of modern warfare is surprise. No nation goes, to war unless it thinks that it can get the blow in first, before its adversary has time to breathe, and that it is certain of swift and crushing victory. That was what induced Germany to make the great gamble in 1914. It is 20 years yesterday since the first German troops appeared in Luxemburg and the Grand Duchess rode in her carriage across the road and made a gallant gesture of protest. Within a week those buccaneering levies, as Mr. Asquith called them, had passed the Liege forts, within a fortnight they were in the heart of France, and within three weeks they were in the suburbs of Paris. It was only the miracle of the Marne that saved Europe from irretrievable catastrophe. Now there is a new danger of a sudden and unprovoked air attack, remote now, but if the failure to reach an air convention continues likely to grow more menacing in the future. We have heard this afternoon from the Lord President of the Council that you cannot improvise an Air Force in 24 hours. This programme, as I understand it, represents the minimum requirements for home defence. To vote against it while there remains a savage Prussianism in the saddle in Germany, is a responsibility that I cannot and will not take.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
Many years ago I made my maiden speech on the Air Estimates, and I remember asking for the indulgence of the House. I then expressed the hope that we should never have another war. I am bound to say that I support wholeheartedly the Government in the action that they have been forced to take. I hope that those who are interested in the Air Ministry will take note of one side of air defence which has not been mentioned to-night, except in one short sentence by the Lord President of the Council, and that is, the question of anti-aircraft and searchlight defence. If this country is ever again engaged in war the first troops that will be in action here will be the Territorials, and I think it is within the knowledge of everybody in London and in the great cities that the Territorial anti-aircraft 2407 defence are only few in numbers, that they are short of guns and very short of equipment.
I should like to make a plea to the Air Force to adopt a new attitude with regard to their relations to this branch of the Service. I know that the relations between the two Forces are of the best, but in the last War the Air Force were told that anti-aircraft guns were practically useless. In the first year of the War the enemy aeroplanes that were brought down by anti-aircraft guns could be numbered in tens, but during the last year of the War they could be numbered in hundreds. Since the War the developments in scientific instruments have brought the anti-aircraft defence to a very high state of efficiency, especially in other countries. It is obvious that there may be some difficulty in the fact that anti-aircraft defence is an Army Service, whereas the aircraft are under the Air Ministry. I have had some personal observation and knowledge of very successful shots by anti-aircraft. The Lord President of the Council rightly said that the bomber will get through. He meant that a few will get through. I remember a case where two enemy aircraft made an attack on a balloon. They got through the defending aircraft, but both of them were brought down by two guns of the anti-aircraft defence. I saw that incident myself.
To take another analogy, I remember an occasion when the defending force, the Grand Fleet, failed to intercept the invaders, and Scarborough had to depend for protection on two 6-inch guns, which, nevertheless, did great damage to the invading cruisers. If the Air Force will take the anti-aircraft section of the Territorials into their co-operation, I am sure they will find them, if occasion should demand, as valuable to them as the artillery is to the infantry of the Regular Army. At the present this kind of shooting is in its infancy in the Territorial Army, but I am prepared to prophecy that should there unfortunately be another war, the shooting of the antiaircraft arms will improve out of all knowledge and that no invading force will be able to attack a target like London without taking into full account the defence of the anti-aircraft guns. There is, of course, difficulty in shooting at a single aeroplane, but this difficulty 2408 is being overcome. Those who have had any experience of anti-aircraft defence and saw the aeroplanes passing low over the Houses of Parliament the other day will realise that a very heavy toll would have been taken of them by anti-aircraft guns. It is easy for a single aeroplane to avoid shells, but it is much more difficult for large squadrons of aeroplanes to do so.
If the Army Council cannot increase the number of guns available for London I would press on them the importance of making their equipment up to date. It is not good enough to ask two antiaircraft guns who may want a most important instrument to have to share it with 36 others. You cannot get efficiency in that way. And some of the instruments take six months to get. It is not right that the City of London should be put in jeopardy in this way, and when we realise that the industrial centres of the country like Birmingham, York and Sheffield, are entirely without any aircraft defence at all we can realise how far we have gone in pursuing our policy of disarmament. I agree that we did the right thing in making a gesture on disarmament, but I think we may have pushed our policy to the danger point, and that future generations will say that we have not been right in jeopardising the future of the country for an ideal. We are a nation of idealists, we are also a nation with a conscience, and if our conscience does not tell us that what we are doing is right, we do not go into any policy with all our hearts or with any unity. This is one of the occasions when we have to search our consciences. I come from a part of England where conscience is considered to be very important, it is a part of the country in which John Wesley preached, and the conscience of our people has been profoundly stirred by what has been happening abroad. We have been thankful for our isolation, and the vast majority of this nation are realising that the Government have been right in the course they have adopted and are prepared to support them.
§ 9.1 p.m.
Mr. VYVYAN ADAMS
I must congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage) on being almost the only hon. Member who has given His Majesty's Government to-night, in their new policy, his uncom- 2409 plaining support. I should also like to congratulate the Parliamentary Air Committee on winning their half-loaf. The measure of their success can be determined by a sentence in a speech of the Lord President of the Council two years Ago, delivered, as he has told us, "to make people think." He said: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.]That is from the OFFICIAL REPORT and, therefore, I cannot be guilty of any inaccuracy. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council informed us to-night that he was of a sanguine temperament. He said that this increase is due to the fact that the barometer of Europe is not stable. The international barometer is never stable, and I am afraid that there is moving in my mind an apprehension lest this new departure of policy on the part of His Majesty's Government may send the barometer from change to stormy. I do not believe that it is going to relieve the malaise of Europe in the manner which the right hon. Gentleman imagines. He cited the statement of an authority in 1923, that our weakness in the air at that time was intolerable. We have a relatively long period of history since 1923. What has been the result of that "intolerable weakness"? Eleven years of unbroken peace. May it not, therefore, be that armaments are themselves one of the most compelling causes which conduce to a condition of warfare
I cannot agree with the policy of His Majesty's Government. There are various reasons why I am unable to agree with it, and I will endeavour to place them before the House in a summary form because I know other hon. Members wish to speak. May I say in all sincerity that this departure from the majority of my own party is with me a matter of first principles. It is, indeed, a matter of conviction and, dare I add, if this be a political virtue, it is a matter of consistency. I will pass briefly over the electoral consequences of this policy. They are, of course, when we are considering the safety and integrity of Great Britain a purely secondary consideration. But I should like to say that the "man in the street," who is so constantly referred to, does not accept the archaic 2410 and highly spurious proposition that if you want peace you must prepare for war. He takes this view, that, if reasonable men make certain preparations, sooner or later, if they remain reasonable beings, they will do that for which they prepare. Therefore, when the "man in the street" accuses an individual or a group of individuals of warmongering he is merely skipping a step in his logic.
I will also pass briefly over the finance of the matter. £20,000,000 is no slight sum. You may say that it is merely the cost of three battle cruisers, but, on the other hand, if you add to that the almost inevitable increases in the Estimates of the other two Services, you will find it extremely difficult to get any further reduction of the taxpayers' burden or Any renewal of social and industrial expansion. I hope we shall not be told that there is no money for further educational expansion when the Government are squandering so much of our treasure on what, on the showing of the Lord President of the Council, are purely ambiguous armaments. If it is the desire on the part of the Government to lessen the gap between ourselves and our neighbours, it is not meant, of course, that they are deliberately entering upon an armaments race, but it does mean that they are almost imperceptibly lapsing back into that race. The argument that we shall by this means Achieve general limitation seems to me, if I may put the matter bluntly and brutally, not worth a brass farthing.
Let us analyse it in human terms. Two men are engaged upon a long-distance race. One is far ahead of the other. The second spurts forward and shouts to his opponent, "Come back! I have overtaken half a lap." Is the man ahead likely to heed him? Will he graciously slow down and arrange for a dead heat, or will he redouble his pace and so widen the gap again? There is, I admit, in all this controversy a new strategic circumstance which we have to take into consideration, and it is this: Before the War, and indeed up to about 10 years ago, for the rulers of any nation to fight a war successfully it was necessary for them to infect with patriotic enthusiasm at least 95 percent., of their subjects. But now the air has changed all that. That democratic safeguard is gone. A single desperado at the head of a nation needs the support of only 5 per cent., or even 2411 less, of his subjects, in order to use the last resources of refined science upon an immediate neighbour. Indeed, I think there is a far stronger case on grounds of isolation for unilateral disarmament than is often conceded. But I am not pleading that to-night. The only escape from the nexus in which we are involved is, it seems to me, to reserve this new power in the air to some international authority. Until then all the nations of Europe will be tottering upon the real edge of risk, as the Foreign Secretary calls it so graphically. So to reserve the power, or to show our willingness to reserve it, will make us, in the words of the Lord President, "good Europeans."
