§ 11.12 a.m.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
I desire to raise a question as to the attitude of His Majesty's Government towards Japan, in view of the very serious threat to the peace of the East, and indeed the peace of the whole world, which is resulting from the actions of Japan during the last two years. I also desire to ask the Foreign Secretary a question as regards the Disarmament Conference. I think it is necessary shortly to review the actions and statements of the Japanese Government in order to appreciate the full significance and dangers of the course on which she has apparently embarked. I do not desire to go into any of the history which precedes the Lytton Report, because that document has, I think, been universally accepted as setting out truthfully and fairly the state of affairs up to the time when the Commission investigated them on the spot in Manchuria. That Report pointed out that the maintenance of the state of affairs which the Commissioners found in Manchuria was incompatible with peace and with the Treaty obligations of Japan, and, as the House will remember, on the 24th February, 1933, the Assembly of the League of Nations considered that Report and came to certain conclusions upon it. In their conclusions, they emphasised the fact that Manchuria was an integral part of China, under Chinese sovereignty, to which the Nine Power Treaty of 1922 fully applied, and they made it clear that the then existing régime in Manchuria was the result of a Treaty-breaking aggression by Japan and was a standing violation of Chinese territorial integrity and political independence, and that it constituted obviously an urgent danger to the peace of the East.
This step of Japan in invading Manchuria, and the incidents which took place at the same time in Shanghai, were the first step apparently of a design by 2054 which Japan should gain preponderating power throughout the whole of the East, and that design in its initial stages succeeded because of the weakness and the vacillation of the Governments which were represented on the League of Nations, in which weakness and vacillation our Government, I think, took a leading part. Since that time Japan has extended her conquests in the North of China. She has withdrawn from the League for the somewhat naive reasons that she cannot agree with the other members of the League as regards the interpretation of treaties and the fundamental principles of international law. In other words, what the whole world had agreed upon as being a breach of a Treaty Japan desired to interpret as no breach at all, and it was because of the unwillingness of the rest of the world associated in the League of Nations to accept the Japanese interpretation of that Treaty and of the fundamental principles of international law that she withdrew from the League of Nations. That reason for her withdrawal and the fact of her withdrawal are matters of very vital importance, because they demonstrate the value that can be attached to Japanese statements as regards the keeping of treaties.
There is a most flagrant breach—so determined by the rest of the world—and Japan still insists that her actions in the case of Manchuria were not breaches of that Treaty but were apparently consistent with the terms of it. Following the withdrawal from the League of Nations, Japan is now engaged upon converting Manchuria and Jehol into a great military base, with strategic roads and railways ready for some fresh adventure. Presumably she is not carrying out a very expensive programme without some policy behind it which she intends to follow in the future. The policy which she intends to follow is being progressively demonstrated by both the actions and the statements of the Japanese Government. She is penetrating into Northern China with increasing pressure from day to day, and, when the moment seemed opportune, she flew a kite to ascertain the attitude that other Governments were likely to take as regards her claim for a sphere of influence in China. Having flown the kite, and seeing that apparently it did not create the disturbance which it might have 2055 created, she is now adopting it as the official principle of the Japanese Government.
It is important that we should look at the statements which have been made by the Japanese Foreign Minister and others as to exactly what her purpose and design is. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary gave the text of the statement of Japanese policy to this House on the 23rd April. If I may remind the House of one or two passages in that statement, I will ask permission to read them. Japan says :At the same time we consider it only natural that to keep peace and order in East Asia we must even act alone on our own responsibility and it is our duty to perform it. … We oppose, therefore, any attempt on the part of China to avail herself of the influence of any other country in order to resist Japan. … Any joint operations undertaken by foreign Powers even in the name of technical or financial assistance at this particular moment after Manchurian and Shanghai incidents are bound to acquire political significance.… Japan therefore must object to such undertakings as a matter of principle, although she will not find it necessary to interfere with any foreign country negotiating individually with China on questions of finance or trade as long as such negotiations benefit China and are not detrimental to peace in East Asia.Japan thus constitutes herself on her own statement as the judge of what benefits China and as to whether she will permit other countries to engage in technical and financial assistance in that country. Japan concludes with this statement :Foregoing attitude of Japan should be clear from policies she has pursued in the past"—that presumably is the Manchurian adventure—but on account of the fact that positive movements for joint action in China by foreign Powers"—that, of course, is the League of Nations action as regards the rehabilitation of China—under one pretext or another are reported to be on foot, it was deemed not inappropriate to reiterate her policy at this time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd April, 1934, cols. 1368–9; Vol. 288.]That statement was somewhat elaborated in an interview which the Japanese Ambassador at Washington, Mr. Hirosi Saito, gave to the American Press, which was reported in the "Times" of the 2056 23rd April. These statements are so significant that they ought to be before the House. Quoting from the report the "Times" states this :Japan does not desire to interfere with legitimate foreign business in China (said the Ambassador), but it wishes to be consulted by those who want to deal with China before concluding any transactions. And what would happen if the foreign countries with commercial interests in China were to ignore this request of the Japanese Government, he was asked. The Japanese Government would consider such a step as an unfriendly act, the Ambassador replied, with hesitation.Further down the report, the "Times" says :The question whether the control over China which Japan now seeks might not more wisely have been established in cooperation with other Powers brought this reply :—' After what has happened since the Manchurian crisis it has become evident to the Japanese people that the Western nations know nothing about Chinese mentality. Such collaboration would have been possible some time ago, but to-day the Japanese Government could not obtain popular support in a policy of co-operation with other nations. Consequently Japan must act and decide alone what is good for China. … The Japanese Government will deal fairly with all interests that are really legitimate and in the end the business people will find it beneficial to consult Tokyo before embarking on any adventures in China'.The "Times" correspondent makes this comment :How—entirely apart from the attitude of China itself—other sovereign nations can accept this remains to Americans who are now studying the question, a mystery.That statement of the Japanese Ambassador in Washington was shortly before the answer which the Foreign Secretary gave in the House on the 30th April when, after reciting the interviews between His Majesty's Ambassador in China and the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs on the 25th April, he stated :I think that the statement made by the Japanese Foreign Minister is reasonably clear, and His Majesty's Government are content to leave this particular question where it is."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th April, 1934, col. 14; Vol. 289.]I will not read the whole of that answer, because it is long, but, substantially, it may be said that it stated that Japan has given an undertaking or made a statement that she would not interfere with the open-door policy as regards China. The conclusion of the story comes 2057 in the Report from Tokyo on the 1st May, which appears in the "Times" of the next day. It said this :Officials offer no comment on Sir John Simon's statement in the House of Commons. … The Foreign Office has issued a brief announcement for publication in tomorrow's vernacular Press. This expresses appreciation of Sir Francis Lindley's assurance that Great Britain is avoiding any activities likely to disturb peace, and state that Japan, if only in view of her geographical position, is incomparably more concerned than more distant countries in the peace and order of East Asia. The evening newspapers announce that this version is being published because Sir John Simon omitted to mention the third of the principles which Mr. Hirota stated to Sir Francis Lindley—namely, that Japan is opposed to any foreign activity in China prejudicial to the peace and order of East Asia. The incident thus ends with Japan politely but immovably asserting her primacy of interest in China and indicating certain specific foreign activities to which she objects. Though this position may not be logical under the letter of the treaties, the Japanese suggest that it is reasonable in the actual situation.That seems to be a curious argument as regards the observation of the terms of treaties. So we are left with the perfectly plain claim and assertion by the Japanese Government that she proposes to continue in her breach of the Nine Power Treaty and proposes to extend that breach throughout Northern China, and apparently the British Government are prepared to "let the matter rest at that point," even although they have before their eyes the experience of what has happened in Manchukuo and Jehol. I think it is worth drawing the attention of the House to the terms of the Treaty of 1922, because perhaps those terms are not fully in the minds of all hon. Members present. The Treaty opens with a first article in these terms :The contracting Powers, other than China"—which of course includes Japan—agree to respect the sovereignty, the independence and the territorial and administrative integrity of Chinawhich of course includes Manchuria, for the purposes of this Treaty—to provide the fullest and most unembarassed opportunity to China to develop and maintain for herself an effective and stable Government.It continues with a provision as regards the keeping of the so-called "open door."To use their influence for the purpose of effectually establishing and maintaining 2058 the principle of equal opportunity for the commerce and industry of all nations throughout the territory of China. To refrain from taking advantage of conditions in China in order to seek special rights or privileges.It is important to notice that the first two sub-Clauses of Article I deal with the territorial integrity and independence of China. That is the foundation of the whole of the Treaty. Article 2 is of great importance :The Contracting Powers agree not to enter into any treaty, agreement, arrangement, or understanding, cither with one another, or, individually or collectively, with any Power or Powers, which would infringe or impair the principles stated in Article I.That shows clearly that no Power under this Treaty can now enter into any arrangement of any sort with Japan, Japan having declared herself a breaker of this Treaty already. Article 3 goes on to say that with a view more effectually to apply the principle of the open door or equality of opportunity the contracting Powers agree that they will not seek or support their respective nationals in seekingany arrangement which might purport to establish in favour of their interests any general superiority of rights with respect to commercial or economic development in any designated region of China.That seems to me precisely what the Japanese Government have done with regard to Manchukuo and Jehol. There can be no doubt what the obligations are under that Treaty. A breach of it has been declared and decided by the report of February, 1933, to which I have already referred, and in addition, of course, under Article 10 of the Covenant, we ourselves have an obligation with other countries to preserve the territorial integrity and the existing political independence of China. I would like to ask the Foreign Secretary whether we are abandoning that Treaty obligation. I find it extraordinarily difficult to understand how it can be said by any one in a responsible position that we are content that Japan intends to respect and is respecting the obligations of the Nine Power Treaty unless we repudiate the report of February, 1933. A question on that point was put to the Foreign Secretary on the 30th April. He was asked whether His Majesty's Government regard themselves as still bound by the finding and recommendations of the Assembly Report of 2059 24th February, 1933; but the Foreign Secretary, with that adroitness which everybody knows he possesses, answered the question without answering that point at all. The recommendations of the Assembly state quite specifically that they exclude the maintenance and recognition of the existing régime in Manchuria, such maintenance and recognition, they say, being "incompatible with the fundamental principles of existing international obligations and with the good understanding between the two countries on which peace in the Far East depends." They continue :It follows that in adopting the present Report the members of the League intend to abstain, particularly as regards the existing regime in Manchuria, from any act which might prejudice or delay the carrying out of the recommendations of this Report. They will continue not to recognise this regime either de jure or de facto. They intend to abstain from taking any isolated action with regard to the situation in Manchuria and of continuing to concert their action among themselves as well as with the interested states non members of the League.I understand that a statement has been made by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs to the effect that we have never given anything in the way of a pledge to support the integrity of China, and I would like to ask the Foreign Secretary what the meaning of that is.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir John Simon)
Where is this?
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I understand that statement was made in another place. One cannot refer to the precise terms of the statement, according to the rules of order in this House, and I therefore quote what I understand to be the effect of that statement; and I should be only too glad if the Foreign Secretary denied that that statement was made or that that was the effect of the statement. I would like to know whether we do adopt the attitude that we are responsible and are pledged to support the territorial integrity and political independence of China, or are going to take up the attitude that in view, I suppose, of the greater strength of Japan we must resign those obligations? Apparently the Government are allowing Japan, without any protest, to continue in the breach of the obligations both under the Covenant and under the Nine Power Treaty, and 2060 there is very little wonder that, in these circumstances, people in the world to-day demand some very special degree of security before disarmament. With this example of the callous desertion of China as an object lesson of what may happen to any other country which is protected by covenants and treaties it is not suprising to find that people are very insistent upon something more than mere nominal security. The Foreign Secretary, in a speech to the Women's Institutes two or three days ago, said, speaking of the international difficulties :The disease was fear and unless we could do something to strike at the root of that international disease all the experts in the world would not be able to produce an agreement or international result. Our own Government had done, and was doing, its utmost to promote that feeling of security.I could imagine nothing more apt to create the feeling of insecurity than the attitude of Japan and the permission to her to continue in her aggression without any opposition whatsoever. This is not merely a question of honour and of treaty-keeping, which apparently has no great appeal to the National Government, who seem to look upon these Treaties as scraps of paper, but it is a question also of expediency. One has to try to see what this will lead to. Obviously, Japan has embarked upon an Imperialist expansion on the best model of the capitalist-imperialist expansion in the Western World in the 19th century. There are two alternatives in the direction in which that expansion may proceed; either Russia or China. At the moment, Russia's strength has apparently modified the desire which was expressed by some of the Japanese militarists not very long ago to make an incursion into Siberia as far as Lake Baikal.
One is a little suspicious of the disturbances which are taking place at the present in Eastern Turkestan and as to how far Japan may be responsible for those in Kashgar and elsewhere. The difficulties that are likely to arise in the stirring up of Mohammedan feeling there is a matter with which the right hon. Gentleman is only too familiar. The alternative apparently is North China where it seems to be generally anticipated that Japan will try to set up Manchuquo No. 2. If that attempt be made, I should like to know from the Foreign Secretary what the attitude of the Government is to be as regards a repetition of the Manchuquo 2061 incidents further south. Are we to continue to acquiesce in the behaviour of Japan? Are we to offer to partition spheres of interest in China between ourselves and other European Western Powers and the Japanese, and, if we do, what will the next step be? Presumably when Japan feas digested Northern China she will then be ready to take her bite at Southern China, so that we and other European Powers will be gradually forced out of the East altogether. Surely the time has come to call a definite halt to this type of behaviour.
Three great countries are vitally interested in the Eastern situation besides Japan and China. There is America across the Pacific, Russia in close proximity to the hostile atmosphere, and ourselves with our interests in the East. If the League of Nations are to continue to be able to handle this proposition in the East, or to attempt to handle it, it is extremely desirable that we should try to get as close an association of Russia, and America with the League as possible. I should like to know from the Foreign Secretary whether we are doing anything to bring about that association. Speeches have been reported from Russia showing a renewed interest in the activities of the League, and I suggest to the Foreign Secretary that it might be worth while to make inquiries as to how far there is any real hope that Russia will either join the League or will join with the League in dealing with the Far Eastern situation.
The recent visit of the Japanese Fleet to the Mediterranean does not make one any more happy as regards the international situation. The conversations and mutual congratulations in Berlin are not without considerable significance, nor, indeed, is the visit of the Japanese Admiral to the Turks, where, it is reported, very large promises were held out if Turkey would join in an alliance with Germany and Japan. It seems only too possible that an anti-League combination may easily grow up based upon the Japanese and German strength. It is of vital importance that every step possible should be taken to strengthen the League, and no step could be more fruitful than the inclusion of Russia in the League of Nations. In present circumstances, there is perhaps nothing more vital than that our Government should have the courage to reaffirm, without any 2062 qualification whatsoever, its adherence to the Assembly report of February, 1933. it will be remembered that the United States Government accepted that Report and the Russian Government declared that it was not inconsistent with their own Far Eastern policy. The rest of the nations in the League of Nations adhered to it.
The Government of this country had been warned again and again as to the results which would be likely to flow from a weak and vacillating policy towards Japan. Those consequences are now becoming apparent. It is of first-class importance that we should be prepared to take steps to save the peace of the world. We were not prepared to take any economic steps at the time of the Manchurian crisis to bring pressure to bear upon Japan, but, curiously enough, when Lancashire industrialists suffer in the cotton industry, we are prepared to take very rapid economic measures against Japan. It is a pity, because those steps might have been effective for the preservation of World peace in circumstances of the most vital importance, while for the comparatively less important, though important, fact of the Lancashire cotton industry, we do not mind embarking upon them. It will be remembered that as far back as, I think, January, 1932, when the United States sent a letter with regard to the declaration of non-recognition of Manchuquo, a statement was issued by the Foreign Office that it did not propose to join in the United States declaration because we had received assurances of the preservation of the open door in Manchuria. I should like to know from the Foreign Secretary whether it is our policy under-the Nine Power Treaty to allow any-country to grab any bit of China they like so long as it gives us an assurance that the open door will be preserved. That would be a strange reading of the Nine Power Treaty, because that Treaty pledges all the signatories to preserve the-independence and integrity of China including, of course, Manchuria. When a breach of that Treaty was found by the World Court, it is curious that we should satisfy ourselves by saying that as long as the open door is preserved we have nothing further to do.