I have nearly finished. As other hon. Members wish to speak I am as brief as possible. Just now I mentioned something that the Foreign Secretary is constantly saying—those words, "the edge of risk," which are repeated as a kind of talisman by other Members of the Government, as though by the mere use of a slogan you are proving something. But a few months ago the Foreign Secretary said he wished to move in a certain direction lest the Disarmament Conference should die from a thousand cuts. Yet at this moment, before the Disarmament Conference is dead, the Government are openly proposing this large-scale policy of expansion. When the Lord President himself says from that Box that the body is by no means a corpse, the Government administers this blow!Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabb'd …This was the most unkindest cut of all …O, what a fall was there, my countrymen!Frankly, I have been quite bewildered by the position of my leader, the Lord President of the Council, in all this controversy. On Friday, 13th July, I said, when contrasting his tacit acceptance of some of the brave words of his colleagues with his own weighty pronouncements on this matter, that he seemed to have been actuated by the Latin principle:"Video meliora proboque. Detersora sequor."[HON. MEMBERS: "Translate it!"] If the Lord President were here it would not be necessary for me to translate a Latin tag to the Chancellor of Cambridge University; but, in order to please the hon. Member for Bromley (Sir E. Camp- 2412 bell) I will translate it for him, "What have traffic lights to do with the likes of me?" It seemed from what my right hon. Friend said last Thursday week, when he announced this new policy, that that was a bitterly accurate anticipation of his outlook. I have for the right hon. Gentleman, if I may speak personally, and I have always had since I entered politics, an admiration which has evoked from time to time an almost dangerous, because unquestioning, loyalty. To those of us who are in this House for the first time, he has made the craft of the State seem real and strong and clean. Now, by this reversal, the right hon. Gentleman leaves it all. The light is out.Whither is fled the visionary gleam?Where is it now, the glory and the dream?In my obscure and remote and apparently ineffectual way I have been determined since I entered Parliament that my successors should not have to undergo that which my predecessors underwent. If this policy be pursued by this nation and the other nations of Europe, it will sooner or later mean that we shall be back to that duelling which will mean the death of the young and the old in each sex. I submit to the Government, with all the passion and sincerity that I can command, that the international duel is evil and should go. The way to deal with the air is to reserve it to the judge. Yet His Majesty's Government will not even express their willingness to consider the creation of an International Air Force. That is the way in which Europe could permanently win collective security. I wish to see security physically pooled and not merely in the nebulous world of sentimentalists. I wish that the Government from now onward would place the emphasis in their foreign policy on justice rather than on sovereignty. The Lord President once said:If the conscience of the young men should ever come to feel, with regard to this one instrument, that it is evil and should go, the thing will be done. But if they do not feel like that, well, as I say, the future is in their hands. But, when the next war comes and European civilisation is wiped out, as it will be, and by no force more than by that force, then do not let them lay the blame on the old men; let them remember that they, they principally, or they alone, are responsible for the terrors that have fallen upon the earth." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1932; col. 638, Vol. 270.]2413 Heeding that challenge from the right hon. Gentleman I shall by my vote to-night, because it is the last chance, show how evil I think this thing. I hope, with all respect, that those who govern us will not try to slough off from their shoulders their own inalienable responsibility.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Sir REGINALD BANKS
I admit that I possess no technical qualification for dealing with and criticising this Motion, and I doubt whether any great technical qualifications are required. It seems to me that a rudimentary knowledge of recent history and the elements of logic, with a pinch of common sense, are sufficient to oppose a Motion which would have been foolish any time these last five years, but in July, 1934, is demonstrable insanity. Of course, as some hon. Members have said, we regret and deplore the fact that it has appeared necessary to the Government to increase our armaments. I personally regret and deplore many things in this world of to-day. I regret and deplore even more than our necessities the manner in which other nations, in spite of our example, have steadfastly refused to disarm. I deplore the atrocities in Germany. I deplore the atrocities in Austria, not to mention the atrocities in Russia. I look with concern and regret upon disorders in France and disorders in Spain, and on the Brighton trunk murders, and I deplore and regret the mental state of the Liberal party which in a world like this asks us to trust to the inherent goodness of human nature. I deplore these things because they prove the imperfections of human nature and make us realise that we are living in a world in which there are crazy and irresponsible people. To blame His Majesty's Government because they have failed to teach Germany Christian morality, or some hon. Members here common sense, is unjust, and these phrases about regret although they express a melancholy truth, are not germane to a Vote of Censure. I was interested in a Motion which has not actually been moved in the House but which is the official Motion put down by the Liberal party—That this House views with grave concern the tendency among the nations of the world to resume the competitive race of armaments which has always proved a precursor of war; it will not approve any expansion of our own armaments unless it is clear that the Disarmament Conference 2414 has failed and unless a definite case is established; and these conditions not being present as regards the proposed additional expenditure of £20,000,000 upon air armaments the House declines its assent."—and which chimes in very well with the speech to which we have just listened. The hon. Members who put down that Motion state that in their view a competitive race in armaments has always been a precursor of war. [HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear!"] I hear some of them expressing their approval of that statement, and I congratulate them on their choice of the word "precursor." They had not the courage to say that it was a cause of war because, I suppose, they were afraid of committing a too glaring instance of petitio principii or begging the question, but, in escaping from that, they have fallen into the jaws of an almost worse monster, the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. So many things have proved to be the precursors of war, chiefly as I read history, international conventions held for the purpose of abolishing it—the meeting at Paris in 1856, the meeting in Berlin in 1885, The Hague Conventions of 1897 and 1907 and, one might also mention, the Kellogg Pact, since which universal and sentimental renunciation of war everybody has been preparing for war faster than ever. Then, an almost inevitable precursor of war is an assurance from the Liberals that it is a very good time for this country to disarm. I am bound to say that I was alarmed, as were many other people, three or four days ago at the dreadful parallelism between July, 1934, and July, 1914. Then Mr. Bernhardi was talking just as Mr. Rosenberg and Mr. Bergmann are talking to-day. Then there was an assassination of a great Austrian person. Then there were menacing massings of troops in various quarters, and Great Britain and France were declaring their resolution to uphold the independence of a small State. All these were alarming phenomena, but when I saw that the Liberal party had put down a disarmament Motion my fears were redoubled. As an example of what I mean, I would like to quote some words from a speech made by Mr. Ponsonby, as he then was, now a noble Lord whose recent utterances in another place I must not refer to, but hon. Members can read them for themselves. He said:The policy of the balance of power was exchanged for concerted action among the 2415 Powers. A Concert of the Powers was set up and although it is a very inadequate machine it has served its purpose by preventing a conflagration while indirectly it brought about a very much better state of relations between ourselves and Germany …The recent visit of the Fleet to Kiel shows how friendly the relations are between Germany and Great Britain. The relations between the British and German people have been nothing else but friendly and the tension between the two Governments at the present moment is greatly relaxed.… But why cannot we see some reflection of this policy in our armaments?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1914; col. 1397, Vol. 64.]I ask the House to note the parallelism and to remember that these words of sagacity were uttered on 10th July, 1914. The truth from the logical point of view is that the precursor of an assassination is the purchase of a weapon by the assassin. That is not the cause of the crime, but an indication that a crime is about to be committed. The mental state of the person purchasing the weapon is germane to the question. If I see my gardener with a wild and glazed eye, fingering a bowie knife, I am not to be blamed if I run upstairs and put my old army pistol in my pocket. I am especially justified if I happen to hear him say that gardeners are God's chosen race and that barristers ought to be exterminated, or if I realise that he ran amok 20 years ago and had been shut up in an asylum then. Still more will my precaution be justified if I find the jugulated corpse of the under-gardener in the potting shed But there it is. Are not so-called statesmen in Europe to-day conducting murder, committing murder and justifying murder? In many capitals of Europe the removal of corpses from the street is as normal a matter of municipal routine as clearing the dustbins in London. Thank God England is still such that Parliament can get excited about a few bloody noses at Olympia. But this is the world which bishops propose to convert by citing passages from the Sermon on the Mount. You might as well hope to convert the guests at a cannibal feast by citations from Eustace Miles or Bernard Shaw.