It is idle to shut our eyes to the events which are taking place in Manchuquo 2063 to-day. It will be remembered that Mr. Stimson, in a letter to Senator Borah which was communicated to the League of Nations on 25th February, 1933, pointed out that the Nine Power Treaty was framed in order to prevent a new scramble for concessions and spheres of influence in China leading to attempts to partition that country, which would give rise to another Great War, and that equal opportunities for trade in China were impossible unless there was respect for China's territorial integrity and political independence. That, of course, is in effect what has appeared quite clearly from Japan's action in Manchuria. Japanese goods enter duty free, and she has in fact every sort of concession as regards the development of that country for her nationals. Pressure is now being applied upon China, especially North China, to try to get a similar position for Japan in that country. As the "Times" put it in a rather remarkable article in September, 1933, the goal of the Japanese is the lordship of the Far East, that is to say, the economic lordship for Japanese capitalism. If one were to judge from the outward appearance of the policy of this Government, I think one would be led to believe that this country is either in league with Japan in her aggression or is turning a benevolently blind eye on her obligations and on the obligations of this country, both under the Treaty and under the Covenant.
As I have already pointed out, all this has a very intimate bearing on the disarmament situation. With Japan armed, and heavily arming, Russia arms because of the danger of Japan, America arms because of the danger of Japan, and so the repercussion goes from country to country right through the whole world; none will accept disarmament because none can find security in the existing state of affairs. It now seems almost a possibility that this Government is going to throw in its hand on the disarmament situation. It has successively retreated on the measures of Disarmament which it has considered to be possible or necessary, because, in our belief, the Government is not prepared to face the realities of the position on the question of security. They talk about security, they say how necessary it is, and how desirable it is; but, by acts such as the acts with regard 2064 to Japan, they make security in fact an impossibility, and as regards Europe they refuse all those measures which other countries, and, indeed, most people, believe to be necessary to give a reality to security as apart from a merely paper security which nobody now believes is likely to be very effective.
We have taken up the attitude in this country that we will not consent to be bound in advance by any decision as to aggression or an aggressor. We are not prepared to agree as regards internationalising air forces or internationalising aviation—[HON. MEMBERS : Hear, hear!"] It is all right for hon. Members to say "Hear, hear," but, without some such measures as those, security is impossible. It may be that they do not want security; that is for them to decide; but they must realise that without some such measures it is impossible to create the feeling of security which day after day they are saying is the fundamental necessity as regards disarmament. If this Government does make any advance as regards the security position, it always seems to make the advance after the circumstances have made it too late. Suggestions which two years ago, or three years ago, might have satisfied some countries as regards security, will no longer satisfy them to-day, with the menace of Germany and Japan before them.
In our belief, the Government need to take a more realistic outlook on this problem—not a fatalistic outlook, not a mere acceptance that we cannot get an agreement on anything because nobody is prepared to agree, but a realistic outlook that we must be prepared, if we want disarmament, to create an atmosphere of security by binding ourselves in advance somehow or another to guarantee the security of the world. That, I believe, is the key point of the whole disarmament situation. It does seem at the moment as if possibly there might be a chance that bold steps could do something, even in the deflated condition of the Disarmament Conference. The German-Japanese combination which is developing rapidly at the present moment is undoubtedly creating more fear in the world than there has been even in the last few years. The closeness of the danger of war is becoming more 2065 and more apparent, and a bold move at this moment on a real scheme of pooled security as a basis for disarmament might well be able to lead the world out of the tangle of the present circumstances. But, so long as this Government hold out for and insist upon complete and absolute freedom for themselves and others in every action, so long will it be impossible to regulate internationally the security of the world, and, until that is done, our view is that it is quite idle—and in this I think the Foreign Secretary agrees—to discuss the technical side of disarmament. If only we could give a lead on these lines, there is, I believe, still a chance that something might be accomplished.
Of course, it is obvious that, with intense economic rivalry internationally, it is immensely difficult ever to create any effective peace system, but some palliation of the existing critical circumstances might be possible, and a delay of the next war is better than nothing. The longer we can put it off, the more chance there is of the world coming to its senses before it actually happens. We believe that this Government are throwing away even that chance of postponing war by their rigid refusal to yield any single part of their individual control over these international matters and decisions to the wider world community which was the conception underlying the League of Nations when first it was started. If only that basic step could be taken, we believe that even now some approach might be made towards the organisation of world peace. Finally, I should like to ask the Foreign Secretary to answer these four specific questions, if he would be good enough to do so :
First : Does this country still stand by the Report of the League of Nations of February, 1933, and regard Japan's position in Manchuria and Jehol as a breach of the Nine Power Treaty?
Secondly : Does this country repudiate its obligation to respect and preserve the territorial integrity and political independence of China, including Manchuria, under the Nine Power Treaty and Article 10 of the Covenant?
Thirdly : Are the Government prepared not to enter into any treaty, agreement, arrangement or understanding with Japan in pursuance of the provisions of Article II of the Nine Power Treaty, or do they repudiate that Article as well?
2066 Lastly : What attitude do the Government adopt towards the question of security? Are they prepared to sacrific any part of this country's independence of action or decision in order to attain international security?
§ 11.54 a.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS ACLAND
It had been my intention to try to deal with the major question which the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) has just been discussing, namely, the question of the actions and attitude of Japan, and of the inevitable interaction, as I think, of what is happening in the Far East and what is happening in the Near West; but that question has been so fully and clearly dealt with that I will confine my remarks to the second point upon which the hon. and learned Gentleman touched more briefly—the question of disarmament and the possibility of a breakdown of the Disarmament Conference. It was stated in many organs of the Press yesterday, with the same prominence as was given to golf and cricket, that when the Disarmament Conference reassembled it would be announced by the chief nations of the world that the chief nations of the world had agreed that the Conference must come to an end, because nothing more could be done, with, no doubt, a formal face-saving formula, as in the case of the World Economic Conference, which, of course, means nothing at all. I refuse to believe it. If that is true, and if that is what the Foreign Secretary will tell us when he speaks, I think it will be realised in the House and outside that nothing more full of inevitable disaster for the world will have been announced from the Treasury bench since 4th August, 1914.
The breakdown of the Disarmament Conference is one of those things which the civilised world must not allow to happen. If there be a breakdown of this Conference of Governments, which will thereby have declared their incapacity, let there be a new Conference of peoples. Echoing a famous phrase of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, La Conference est morte; vive la Conference. We must go on. I refuse to believe that the Conference can die without result. Let us think of it and discuss it, if we can, in the spirit of the appeal to the nations of the world made 2067 in the last few days by the leaders of the Christian churches just issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury and subordinate, as far as we can, all national and party interests to the supreme interest of securing the peace of the world. First, surely it must be realised that each nation that consents, if we do consent, to such a breakdown—that is, after the Treaty of Versailles—will thereby be breaking the assurances that were given to Germany when the Treaty of Versailles was made. The assurance was—not as big as is sometimes quoted—that the reduction and limitation of armaments imposed on Germany was in order to render posible the initiation of a general limitation of the armaments of all nations. I know that no pledge was made as to date. I know that no pledge was made to come down to Germany's level. But, if that solemn assurance meant anything at all, it meant that within 15 years, at any rate, there should be general agreement on some scheme of limitation. It seems to me that no nation that gave that assurance can honourably go back upon it. Think, then, of all the efforts that will have been wasted and the opportunities that will have been lost.
How, I wonder, would the leading statesmen of the world, when they started their preparations for the steady working out of schemes of disarmament, now several years ago, have expressed not only their hopes, but their reasonable expectations of the result that would follow. Would they not have said that there would have been by this time, at any rate, an approximation in the armaments of other nations to the standard laid on Germany, that there would be budgetary limitations of some kind and that there would be inspection to see that undertakings were carried out, that there would be an abolition of military aircraft and control of civil aircraft; and would not many of them have said, in addition, that-we could and should abolish the private manufacture of those things of which the sole purpose is human death, that canker in Europe, as I see it, working through a controlled Press, and often through controlled politicians, not in one country alone, whose whole object is to nip in the bud and make impossible any growth of international friendship and good feeling. Was not that within the horizon of 2068 the statesmen when they started on this question years ago, and is all that apparently justified hope and anticipation to go for nothing? Surely it cannot be, and it will not be.
Think of the chances which arose and which were missed. Was it not just two years ago that the Lord President of the Council welcomed in language of unusual warmth the offer of the then President of the United States with regard to the disarmament proposals that he had made, and yet within a few weeks of that our Government had allowed their experts to kill that suggestion, and no doubt by the experts of the other nations as well. They went too far, as other suggestions of other countries did, to suit our book. Let us remember the time when Herr Bruening was in office in Germany and Signer Grandi was Foreign Minister in Italy, and when there had been a general election in France which had brought to the top the strongly pacifist feeling of a large section of that people, a feeling which is always there, though it seems sometimes to be submerged with less noble impulses. We let that favourable time go by carelessly—I think criminally. But even if it be only careless and not criminal, does not that tact emphasise my point that, although these chances have been lost, this last chance of getting something accomplished should now be taken. Is all that is to survive of all effort and all those opportunities but a bitter memory and a tragic reflection thatHe who will not when he may,When he will, he shall have nay.I know the Government want to do it now. I think they can. We have been reading almost daily in certain organs of the Press that they look upon the breakdown of the Disarmament Conference as a matter not only for complacancy but for rejoicing. Those journals rejoice not only in the prospect of the breakdown of the Conference but of the breakdown of that system, built up at the cost of many million gallant lives, under which the nations were to become a great comradeship for good instead of the old rivalries for evil, and break down that system must, as far as major issues are concerned, if the Disarmament Conference fails.
Let me put an argument for those who think that there is any tolerable 2069 or possible alternative to a collective system of mutual responsibility to think over. Members will be trying, no doubt, if the Disarmament Conference fails, to explain to their constituents that what has happened has been no one's fault in particular. They will be trying to clear the Government of the charge that Lord Cecil brought against them the other day, a just charge as I think, that, although the language of the Government has sometimes been strong, their action has always been weak. They will be explaining that events in Europe made inevitable what is now said to be imminent, a breakdown of all hope for disarmament. Let me take them on that point of the inevitability of what has happened. Will there not be a worse and a more tragic inevitability in the two policies, the policy of alliances or the policy of isolation, which are suggested as the only alternative policies to collective guarantees? If it be alliances that are to be relied on in future, what was the old balance of power supposed to be before the War? Surely, the Triple Alliance against the Triple Entente. Yet one member of the Triple Alliance, Italy, from the first day of the War failed to join with the others, and within a few years had come in on the other side. I remember the days when Sir Edward Grey's room at the Foreign Office was the clearing-house of all the rivalries and suspicions of the world. I remember seeing Ambassadors and Ministers come there in anxiety and leave with renewed hope. I remember how Sir Edward Grey, by the mere fact that all those who distrusted one another yet united in trusting him, kept the great nations of the world from war literally for years, but ultimately all that came to nothing. Any balance of power is as unstable as a drop of mercury balanced on a knife edge. There is no hope there.
If it be isolation that is relied on, and which is I gather to be secured by an enormous increase in our aircraft and other armaments, is there real safety there? That would start competition in armaments. That is just what it means. Will not, sooner or later, the guns go oft almost of themselves, as they did when the Great War started? If that happened, are people quite sure that we could keep out of it? Is not, for instance, the Channel getting narrower every year, and therefore our interest in having a completely friendly nation at the other side 2070 of it always increasing? Have those who take the "Daily Mail" view learnt nothing and forgotten everything? Do they not realise that if there was one thing which the Great War disproved once for all and utterly, it was the utter folly and foolishness of the old principle that if you want peace you must prepare for war. Do not people nowadays, all of us, realise that, if there is any connection between cause and effect, and any power in human reason, the very opposite of that is true and remains true, namely, that the only possible principle is the exact reverse of that.
Unless you want war you must prepare for peace, and go on preparing for peace, working for peace all the time in the only possible way—collective guarantees against an aggressor through the system of the Covenant of the League of Nations. It is unthinkable that we should let that go. The Government are continually paying lip service to that principle, and some of them, I am sure, really believe it, but it is one of the things that they are prepared quietly to drop overboard and pretend that it really does not matter very much, and that we can get on quite well even with that principle abandoned. No responsible statesman in the world dare do it. No one who is a party to it would dare, I believe, face the judgment of mankind which would fall on him.
I believe that our people, and particularly the younger men and women of this country who have grown up since the War, will not be content to go back to pre-war methods of war prevention or attempted war prevention. Those who believe that it is right and possible to try to treat other nations with understanding and comradeship are very many in all parties. That is their deep faith. Many millions of them are now supporters of the Government because they think that it is incredible that the Government can be a party to allowing the centre of their moral and religious faith in that matter to collapse, as collapse it will if we return to the old system of barbarism in these matters. That was the best we could do before the War.
I have to say this. This Government among others will be held responsible. If there is the collapse which is confidently and hopefully foretold by some of the organs of the Press, and I hope and pray that there may not be, we who 2071 have pointed out in season and out of season the folly of letting chance after chance go by, and of turning down schemes proposed by other countries, not because they did not go far enough for us, but because they went too far, will be justified. I wish for nothing of that kind. If the world finally comes to an end, the man will have a poor consolation and justification who can say, "I told you so." And though the failure of the Disarmament Conference will not be the end of the world, it will surely be the end of all chance of a civilised world. It will be the substitution of fear and suspicion for trust as the motive power of mankind, and where fear and suspicion rule, and where there is an attempt to make out that every action of every country is aimed at some other country and can only be met by increasing the armaments of all other countries—where that comes in real civilisation, I believe, perishes. There will be no need of political campaigns and speeches and propaganda to point the moral. The Cenotaph arid every War Memorial in the country will be perpetual witnesses against the Government which allows itself to be a party to the break up of all hope for disarmament—perpetual witnesses, silent, but full of voices.
Surely we can pull ourselves together in this 59th minute of the 11th hour. Surely we can prevent what we are told so definitely is certain to happen. Surely this Empire, which is really peaceful from one end to the other, can use its great power—and it has great power when it chooses to use it—to save the cause of disarmament, which is really the cause of peace. It is very remarkable when one thinks of it what power this country has, if it will act boldly. I am glad that only yesterday, to our credit be it said, that on our behalf the suggestion was made that there should be an embargo on sending armaments to the warring countries in South America. That was very welcome. When we take a great lead boldly great things can be done. But in this matter of disarmament, of course, things are more difficult and risks must be taken. It is not easy, but surely it is well worth taking great risks for peace——
§ Sir F. ACLAND
seeing how very much greater are the risks of war. The issue, of course, lies between France and Germany, and with both those countries we surely have enormous power and influence if we choose to use them. Dare France, for instance, be responsible for breaking off the Conference by refusing any scheme of disarmament which would start, as is essential, in some way at once and not be delayed by a long probationary period, if she realised that within a few years, as a result of that, she would be face to face with a heavily re-armed Germany, and that as far as we were concerned she would have to face that menace alone, Locarno or no Locarno? Dare Germany refuse to conform to a scheme of disarmament of steady and gradual attainment to equality on a low and controlled basis, if she knew that her refusal would mean the use by us, along with France, of every financial and economic sanction that has ever been suggested within the scheme of the Covenant of the League of Nations? Surely not! When I think of the marvellous structure of peace which might be built, so abiding it might be, so noble, so dedicated to the service of God, I am reminded of how Wordsworth described the inscription of another structure, abiding, noble, dedicated to God's service—King's College Chapel at Cambridge :Give all thou canst : high Heaven rejects the loreOf nicely-calculated less or moreIf we will only act in the spirit of those great words, surely, even now, the peace of the world can be saved. Will not the Government now, at this last moment, go back boldly, as men of British race have been wont to do in times of difficulty, to the words of the great Book, the great words once spoken by God to Man :Be thou bold and very courageous.I appeal to them. I believe that in courage, and in courage alone, can they find safety in this terrible crisis.