I would ask those of my friends who think that it is easy, simply by following the teachings of the Gospel, to persuade others to do so, to remember that there is a distorted and blasphemous form of Christianity being preached to-day. Let them read Mr. Rosenberg's book on the 2416 German national church, or Mr. Bergmann's book on twentieth century ideas. Let them see the denunciations of mercy, charity and kindness and the exaltations of brutality and domination, and then let them see how that form of Christianity appeals to the brotherhoods and the holders of pleasant Sunday afternoons, and all those worthy bodies who are telling us that we ought to expose ourselves naked to our enemies. Whatever our views may be, and this is no place for theological discussion, these people in Germany, as in Russia, have outlawed Christianity, and it may be that in the next war, we shall be fighting, not only for our lives but for our faith.
This Motion of the Liberal party declares that we ought not to take steps to protect ourselves until it is clear that the Disarmament Conference is dead. Apparently, they consider that it is not dead. I do not think the Liberal party are very good judges of what is dead. They do not know that they are dead themselves in spite of the many death certificates issued at recent by-elections and the solemn requiem mass which will be celebrated at eleven o'clock to-night. They have made a gallant effort to prove that they are alive, but I think anybody listening to the speeches must have realised that rigor mortis has set in. The conference is not dead, but is in articulo mortis and I for one should not have broken my heart if it had expired a little sooner, because I honestly and sincerely believe that these protracted conferences, with their propositions and counter-propositions, statistics and counter-statistics, tend to exacerbate feeling between the nations. Mr. Punch once remarked that there was a good deal too much rattling of the olive branch, and a friend of mine observed as a sort of pendant to that epigram that it was dreadful to listen to the harsh croaking of the dove of peace.
That brings me to my next point. I think the hon. Member who spoke last said that before we re-armed, it was necessary for us to prove that there was a case for an expansion of our own armaments. But it will be too late then to re-arm and I would say, in general terms to those who argue that there is no case far the expansion of our own armaments, that in a world which flouts every law, human and divine, it is hardly safe that 2417 we should be only the fifth Power in the air. I am told: How does it concern Japan, Russia, the United States of America? How can it concern Italy? They are too far away. If that is true, we are not goading them into a competitive race of armaments, for what we do can have no effect on their policy. But I should not like to put any limitation on the dangers which may arise in any quarter of the globe to-day. Mention of the word "Japan" recalls to one's memory speeches made by Members of the Liberal and Socialist parties when they were urging us to take drastic and vigorous steps to stop Japan going into Manchukuo. How should we have done that? And supposing we had taken such steps, who knows but what the conflagration, once started, would have spread to Russia, France, Germany, involving us in commitments on the Western front, when we should have had to decide who was the aggressor and who was not the aggressor. That is no easy task when it is remembered that we have been discussing that point ever since the last War started.
There are questions about our collective obligations. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) said: How do these affect it? You are not the sole person responsible for fulfilling those obligations. None the less it remains true that they are collective obligations, and surely if we say that we are going to be equally responsible with France and Italy in the case of the invasion of Belgium or of the French frontier, we put ourselves into a very humiliating, not to say dishonourable position, if we are not prepared to carry out our fair and proper share of the collective obligation. That is the sort of position which has sometime earned us the name of perfide Albion. Be bold about these matters. If we have obligations, let us be prepared to carry them out.
Finally, they say that it does not matter; whatever you do, the bombers will get past; and therefore money spent on our Air Force with a view to defending ourselves is money wasted. If so let my hon. Friends be logical. If we cannot do anything about it let us go to bed and listen, as we listened the other night, to the droning of those great aeroplanes, overhead, and let us console ourselves 2418 with the reflection that we took the advice of the Liberal party and did not waste our money on useless defence. I do not believe that it is true that there is no defence against hostile planes. I think that we are apt to forget that the results that we get from these peace manoeuvres do not necessarily conclude the matter as to what would happen in war. All sorts of precautions have to be taken in peace, so that the good lads above do not crash. It is a different story in war where men are prepared to devote themselves to death rather than let the enemy plane get past. Hon. Members may have noticed when in the country that it is extremely difficult to swat the individual wasp. What does the sensible person do He destroys the wasp's nest. In other words, strike at the enemy's aerodrome. But we cannot strike if we have not got an adequate air force.
Then there is the horrible question of the fear of reprisals. When you are talking about brutal things like war it is foolish to mince one's words. England has been the Don Quixote of the nations, a, lovable character. He broke his heart and many of us have nearly broken our hearts. But we do not live in the age of chivalry. Rosinante is no proper steed for 1934, and the Sancho Panzas of the Labour party are incapable of keeping up with the modern facts. It is sad, heart-breaking. I have nearly broken my heart at times by doing what the good Don said it was unwise to do—looking for this year's birds in last year's nests. These golden years of which we have dreamed never come to pass, and we must brace ourselves for the age of steel.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ Admiral of the Fleet Sir ROGER KEYES
Although I am a sailor, I have had some experience in the operation of a very considerable Air Force, both in war and peace; and I think that my experience is a considerable argument for an adequate Air Force. On 1st January, 1818, when I took command of the naval forces on the Belgian coast, the Royal Naval Air Service had squadrons consisting of nearly 200 aircraft which operated under my orders. At that time, thanks to the foresight of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter), the Navy had by far the most powerful night 2419 bombing machines is the world, Their sisters can be seen now at Croydon operating as passenger ships for Imperial Airways between London and the Continent, curiously enough under the same officer who commanded them and worked under my orders in the War. We also had most up-to-date day bombing machines and other fighting machines, and a squadron to direct the Naval guns. When the great offensive took place, towards the end of September, 1918, these aircraft co-operated with the Belgian army, and when the Belgian army, in their great advance, got far beyond their communications, they supplied them with ammunition and food. In fact, my command was the left flank of the Allied Army, and provided an almost unique example of the co-operation of all three fighting Services under modern war conditions.
When war is forced on one, there is or should be, I think, only one word in the vocabulary of a leader, and that is "Offence." When attacked, counterattack, not by making innocent victims, but by striking at the heart and root of the evil. The offensive operations which were carried out on the Belgian coast in the last year of the War, by sea and air, certainly brought bitter retaliation, mainly on Dunkirk, which was the most heavily bombed city in all the theatres of the War; but it is extraordinary how accustomed people get to aerial bombardment, and we watched with admiration the fortitude of the French citizens of Dunkirk, who remained in large numbers and carried on their business, regardless of the nightly air raids and the fire of a 15-inch naval gun, which constantly bombarded the town and harbour, at a range of 35 miles. Incidentally, there was always great competition among the officers and men of our ships to serve at that advanced base. It was our principle ceaselessly to attack with fierce vigour the enemy's military objects, and we confined our naval and air offensive to those, so much so that when the Belgian army marched into Bruges on the heels of the enemy in October, 1918, when I had the good fortune to be there, the Burgomaster told me how greatly we had shaken the morale of the enemy in the last year of the War, and he went to say that I must have drawn a line with a ruler between civil 2420 and military objects and that neither bomb nor shell ever fell beyond that line.
I have unbounded faith in our chivalrous young airmen, but it simply is not fair to ask them to fight against overwhelming odds, if this country is attacked, and once again they are called upon to retaliate by attacking the root of the evil. Who dare say to-day that this country runs no risk of attack by air The best guarantee, I 'submit, for the maintenance of peace with countries within aerial reach of England is by providing an efficient and adequate Air Force. But I would add that I agree with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, when he remarked, in the course of his speech on the 13th July:Does anybody here dispute the proposition that an adequate British Navy is the best guarantee of world peace?" [OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July, 1934; col. 706, Vol. 292.]When I was Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean, I had a large Fleet air arm under my command, and, although there are many days in the year when aircraft cannot be operated effectively at sea, the possession of an adequate Air Force is of absolutely vital importance to a fleet, if it is to remain 'a fleet in being in all weathers, and I trust that this expansion includes a substantial increase in the Fleet air arm. I am sure the vast majority of the people of this island and all those who are within striking distance of the Continent are agreed that a large increase of our Air Force is absolutely necessary. Though the British people as a whole are alive to the necessity for an adequate Navy, they are apt to forget that they are dependent almost from day to day on food, oil, and raw material carried over the great ocean spaces. I think the Government can be 'assured of an overwhelming support in the country in any action they may take to provide a sufficient Air Force, and, when the matter is properly explained to the country, to provide 'sufficient to replace all obsolete vessels in the Navy.