§ 12.15 p.m.
§ Mr. GODFREY LOCKER-LAMPSON
I am sure that the whole House regrets the absence of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), and we can only hope that he will soon be among us once again to give us the benefit of his contributions to our Debates.
2073 The speeches of the late Solicitor-General and the right hon. Gentleman, who himself was for many years at the Foreign Office, show the tremendous difficulty in which we are at the present moment, and I think that they show the necessity to do what we can to strike out some new line. When the last Debate on foreign affairs took place in this House I ventured to raise the question of the reform of the League of Nations, and I asked my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary whether His Majesty's Government had yet formulated any policy in the matter, and, if they had done so, whether they could indicate its outline to the House. I also asked my right hon. Friend, if it were the fact that they had not yet thought out any scheme, whether they proposed to do so without delay, seeing that it was really an urgent and vital question for the peace of the whole world.
I do not want to suggest for a moment any want of courtesy on the part of my right hon. Friend that he did not reply to a single question which I put in my speech or refer to any point. I think that at that time ray right hon. Friend may have been considering the whole matter, and did not want to make any statement at that date; but I must confess that I was a little disappointed, and also a little suprised, because the reform of the League, to my mind, is bound up indissolubly with the question of disarmament, and I think that the White Paper which was issued not so very long ago on this question proved that quite clearly, for if hon. Members will take the trouble some time to look at the last paragraph in the White Paper, they will find that agreement on disarmament is made dependent on the re-entry of Germany into the League of Nations, and is there any chance of Germany coming back into the League of Nations as long as the procedure and the scope of the League remain what they are to-day?
Since the last Debate to which I have made reference took place, my right hon. Friend who has just sat down, and also the hon. and learned Member, will agree that the chances of general disarmament are greatly worsened, and with it the prestige of the League. I do not think anybody can doubt for a moment that the prospects of general disarmament are less, and that the prospects that the 2074 League will be able to achieve the ends it had in view have diminished. Really, this is my only excuse for venturing once more to raise the question in this House. I want, very respectfully, to ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary—and I do hope that he will give me an answer to-day if he can—whether the Government have yet formulated any policy for the reform of the League, and, if not, whether they will really set about doing so without delay?
§ Sir J. SIMON
I should be very sorry indeed if I failed to deal with the matter which my right hon. Friend raised in Debate, I can assure him that no discourtesy was intended; but it would help me and others if my right hon. Friend would indicate in outline what is the kind of reform which he has in mind.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I am going to do it. I say that this matter is one of definite, urgent, public importance for the peace of the whole world. To my mind, the future of the League of Nations is the most important matter for civilisation to-day. It is much more important than the Unemployment Bill, much more important than the reform of the House of Lords and much more important than the Indian White Paper. If the League of Nations fails, the world will be back in the position in which it was before 1914. In spite of the 13 years of its life and activity, and the enormous sums of money spent on the League of Nations, armaments have increased prodigiously during the last decade. In spite of any amount of lip-service paid to the League, international settlements are more and more being arranged outside the League itself, without any previous consultation with the League, or any participation of the League in them. In fact, the old diplomacy is returning. One has only to cite the negotiations and agreements between Germany and Poland, and the recent negotiations between Italy, Austria and Hungary. The League did not come into these important matters. But, far more important, at the present moment Europe is an armed camp.
The whole of Europe to-day, so far as one can see, is preparing for another war, and this country—and this is where I differ very much from the hon. and learned Member who spoke, and also, if I may say so, from my right hon. Friend 2075 opposite—is the only country which all along has done its best to disarm, and which all along has been a pioneer, has led the way and given an example. France, Italy, Germany, Russia, the United States of America have greatly increased their armaments, and the League of Nations, so far as they are concerned, might never have existed at all. It is obvious, too, that the League has been quite unable to stop big or little wars. It failed even to slow down the war between China and Japan which ran its full course with immense slaughter on both sides, and it failed for a whole two years to stop even the petty war which has been going on in South America. All this is taking place, although a Palace of Peace is being built in Geneva as large as the Palace of Versailles, and is to cost 25,500,000 Swiss francs. It is being built amid incessant speeches, dinners, receptions, conferences and reports.
What, really, is the reason of the failure of the League of Nations in the prime object of its creation? And now I will do my utmost to answer my right hon. Friend. I submit that the reason is self-evident—that four out of the seven great Powers are not members of the League. Only a minority of the great Powers are now members—Italy, France and ourselves—and only the other day Italy gave a great deal more than a hint that unless the League were reformed, she, too, might leave it. The serious feature of the case seems to me to be this. It is not as though the League of Nations had only had three great Powers in it, and that it was doing its best to try to persuade the other four great Powers to come in. The serious feature is that five great Powers used to be members of the League, and two have left, and one other is very uncertain whether it is going to remain. That, to my mind, is a far more serious warning for the future prospects of the League, and in these circumstances one is bound to ask why these great Powers joined and then left, and why the other Powers will not become members.
I want to reiterate once more what I believe to be the two main reasons for this state of things, which I believe my right hon. Friend, with his immense influence in Europe, can help to remedy. I believe the two main reasons to be the 2076 dovetailing, the incorporation of the Covenant into the Peace Treaties, and the sanctions embodied in Articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant. The Covenant is woven into the very fabric of the Peace Treaties, and until it is decided to divorce the one from the other we shall never get a revision of the Peace Treaties, we shall never get the United States of America to join the League, or persuade Germany to join the League as a willing and working partner. Article 10 of the Covenant, which was mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member opposite, guarantees the existing territorial boundaries of all the members of the League, and although Article 19 provides in a general way for the revision of any Treaty, under Article 5 agreement in the League in such a matter must be unanimous.
I should like to know what possible chance there is of a revision of the Treaties so far as Germany is concerned under this provision. The Covenant almost seems to have been drawn so as to prevent, it. In fact, it has been used over and over again to prevent it. Can we wonder that Germany left the League, knowing that it was hopeless ever to obtain any revision? Can we wonder that the United States of America refuse to join the League, when by so doing she would be guaranteeing the very Treaties that she has refused to ratify? I submit that the United States of America will never join the League until these Treaties and the Covenant have been separated one from the other.
The other main reason is the existence of the sanctions under Articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant. Under these Articles any member of the League may be required to use its Army, its Air Force, or its Navy in any part of the world against any Power deemed by the Council of the League to have been a guilty party. To start with, I believe that these sanctions are impracticable to carry out. Is it to be supposed for a moment that we could use our Navy, for instance, to stop the United States of America from sending any neutral goods to any part of the world? If we attempted to do so it would at once mean war between us and the United States. That is not merely my own opinion. I see that Lord Lothian, one of the greatest authorities on the work of 2077 the League in this country, wrote a long letter to the Press the other day and used language just as strong as the language I am using. He pointed out that any attempt at coercive sanctions against a great Power, with anything less than a world coalition, would be almost certain to lead to war. It is perfectly true that some vague words were used not long ago by an American statesman, a member of the United States Government, to the effect that the United States would not resist any collective efforts against an aggressor if, and this is a most important qualification : The United States happened to agree with the League in its decision. It would be very foolish to bank on a statement of that kind. We do know for certain that the United States is against all sanctions. The Kellogg Pact contains no sanctions. In drawing up that Pact the United States expressly repudiated any sanctions and said that they would have nothing whatever to do with them. Therefore, so long as the Covenant contains sanctions I believe the United States will never join the League. Lord Cecil—I need not ask the House to remember what qualifications he has to speak about the League of Nations—wrote a letter to the Press a few days ago in which he expressed the hope and the expectation that Germany and Japan would rejoin the League. He mentioned them by name but carefully excluded the United States of America. All that he said was that the United States were showing willingness to co-operate with the League, but always from outside and not from within the League. I am not surprised that Lord Cecil wrote that kind of letter, for there is no hope in that quarter under existing conditions, none whatever.
So long as the United States and the other Great Powers refuse to join the League there is no hope of general disarmament. Disarmament is the chief security against war. The other day we were told by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that the policy of His Majesty's Government was that disarmament should have priority over the question of the reform of the League of Nations. He told us that he had consulted the Governments of France and Italy on this particular point and that they had agreed. May I ask him this 2078 question? Has he since then consulted the Government of Germany, Japan and Russia? It is very important to know what those Great Powers think about this particular question. The other Powers whom the right hon. Gentleman consulted are in the League, but the other Powers are outside the League. Do they think that disarmament ought to come before the reform of the League? I very much doubt it. Is there any chance that general disarmament can come before the League is reformed? I submit that there is no chance whatever. Trying to get disarmament before reform is trying to build without your necessary materials. The League is the instrument, and the only instrument, by which disarmament can be obtained, but it must be a real League, not a shadow of a League, not a skeleton of a League. It must be a League containing the Great Powers as its members.
May I say in answer to my right hon. Friend that it may be difficult to amend the Covenant, but it is not impossible. The Covenant of the League has been amended from time to time in years gone by, and in very important respects. The other day the Netherlands Government expressed their consent to consider revision of the Covenant. Therefore, it is not an impossible proposition, and I urge the right hon. Gentleman to consider it and make up his mind about it. All it requires is statesmanship, determination, goodwill and a lead from this country. I hope the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon will tell us what is the policy of His Majesty's Government. Have they thought out a policy of reform? Do they still adhere to the opinion that the question of disarmament ought to be settled before the question of reform is tackled? So far as disarmament is concerned, the League to-day is largely make-believe and impotent, because of its fragmentary character. But if His Majesty's Government will really face the facts of the situation, by their international weight and immense authority all over the world I believe they can help to convert it into a really live and vital force.
§ 12.37 p.m.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I desire to draw the attention of the House briefly to a different aspect of this problem, although it is closely allied with it—the question 2079 of economic sanctions. It is a curious thing that this subject has attracted very little attention in Parliament and in the Press, indeed, one would imagine that Article 16 of the Covenant had dropped out of sight altogether. One would imagine that there is nothing between peace and war in its most dreadful aspects; yet all the "vents of the last two years, the failure of the League of Nations in the Sino-Manchurian dispute, the failure of the Disarmament Conference itself, the drift towards a policy of isolation and general re-armament all round, point to the fact that the only hope for the future lies in setting up a set of articulated measures which might be put into force before it is necessary to have recourse to war in order to deal with disturbers of the world peace.
The Government have made it plain that they are not willing to go one inch further in giving security to the world through arms than the Treaty of Locarno. The Foreign Secretary in his statement on the 1st February upon the Government's policy, repeatedly reiterated that the Treaty of Locarno would not be put into force as far as this country was concerned until this country itself was satisfied that a case had arisen. That has undoubtedly had the effect of stiffening and hardening the attitude of France towards disarmament. If security cannot be obtained through naval and military commitments, then the only avenue left is that of economic sanctions. All that has been done in regard to this matter in recent years is the statement in the Draft Convention, that, if armed aggression takes place, there will be consultation between the signatories. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman on the 1st February extended that policy to an immediate exchange of views between the signatories to a Disarmament Pact in the case of any violation. There is to be immediate consultation. But does anybody suppose that immediate consultation when a crime has taken place, when a breach has taken place, will be of any use if it has not been prepared for by just as elaborate planning of the sanctions which may be enforced as in the case of the Disarmament Conference, which unfortunately has failed? Sir Arthur Salter, the chief financial adviser to the League of Nations for 2080 many years, has repeatedly insisted on this point. As long ago as 1919, he said :Economic sanctions cannot be effectively carried out without great loss of time and efficiency unless there has been considerable previous preparation before the time at which action is required.In a volume entitled "The United States of Europe," which was issued only last year, Sir Arthur Salter makes it perfectly plain that it is still his view that if economic sanctions are to be of any use they must be preceded by some kind of permanent international commission to prepare plans and supervise their execution. Why has that advice been disregarded? That is the question which I want to put to the Foreign Secretary. Many hon. Members no doubt have been studying an admirable memorandum issued by Professor Lindsay Fraser and other Oxford Dons on this subject, in which they outline the history of economic sanctions, the possible forms they may take, and some of the problems connected with them. In spite of these expressions of opinion, there has been, so far as I have seen, very little discussion on this matter. I cannot see that it was referred to at all in the debate the other day in another place.
I claim no expert knowledge on the subject, but perhaps I have more opportunities than other hon. Members of following the opinions of the educative youth of this country. I represent a group of universities, and it may be that other constituencies are not so representative of the youth of the country. I am gravely concerned as to the effect which the impending breakdown of the Disarmament Conference is likely to have on public opinion, unless the hopes which such a breakdown will extinguish are diverted to some other and more fruitful field of action.
The fear of war—perhaps so far as the immediate future is" concerned, even an exaggerated fear—is getting a tremendous hold on two sections of the public—the young men, who foresee that they will have to do the fighting, and the wives and mothers of those young men. In every branch of the League of Nations Union, in almost every adult school and debating society, in almost every women's association, questions arising in connection with disarmament—such as the definition of an aggressor, the dangers of private traffic in armaments, the use of 2081 bombing aeroplanes, and the possibility of an international police force—have become as much the commonplaces of discussion as the means test is in other social circles, or as the pros and cons of Protection and Free Trade were a few years ago. But there are also many who have given up hope of anything being done along these lines, sometimes from a completely cynical disbelief in the present Government, or in politicians generally, sometimes from an excessive idealism, and they are falling back on resolutions for individual resistence to war by refusing to take part in it. May I warn the Government that they will be making a great mistake if they underrate the strength in this country of that form of extreme pacifist opinion. I do not share it. I have been doing what I could to persuade my constituents and the undergraduate bodies connected with the universities I represent that they will be making war more likely and not less likely, if they create the impression abroad that the youth of England cannot be counted on to help their country to enforce solemn covenants to which it has placed its signature under the Treaties of Locarno and in the Covenant itself. But there can be no doubt that this form of pacifism is strengthened by the belief that the Government are not indisposed to take measures for strengthening armaments, that many at any rate who sit behind the Government are not really unhappy at the failure of the Disarmament Conference, because they foresee that the result of its failure in the immediate present will be to create a great demand for armaments, which will bring profit to those who are concerned in that traffic, and that in the future the brunt of war will fall not upon themselves but upon the men of the younger generation, who at present have no influence either on the press or upon governments. What assurance can the Government give to help those of use who are trying to dispel these fears? What assurance would do it better than an announcement that side by side with or in place of the Disarmament Conference, if it should fail, there will be set up an international Commission, including, if possible, not only the members of the League but all signatories to the Kellogg Pact, which will explore the possibilities of economic sanction just as elaborately, just as meticulously and with just as much help from 2082 all the expert bodies. Financial, commercial and industrial experts will all be needed for a full exploration of all the possibilities, such as refusals of credits, embargo on the export and import of munitions or foodstuffs and so forth.
All that cannot be done at the last moment when the necessity has arisen. But I believe it would bring new hope to minds that are almost despairing, if they felt that the Government had set its foot on that new path and was prepared to explore the means of a war to end war, by substituting for armed war another kind of war—a war that will be fought through the pressure of economic and financial forces and not through the arsm and sinews and blood of the young. I know that some will say that economic sanctions must have armed sanctions behind them. I do not deny it, as an ultimate resort, but I believe there the force of the economic sanctions might prove so efficacious that, if they were used internationally on a carefully prepared and thought-out plan that armed force might never become necessary. I do beg the Secretary of State to include in his reply some statement as to what the Government are doing or contemplating in this matter.