I am not urging A vast programme of expansion, but I press the urgent need of replacing our old, worn-out, obsolete vessels. The First Lord has told us that we are building cruisers up to our full treaty rights, but that 14 will be over-age and due for scrapping when the treaty comes to an end in 1936, but in aircraft 2421 carriers and torpedo craft we are far behind our treaty allowances. When referring to the "scrap and build" policy to assist the Mercantile Marine, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade said in this House on the 10th July:I say here and now that if we can do anything legitimately through the present shipping organisations to have orders placed shipping more ships, they could not be placed at a more opportune moment, nor could they bring greater advantage and benefit in a more critical period in the shipbuilding industry than to-day." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1934; col. 244, Vol. 292.]The Admiralty is an excellent shipping organisation, and if the shipping owners do not want the "scrap and build" policy, or whether they want it or not, it is absolutely necessary for the Navy to build and scrap its obsolete ships, and I would urge the Government to build such aircraft carriers and destroyers as they are allowed to build under our treaty rights. There are thousands of men in the shipbuilding industry eating their hearts out in the neighbourhood of the Royal dockyards and in the distressed areas on the East Coast and on the Clyde. Surely all parties should unite in insisting on all obsolete ships being replaced. No one wants to see another Coronel, and we may not have the means or the good fortune to inflict the speedy retaliation that we did at the Falkland Islands. These two actions provide an indelible lesson on the folly of pitting weak ships against stronger ships. The Government will be faced with a vast expenditure on naval replacements after the expiration of the Treaty of London, as well as the aerial expansion now, and it seems folly not to build up to our full Naval Treaty rights now also, so as to spread the replacement over a period of years. I believe the Government will have the whole country behind them if they face the problem boldly and tell the people what is wanted.
I do not pretend to know much about finance, but what I am about to suggest has been done before, some 45 years ago. Why not introduce a Defence Loan? There are millions of patriotic people with money to invest who would, I believe, rush to subscribe to a loan and accept a low rate of interest for an object so vital to the prestige and prosperity of this country and the peace of the world. They would subscribe all the more generously when it was explained to them that a 2422 very large proportion of the money would go into the pockets of the workmen who are eking out an unhappy existence on unemployment benefit or public assistance. The Socialists must surely support this policy. When they were responsible for naval defence in 1924, with commendable courage they introduced the first replacement programme after the War, with the support of the Conservative party and despite the bitter opposition of the Liberals, one of the most bitter of whom, it might interest them to be reminded, was Sir Oswald Mosley.
I am so anxious to see all parties united in this matter of defence, and as we are always seeking for recruits, I will quote some wise words used in 1800 by Sir John Sinclair, the grandfather or great-grandfather of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair), who I am sorry is not here, because I have promised to give him the quotation, and now I shall have the pleasure of getting it placed in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the proceedings of this House.Naval strength is not the growth of a day, nor is it possible to retain it, when once acquired, without the utmost difficulty and most unwearied attention.As a Sea Lord who took part in the battles on the Downing Street front for about four years for the maintenance of our naval strength, I can testify to the truth of those words. Since then the Navy has passed through seven lean years and much adversity. This problem of national defence is a highly technical and very difficult matter to solve. Having attended many meetings of the Committee of Imperial Defence, extending over a period in which there were five different Administrations, I feel that that body is incapable of actually solving that problem. The Committee consisting of the three chiefs of staff is an excellent institution, and it has been greatly strengthened by the inclusion of the representatives of two other essential departments, namely, the Foreign Office and the Treasury.
I have always found it difficult to make up my mind about the question of a Ministry of Defence. The nearest thing I have seen to it was when Lord Haldane presided over the Committee of Imperial Defence in the first Socialist Administration. I think that in the circumstances which exist to-day, however, the Govern- 2423 ment would be wise to strengthen the Chief of Staff's Committee by placing it under the direction of a. statesman possessing experience, vision and the courage to make decisions and face responsibility, and to give him executive authority and charge him with the task of setting the defences of the country in order. There are millions of people in this country and many thousands of foreigners, in spite of what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said about the opinion of us abroad, who think that a strong Britain is the best guarantee for peace in the world. If this Vote of Censure be pressed to a Division, it can only have one result, that is to show the country that its authors and supporters are utterly unfit to be trusted with the foreign policy or the defence of the Empire. In conclusion, I appeal to the Opposition, whether they be Liberals or Socialists, to put the State before party and to unite with the Government in such action as is necessary to put the defence of the country in proper order and to show the world that we are united and mean to maintain security and give peace to the world.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken has put forward the logical policy of isolationism and strong armaments. It is to be noted, of course, that that is not the policy of His Majesty's Government. He believes that every arm must be increased, so as to give us as an isolated country a power superior to possible attackers or combination of attackers. It is the old argument that has been put forward for years and that was so heavily discredited immediately after the last War. He also takes the view that all possible wisdom necessarily resides in those who put their views forward, and that anybody else who does not take that view cannot have ever thought of the problem or considered whether there was any alternative. We, of course, do not accept that position. We appreciate that there are different views on this matter. It may be a question of difficulty in arriving at what is the best and soundest view for the country, recognising that everybody believes in the views they put forward and that those will be the best for the country. We venture to suggest that there is a 2424 large area of difference of opinion between people who look at this matter from different points of view.
I think that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was really a more frank and logical exposition of the attitude of the Government than the speech of the Lord President of the Council. Behind that speech, indeed, lies the real capitalist argument of the necessity of using force for the settlement of disputes, and a strong nationalism, which is inherent in the attitude towards both economics and armaments in our present system, and a complete unwillingness to rely upon any international action at all. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping stood in his place declaiming, one could picture him as some old baron in the Middle Ages who is laughing at the idea of the possibility of disarmament in the baronies of this country and pointing out that the only way in which he and his feudal followers could maintain their safety and their cows was by having as strong an armament as possible; and that it was quite futile for these well-intentioned people to talk about the rule of law running throughout the country. It was obvious then that, as far as anybody could see, it would be necessary for ever to settle disputes, or to keep the peace, if you had not the necessity of settling disputes, by being strongly armed. Yet within our nation to-day we have seen the whole of that type of contest wiped out and in its place we have seen the settlement of disputes by the rule of law. Nobody to-day would suggest the necessity of reverting to an army, say, in Lancashire in order that in some dispute with a neighbouring county Lancashire might be strongly armed, and might impose its will on, say, the whole of the north of England. We have come to the stage of civilisation when we believe that, so far as this nation is concerned, within our national boundaries, these things can be done by reason and settled in a peaceful manner.
It is said that the decisive feature in the ending of that internal strife was the possession by the over-riding authority in the State of a new weapon—the weapon of gunpowder. So we to-day say that this new weapon of the air may be made a decisive force in bringing to an end the forceful settlement of disputes, which hitherto has been the manner in 2425 which international disputes have had to be settled. The right hon. Gentleman is to-day one of the first who condemns roundly the idea of private national armaments. He condemns as strongly as anyone those who resort to force instead of to democracy in for instance, such a country as Germany. But why must that democratic settlement by reasoning end at our national boundaries? Why cannot it be extended with the growth of civilisation into the wider international sphere If we are to try and do that we must remember that the essence of democracy is not only the rule of the majority, but the consent by the minority to that rule. In other words, it means that nations have got to be prepared to make sacrifices in order that the international or the European good may prevail. They cannot at the same time insist upon always having their own way and instituting a system of international settlement of disputes or disarmament questions or anything else which will be successful. We entirely refuse to accept that fundamental proposition, which we believe lies behind the action which the Government are now taking.
Of course everybody wants security; every individual in every country desires security. They want to be allowed to pursue their ordinary avocations without the danger of having their life cut short by a bomb or a rifle bullet. But it is a fallacy, if one is examining the methods by which security can be attained, to start upon the assumption, as so many hon. Members do, that we get security by an increase of air armaments or an increase of any other form of armaments. If they make that basic assumption, of course there is no further argument to be put forward. But some 15 years ago, at the time of the termination of the last War, it was, I believe, universally acknowledged by practically everybody in the world that that security could never be found in large armaments, and the whole of the Treaty of Versailles and the Covenant of the League is implicit with the belief that disarmament is the essential feature in the safety and security of the world. To-day, I venture to suggest, the dangers are not less than they were then but are greater, and the necessity for disarmament is consequently greater.
2426 We have to make up our minds as to what attitude we are going to take up upon this question of security. Wherein do the Government say that security lies? That is the fundamental question which the House has to consider in considering the wisdom and advisability of the Government's policy. Do we believe in pooled security at all? There are, of course, risks to be run whatever we do. What we have to do is to weigh those risks, so that we accept the smaller rather than the greater risk. No one believes that we can, by any means or device, at the present time create a certainty of peace. However one attempts to tackle the present situation one is bound to find that there are difficulties and dangers inherent in that situation. But we must regard the situation not as one for a year or two, dealing with particular problems that face us at the moment, but also as one dealing with the future, and, indeed, the distant future, and with regard to the line upon which we are going to proceed and the likelihood of the goal to which it will eventually lead us. Therefore, it is no good simply saying we must have more armaments in order to give us security, because that begs the whole question as to whether in the long run, or in the short run, that increase which we are threatening to make at this moment will in fact give us any greater security than if we persist in our attempts at disarmament.
We deny, as we always have denied, the proposition that the strong man armed is most likely to create peace in the world, and the curious thing is that although we always think that of our own country we all of us rigidly deny it as regards any other country. If France has big armaments she is a menace to the world. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who said that?"] If France has big armaments she is a menace to the world. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] One of the difficulties always pointed out was the unwillingness of France to reduce her armaments, and that very argument proves the fact that we do not regard large armaments in France as necessarily increasing the security of Europe—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"]—any more than we regard large armaments in Germany as increasing the security of Europe. As far as we are concerned we certainly accept the fundamental proposition which was laid 2427 down by the Lord President of the Council in 1932, a proposition which he has, I venture to suggest, largely recanted to-day, but a proposition which on that occasion certainly came from his heart, though his arguments to-day seem to come from some other quarter. He said then, in the peroration which has now become famous throughout the world:If the conscience of the young men should ever come to feel with regard to this one instrument"—the air arm—that it is evil and should go, the thing will be done; but if they do not feel like that—well, as I say, the future is in their hands. But when the next war comes, and European civilisation is wiped out, as it will he, and by no force more than by that force, then do not let them put the blame on the old men. Let them remember that they, they principally or they alone, are responsible for the terrors that have fallen upon the earth." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1932; col. 638, Vol. 270.]We believe that that is a true analysis of what will happen if steps are not taken to suppress entirely military and naval aviation among the Powers of the world. If that is true there can be no safety for the world in the increase of world air forces; and if we are regarding the fat cow, as the right hon. Member for Epping suggested, of the City of London, that cannot be protected if we are living in a jungle. He has no net, no device, which can keep out the wild beasts of the attacking air force. The poor cow will suffer anyway, and therefore it is no solution to our problem, if the problem is the problem of eventual security as well as the problem of security over the next few years, to attempt now to increase our Air Force.
We do, too, strongly protest against the way in which the argument based on on collective security is being used. It is a mere hollow mockery to suggest that as a reason for the action that is being taken by the Government to-day. Let the Government, as the Lord President said, be frank with the country. They are, in fact, trying to compromise with both sides on this problem of aerial armament. They are giving way to the pressure of the nationalist forces in their own ranks, and they are throwing in these arguments about possible action under collective security pacts as a sop with which to try to cajole those who are really interested in international security. They have, from the statements made 2428 here and in the other place, given up faith in the Disarmament Conference. They have, indeed, best demonstrated by their own acts that they have a profound disbelief in the system of pooled security.
The way in which they acted in the Japanese incident proves that quite conclusively. Do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen believe that it was right to leave China to the tender mercies of Japan when there was a covenant to protect her? [Interruption.] The answer is "Yes." Then the answer is that they do not believe in pooled security, which we have constantly stated from this side of the House was the attitude which in fact, though not in words, His Majesty's Government were adopting. If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen do not believe in pooled security, in what policy do they believe? Do they believe in a return to the pre-War policy which this country and other countries followed, or do they believe in isolation? The Lord President of the Council told us that the Government did not believe in isolation, and, if that be so, they must be relying upon some other country for support in the event of aggression or attack. That is indeed the only alternative to isolationism, unless one believes in collective security. If they believe in isolationism, the present policy is hopelessly inadequate. If the Government are telling the country that it has to rely upon its own strength against any aggression, they are guilty of a dereliction of duty in not also telling the country that we must have much larger air armaments even than those proposed by the Government. Every Member believing in isolationism who has spoken has pointed that out with great logicality.
If we are relying upon someone else to assist us, who is it upon whom we are relying? Every hon. Member will agree that it is fantastic to start out to arrange an armaments policy unless you are sure of your foreign policy which will lie behind that armaments policy. It is that uncertainty to-day which is doing as much damage to the security of Europe as anything else—I mean the uncertainty as to where the Government stand. It is better for them to stand in the wrong place than not to stand anywhere at all. It is because the Government are unwilling to disclose, if they have the information, what their foreign policy is, that they have come forward with a compromise 2429 argument such as the Lord President of the Council put forward to-day. Either you must have adequate forces to protect yourself, regardless of others, or you must disclose to the country what else you are relying upon besides your own forces. AN HON. MEMBER: "The Socialist party."] The hon. Member is extremely clever and intelligent. Isolationism being out of the question, as we are told by the Government, there is no other alternative except to create and rely upon a system in which you and others plan to pool your forces so as to enable you to protect yourselves from aggression under the Covenant of the League; or, if that is impossible, under some other arrangement.
The Lord President of the Council told us that he could not say whether collective security would be the ultimate solution. It is quite understood that he cannot bind himself to the success of such an undertaking, but is it the solution at which the Government are aiming? That is what the country and the world want to know. No one following the history of the Disarmament Conference and of the discussions on aerial disarmament would ever believe it, if it is. It is impossible for me in the time at my disposal to go through that tragic history, particularly as regards aerial disarmament. The Draft Convention, which had its suggestions—not nearly drastic enough, we thought, but worth considering—was followed by far more drastic and comprehensive suggestions which still remain, so far as I know, undiscussed and undecided upon. There has really never been an attempt to press to a decision upon this matter. The Government could at least have challenged the world upon a complete programme of aerial disarmament before embarking upon any further step of aerial armament.
The Lord President of the Council also said that we might have been able to do more had we been more heavily armed. Have the armaments of other countries assisted the disarmament programme, or is it only this country which, for the purpose of negotiating disarmament, should be heavily armed? Surely it is time we gave up regarding ourselves as the only paragons of virtue in an otherwise wicked world. Other people dislike our armaments just as much as we dislike other people's armaments.I 2430 believe that the ordinary man in every country in the world, not excepting Germany to-day, does not want armaments and does not want war. If that basic fact be true, as I believe it to be, in other countries as well as in this country, we have a strong foundation upon which to build a disarmament policy. If only those people could make their voices heard in the international parliaments of the world, we believe that there might be a chance of peace. If the Government had been prepared throughout these long negotiations to sacrifice something for the sake of security, we might have gone very much farther towards disarmament. I draw the conclusion that they did not believe in the efficacy of international agreements, and therefore they did not follow it up with anxiety, and pressure, and with willingness to sacrifice such things as the bombing of outlying posts for police purposes which might have made a very large difference. I noticed that the Lord President of the Council conveniently omitted that point from his short description of the British proposals.
This seems to be the first definite acknowledgment by the Government of the abandonment of the foreign policy of the last 14 years, and a definite reversion to pre-War politics. It has the unfortunate coincidence of coming just about the time of the friendly interchange of visits with the French General Staff. Although the recent French initiative with regard to the Eastern Locarno must definitely have improved the conditions and the hopes and the possibilities of nonaggression and peace in Europe, this very moment is chosen, in which we have no further international commitments than we have had for the last 10 years, to advertise to the world that we are going to increase our air armaments. I believe that there can be no other explanation than that it is a change in policy brought about by the pressure of the backbenchers and people like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, who never have believed in pooled security, and who are like one hon. and learned Gentleman, who said this afternoon that he was really very glad to see the last of the Disarmament Conference. The right hon. Gentleman produced an unfortunate analogy as regards the President of the Board of Trade, because we 2431 remember how, gradually, by small steps, economic nationalism has been forced upon him by the very people who are now crying for a nationalist policy in armaments. This, too, will prove, I believe, to be the first step in a policy of national armaments and national increase in armaments. I see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping now confident that he has the reins of the Apocalypse. He is going to drive them forward in that mad race of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) spoke. Perhaps the reins have not been thrown on to the horses' necks, but are in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping.