§ 12.50 p.m.
§ Admiral Sir ROGER KEYES
First of all, I would like to assure the hon. Lady who has just spoken that we who think differently from her are just as anxious and determined to ensure peace as she is. I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). I share with him the misgivings about the aims of Japan and our relations to that country, but one thing is quite certain, if the policy that the hon. and learned Member and his friends so often urge is carried into effect, we are bound eventually to be involved in war with Japan. It is difficult to reconcile the hon. and learned Member's attitude with the attitude of the Opposition regarding Singapore. Singapore cannot possibly be regarded as any menace to Japan—no greater menace than Portsmouth is to New York. But it is of vital importance in the link of the defence of Australia and New Zealand. It would be quite easy to score a point here by quoting from the speeches of hon. Members of the Opposition, but I am anxious to see 2083 all parties in this House united in a determination that adequate defences are provided for the defence of the Empire.
The hon. and learned Member for Bristol East has given us some recent history. I would go back a bit further. Forty years ago Japan possessed a fleet of small cruisers. She wished to colonise Korea, and challenged China, which possessed a powerful fleet of battleships, cruisers and torpedo destroyers. She destroyed the Chinese Army which was proceeding to Korea in transports. She sank the transports. Japan speedily achieved all her objects, which included the capture of Port Arthur, only to be deprived of that fortress by Germany and Russia, which insisted on it being handed back to China. Not long afterwards Russia seized Port Arthur and Germany Tsing-tao, which she proceeded to fortify heavily, and we acquired Wei-Hai-Wei to keep the balance. We used it only as a recreation place and health resort for our China fleet.
My first intimate association with Japan began in 1898. In 1900 I took part in the capture of the Taku forts and the relief of Peking, with an allied force which included a Japanese squadron and army. I was immensely impressed with the efficiency and military power of that warlike race, but above all with the absolute contempt of death displayed by her gallant soldiers. The statesmen who guided our destinies in those days recognised the value of Japanese friendship and the immense influence which Japan was bound to exercise in the Far East. They formed an alliance with her, which did not succeed in maintaining peace when Japan tried to sink the Russian fleet outside Port Arthur and then declared war. I may mention here that she sank the Chinese troops that were going to Korea in transports before she declared war, and she declared war after trying to sink the Russian fleet. We, by keeping the field, limited the hostilities to those two belligerents. At that time I was in charge of a section of the Naval Intelligence Department which dealt with the Russo-Japanese war, and, as our alliance made it necessary for us to go to her aid in the event of any other nation intervening, my relations with the Japanese Mission in London were very close, and 2084 I had an opportunity of gaining a very intimate insight into the intents and the scope and the aims of that most warlike race.
If the world were astonished at the temerity of Japan in challenging China, it simply ridiculed the idea of Japan declaring war on Russia. I shall not weary the House by giving the details of the struggle. At one time the issue hung in the balance, because Japan had the bad fortune in the early days of the war to lose two of her six battleships in a minefield, and the margin which she had allowed was a very narrow one. I would only remind the House that she carried that war to a successful and glorious issue. She recaptured Port Arthur, destroyed the Russian Fleet and thoroughly humiliated Russia. She owed a debt to us for keeping the ring, and she proceeded to pay that debt by coming to our aid when we were involved in the great War. At the same time she had revenge on Germany by capturing Tsing-tao. Japan is designed to play a great part in the future of the East. I have said sufficient to show that I am convinced that she will go forward to her destiny with unswerving determination. I always thought it a deplorable mistake on our part to terminate that alliance with Japan. It was of immense value to us in the East, it was a guarantee of peace in Eastern waters, and it gave us influence over Japan's actions. She paid great attention to our advice then and would do so again if we gave her the chance. I recommend the Government to do all in their power to return to the excellent understanding with Japan which existed in those days. At least we ought to come to an understanding with Japan on commercial and other matters, and it would be a great benefit to the Empire and our interests in the East if we could come to some thorough understanding with that country.
With reference to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North-East Cornwall (Sir F. Acland), may I say that there are a great many Members in this House, and some millions of people in the country, who share with me the view that the best guarantee of world peace is a strong and properly defended British Empire. The Government have gone to the very limit in disarmament, and, in the 2085 interests of peace, I would urge them to take thought of the ever-recurring lessons of history and to pursue steadily a policy of maintaining the defences of this Empire in proper order.
§ 12.58 p.m.
I am sure we all recognise the extraordinary difficulty and complexity of foreign affairs to-day. The composition of the National Government itself and the traditions which have always been followed by this country in foreign affairs, make it extremely difficult for the Government to give that lead which so many wish them to give in reference to foreign politics at the present time. I rank myself among the loyal supporters of the Government, but I admit that in the realm of foreign affairs I am not so happy as in regard to matters at home. I wish to dissociate myself, however, from those who try to lay the whole blame on the shoulders of the Foreign Secretary, because I think the Government as a whole must be responsible for its conduct of foreign affairs.
With regard to our attitude towards Japan, I could not help remembering, during the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), and also during the speeches which were made when Japan's occupation of Manchukuo was being discussed, that in the Great War Japan had shown herself as a very loyal ally of this country. When I thought over past history and some of our own actions in other parts of the world—perhaps not so many years ago—I felt that we were hardly in a position to throw the first stone. It may be true that Japan acted in a very foolish manner and that she could have got all she wanted in Manchukuo by other methods, but it did not seem to me that we could criticise very strongly the action which she took.
What was the action suggested that we should take in reference to Japan? Some form of economic sanctions. In my opinion, the application of any economic sanctions to Japan would lead to hostilities not only between this country and Japan, but between this country and the United States as well. It may be asked : What then is to be done? My answer is that you have to treat Japan with great 2086 tact. The one thing which you must not do is to try to bully her, to dictate to her or to hold her up to ridicule among the nations of the world. If the League of Nations has been unable to stop a war between Paraguay and Bolivia, what do we expect them to do in regard to Japan? Personally, I think Japan holds a special position in regard to China, and, if she desires to apply some form of Monroe Doctrine on political lines to China, I think we have to accept that situation.
After all, the Monroe Doctrine as applied by the United States to South America has not hindered us from pursuing our trade in that part of the world, and if my hon. and learned Friend will allow me to say so, whenever a Treaty is brought up as evidence, in a particular case, it always seems to me that the signatories can produce their own interpretations to justify their own actions.
What does the hon. and learned Gentleman propose? Does he suggest that we ought to go to war with Japan? Does he suggest that those who disagree with Japan should either go to war with her themselves or pay other people to go? Personally, I am prepared to do neither. These are the facts which we have to face. It is obvious that any action on the lines suggested would lead to great complications, not only for this country but for Australia. I hope and trust that the Government will act with circumspection in their future dealings with Japan.
When we turn to the position in Europe certain things are apparent. One is that this country has disarmed "to the edge of risk" in the words of the Foreign Secretary. It is equally clear that no one else has followed our example. To borrow a phrase from the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, "no one outside Bedlam" believes that we wish for anything but peace. On the other hand, it is not so certain what we are prepared to do in order to prevent anyone else going to war, or in order to prevent a situation arising which might easily develop into hostilities. 2087 There is this difficulty both in the Government and outside that there are two schools of thought. First, there are the isolationists who do not desire that this country should play any part in foreign affairs, but at the same time desire to increase our national armaments. Then there are the interventionists who desire to see us playing our part in foreign affairs, but who object to any rearmament on the part of this country and are strongly in favour of disarmament, economic sanctions and action through the League of Nations. I believe in the action desired by the one and the policy put forward by the other. I hold the view that it is impossible for us to take up the position that we will neither take part in, nor be interested in nor use our influence in foreign affairs to-day.
The question has been so often discussed at length that I need not proceed to show now how intimately associated we are in this country with everything that goes on in Europe and indeed throughout the world. How can we remain members of the League of Nations and yet be disinterested and fail to take our part or wield an influence in Europe? The United States of America for many months—in fact, years—throughout the Great War tried not to be drawn into it, but inevitably she was.
On the other hand, if we are to play an effective part, we must be prepared to consider an increase in our Air Force. I do not say this with jubilation—I think it is a confession of failure—but if the Disarmament Conference fails and we wish to play our part in Europe, we must have the means of making our intervention effective. There is much to be said for increasing the Air Force. It is the cheapest form of armament and by developing Civil Aviation you are not only providing the necessary pilots, but you are putting your aeroplane industries into a condition in which they can increase production quickly and easily if necessary at some future date.
With regard to Europe, I think this country has made two fundamental mistakes since 1919. The first is that we have shirked the issue of French security, and, secondly, the League of Nations has always tried to make us believe that small nations are as important as big. 2088 I believe that small nations never were as important as big nations, are not today, and never will be. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke about the reform of the League of Nations, in a most interesting and informative speech, pointed out that there are four great nations to-day that are not members of the League. Of the three that are, Italy is intensely suspicious. I believe that Mussolini was on the right lines in the Four Power Pact, but that it was inopportune and was perhaps put forward at the right moment. I am certain, however, that we shall see the whole question of the Four Power Pact raised again, at no very distant date. I am not arguing against the League of Nations. I am only suggesting that, if it is going to be the force that we wish it to be, some reform is necessary. I believe that on the social side, and through the work of the International Labour Office, the League has justified itself on those grounds alone, and I would agree with the late Lord Balfour, who said that, if you destroyed the existing fabric of the League of Nations one day, the next day you would have to build up something on similar lines in its place.
One word with regard to French security. It is extremely difficult to view this question dispassionately and without having the accusation and criticism brought up that one is either pro-French or pro-German. It has always seemed to me that, if France is attacked again, we have got to come in, and we shall come in, whether we like it or not. Therefore, if that be so, why do we not give to France those guarantees of security for which she has been asking since 1919, which, in fact, together with America, we promised her, and on account of which she did not put forward her claims to the whole of the territory up to the Rhine? In my view to-day—and I confess I have varied my opinion on these matters many times—we should advocate a close alliance with France and with Italy as well : if we did that, I am certain that we should have the united support of the Little Entente, I believe that it would be much fairer all round, and fairer from the point of view of Germany as well, so that Germany would see that it is impossible now or at any time to drive in a wedge between ourselves and France.
2089 It may be said that all this can be done under the Treaty of Locarno, but France does not think so, and, after all, the ordinary man in the street asks; "What does Locarno mean?" It was heralded when it appeared, and rightly so, no doubt, as one of the greatest contributions towards peace since the War, but the moment the question of Locarno is raised to-day every Minister hastens down to his constituency to explain that it does not really mean anything at all, that we are to have the deciding voice at the particular moment whether something has or has not happened, and that we are to take the initiative as to whether we do anything. I hope I do not misinterpret the very lucid speeches of many of my hon. and right hon. Friends in this respect, but it is clear that France at any rate does not think that she is guaranteed under this particular Treaty. I am prepared to argue—and you have to face facts—that in order to preserve peace, you have to run risks and accept commitments. It was that policy of doubt, of keeping Europe guessing as to what this country might do, that precipitated the last War and that might very easily precipitate a similar situation to-day.
The Government may, quite rightly, say : "How easy it is for any ordinary Member to advocate that, but is it possible to carry it in the country?" I would answer that I believe it is. I believe that if the National Government will give a lead, there are thousands of people who are only too anxious to accept that lead. Let the Government take the country into their confidence. Is Germany re-arming or not? Are these stories that we hear true? What are the facts? My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) quoted some not long ago, and they have never been contradicted. Are these stories that Field Marshals Weygand and Pétain refused to accept the last memorandum of the British Government because they had some secret information put before them with regard to German re-armament, true? We hear stories of new gases, new rays, of an engine that will run on crude oil, and so on. I am not acquainted with the technical details, but these stories are frequently repeated both inside and outside this House.
All that I would ask is : Are they true or not? If the Government wish the 2090 country to follow them and support them, I think these questions should be both asked and answered, and, if they are not true, let Germany disprove them. I believe that, if necessary, she would accept, under certain conditions, such supervision and inspection as would prove them to be either correct or false. I do not think myself that cither Hitler or the majority of people in Germany desire to go to war to-day, but there is no doubt in Germany an element that does and which might easily sweep the moderates away, as it swept away the Kaiser. What is to prevent that element, not this year or next year, but in two or three years' time, saying to Europe : "Unless you do this, that, or the other, you will be faced with a first-class war"? It is a great temptation. There is only one thing that will prevent it, and that is the certainty that if Europe is faced with that proposition, Germany will find, united against such blackmail, England, France, Italy, and the Little Entente. Germany will realise then that rearmament is not only extremely expensive, but useless to achieve her object.
It is only some three years ago that Members of all parties this House were advocating in their constituencies the cause of disarmament and trying to rival each other with regard to what had been done to reduce our armaments—how much more the Conservatives had reduced them than the Socialists, and so on. But there is a great change to-day. Why? Let us face it. It is very largely because of the new situation which has arisen in Germany. On the other hand, if the Government decide to carry out any suggestion along these lines, and a close alliance is formed, they should state their views unequivocally on it. In that case I would then say to Germany, "We in this country realise that you have certain grievances and that you have a right to certain concessions." Anyone who read the leading article in the "Times" of the 19th of this month would, I think, agree that it was a- very fair representation of what a great many people in this country think are Germany's rights with regard to re-armament. Again, I would say to them, "You have certain financial and frontier grievances under the Treaty of Versailles which we admit. We recognise also that
2091 loans have been raised in Germany at rates of interest which are excessive. We recognise that you have certain economic rights in the overseas markets. In regard to colonies, we do not take up the view that never will we reconsider this question." Colonies are very often expensive luxuries, but if it is a question of honour, and if other conditions as regards Disarmament have been fulfilled, I would raise for instance no insuperable objection to giving Germany the mandate over Liberia.
§ Sir EDWARD GRIGG
Is the hon. and gallant Member prepared to pay any respect to the wishes of the inhabitants?
Certainly, that is one of the greatest difficulties. All I wish to say is that I think it foolish to take up the point of view that never, never will we reconsider the question of Colonies in relation to Germany. If it proves in the future that it is not possible to do anything along these lines, then I would give them in compensation certain economic privileges and rights.
Perhaps the most important event in European politics during the past few months is the German-Polish Pact. What does it mean? Does it mean peace in that part of the world for ten years? Any hon. Member who has been to that district and who realises the intensity of feeling that the Germans have always had in regard to the settlement under the Treaty of Versailles might be doubtful. We may sincerely hope that it does mean peace, but, on the other hand, certain incidents have taken place in Danzig and there has been the arrest by the Poles of Prince Pless, the leader of the Germans in Silesia. Whatever they mean, however, it does not deflect from the great tribute to Hitler's control of public opinion in Germany that he has been able to make them, at any rate, temporarily accept what a year ago I do not think he would have got 5 per cent. of the nation to accept as even a tolerable settlement of the Corridor problem. I understand that Germany has offered the same kind of pact as she has signed with Poland to the Little Entente, but she has not offered it to Austria. I do not know whether it is because she holds out some vague hope that on some future date she may be able 2092 to include Austria within the economic union of Germany.
I would like to say a word in regard to Austria. By the Treaty of Versailles we have created Austria an uneconomic unit. If we desire to maintain her independence, we have to see to it that she can live economically. I believe that the independence of Austria to-day is as vital to the peace of Europe as the independence of Belgium was in the last century. The question naturally arises whether she can live alone without the economic assistance which her neighbouring countries and the Great Powers can give her. If Europe as a whole wishes to preserve the independence of Austria, she must give her those economic conditions under which alone she can live. Italy and Hungary have already made great concessions which have considerably helped the foreign trade of Austria. I do not think we should welcome this question of Austria becoming merely an Italian affair. I do not think the Italians want it, if for no other reason than that they would find it far too expensive. Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Rumania have got to play their part. Their attitude is, "We do not want to give to Vienna what to-morrow will be transferred to Berlin. If, however, we believe that the Great Powers will support the independence of Austria, we are prepared to make those concessions which will make her an economic entity."