The very half-hearted speech of the Lord President of the Council, with its elaborate and unconvincing recantation of his speech of November, 1932, makes one feel that he, as one of the more pacifist elements—I should say more sensible elements—in His Majesty's Government, has had his hands forced by the wild men like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be looking round for almost any excuse that he could find for the imposition of this policy, and what does it come down to, really, in the end? It comes down to this: there is a vague fear that Germany may attack us. We do not know what her power is. There are four other countries with stronger air forces than our own, with none of whom we are concerned as possible opponents. We want enough force to protect ourselves against Germany, though we do not know how much that is. We do not believe in relying on anyone else. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies, I am glad to see, confirms my analysis of what the Government believe. The Government—we now have it officially, we have it from a Member of the Cabinet—do not believe in relying on anyone else, and, therefore, we wipe out of consideration all possible allies or all possible collective security. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. We either rely on ourselves or we do not. He is going to rely on both. In order to do that, he is going to imagine that he may have to rely upon himself. He does not really believe that the French are certain to come to our aid, because, if he did, he would not require as big an 2432 air force as Germany; he would only require that France and England between them should have an air force as big as or superior to the air force of Germany.
Then the Government think that, even if this is not any good as a defence, it may frighten some of our potential enemies from attacking us. I believe that this is really sheer panic creation, and that even now, after all the Government's failures, it is not justified. It is definitely entering upon a new and desperately dangerous policy, abandoning the very hopes which the Government have told us time after time are the only hopes that stand between us and the annihilation of civilisation, and entering upon a policy which will inevitably, we believe, lead to a new race for armaments. I want to ask the Foreign Secretary definitely to tell us whether the world and the country are to understand today that we are depending upon a policy of isolationism, depending upon our own armaments alone; or are depending on alliances depending on the forces of some other, and what, nation combined with us; or depending—not on paper, but actually in our armaments programme—upon a system of pooled security under the Covenant and the various Treaties. If it is the last, or indeed if it is the second, we believe there is no possible justification for these increases which are foreshadowed. Indeed, this whole policy is one which naturally arises out of the nationalist economic policy that we have adopted. A national policy in armaments follows naturally upon a national economic policy, and both are part of that outworn system which I believe the people of the country will sooner or later have the sense, which the Members of this House have not got, to abandon.
§ 10.21 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir John Simon)
The hon. and learned Gentleman has made a brave effort to put some life and vigour into this Vote of Censure, but I think the judgment of most of the older Members of the House will be that which was expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) that, considering that it is a Debate on a Vote of Censure, the whole thing is a very tame proceeding. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman complained of the mildness of the atmosphere. He was thinking of battles long ago when, un- 2433 doubtedly, there was a great deal more concentrated drive put into the arguments against the Government. He reminded me as he spoke of a line, not I think very well remembered, in William Cowper's Soliloquy of Alexander Selkirk alone on his island, a verse in which Alexander Selkirk complains that the beasts are not growling, and adds:
"Their tameness is slhocking to me."
One reason, no doubt, why the Debate has maintained this atmosphere is the very unusual procedure which was followed at its opening. This is a, model which future Governments will be glad to recall. If the combined Oppositions put down a Vote of Censure, it is a most admirable plan for the Leader of the House from the Government Bench to offer to explain the matter before they begin.
Now that I come to the end of the Debate and endeavour to survey what has passed, I cannot help feeling that the contribution made by the Lord President has, as a matter of fact, governed the judgment of the majority of the House from the moment that he spoke. There are various ways in which the programme which he unfolded might be resisted. I want to deal with two or three ways which suggest themselves or have been presented in the Debate. There is, first of all, the attitude—I speak of it with sincere respect—not I think actually represented in the Debate to-day, but none the less an attitude which has been many times publicly proclaimed by the actual Leader of the Opposition, whose absence we so greatly deplore. He takes the view, both as a matter of high principle and, as he believes, as a matter of wise policy, that we should not have any armaments at all, that the youth of this country should be strongly advised whatever they do to avoid undertaking armed service, and that it is both right and wise that, we should in all circumstances abstain from the accursed thing. I speak with the most unfeigned respect of that view which is held by a number of people whose high character no one would dream of doubting. It is rather significant that in the regretted absence of the right hon. Gentleman there is no one who has maintained that view in the Debate to-day.
Then there comes a second view which, perhaps, is best represented in the actual terms of the Motion and illustrated in 2434 the speeches which have been made from the Front Bench opposite. It turns a great deal on discussions about collective security, pooled security, and other phrases and descriptions of that sort. I am bound to say that, after listening to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, I am not in the least clear as to what he would do if he had the responsibility at this Box of so conducting public policy as to secure as far as he could the safety of the people of this country. I am not talking about some ideal solution for the future, but I do not understand, if he had to deal with the matter in the month of July, 1934, what he would do.
When one comes to the Motion, which is a Vote of Censure, I must call attention to its terms. We are invited in it to reaffirm our adherence to the system of collective security, but as the speech of the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) proceeded, I became more and more puzzled as to what part we were expected to play in this pooled security. He pointed out to us that the provisions of the Covenant imposed on this country the duty to provide no armaments in particular. He argued that there was really no reason why the House should take the view that we should have any particular armed forces as nobody could make us provide what we had not got, and that collective security meant that, after all, other people would do the work. Pooled security means a species of tontine in which you do not pay anything into the pool. It seems to me that that view is not one which is at all likely to commend itself to the majority of the House or to the people of this country. I am not going for one moment to contend—I do not stand here to contend—that the sole or overriding reason why the Government have found it necessary to put forward this programme of increased armaments is as a contribution to collective security. The hon. Gentleman opposite is perfectly entitled to challenge that, and I say here, without any qualification, that the primary reason why we have felt ourselves at this time of day bound to announce this flexible programme, which we may have to carry out over a series of years, is, first and foremost, our view of our duty to our own country and its security. But having regard to the undertaking which we certainly have given, the last people who 2435 ought to raise criticism on this score should be the hon. Gentlemen opposite, who never tire of telling us that in their view it should be part of the function of this country to lend its aid, and, if necessary, its armed aid, under the direction of the League of Nations in connection with troubles in any part of the globe, new or old. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is in the Covenant!"] No doubt. How very curious that hon. Gentlemen opposite, who quite rightly call attention to the terms of, the Covenant, should say, "What reason does that give for supporting this, that or the other armed force?" What is the sense in saying," "We reproach the Government of this country that it has not discharged its duty in this or that dispute," and in the next breath to say: "If it comes to a question of providing the armed force necessary for the purpose, we oppose you."
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I never said anything of the sort. What I pointed out was that this country was bound under the Covenant to take certain action and certain obligations. I said that the Covenant did not say, and that no signatory as far as I know had said: "You must increase your armaments to that extent or you will not do your duty under the Covenant."
§ Sir J. SIMON
I think I fairly summarised the argument. I will re-read my version of what the hon. Member said: "The House sees no reason to have any further armed force, as no one can make us provide what we have not got and the other nations will have to do the rest of the work."
The hon. Member expressed his grave suspicion and asked for a specific denial from me on a point which he raised. He asked for a specific denial from the Government that our proposals had been caused by conversations with some other Power. He endeavoured to support his innuendo by saying that he could not forget the days before 1914 when Liberal Ministers stood at the Treasury Box and denied that there had been any military conversations with France. Again and again, he said, questions were put from the ranks of the Liberal party as to whether we were in any way bound, and again and again this was denied. There are four people in this House 2436 to-night who were in that Cabinet, my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, and myself. I must, in passing, get the history right. Anyone who wants to know the situation has only to read the famous speech made by Sir Edward Grey in this House on the 3rd August, 1914. He then read to the House the letter which had been written to the French Ambassador, which included this sentence:It has always been understood that such consultation"—that is, military consultation—does not restrict the freedom of either Government to decide at any future time whether or not to assist the other by armed force.In that speech, Sir Edward Grey went on to say, and nobody challenged him and nobody doubted him:I think it makes it clear that what the Prime Minister and I said to the House of Commons was perfectly justified, and that, as regards our freedom to decide in a crisis what our line should be, whether we were to intervene or whether we were to abstain, the Government remained perfectly free and, a fortiori the House of Commons remains perfectly free."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd August, 1914; cols. 1813–1814, Vol. 65.]Anyone who was in the House at that time will have no doubt about this, that it was made entirely clear that no commitments had been made in advance and that it was for the Government and for the House of Commons then and there to decide.
§ Sir J. SIMON
With regard to an obligation of honour, I think Sir Edward Grey was a pretty clear judge as to the English language. He used that language here, and I think hon. Gentleman opposite, who were not here at the time, might accept the official record.