It may be asked, what do I want the Government to do. I realise that it is difficult for the Government to commit themselves in this matter. All I would ask is that the Foreign Secretary should say that we stand behind the declaration of the 17th February, and should make our position perfectly clear to France and Italy, namely, that we are behind them in this matter. If this succeeds, I believe it will have laid the basis of an economic union in Central Europe extending over an area greater than that of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. If we establish in a few years over that large area, I do not say free trade, but a freer distribution of goods, we shall have created an atmosphere in which that word "revision," the bugbear of Europe to-day, will become a reality and a possibility and will be welcomed by the victors as well as by the vanquished. I appreciate that the Foreign Secretary can 2093 easily say how simple it is for an irresponsible back bench Member of Parliament to talk like this. "We have," he may say, "to deal with very delicate diplomatic concerns. You put forward an idealistic plan which is far from simple to carry out." Unless we get some lead upon these particular matters, both abroad and at home, the Government must expect diversity of opinion, dissention and criticism from among the ranks of their supporters, of whom I am proud to be one. There are many, not only in this country but in Europe, who are looking to the National Government of England to give a lead. I believe they will welcome it, accept it and follow it. We look to the Government to give that lead, and I cannot believe that we shall look in vain.
§ 1.22 p.m.
§ Mr. MANDER
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) in his interesting speech put forward some rather astonishing propositions. He suggested that the time might come when certain territories in various parts of the world might be handed over to the administration of Germany. He actually named one particular country and thought that in due course that fate may be held out to Liberia. I should have thought that until the German Government learns to treat its own people, its own Jews, its own Socialists and pacifists with some common humanity and decency, it is intolerable that the suggestion should go out from this country that any other people outside Germany should be handed over to the same administration.
I do not want that impression to go out. All I said was that I would not take the attitude that never in any circumstances would I consider this question.
§ Mr. MANDER
I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend would not suggest a terrible fate for the Liberians, because they would under the present German regime be worse off than under their present torturers. In regard to the question of Japan, he put forward what would mean a more or less revolutionary change in our present policy. It may be that his is a right policy, but so long as we are committed to our present agreements, the Nine Power Pact and others, it would obviously be necessary to give 2094 notice to withdraw from those agreements, as I presume would be my hon. and gallant Friend's desire. I should have thought that we had had sufficient experience already of the difficulties of dealing with this matter in the Far East, and that it is far better to adhere to our obligations and to make it quite clear that we are not going to depart from them in any way. The unfortunate precedent set by the way in which the Council of the League handled the Manchukuo question has done immense harm, and is responsible for a great deal of the troubles of the world to-day.
The hon. Member asked a perfectly proper question : "What can you do to Japan? What weapons have you got? The answer is that the League could, if it thought fit, apply economic sanctions to Japan. He may retort," Would not that involve a possible risk of war?" It might; but life is full of risks, we cannot do anything that does not involve some risk. To take economic sanctions under certain circumstances is infinitely better and involves less risk than to incur the certain danger which will come if we allow armed force to walk naked in the world without opposition or obstruction. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson) dealt with the reform of the League of Nations, and put forward a number of propositions with which I did not find myself very much in sympathy. I think the policy of the Government upon this matter is perfectly right, and that the problem of disarmament is infinitely more important than that of the reform of the League. It is true to say that if the present machinery—and, after all, it is only machinery—is worked by the statesmen of the world with goodwill and with a desire to achieve results, that there is not very much wrong with it. It is the personalities and policies and public opinion of the countries that really matter far more than the particular machinery employed. To obtain any change in the structure of the League would require unanimity, so that from a practical point of view there is very little chance of carrying it out. An hon. Friend interrupts me with a remark about Germany. I do want Germany back. It is said that it is necessary to reform the League in order to bring back Germany and Japan. Surely Germany and Japan 2095 want to smash up the League. That is their policy. They do not want to reform it in any reasonable way; and I am not at all sure that at certain moments and in certain moods that is not the desire of the Italian Government too. My right hon. Friend dealt with the question of sanctions. He suggested there was great danger in the Council of the League committing us to action in some part of the world when we might not like to take part in it. Of course, that is quite untrue. The Council has no power to commit this or any other country to action. The final decision rests with each particular country. To suggest that the way to reform the League is to cut out all sanctions, all use of force, is the exact reverse of what we want to see done. We are coming more and more to realise that unless there are some effective means of carrying out decisions the League will totally fail to function and that we shall be landed in world war once more; so that is the one vital thing we want to see increased rather than cut out of the League altogether.
My right hon. Friend dealt with the position of the United States. She is co-operating more closely than ever before. By the Stimson doctrine that the United States will not interfere with any action taken by the League when she concurs with the decision of the League, an immense advance has been made and the danger that the United States might obstruct or interfere with the action of the League has been removed and a way left open for effective action in the way of sanctions. With regard to the entry of certain Powers into the League, I quite agree that we want to get them all in. There is the immediate question of Russia. I cannot help thinking, from the public evidences, to say nothing of anything else, that if Russia were encouraged now, especially if she were told, either publicly or privately, that her co-operation would be welcomed among the great Powers on the League, she would join the League, where she would, naturally have a permanent seat. I hope the Government will take such action as is possible to them, either privately or publicly, to encourage Russia to make application to join the League of Nations at the time of the next Assembly.
2096 The right policy for us to pursue is to encourage to the utmost of our power the alliance of all those countries in the world who believe in the doctrine of collective security. After all, that is the League of Nations. It is an alliance of those who believe in the doctrine of collective security. If we cannot get all in whom we want in let us get in as many as we can, adding to their numbers all the time by persuasion. Personally I think that the effective security which we shall have to rely upon will not really be successful or available at the right moment unless we organise it beforehand, and have something in the form of an international force. It is no good waiting until difficulties arise and then to go round to different Powers asking "What will you do? How many will you send?" We must have something which is ready to act, about which there can be no doubt that it will carry out its functions. If there is no doubt in anybody's mind about the use of force on behalf of the international community in order to preserve order, I venture to say that order is likely to be preserved. We could not have a better precedent, a more fortunate example, than what has happened in the case of the Chaco. I want to congratulate most warmly His Majesty's Government on the action they took through the mouth of the Lord Privy Seal, at Geneva yesterday. They have focussed the opinion of the world. The report of the Chaco Committee is a very good illustration of how the League functions in the way of publicity. A neutral committee, representing different countries, ascertained the real facts and published them in all their horror to the world. It made an immense impression and enabled the British Government to give a fine lead at Geneva, and to carry with them the whole world, I hope, in putting an end to the odious traffic in arms which has enabled the war between Bolivia and Paraguay to be carried on during the last year or so. I cannot help thinking that the time is coming when we in this country will, in this matter, have to take the same action as we did 100 years ago in regard to slavery, and to say that whatever other countries may do we will keep our hands clean and will not be involved in this terrible arms traffic.
I say to the Government : "Take what you have done at Geneva in the matter 2097 of the Chaco as an inspiration and as an example for the bigger Disarmament Conference there. In this matter you have given a splendid lead, you have led the world and have all countries with you. If you take similar action in the matter of disarmament on the 29th of this month you can carry all the nations with you in the same way." One would like to see the Government giving a lead in the direction of abandoning within a reasonable period all the weapons forbidden to Germany by the Treaty of Versailles. I still believe it is not too late to make that effort, but if we cannot go as far as that, and the Government feel that all they can do is that which is set out in their White Paper proposals and in the Draft Convention, let them put behind them all the drive they possess as the greatest Power in the world. I hope that if failure comes we shall not attempt to hide it by passing some resolution, by suggesting that the question has only been adjourned to another Committee, and that in due course something useful may arise. Do not let us end up with a resolution to forbid bombing throughout the world. It would be perfectly futile, it would not be carried out, it would not mean anything at all.
Rather than do nothing at all, I suggest that we ought to consider the possibility of the whole matter of German armaments being raised under Article 213 of the Treaty of Versailles, under which by a majority, the Council of the League have the right to ask for an investigation. I know that the answer would be : What happens if Germany refuses an investigation? We shall have to face this issue some day, and rather than do nothing at all we ought to have a show down. We ought to show where Germany stands in this matter, rather than go in for a policy of drift.
We are at the parting of the ways in the world to-day. I was talking only a few days ago to a man who recently made a tour of nearly every capital in Europe, and he discussed with all the leading statesmen and others in different walks of life the one question, "When is war coming?" They all gave him their view, and they all ended up with this one remark : "In the long run and in the main it depends upon what England is going to do." I hope that this country will make it clear that wherever in the world an aggressor raises a hand the 2098 British Government will be there, not alone but with others, to play their part in striking that hand down. I hope that the Government realise that they have behind them the overwhelming support of public opinion in this country for courageous, realistic action, and that they will go forward on the 29th of this month and give to the world a real lead which will save them from the disaster which otherwise lies ahead.
§ 1.37 p.m.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Debates of this sort have undoubtedly very great educative value. They call the attention of the public outside to suggestions and points of view which are the more effectively presented because they are very often at once challenged by another speaker. A characteristic of these Debates is, first of all, the expression of that which we all feel, a deep concern in the presence of an international situation which is felt to be full of difficulty and, it may be, very threatening for the future. On the other hand, there is a quite astonishing diversity of remedies which those who have taken part in the Debate so confidently recommend. One hon. Member has explained that in his view the most important thing of all—more important than anything else which he mentioned or could think of—was that we should at once remove all provision as to sanctions from the Covenant of the League. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), who has just spoken, takes the view, on the contrary, that we ought to develop and reinforce the reality of those sanctions. The hon. lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone), who made a very good speech in the course of the morning, is strongly of the opinion that economic sanctions should be developed and pursued, but she believes that that might be done without involving anybody in war. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is of the view that if you join in economic sanctions that might lead this country into war, but he cheerfully observed that, after all, in this life we have to take risks.
There are various ways of facing those difficulties. I will do my best to make a few observations which I am sure will not be as illuminating as much that has been said. There is a difference between the responsibility that rests upon His Majesty's Government in these matters 2099 and the very proper freedom which is used by hon. Members of this House—and very usefully used—in a discussion of this sort. First I should like quite briefly to deal with some remarks that have been made in the Debate about the Far East. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) who opened the Debate made that the principal topic of his speech, and he gave us so far as one can in a very short space of time, a review and a synopsis of what had occurred. He was critical, of course, but what struck me most was that almost the only recent document which he did not think it worth while either to read or to summarise, was the communication which was made by His Majesty's Government to the Japanese Government and the answer which the Japanese Government then gave. I should certainly have thought that that was the principal thing to look at. It is quite true that some semiofficial statement which has been made in Japan aroused anxieties and doubts in many quarters, and in other countries besides this, but I take leave to point out that it was this country—which has always been told that it never took the initiative and never gave a lead, and all the rest of it—and no other country which proceeded to address Japan on the subject.
What we did was none the worse because it was, as I avowed at the time, a friendly communication. I believe in friendship and in friendship with Japan. We addressed a friendly communication, and it was one which I think was very much to the point. We said that the principle of equal rights in China was guaranteed very explicitly by the Nine Power Treaty of 1922 to which Japan was a party, and that His Majesty's Government must, of course, insist upon the due observance of the Treaty. We said that the rights which different foreign nations has in connection with China were common to all signatories, except so far as any particular country might have a special right recognised by other Powers and not shared by them. I may interpose to say that there was a little misunderstanding about that last phrase which I quoted. That was not conceding that there was any general claim which would be admitted in favour of Japan, but was 2100 merely making manifest the fact that many foreign Powers, including ourselves, have certain specially stipulated rights in that part of the world which Japan does not challenge and which are admitted by third parties. For example, certain international settlements or certain rights in connection with particular railways. This exception, we pointed out, is common to all signatories and the Nine Power Treaty is a Treaty which applies indifferently as between China on the one hand and the other signatories on the other.
We pointed out in the next place, in this Note, that if, as we gathered from this unofficial declaration, the anxiety that was felt in Japan on the subject had anything to do with preserving the peace of China and maintaining good relations between China and Japan, that certainly could not apply to us or our policy, because we were as devoted as anybody could be to both those purposes. We said that the Nine Power Treaty itself contained provisions which would enable any signatory to raise questions of difficulty with the others, and we therefore presumed—I know of no other way in which this country could address a foreign Power—we inferred, and announced that we inferred, that, whatever was being said, was not said in any way because it was intended to infringe the common rights of other Powers in China or to infringe Japan's own treaty obligations.
The first question which seems to me to arise, if anybody is going to review and criticise this matter, is : Was that a proper note to write? It seems to me that it was at once firm and courteous and to the point. The answer was that which I communicated to the House. It was a solemn assurance, given by the Japanese Foreign Minister to His Majesty's Ambassador in Tokyo, that Japan would observe the provisions of the Nine Power Treaty, that the policy of the Japanese Government and of His Majesty's Government with regard to the Treaty coincided, and that the maintenance of the open door in China was a subject of the greatest importance in the view of Japan as well as of ourselves. If I were to ask what it is suggested that at that stage His Majesty's Government should have done, apparently there are some people who would say that it was quite right to address this Note to Japan—that it was quite right 2101 to define the essential claims of this country, that it was quite right to address Japan in perfectly courteous and friendly terms; but that, When you had got the very answer for which you have asked, you should say, "I do not believe you."
I admit at once that, if that be the right way of conducting our foreign affairs, somebody else ought to be Foreign Minister. I cannot imagine anything less likely to produce either an effective result or a peaceful conclusion than to proceed in that way. Surely, the right thing for us to do was to do what we did, and to ask Japan by a direct and formal communication to take note of the anxiety which we felt with respect to the reported declaration, to define our own position, and to ask whether our view differed from, or agreed with, the view of Japan. We have now got this perfectly formal assurance stating that our view of the matter was the view of Japan. I hope that there will be no dispute about that. I noted that those two essential recent matters, namely, our communication to Japan and Japan's answer, were the two things that were not quoted by the hon. and learned Gentleman when he opened the Debate.
We have had, of course, from him, and, indeed, from other speakers, many comments of a more general kind in connection with this very difficult situation in the Far East, and I gather, not for the first time, that in the view of the hon. and learned Gentleman and some others a great deal of dissatisfaction is felt as to the way in which this matter has been handled. I would ask the House to allow me to point out, if we are going to refer to the Lytton Report, or if we are going to refer to the Resolution of the League of Nations, that neither the Lytton Report nor the League of Nations Resolution on the subject ever proposed that sanctions should be imposed upon Japan. The recommendation in both cases was that the best way was not to proceed by such a method, but a method of conciliation and agreement was urged. I regret as much as anybody that there has not been a greater measure of agreement between China and Japan in the Far East, but it is a complete confusion of ideas to suppose that, in abstaining from recommending or seeking to apply sanctions, anybody was departing either from 2102 the Lytton Report or from the recommendations of the League of Nations itself.
I noticed that the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, in one of his questions, asked me whether this country repudiated its obligation to respect and preserve the territorial integrity and political independence of China, including Manchuria, under the Nine Power Treaty and under Article 10 of the Covenant. I am very much obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman for having supplied me with the exact text of his question, because it slightly puzzled me. Let me divide the matter and analyse the question. He asks, does this country repudiate its obligation to respect and preserve the territorial integrity and political independence of China; and he gives as his first reference the Nine Power Treaty. Really, anybody who beard that question would suppose, and I think the hon. and learned Gentleman must have supposed, that the Nine Power Treaty which we have signed contains some Clause by which this country undertook to respect and preserve the integrity of Chinese territory. It contains no such Clause. I have the Treaty in my hand. Here is the Nine Power Treaty, signed by nine States, and Article I says :The Contracting Powers other than China agree to respect the sovereignty, the independence and the territorial and administrative integrity of China.Therefore, the phrase is not "to respect and preserve" at all. I should, indeed, be very much concerned if, in signing any treaty, this country has pledged itself to use its Army, Navy and Air Force for preserving the territorial integrity of another. There is, of course, as always when so ingenious an advocate as the hon. and learned Gentleman formulates a question, an explanation. The explanation is that he adds at the end of his question a reference, not only to the Nine Power Treaty, but to Article 10 of the Covenant. Article 10 of the Covenant is not an Article which is addressed specifically to the integrity of the territory of China; it is a general Article, which has been much criticised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson), and which, as he rightly says, has really the effect of preserving, subject to one possible variation, the existing boundaries 2103 of the world. It is Article 10, undoubtedly, which is regarded by many critics of the Covenant as making it so difficult to alter any boundary, and there, is a good deal of reason in the view which my right hon. Friend put, that historically Article 10 of the Covenant must be regarded as a very substantial buttress to the boundaries which were laid down in the Peace Treaties. I would like the House quite clearly to understand that it simply is not true that we have ever signed, or that, as far as I know, anyone has signed, a treaty with China in which we have pledged ourselves to use all our forces to preserve the territorial integrity and political independence of China, including Manchuria. It is just as well that that should be clearly understood, and I am quite sure that it was not understood when the hon. and learned Gentleman formulated his very carefully drafted question.
Regarding the general view as to whether or not the League of Nations has grossly mishandled this Far Eastern question there will, no doubt, always remain a difference of opinion. My hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) just now expressed his own view, and I think we have had it also from my right hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) from whose speech, if I may venture to say so, although it was undoubtedly of a most fervid character, I was wholly unable to deduce, from the beginning to the end of it, any proposition whatever. My right hon. Friend did, however, express one particular sentiment. He expressed his very great admiration, based upon his personal recollection, for the work which the late Lord Grey did at the Foreign Office. That is a thing which I can certainly confirm. May I just remind the House that if we are going to speak, as I think we ought to speak, with deep respect of that great man, one of the very last announcements of Lord Grey had to do with the handling by the League of Nations of the Far Eastern question, and, in particular, with the action of His Majesty's present Government in that regard? I believe it was the last occasion on which Lord Grey ever made a public speech. In the Albert Hall in, I think, March, 1932, he said this, and it is my answer to those who think that on this subject His Majesty's 2104 Government are open to much criticism. Lord Grey said :The attacks on the League for its handling of the Fax Eastern trouble were not justified. The League had been a restraining influence from the beginning. … What more could the League have done?. … Economic pressure could not have been applied on Japan unless it was done in co-operation with the Government of the United States.This is the view of this experienced statesman of world reputation who speaks with some knowledge of the difficulty of administering Foreign affairs. He goes on to say :I am delighted that the United States has joined with the League as much as it has in this conflict, but I do not for a moment believe that the united States Government has been so bashful that it has been, anxious to do so much more and has only been waiting to be invited to do so. So far as I am aware the British Government and the League have shown no backwardness in supporting anything which the United States Government proposed, and to have proposed more than the United States Government are ready to co-operate in would not have been effective and would not have been wise.So far as criticism may be useful I am entitled to say on this much debated question that at any rate I have the authority of Lord Grey, the right hon. Gentleman's former chief, in taking a view exactly opposite to his view, and that the true experienced view is that in a very difficult situation neither the League of Nations nor His Majesty's Government are legitimately exposed to these reproaches.
I should like to turn to the extremely interesting subject which was brought to our notice to-day in the very closely reasoned speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mr. Locker-Lampson)—the question of the reform of the League of Nations. It is true as he said that he has mentioned this subject once or twice before and it may be, though he said it was not so, that I might have seemed to put it aside rather brusquely. I have had doubts as to whether it would be wise to say publicly from this Box anything about it now, as I am faced with the difficulty which constantly faces the Foreign Secretary when replying to a Foreign Office debate. He always has to remember that speaking from this Box he is not simply throwing into the pool a few ideas which afterwards perhaps may 2105 be sorted out, but he may be thought to be indicating some definite Government decision which will have reaction elsewhere. I am quite deliberately putting before the House of Commons and anyone else who considers my remarks two or three reflections on the subject because I think it is very necessary that we should clear our minds upon it. At present the Covenant of the League of Nations is, it is true, capable of amendment. It contains, like the rules of a club, an Article prescribing exactly how you can alter the Covenant. You can only alter it if there is unanimity among the members of the Council of the League. The opposition of one member could defeat an amendment. Then if you get first of all unanimity in the Council of the League the matter is pronounced upon by the Assembly by a majority. It is Article 26 :Amendments to this covenant will take effect when ratified by the members of the League whose representatives compose the Council and by a majority of the members of the League whose representatives compose the Assembly.Let the House observe what the present structure is. If any State which is a member of the Council objects to the proposed amendment, the amendment cannot be made. It is very material to remember that before we talk too light-heartedly about fundamental changes in the structure of the League. Of course it is true that there have been some amendments, but they have all been made under that procedure. The particular article to which my right hon. Friend called attention and which he rightly said has a very material bearing on the question of the co-operation of some States in the League is Article 10, and Article 10 in general terms provides that members of the League undertake to respect and preserve the territorial integrity of all members of the League. In other words, under Article 10 all the boundaries of the Peace Treaties would stand as an object to be preserved by members. There is, it is true, another Article which does contemplate the contingency of boundaries being modified, but the Article which provides for that again requires an amount of agreement which unquestionably makes it very difficult. It is Article 19.The Assembly may from time to time advise the reconsideration by members of the League of Treaties which have become inapplicable 2106 and the consideration of international conditions whose continuance might endanger the peace of the world.If the hon. and learned Gentleman or I when I followed the profession of the law had been called upon to draw up an Article which was to provide in the clearest terms for the revision of boundaries, I think we would have expressed it a little more dogmatically than that. But that is the Article in question and therefore we must all realise exactly what is the nature of the difficulty that is raised when one talks of revising the Covenant. The real truth is that as the outcome of the War you find that there are some States whose policy and inclination is to try to keep boundaries as they are and other States whose policy and inclination is to try to alter boundaries and make them different. To a very large extent but not quite universally you find that the boundary is the same between what are called the victorious Powers, if indeed after a war there are any victorious Powers, and the other Powers. That is not an entirely just classification, but you will find that these States fall into one or other of the two categories. Some have a policy which is aimed at keeping boundaries as they are and others may be expected to raise questions as to the legitimacy of this boundary or the other. Here is your problem and I do not see the solution of it. Any help that my right hon. Friend can give will be very gratefully received. But you have to consider how it is possible to amend the Covenant of the League so as to affect these matters so vital to the policy of different nations with the result that you will not lose people from the League, but will bring in others who are at present outside.
He said quite truly that in an earlier Debate I declared my own view and I think it was the view of the Government that it was extremely doubtful whether it was well to enter upon this tremendously complicated and most controversial question side by side with a discussion about armaments, and I took the view—I believe it was the view held by Signor Mussolini although he himself is one of those who would like to see the Covenant of the League reconsidered—that the business of negotiating disarmaments was already such a frightfully difficult task and presented such an enormous number of topics on which people might differ and argue to the 2107 world's end that to throw into the arena as a sort of make-weight and let us at the same time discuss how we can amend the Covenant of the League of Nations would not be the most likely way of reaching agreement.
There was a second reason which I will state quite boldly. If you look at the Italian Memorandum you will find that it contains the statement that in the view of the Italian Government—which Signor Mussolini expressed to me personally—if we could reach an agreement in respect of disarmament which Germany could accept, sign and take part in it really ought to be what he called a fundamental counterpart of such an agreement that Germany should return to the League of Nations. I take the view, and I think that the House will take the view, that if you are going to revise the Covenant of the League, you want to have Germany there in the League of Nations to help in the revision. I think that to attempt to revise the Covenant of the League when Germany is outside of it is a very doubtful excursion. On the one hand, you would always be at a great disadvantage, because one of the Great Powers would not be contributing what it could to the Conference, and, on the other hand, you would be giving to the Power outside an almost unlimited power of pressure, because they would say, "No, we are not going to join unless you alter it so and so." Therefore, I take the view, and I express it to the House, that for these reasons I doubt very much whether this difficult question of reforming the terms of the Covenant can be taken up at the same time as the disarmament question itself. All that is subject to review.
The cause of this prolonged disarmament discussion is undoubtedly very disturbing, and it may be—some people think that it is so—that the difficulty of making the progress which we so earnestly want—and to secure which, let me say, the British Government are going to exert themselves to the very last minute and the very last ounce—that the difficulties of disarmament may be found to be so great, that we have to consider whether or not we should make the way more easy by raising other questions as well.
2108 I think that there is a good deal of wisdom in the saying that a structure which was so elaborately put together, and indeed which represents such a careful balance, should not be pulled to pieces until you have a pretty clear idea of what it is you are going to put in its place. Once a general proposition is accepted by everybody that the Covenant of the League, as it stands, will not do, unless you are quite sure that you know rapidly how to get everybody to agree to put something in its place, you may strike such a blow at the whole design of the League of Nations as will only add to the difficulties of the situation. I hope that these remarks will not be interpreted here or outside as designed to indicate some new departure of His Majesty's Government, but I did feel that it was due to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House that I should explain to the House as clearly as I could some of the considerations which really are very much in our minds on this most important subject.
I should like to say one or two words with equal frankness on another matter which has been much mentioned in the Debate to-day. Again, I am not pronouncing some formal cut and dried decision. I am merely contributing to this Debate as well as I can by calling attention to some considerations which may not always be remembered. It is quite true that there is an article in the Covenant which makes a reference to economic sanctions, and the House may be sure that this class of subject has not been put on one side by His Majesty's Government. I claim that it has received and is receiving as close a study from His Majesty's Government as can possibly be imagined. There are endless considerations connected with it which have not even been hinted at in the Debate to-day, but I will make one or two very obvious remarks.
The first is this. I think the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities, in a very interesting speech on the subject, did not sufficiently allow for this fact. We must not assume that there is something that we may call an economic sanction, as she said, different from war which can light-heartedly be applied to all and sundry without the risk of war. There seems to be a very large number of people, many young people 2109 for whom she claims specially to speak, who are, no doubt, most deeply and sincerely interested in this subject, as all intelligent young citizens should be, but all I would ask them to bear in mind is that you do not solve this problem by talking rather light-heartedly and airily about financial and economic pressure. You have to ask yourselves, "Suppose this was done, are we sure that the State upon which this pressure is applied will take it like the schoolboy receiving the chastisement or the reproof of his master. Is it not possible that he may say, 'You may explain to me that it is not an unfriendly act, but that is not my view. My view is that it is.'" That is an extremely elementary reflection, but, having regard to the communications which I get from so many members of the public, it appears to me that most of my correspondents have not thought about that view.
The second reflection is this. I suppose that we are all agreed that we should not approve of some system which, though it can be used with great safety against little people, cannot be used with any safety against big people. [HON. MEMBERS : "Hear, hear!"] I am glad to have the warm approval of the Opposition for that. It is certainly my view. I am not in the least disputing that if all the Great Powers set to work they might be able to put a great deal of pressure on a small Power without running much risk, but the thing we have to try and consider is, what is the nature of the pressure that can be applied by international action through the League which is really fairly applied as between the great and the small. That, again, is a reflection, which, I am sure, will have occurred to many.
There is a third one. It is not the fact, as some people seem to suppose, that once you have managed to work out a system of economic sanctions you can keep it as if it were a formula in a drawer and have the prescription made up and the dose applied to whomsoever over the face of the earth at the moment happens to need the dose. It is not a specific which can be concocted out of a formula however carefully the formula may be prepared. It is a thing which involves infinite commutations and combinations. It depends in each case upon what is the particular State against which 2110 you are proposing to put the pressure and, secondly, upon what are the other States which are really and truly going to join in putting on that pressure. Even within the boundaries of Europe the practical problem is different according to the particular State you happen to take for choice.
But there is a fourth consideration which, of course, we all have in mind. I do not thing that there is any harm in stating it quite frankly. It is absolutely no use talking about economic pressure unless you make certain that it is going to be effective. So far as the principal countries of Europe are concerned, you cannot, as a matter of fact, make a system effective unless the United States actively co-operate. We all in this country acknowledge with every possible gratitude the contributions which the United States is able to make towards the improvement of international affairs. The United States was in fact one of the principal authors of the Covenant, and it was a matter of great regret to the rest of us that when the time came the United States was not prepared to join the League.
It is not a matter for us to reproach anybody with. It merely is to be observed as a fact. But notwithstanding that the United States have constantly made the most valuable contributions towards the work which the League of Nations is trying to do. Either by appointing an observer, or sometimes by nominating an ambassador at large, sometimes through diplomatic channels, the Americans, although not members of the League, have joined in a great deal of the good work, and certainly I would be the very last not to recognise gratefully and publicly the service which America has done for the world. But really there is no sort of good in our pretending not to observe the limitations within which the United States is likely to act.
I am going to give the House an illustration. The House may remember that in the course of the discussions on the British Draft Convention at Geneva, we attempted to draft in the best possible form the Articles in the Convention to deal with security. We tried to put in Articles what is called the Consultative Pact to provide that if there were anything in the nature of 2111 a threat of a breach of the Kellogg Pact, there should be a consultation between signatories and that action should then be discussed and decided upon, and we would endeavour to act together. 1, myself, was responsible for the final form in which those Articles were drafted. I might say that I drafted them with Mr. Stimson's declaration before my eyes, because my object was to present, on behalf of the British Government, something which, as far as I could see, was exactly in the form most likely to secure American support. When the matter came to be discussed, the American representative, Mr. Norman Davis, made a very careful declaration, and I should like to read a couple of sentences from the declaration in order that we may see for ourselves what it is foolish not to face—to estimate what is the measure of the promise of help in respect of such things as consultative pacts and action thereupon which we might hope to get from the great Republic on the other side of the ocean. This is what Mr. Norman Davis said :We are willing to consult with other States in case of a threat to peace with a view to averting conflict. Further than that, in the event that the States in conference determine that a State has been guilty of a breach of the peace in violation of its international obligations and take measures against the violator, then, if we concur in the judgment rendered as to the responsible and guilty party, we will refrain from any action tending to defeat such collective effort which the States may thus make to restore peace.Nothing could be clearer than that. I, certainly, am not going to invite anybody to deny that it is valuable, but it is quite absurd to pretend that that declaration, solemnly made with the authority of the American Government at Geneva, encourages us to believe that America would take full part in economic sanctions. If I call attention to two passages in that declaration, I do hope that the House will believe that I do not do it with any desire to minimise the value of the declaration, but I do it for the purpose of clearness. In the first place, if all the conditions here are satisfied, what is it that the United States are good enough to say their Government would do? It is this,We will refrain from any action"—Not "We will take any action"—tending to defeat such collective effort.2112 Whose collective effort? Not a collective effort in which the united States take part, but a collective effort of other people,which the States"—not the United States—may thus make to restore peace.My hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Knight) has just said that it is a valuable declaration, and I would be the very last to say it is not, because it means this : Suppose there arose what I may perhaps call a flagrant case in which the American nation was deeply stirred, and suppose that the States of Europe, or the other States of the world, had the means by which they could put some pressure upon what is here called "the violator," and suppose we went so far as to do it, it is a very material thing to know that if such action commended itself to the United States we might be sure that the United States Government would do nothing whatever to encourage its own citizens or to defend them if they tried to break the ring. It is a very material thing, and corresponds in some degree with the situation which developed at one stage of the War. But it is a very different thing from saying, "Here are economic sanctions waiting to be adopted if it were not for the pusillanimity of the British Government, and if only we critics in the House formed a Government we would have economic sanctions before you could say 'Jack Robinson.' "
The subject, therefore, is vastly more difficult and complicated than many people suppose, and the real reason why there is—and I feel it, and we all feel it—this rather sudden wave of dejection and alarm on the part of the whole population, who are devoted sincerely to disarmament and peace at this hour, is that we have exhausted the time when we could usefully express ourselves in perfectly sincere platitudes, and we are right up against the hard facts of the situation. The only way to deal with the question is by dealing with it in detail, and facing each separate difficulty and finding an answer- That is a terribly bard thing to do. Peace—disarmament—why, it is the subject of every good man's discourse on Sunday and week-day. There was not a sentence in the admirably phrased speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for 2113 North Cornwall which would not be perfectly appropriate at any peace meeting whether in a sacred or secular edifice at any time in the last 20 years. Nothing is simpler than to say "Really, is this all we can see before us? Is it really the case that we cannot do better than that?" Or, to use the eloquent language of my right hon. Friend, "Really, we must pull ourselves together." By ail means let us pull ourselves together, but let us realise that we shall not solve anything at all by quoting magnificent lines from a Wordsworth sonnet to suggest in this connection that details do not matter, that we are merely concerned with "nice calculations." It matters everything in the world. This is a perfectly definite case where genuine sentiment will produce the steam without which an engine is perfectly incapable of moving anybody an inch of the way. You can use that genuine sentiment as the steam which drives your engine, but the structure of the engine remains one of the most complicated things in the whole world.