With regard to the hon. Member's present challenge, I will answer it in terms which will leave no possible ground for ambiguity. It is not true that the Government's proposals have been caused or actuated in any way by conversations with any other Power or Powers or any representatives of any other Power or Powers. The subject matter has not been the subject of any conversations with any 2437 other Power. Our proposals are the result of prolonged examination by Ministers of every aspect of this matter, which have extended for many months, and the Lord President of the Council's announcement was first made here in the House of Commons and has never been the subject of conversations with any Power whatsoever. So much for the case as presented by hon. Members opposite.
Then my right hon. Friends below the Gangway take a view which in some respects is a little different. The Motion of the Opposition says that our proposal is certain to jeopardise the prospects of international disarmament, the Motion down in the name of hon. Members below the Gangway says that this House—will not approve any expansion of our own armaments unless it is clear"—I ask the House to observe these words—unless it is clear that the Disarmament Conference has failed.Let us examine this proposition. The House should not "approve of any expansion of our own armaments unless it is clear that the Disarmament Conference has failed." The proposition then is that as long as the Disarmament Conference is going on, and however long it goes on, we are to be debarred from announcing any programme, however flexible and contingent, which would provide for any increase in our armed forces; we are to be so debarred, however disproportionate our present provision may be with the armaments of other countries, however disproportionate it may hereafter become and however rapidly some of these other countries may be increasing their own armaments. That is the proposition which is placed upon the Paper by hon. Members opposite. It only has to be stated to be seen to be quite an untenable proposition. Suppose that by the efforts of sincere friends of disarmament the Conference finds means of usefully continuing its work—that is an object at which we are all striving, and I should not grudge the time spent if only we can attain a positive result—we are urged to continue our efforts, quite rightly, we are urged to do everything we can to get other States to do the same, and yet the very people who press that course upon us claim that the fact that the Conference is continuing is a conclusive reason, in all circumstances, why we, who have already contributed so much to dis- 2438 armament, should be tied by restrictions which other States do not have to observe.
Suppose the Conference goes on for another year, or longer, suppose that some of the other members of the Conference continue in the course they have Adopted and continue to increase their armaments, are we really to understand that, however considerable the increase adopted by other people may be, that they have only to join in keeping the Disarmament Conference going on to secure, by the ingenious proposal of hon. Members opposite, that our own armaments position will be absolutely stationary. Of course, those who drafted the Motion knew that it would not commend itself to the House of Commons. What is really meant by the attitude which some hon. Members take up is something quite different. It is a point which is well worthy of a little analysis. The view is that the prospects of international agreement for the limitation and reduction of armaments are jopardised by the announcement of this contingent proposal. I am quite convinced that that is an error. I am quite convinced that there is nothing in the point, that following a friendly reference, a hopeful reference to the proposed Eastern Pact, it was improper for the Lord President's announcement to be made shortly after.
Speaking now from a long experience of Geneva, I put on record my own conviction, which is shared by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, that our unilateral disarmament has not in fact rendered the task of securing international agreement any easier. No doubt our record of unilateral disarmament in advance of corresponding action by other Powers has given us a strong moral position, but after all a sense of rectitude is not always the best outfit for persuading others to repent. The hon. Gentleman just now observed the inconvenience of being the only paragon of virtue in an otherwise wicked world. I wish sometimes he would not treat the Government as if it were the only wicked Government in an otherwise perfect world. That argument is likely to lead others to find a justification for the armaments that they retain. They may hint that our own reasons for reduction were not entirely disinterested, that we followed a certain policy for financial or other 2439 reasons. Moreover, with one-sided disarmament, in any future agreement for reduction we have less to give. I remember that Lewis Carroll in one of his poems described a curious creature that he called the Snark as having the unhappy quality:In charity-meetings it stands at the door,And collects—though it does not subscribe.It is extremely difficult to carry through a successful negotiation of an international agreement for limitation and reduction of armaments if as a matter of fact, with the best will in the world, you have carried your own disarmament in advance to such a point that you cannot make a contribution to it. For these reasons, the programme of air expansion in which we emphasise that many factors are still fluctuating and liable to change, and announce that our defensive position will have to be kept constantly under review, and that we reserve the right to modify or adjust the programme in the light of new factors that may arise—I say that such a statement as that cannot prejudice a disarmament agreement and may very possibly assist it.
I must turn for a few minutes to the remarkable speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping. He put some questions, and one or two of his references should be dealt with. He asked first of all: Can the Government give an assurance that Germany is observing her obligations under the peace treaties as regards military air forces? That was his question. He went on, as one would expect from a Member of his experience, at once to say that he realised we could not give that guarantee. And we cannot. Without making statements which would amount to charges and would naturally lead immediately to demands for proof. I am free to say that Germany's interest in air development is very marked, and the sums proposed to he spent upon it under the proclaimed heads of "Civil Aviation" and "Passive Air Defence" are very striking.
There are two considerations which necessarily affect any estimates in connection with this matter. One is the double purpose to which many machines can be put. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Captain Guest), in an interesting speech, referred to the 2440 interweaving of civil and military aviation and the extent to which convertability is practicable. We have to remember that, broadly speaking, there are no treaty limitations on the development of German civil aviation so long as it is purely civil in character and the efficiency of the German civilian machines and the keenness of the German youth for flying are well known. We have also to remember, as I have said, that many machines are capable of a double use. Then there is this further consideration which very sharply differentiates this case from the case, mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, of the Dreadnoughts before the War. A special difficulty arises when you are estimating the possible capacity of German aeroplanes to operate in connection with bombing.
Germany has probably the most highly developed commercial air service in Europe. Her geographical position justifies it, and her enterprise and skill have achieved it. I apprehend that commercial machines of sufficient lift and range, especially if they have also the quality of high speed, are able to lift bombs just as they can lift passengers and luggage, and that consideration must manifestly be borne in mind in any estimate of contingent air power in any country in the world. My right hon. Friend mentioned some estimates which he appears to have received on this subject. He put them forward, of course, believing that they were facts, but he did not tell us the source from which they were drawn. Nobody knows better than he that the Government cannot and would not disclose all their information. All I would say is that secret information on matters of this sort is very often inconsistent. I have thought it right, to that extent, to deal frankly with the House, and I do not believe that I have in the least jeopardised good relations by doing so. I would add, in conclusion on this subject, that we have framed our proposals after full consideration of information and estimates from all available quarters and the purpose of our proposals is to secure, among other things, that at no moment during our stewardship will we fail to have a military air force adequate to the circumstances with which we might have to deal.
A great many people spend time in expanding the thesis that there is no practi- 2441 cable complete defence against bombing attack and they draw the very curious conclusion that therefore it is no good making any provision at all in the circumstances. I content myself with putting this simple question to those hon. Members, and they are many, who have had experience during the War of being bombed in France, Flanders and elsewhere. Many complaints were made at that time from our side of the line that we were not sufficiently protected by aeroplanes. Does anybody who has had that experience of being bombed in France or Flanders conceive that we should have been no worse off in those circumstances if we had had no aeroplanes at all of our own. Of course, the possession of an air force of reasonable and adequate strength is a contribution towards restricting any attack which may be made upon you.
I have only a moment to deal with the comments which were made on the subject of the alleged failure of the Government to pursue actively an air policy through the Air Committee, and the like at Geneva. There is no ground for that allegation at all. I will put the thing in two or three sentences. We found in the early stages of the Disarmament Conference that the whole of the practical work of the Conference was being clogged and held up by the creation of endless committees, into which things drifted and out of which they never came alive. That was the reason why we presented our Draft Convention. I do not understand what the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) means when he says that that Convention did not go far enough. Let me remind him that it provided for a permanent Disarmament Commission which should immediately devote itself to working out the best possible scheme for the complete abolition of naval and military aircraft. Was that not going far enough?
It is quite true that there has been created since then an Air Committee, and that at the last meeting of the General Commission in June it was resolved to do everything possible to continue the work of the Conference with a view to arriving at a Convention for the reduction of armaments, and that the Air Committee should resume its study of these questions. The Chairman of the Air 2442 Committee is a distinguished representative of Spain, M. Madariaga. The Air Committee has not yet resumed its meetings, but we have by no means left the matter unconsidered. It is right to point out, in the first place—as, indeed, the resolution of the General Commission of six weeks ago declared—that it is the absence of Germany from the conference which constitutes the main obstacle. That absence is of special gravity when the question to be discussed is the possibility of preventing the misuse of civil aircraft, for Germany must be a party to such a negotiation. I know that that consideration has been in the minds of those who have the responsibility of calling the committee together. In the meantime, we, the British Government, have had some communication with others about the matter. There has been a close examination of the subject by various Departments of the Government, and we have been in communication with other nations—I will mention the French—with a view to clarifying the position, as far as it is possible to do so, in the absence of Germany from Geneva. There is no ground for saying that the British Government in this matter have shown themselves either dilatory or half-hearted, and there is no inconsistency between pursuing these efforts, as we are doing, with all our might, and providing this programme with the public intimation that we shall have to adopt it unless things take a better course.
The Government and their supporters have no reason to be dissatisfied with the general tenor of the Debate. A little criticism does not do any harm. Parliamentary government depends on it. If the Government are to be attacked, if critics are to be answered, let us do it in the good old English way, by argument and the vote, and let us utterly repudiate the methods of the gangster and the revolver. The critics answer one another. At one end of the scale is the Socialist Opposition, committed in advance to denouncing any idea that this country should in any circumstances increase its armaments and proclaiming in the same breath that we should be prepared to play our full part in contributing to collective security. At the other end of the scale are those critics whose principle it is never to be content and 2443 always to press for more. Their motto ought to be the exclamation of Macbeth:And damn'd be him that first cries, 'Hold, enough'—an exclamation, I may observe, which is not only of rather doubtful grammatical construction, but is the absolutely last observation which Macbeth made before he lost his head. In a delicate poise between these opposites, there are some Members of the Liberal Opposition who endeavour to maintain an intermediate attitude. I gathered from what was said in another place a week ago that their position was that they did not oppose the Government's proposals in principle, but because they considered the time was inopportune. I infer that to-night their opposition is going to take a more definite shape. Can it be that this is the first success of the hon. and gallant Member for North-East Bethnal Green (Major Nathan) on, leaving the Liberal party?
Such are the privileges of the critic. Ours is the duty of responsibility. I cannot help thinking that there are some crowded towns in the Midlands and in the North, constituencies which voted, without distinction of party, for the return to this House of hon. Members
§ sitting in different places to support the. National Government, towns at present quite open and unprovided against the possibility of air attack, which will be much interested to see how their faithful representatives comport themselves on this occasion. We have pet before the House plainly and firmly a contingent programme which will have to be pursued or not in a greater or less degree according to developments which take place, and we invite the House to support us in so doing and at the same time to encourage us to pursue the work of international disarmament with all our might.
That, while reaffirming its adherence to the system of collective security under the League of Nations and accepting its obligations thereunder, this House regrets that, despite negotiations for a Disarmament Convention and for European pacts of nonaggression and mutual assistance, His Majesty's Government should enter upon a policy of rearmament neither necessitated by any new commitment nor calculated to add to the security of the nation, but certain to jeopardise the prospects of international disarmament and to encourage a revival of dangerous and wasteful competition in preparation for war.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 60; Noes, 404.2447
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Grentell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding)||Paling, Wilfred|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Banfield, John William||Harris, Sir Percy||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Janner, Barnett||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jenkins, Sir William||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwin)|
|Curry, A. C.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Slivertown)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Daggar, George||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Thorne, William James|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Kirkwood, David||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lawson, John James||White. Henry Graham|
|Davies, Stephen Owen||Leonard, William||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Dobble, William||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Edwards, Charles||Lunn, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Lianelly)|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Wilmot, John|
|Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Mason. David M. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Maxton, James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Milner, Major James||Mr. G Macdonald and Mr. Groves.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Assheton, Ralph||Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Bateman, A. L.|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell|
|Albery, Irving James||Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)|
|Alexander, Sir William||Atholl, Duchess of||Belt, Sir Alfred L.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bernays, Robert|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Blaker, Sir Reginald|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Boothby, Robert John Graham|
|Appiln, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Balniel, Lord||Boulton, W. W.|
|Ansley, Lord||Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Bower, Commander Robert Tatton|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Ker, J. Campbell|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Elmiey, Viscount||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Kerr. Hamilton W.|
|Bracken, Brendan||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Kirkpatrick, William M.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Erskine-Boist, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Everard, W. Lindsay||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R||Fielden, Edward Brockiehurst||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Brown. Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Leckie, J. A.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Fox, Sir Gifford||Lees-Jones, John|
|Browne. Captain A. C.||Fraser, Captain Sir Ian||Leigh, Sir John|
|Buchan, John||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Leighton, Major B.E.P.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.|
|Burghley, Lord||Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Levy. Thomas|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Ganzonl, Sir John||Lewis, Oswald|
|Burnett, John George||Gibson, Charles Granville||Liddall, Walter S.|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lindsay, Noel Ker|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Glossop, C. W. H.||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Glucketeln, Louis Halls||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest|
|Caine, G. R. Hall-||Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C.||Llewellin, Major John J.|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Tasweil (Brmly)||Goff, Sir Park||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Goldie, Noel B.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. G'n)|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Goodman, Colonel Albert W||Locker-Lampson, Corn. O. (H'ndsw'th)|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Gower, Sir Robert||Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)|
|Cassels, James Dale||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Loder, Captain J. de Vere|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Granville, Edgar||Loftus, Pierce C.|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Lyons, Abraham Montagu|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Greene, William P. C.||Mabane, William|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. Sir J.A.(Birm., W)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Grigg, Sir Edward||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Grimston. R. V.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Christie, James Archibald||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.|
|Clayton. Sir Christopher||Gunston, Captain D. W.||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Clydesdale, Marquees of||Guy, J. C. Morrison||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Macmillan, Maurice Harold|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hales, Harold K.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. Sir Ian|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)||Maitland, Adam|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hammersley, Samuel S.||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Hanbury, Cecil||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Cooke, Douglas||Harbord, Arthur||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hartington, Marquess of||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Copeland, Ida||Hartland, George A.||Meller, Sir Richard James|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenn'git'n)||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chlsw'k)|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Mitcheson, G. G.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Monsell. Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Critchley, Brig.-General A. C.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Moreing, Adrian C.|
|Crookshank. Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Morgan, Robert H.|
|Cross, R. H.||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Morris, John Patrick(Salford, N.)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)|
|Cruddas, Lieut-Colonel Bernard||Hopkinson, Austin||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univerties)|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Moss, Captain H. J.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hornby, Frank||Munro, Patrick|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Nail, Sir Joseph|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Horobin, Ian M.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Horsbrugh, Florence||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Howard, Tom Forrest||Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid|
|Denman, Hon, R. D.||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||North, Edward T.|
|Denville, Alfred||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Nunn, William|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||O'Connor, Terence James|
|Dickle, John P.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||O'Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Donner, P. W.||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Doran, Edward||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hn. William G. A.|
|Drewe, Cedric||Hurd, Sir Percy||Orr Ewing, I. L.|
|Drummond-Wolff, H. M. C.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex. Roml'd)||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Peake, Osbert|
|Duggan, Hubert John||James. Wing-Corn. A. W. H.||Pearson, William G.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Jamieson, Douglas||Peat, Charles U.|
|Eales, John Frederick||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Penny, Sir George|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. Anthony||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Perkins, Waiter R. D.|
|Edge, Sir William||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Petherick, M.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir James||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)|
|Power, Sir John Cecil||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Preston, Sir Walter Rueben||Shute, Colonel J. J.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Procter, Major Henry Adam||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswintord)|
|Pybus, Sir John||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Radford, E. A.||Skelton, Archibald Noel||Tree, Ronald|
|Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Slater, John||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-in-F.)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Ramsbotham, Herwald||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Smith, Sir Robert (Ab'd'n & K'dine, C.)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Rankin, Robert||Smithers, Sir Waldron||Ward. Irene Mary Bewick (Wailsend)|
|Ratcliffe, Arthur||Somerveil, Sir Donald||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Ray, Sir William||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-||Soper, Richard||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour.|
|Remer, John R.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesail)||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Spens, William Patrick||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Ross, Ronald D.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fyide)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)|
|Runge, Norah Cecil||Stevenson, James||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Russell, Hamer Field (Shef'ld, B'tside)||Stones, James||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||Storey, Samuel||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Strauss, Edward A.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Salmon, Sir Isldore||Strickland, Captain W. F.||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Salt, Edward W.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S' v' noaks)|
|Savory, Samuel Servington||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Sutcliffe, Harold||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark. Bothwell)||Thomas, James P.L. (Hereford)||Captain Margesson and Mr.|
|Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles||Mr. Blindell.|
Question put, and agreed to.