What, then, is to be the position that the British Government take up when we go to Geneva in a few days? As to what the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton said I altogether refuse to take the view that we are at the end of a miserable adventure, that the least said the soonest mended, that we had better shut up shop and say no more about it. I think it is going to be a frightful disaster for the world if we have to face the fact that nothing effective can be done. If we have to face the fact that nothing effective can be done, there is no sacrifice, no novelty of suggestion that is not worth facing rather than that. I certainly hope that the whole House will agree that it is in that spirit that we ought to return to Geneva. But do not make any mistake as to what the real difficulty is.
The British Government have, in fact, in this matter—I do not say it as a matter of idle boasting or something that has no justification—given a lead to the world. We are the one great Power that, first of all, set an example by unilateral reduction of armaments. We are the one Power at Geneva that has produced a connected scheme. We are the only Power at Geneva that has ever dared to 2114 mention a figure. It was very gratifying that when that was done a Resolution was passed which approved of the British Draft Convention as the basis of an ultimate agreement, but the fact is, that round that Draft Convention there has gathered in the course of months objections and reservations almost innumerable. It is really not practicable to pretend that the British Draft Convention has not become surrounded by enormous entanglements of exceptions and doubts which make one's hope of it being adopted much less confident that it was.
What did we do? We did two things. Last Summer the Disarmament Conference, in fact, same to a full stop. It did not know how to go on. It then seemed to the British Government that we ought to take a great responsibility, and we took it. We said : "We do not believe that this method of discussion between 64 nations, every one with its special point—I will not say everyone with its prepared speech—is likely to produce agreement. We must see if we cannot reduce the differences between, at any rate, some of the principal States in Europe." Therefore, with Mr. Henderson's warm approval—I acknowledge, if I may, respectfully and most sincerely all the help that Mr. Henderson has always been willing to give to me at the Disarmament Conference—we started these parallel and supplementary conversations. The House may see the results in the White Paper and may see that the suggestion that the British Government was dilatory, careless or indifferent is not true.
We said that it was necessary to modify the British Draft Convention, and, therefore, we produced, after a great deal of consideration, the Memorandum of the 29th January. We had discussions with the principal Powers in Europe. My hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal went on behalf of the Government to Paris, Berlin, Rome, and again to Paris, and we succeeded in getting what I think is a very significant contribution, namely, we succeeded in getting, and it is printed in the White Paper, a formal statement, approved by the German Government, of what were the modifications in the British proposals which the German Government would be content to accept. It is a very difficult thing to tie people down in black and white as to precisely what is regarded as their requirements.
2115 Having got that statement, we approached other Governments and said : "There. We have done our best, not only to take soundings but to speak with great precision, and these are the results. How far is it possible for you to go?" We have received several answers, which are given in the White Paper. I believe that the French Government on Monday is going to publish a Yellow Book of their own, which will contain the same material, and it may be one or two other documents. I ask any hon. Member to look at the White Paper and the French Yellow Book and see if it is not true that this matter has been pursued with the greatest possible energy and diligence by the British Government.
We are now going to hear at Geneva the views of others. I make no reference to any foreign Government in particular, but we have asked questions and we shall naturally listen with very great patience to the answers. I do not believe that we ought at this stage ourselves to go to Geneva and start a new initiative. I think we ought to say : "This is the effort we have made. This is what we have done. We have tried to bring it up to date, and now we really ought to know what the other people think about it, and what positive plan they can suggest." That being so, I trust that the high hopes that have been expressed here that some way may be found out of these terrible anxieties and doubts will be realised. I give not my own personal assurance, but the assurance of the Government as a whole, that nothing shall be found wanting in trying to play our full part to save the world from what undoubtedly is going to be a most serious calamity, the breakdown of the Conference and the disappointment of the hopes which we have all entertained for such a long time. But do not let us take the foolish view of supposing that even if that happens it means the end of the world. On the contrary, on the very day that it happens we have all of us to start new efforts for the same purpose. At the moment it is very foolish for people to pronounce these funeral orations, while we may still be able to make something out of the approaching meeting. Be that as it may, I believe that the determination and vigour of this country and of the Government in this matter are at one.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The hon. and learned Member asked, first :Does this country still stand by the Report of the League of Nations of February, 1933, and regard Japan's position in Manchuria and Jehol as a breach of the Nine Power Treaty?The answer is, certainly. We should not dream of departing from that position except by giving proper public notice. We should not think of doing anything like that secretly. As regards the second question :Does this country repudiate its obligation to respect and preserve the territorial integrity and political independence of China, including Manchuria, under the Nine Power Treaty and Article 10 of the Covenant?We shall certainly so long as we remain bound by the Nine Power Treaty, and other people are bound by it, do our utmost to observe it. As to whether or not this country regards itself as bound by the Covenant of the League of Nations, this country is bound by every Article of the Covenant. The third question was :Are the Government prepared not to enter into any Treaty agreement, arrangement or understanding with Japan in pursuance of the provisions of Article 2 of the Nine Power Treaty, or do they repudiate that Article as well?I have said already that we do not repudiate that Article. I am not aware that Article 2 does make any such provision, but, if we are asked whether we are proposing to depart from Article 2 of the Nine Power Treaty, the answer is, "No." On the last question with regard to security, I have said all that I am prepared to say on that subject to-day, and I think the diversity of view expressed in the debate abundantly justifies me in taking that view.
§ 2.35 p.m.
§ Sir E. GRIGG
The Foreign Secretary has dealt very effectively with the record of the Government in regard to the Disarmament Conference and has told us that at the resumption of its work next week they do not propose to take up any new line but to listen to what other Powers have to say. I make no complaint of that. France in her last published dispatch indicated her desire that the Conference should resume its work, and 2117 there is no doubt that it is proper that His Majesty's Government should go to Geneva prepared to listen to what France may have to say. I do not wish either to pronounce any premature funeral oration upon the Disarmament Conference, but the time is coming when we shall be very anxious for a more definite declaration as to where His Majesty's Government stand. The prospects of the Disarmament Conference are, by general admission, not good at the moment. France has declared that she will not recognise or discuss German rearmament unless Germany returns to Geneva. Germany says that she will not return to Geneva unless France, as a preliminary, recognises her equality of rights. That, apparently, is a complete deadlock. There is no doubt that the action of the German Government in publishing its greatly inflated Service Estimates while these negotiations are going on has had a very sinister effect, and no one can complain that the French Government say that Germany must give more evidence of her readiness to act in a conciliatory European sense if we are to discuss again her rearmament.
Discussions at Geneva, in the absence of Germany, obviously, would be completely useless, and we are, therefore, right up against the point as to whether we shall have to recognise that the Disarmament Conference has in fact broken down. I entirely agree with the right. hon. Gentleman that no one can blame the British Government for it. Criticism is always possible; I have been guilty of it myself. I have felt that the issue of security might have been raised earlier in the life of the Disarmament Conference. The worst chess player among us when he is watching a game in the smoke room possibly thinks he can see a move which the expert player has not apparently seen, and I am always ready to believe that those who are at the helm are being actuated by considerations and factors which may not be apparent to those who do not know everything. Whether criticism on this or that detail is sound or not, there can be no question about the sincerity and whole-heartedness of His Majesty's Government in the pursuit of disarmament. It has often been impugned by hon. Members of the Labour party, and sometimes by hon. Members of the Liberal party, and I 2118 should like to make it perfectly clear that in my opinion the Government of this country have nothing to regret and nothing to be ashamed of in their record in this matter. The facts speak for themselves. We have pursued a measure of unilateral disarmament to the verge of risk. Our Ministers have laboured and travelled as no other Ministers in this cause, and if, in spite of all this, the Conference is about to break down it is no fault of ours.
If this breakdown occurs, we have at once to face the consequences. The first impression which it suggests is that the contingency arises to which the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council referred in the Debate on the Air Estimates, that we shall have to increase our defences, particularly in the air, and establish air parity at the earliest possible moment. I should like to express my confidence in his declaration, which was renewed by the Lord President in a public speech he made last week. I have no doubt that he meant what he said and that he intends to carry it out. I should like also to express my appreciation to him for being present this afternoon. We know that he has great preoccupations which have certainly been very heavy, particularly in the last few days, and Members of the House who feel as I do very keenly on the subject of air defence will particularly appreciate his presence this afternoon. In this connection, and in advance of any decision which may have to be taken in regard to an increase in our Air Estimates, I should like to make a suggestion to the Government. Clearly we have to face the fact that a considerable expansion, accompanied by heavy expenditure, is in sight. It seems to be inevitable, and I, therefore, beg for something more than Departmental planning of the expansion and expenditure which has to be undertaken.
I am sure the Government realise that there is a good deal of anxiety among old members of the Services, of whom there are a great many in the House, about the lack of co-ordination between the Services at the present time. The line of demarcation between land and sea forces is tolerably clear, and we have never had difficulty in the past, but the establishment and development of an Air 2119 Force raises questions of overlapping and co-ordination in an entirely new way. There is no clear dividing line between the functions of the Air Service and the Army. The two Services in many respects overlap. Are the Government satisfied that at the present moment there is no unnecessary duplicacion between the two Services? I have heard it stated that in places where the Air Service has taken over it has found it necessary itself to raise land forces in place of the troops which have been withdrawn. That is an extraordinary duplication, if it has taken place. Hon. Members are aware that a steady duplication of the ancillary services has been taking place. It is difficult to realise the necessity for it if, as one imagines, in most contigencies which may arise the two Services would be acting together. I am referring to such matters as supply, medical services and so on.
There is also a lack of co-ordination between the Navy and the Air Force. I do not wish to pursue it this afternoon, but I should like to ask whether the Government are satisfied that our coastal defences are taking adequate consideration of this new factor of attack and defence in the air. The question of coastal attack and defence has certainly been transformed by the development of the Air Force, and it is doubtful whether our coastal defences have taken adequate consideration of it. I should like also to mention the fact that the Navy still seems to show an extraordinary partiality for bases on the east and south coasts. That may be perfectly sound, but one wonders why it is being done, why at a time like this Chatham is so popular and Pembroke Dock closed. One would have thought that it is much better to be on the west than the east coast if you are to have a secure base. Before the War the Navy did not foresee the submarine danger, and the first thing we had to do was to build an adequate base. I hope the Government will assure us that matters of this kind are really being considered.
But there is one question even more serious if we are coming to the expansion of the Air Force, as I believe we shall certainly be coming. There is in the Air Force, necessarily in so young a service, a lack of experienced general staff officers, and if there is to be expansion on the scale which may be 2120 necessary, clearly officers will have to be added, brought into that Force from the older services, or else a better system of co-ordination and co-operation between the services will have to be established. I suggest to the Government that in advance of any decision which they may take about the expansion of our Force in the air, this is an admirable opportunity for reviewing the problems of coordination and co-operation. I suggest that in this matter the heads of the service departments, whether they be the political heads or the service heads, are handicapped; they are necessarily tied to some extent to the views of their advisers, they are necessarily bound to represent more or less the views of the service which they represent. The Prime Minister's duty of co-ordination—I repeat this, in spite of all that was said in the Debate the other day—is really more than any Prime Minister can undertake. It is impossible to believe that any Prime Minister can undertake all this work of co-ordination. I hope, therefore, that the Government will consider the advisability of appointing an ad hoc committee to go into this matter at once, a committee which can devote all its time to advising and recommending on this matter without further delay.
That is all I wish to say to-day on the question of air defences, and I am not going to speak more than a minute or two longer as I know they are many who wish to take part in the Debate. Before I sit down I would like to make it perfectly clear that, although I am convinced that the time has come when we must look to our own defences and look to them before everything else, we cannot rest content and complacent with them. The present state of the world is by general confession tragic. We have had it stated in many different terms from all parts of the House to-day. It is true, I think, that nationalism, which is the portent of our time, is tearing our civilisation to pieces. I believe that we have an absolutely imperative interest not merely in trying to prevent another war—this is quite obvious—but in doing anything that may be possible to reduce tension in the world, and particularly in Europe.
In the eloquent opening passage of the Budget speech the other day, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was his belief that we had got very nearly to the 2121 limit of what we could do by our own efforts, and that the future of our recovery must depend very greatly on conditions in the rest of the world. Personally, I believe that to be profoundly true. If so, certainly we have an immediate interest, not merely in dealing with the question of future war, but in trying to take action which will reduce the political tension that is making economic recovery so difficult. Further than that, one has to recognise the fact that there is in our people a moral detestation of war, and that our being driven to increase our defences is going to cause the gravest disappointment, and perhaps a good deal of opposition, in this country, unless it can be made quite clear that we are prepared to use those forces, so far as any method can be devised, in some collective system for the maintenance of peace. There is much that might be said about that, but I will not attempt to say it now.
The Lord President in his speech on the Air Estimates mentioned the possibility of an Air convention, by which I suppose ho meant a convention which would bind the Powers of Europe at any rate not to use bombing from the air, or perhaps a more limited convention such as was suggested 10 years ago, a convention which would ban the use of bombardment from the air in regard to centres of population and ships of commerce. I hope that the Government will not lose sight of that, and that if, as seems only too likely, the Disarmament Conference breaks down, they will not only come forward with a declaration of what they mean to do in the way of increasing our defences, but that they will also make some proposals which may possibly give us a fresh start towards a system of collective security in Europe, if not in the world.
While I plead for that, I dissociate myself entirely from some of the speeches that have been made to-day, especially by hon. Members above the Gangway. The first speech was a case in point. It suggested that our Government should undertake obligations of the gravest kind without any regard for the maintenance of the forces which obviously are needed to back such obligations if we committed ourselves to action of that kind. This country is rightly unwilling to sign cheques which it may not be possible to honour when they are presented at the 2122 bank. The action which hon. Gentlemen on the Labour Benches are always suggesting seems to me to savour of that kind of irresponsibility.
I remember, too, that in past days a Liberal Prime Minister had to protest against a lady, a member of his party, who suggested that it would be good for this Government to take action to protect the people of Armenia from Turkish rule, even if the consequences were the dissolution of the British Empire. I remember that Lord Rosebery replied that as Prime Minister he did not think he ought to take action which might lead to the dissolution of the British Empire, and that the old lady replied, "Your answer saddened me, my Lord." I was reminded of that when listening to the speech of the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland). I certainly would be no party to this country undertaking obligations of any kind unless its forces are brought fully up to strength. If that were done, then I think we will make it clear that we intend to use them not only to establish our own security but, if we can, to establish security in Europe and the rest of the world.
§ 2.54 p.m.
I intend to occupy only two or three minutes in supporting some of the points made by my hon. Friend who has just spoken. I also want to take this opportunity of saying to the Leader of the House that if we have, perhaps, pressed him and badgered him a little during the last few months, it is solely because we as a committee have been anxious to strengthen his hands. I for one am perfectly satisfied to leave the great decision as to the strengthening of our Air Force in his hands. He has told us repeatedly in public and in this House, that should the Disarmament Conference fail he will consider it the duty of the Government to bring our forces up to parity. I am quite satisfied that the Government will do so. But I am a little anxious on one point, and I hope that if my right hon. Friend says anything in this Debate he will give us an indication, if not a complete reply. He has led us to believe that should the Disarmament Conference fail an Air convention will be attempted. I gather, as I think the man in the street gathers, that the Air Convention will be a Convention 2123 to limit the use of air armaments and to save if possible dense populations from air attack. I make this plea—that if the Disarmament Conference fails, the expansion programme should be started and the Air Convention as such left to take shape as and when it may. I submit, in support of that suggestion, that our interest in an Air Convention will be greater if we are stronger than we are to-day and if we are in a better position to urge that various items should find a place in such a Convention. If I had a reassurance upon that point I should be very pleased.
I propose to touch in passing upon two or three matters which I think are fundamental to an expansion programme. I know they are appreciated by the Ministry but it may help the Ministry to know that there are supporters of its policy outside its own doors. I have frequently maintained that the foundation of military aviation is civil aviation and the Minister would be well advised to make the utmost use of the great voluntary effort which is represented by the words "civil aviation". I would then submit this consideration. If it is intended to increase the size of the Air Force, whether the expansion is to be in one year or spread over 2½ years, the most practical method is to begin by increasing the number of cadres—to make the skeleton, before proceeding to deal with the question of equipment and machines. Machines are subject to rapid obsolescence and the organisation of the cadres should be the first consideration. When the cadre has been formed it can await its equipment, machines and apparatus and it will be completed as time proceeds.
The third consideration to which I wish to allude has already been so well developed by the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) that I need scarcely do more than say how strongly I support his views upon it. It is that of co-ordination between the services. It is hard for those who have not the inner knowledge of the Committee of Imperial Defence, to say more than that co-ordination appears to have been neglected, but even if it has not been neglected entirely I would point out that co-ordination between the lower ranks of the different services is just as important as co-ordination 2124 between the superior ranks in those services. It is no good for a limited number of generals to get to know each other's views if the lower ranks do not get to know each other's views. I believe that a development of co-ordination upon those lines would bear fruit. In other words the Army must be made air-minded, but equally the Air Force must be made ground-minded. That can only be done by a wider system of co-ordination.
As an example of the way in which coordination and economy go hand in hand I mention an instance which has been quoted in the House before and which I see no harm in quoting again. It is the case of the two commands in Egypt, where there is an Army command and an Air command. If I am not mistaken we have there a general and an Army headquarters staff of 33, in control of 10,000 men. We have also an Air Vice-Marshal and a staff of 58 running a unit of six squadrons. We find both those staffs, practically within one city and handling practically the one problem. It seems to me that a little more co-ordination there would make for economy. These considerations are of more value to-day than they were a few years ago. There was a time when there was an agitation in the House of Commons for a Ministry of Defence, but I think the House is now convinced that that is not practical politics for the time being. Earlier we had the argument that the work of the Air Ministry should be divided between the Army and the Navy, and, after long debate, that proposal also has been dropped. By some way in between the two we might get closer co-operation without the risk of these two debatable subjects being reintroduced into discussion.
I do not propose to give the general considerations which have forced us from time to time to press on the Government the need for immediate action beyond saying that other countries seem to think immediate action necessary. The new programmes announced in the last few months indicate that other countries are anxious about the situation. I would only urge what was urged some weeks ago by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) that at least we should be strong enough to decide with whom we are going to make friends and of whom we may make enemies. At 2125 present we are not able to do one or the other. If that is true, if the danger to this country is admitted and to some extent accepted, I would then say something which I am sure would be disapproved of by many but which I believe in as a result of my experience in the House of Commons before the War. Our agreements with other countries were always kept in such close confidence that, broadly speaking, hardly any of the electors knew whether we had a friend in Europe or not. I was in the House of Commons before the War and I am prepared to admit that I had no knowledge as a Member of Parliament of our commitments or agreements with France at that time, though it transpired that there had been a great deal of coming and going between the two countries.
I think that is a stage of secret diplomacy of which this country would not approve to-day. I think the people would rather be told in simple language exactly what our agreements are with our old Allies of the late War. It is not a popular point of view to take, but I am convinced it is the view which has to be taken. A decision must be made as to how we are going to frame policy not for War but to keep the peace of Europe. If it be evident to almost everybody that the gravest danger to European peace is the increasing desire on the part of Germany to re-establish herself, to say no more than that, then I think it is obvious that the only way in which the peace can be kept is by openly and boldly framing up a peace policy with the Allies with whom we worked during the great War, and I think that we should say so, and say it openly. It is a dangerous thing to say, but I feel it sincerely, otherwise I would not say it.
§ 3.5 p.m.
§ Mr. SIMMONDS
My right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, in the course of the Air Debate, referred to the political position internationally in so far as the Disarmament Conference and the air were concerned, and I sincerely hope that now that we are approaching a reassembly of the Disarmament Conference, no right hon. or hon. Member will feel it desirable or necessary to press the Government upon what they may or may not do in the light of the events of the next few weeks. My right hon. Friend 2126 has given us the Government's pledge, and we shall see after this reassembly of the Disarmament Conference in what way they propose to implement it. There is, however, one serious aspect of the present position. The Royal Air Force, no one can deny, is tending to be in a state of suspended animation. It is well known that one must either develop or recede, and I fear that with this inevitable inaction, brought about by my right hon. Friend's promise on the part of the Government, the Air Ministry is not thinking radically and progressively on a large number of matters, which they might reasonably be expected to be considering, in connection with both civil aviation and our air defence.
There is just one aspect of many which I have in mind that I would like to mention this afternoon. It is an unquestionable fact that if there be another war in the air, it will not be fought only by day, but very considerably by night, and I have therefore addressed to my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air and to other Ministers in the course of the last few days two or three questions to obtain some information on this point. I inquired, first of all, from my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General the number of night air-mail services operating to and from this country, and the number of these services operated by British companies. My right hon. Friend replied :The only night air-mail service at present operating to and from this country is that between Croydon and Berlin maintained by the German Air Company."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th May, 1934; col. 1451, Vol. 289.]There was not one British company in operation. I therefore asked if he could hold out any hope of a British development, and he told me in reply that that was a question for the Air Ministry. So we do at any rate know that this is entirely a responsibility for the Air Ministry. I therefore asked my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air the number of regular night air services operated at present by Germany and by this country, and the hon. baronet the Member for Grantham (Sir V. Warrender), who answered on his behalf, said :There are seven German night air services, which are mostly internal and for the carriage of mail and freights only. As regards this country, owing to the shorter 2127 distances to be traversed, there is not the same need for purely night air services, and none have so far been developed, but, following on the provision of flood-lighting and other apparatus at certain stations, a considerable amount of night flying is carried out on our Imperial air services."—[OFFICIAL REPOET, 14th May, 1934, col. 1458–9; Vol. 289.]On a third occasion I asked my right hon. Friend if it was not a fact that we were virtually giving a monopoly in experience in night flying to Germany, and whether he realised that it was placing this country in a very serious position as far as our air defences were concerned, to which my right hon. Friend replied, to my amazement, that he thought it must depend on the demand. With regard to these German services, my right hon. Friend has told us, that there are seven night air services in operation by Germany. They operate every day of the week, so they have 49 services each week. They operate in both directions, so that they have 98 German air services operating each night of the week. So far as our own Imperial air services are concerned, I am sure my right hon. Friend will agree with me that these are nearly all services operating once only each week in each direction, and possibly if there are six night services by Imperial Airways, that would be quite a maximum. We therefore see that we are almost giving to Germany a monoply in this experience. In any case, Germany has decided that it is prudent to undertake this development, and I think we, therefore, may examine carefully the reasons that my right hon. Friend has given the House for our not having developed on similar lines.
There are two reasons, as he tells us. One is that there has not been a demand, and the second is that in this country there are shorter distances. I am sure my right hon. Friend will agree that in civil aviation nearly all the services that have been inaugurated have been supported by Governments specifically for the reason that there was not a demand, but that it was desirable to create a demand, and they have therefore subsidised these services throughout the world. It is precisely what the British Government have done in regard to Imperial Airways. If, therefore, it is desirable on national defensive and commercial grounds that we should have these night air services, surely it is not for us to wait until there 2128 is a commercial demand, but to create it. Secondly—and here I hope my right hon. Friend will bear with me in my examination of his reply—he says that in the British Isles distances are too short, and he thinks that is the reason why we need not take any action in this matter. Perhaps I may recall to the House that from London to Belfast is 377 miles, from London to Edinburgh 390 and from London to Glasgow 400; and to other places which I have never visited, but which I believe to be of some importance, namely, Aberdeen, 522 and Inverness 568.
I will give the distances traversed by the German night air services, to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. From London to Cologne and Frankfort, which is the route from England to Germany, the distance is 390 miles, approximately the same distance as from London to Glasgow. May I particularly refer the right hon. Gentleman to these internal distances in Germany—Frankfurt to Berlin 250 miles, Frankfurt to Stuttgart 95, Frankfurt to Munich 180, Cologne and Hanover to Berlin 280, Hanover to Malmo 250, Berlin to Konigsberg 320. The average for the seven German night air services is 310 miles, compared with the distances to Scotland of between 400 and 600 miles. I regard the present as a serious state of affairs, not only because we are neglecting night air services, which will mean so much to any country in the next war, but particularly because the Air Ministry, having presumably studied this problem, have come to the conclusion, when Germany insists on these night air services for relatively short distances, that we can entirely defer any commencement of night flying activities. I know that it may be said that Germany has to rely for her air activity entirely on civil aviation and that we, on the other hand, have our Royal Air Force and its night flying exercises. If we cast our minds back to the experience in America we remember that a service operating day in and day out, night in and night out, in all weathers was not to be compared in its reliability to the Army Air Corps operating from time to time as it was thought desirable by the staff in control.
I seriously suggest—and I am very exercised about this situation—that we are giving to Germany a monopoly in night air experience which we may very 2129 much regret in years to come. There is, after all, the question of our commerce. If Germany is operating a service at night, as she is from Berlin to London, why should we not share that service and operate the opposite route each day from London to Berlin? Conversely, if that be not desirable, why should we not be flying each night and carrying British commercial correspondence to the centre of Europe? There is here a case needing much greater investigation on the part of the Air Ministry. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to say that this matter has been investigated further, and that from that point of view we do not propose to remain in this grossly inferior position to one of our nearest Continental neighbours.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Captain HAROLD BALFOUR
From the remarks of the Foreign Secretary I suppose we can assume that we are going to enter upon that period which the Lord President of the Council told us would emerge if and when the Disarmament Conference broke up. The Lord President told us that in that unfortunate event, which I think every hon. Member will look on with abhorrence, he would take immediate steps to see whether an air convention could be entered into. I am sure that every Member who takes particular interest in air questions must welcome the fact that we are still trying to achieve a limitation of air armaments. There are different ways in which we can achieve it, but subject to the preservation of parity—about which I am not going to say anything because we have already had definite pledges on that point with which we are satisfied and for which we are grateful—I am sure all of us will support the Government in every way in trying to secure some form of limitation. What the House would like to know as soon as possible, however, is whether it is to be a budgetary limitation or a numerical limitation or a limitation of utility such as the hon. and gallant Member for the Drake Division (Captain Guest) referred to.
I do not despair of a convention limiting the utility of aircraft, although people say that civilised towns will be bombed in the next war, because in spite of modern movements there is still the same law of civilization, the same 2130 abhorrence on the part of civilized people of unnecessary cruelty. I trust this convention will be drawn on the lines of codifying the laws of air warfare and limiting the use of aircraft, because I believe that such a convention will have a greater chance of success and of escaping the pitfalls which very largely contributed to the breakdown of the present Disarmament Conference than one which tries to limit particular types of aircraft or limit numbers or even achieve a budgetary limitation. The Foreign Secretary told us quite clearly that we are up against hard technical facts in the problem of disarmament and that the time of platitudes had now passed. If that be true of general disarmament it is even more true in the case of air disarmament, where one comes up against technical facts in every direction directly one tackles the problem, and we shall have enormous difficulties with the population of this country in explaining to them the special requirements of this Empire.
References to the internationalisation of civil aviation and our reservation as regards bombing in outlying police areas are bandied about on the Opposition Benches. They are fine political targets at which the Opposition can shoot. But when considering the internationalisation of civil aviation we must not forget the technicalities of the question in the light of the particular needs of this country, with its Imperial communications, and in such an examination one finds that no scheme is yet practicable, and that any scheme suggested would work entirely to the detriment of this country and entirely to the advantage of our European commercial rivals. Again, as regards the bombing of outlying areas, it is difficult to explain to one's electors that a death is a death and a thing to be regretted, however it occurs, but that it is far better to use a particular weapon which is cheap, humane and economical and causes fewer deaths than to rely on the old-fashioned forms of warfare, and the old-fashioned forms of policing our outlying commitments. Those who attack us do not show very great regard to the Imperial commitments that we hold. They are not people who are particularly interested in supporting the maintenance of the British Empire.
2131 I would put forward the suggestion that, when the time comes for the consideration of an aircraft limitation convention, we should use the whole machinery and the whole progaganda, organisation and power of the Government to carry through a programme which will educate the doubtful and ignorant electors who owe allegiance to no political party, but who support the Government at the present time, so that those unpopular reservations, such as the bombing reservations for the policing of outlying areas, and the opposition of this country to the internationalisation of civil aviation, should be fully explained. I am sure that when our national point of view, which is of vital importance to us, and other technical questions, are realised by the people of this country, they will not fail to support a convention which must essentially maintain those reservations in our favour.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Sir MURRAY SUETER
The air committee are very grateful to the Lord President of the Council and to the Under-Secretary of State for Air for giving up their afternoon in order to listen to this Debate. I would remind the Lord President of the Council that last November I introduced a Motion in this House drawing attention to our position in the air, and I said that when the War ended we were one of the two great air Powers in the world, and that now we were the fifth Power in the world. We had reduced our Air Forces by the action of successive Governments in the great cause of peace and as a great gesture of peace to the world, and that the reply of other nations was to increase their air armaments. The Lord President of the Council said that we should not increase our Air Forces last November because the situation with Germany was very delicate indeed and that we should mark time with our Air Forces.
Since November, what have the other nations of the world been doing while we have been marking time? Russia has increased her air forces by something like 3,000 fighting machines, and has 750 machines in the Far East. Russia is training a very large number of pilots on a five-year plan. She is going to have thousands of pilots. The reply of 2132 Japan to that is to increase her Air Forces, and Japan now is building as fast as she can her naval and military air forces. Japan is devoting much money to research work, and soon Japan will be a big air Power m the Far East. We all know that America has voted more money this year to increase her military and naval air forces. She also has a tremendous reserve in civil pilots and in factories that can turn out machines that would be useful in wartime. Italy is devoting more money this year for air forces, and the Italian air services are very efficient. We remember the great flight of General Balbo to America and back again. France has reduced the number of her first-line machines, because she is improving and overhauling the whole of her air forces, raising the speed and voting a tremendous amount of money to increase her security in the air.
With regard to Germany, while we have been marking time in the interests of Germany, Germany has created more aerodromes, and has ordered engines and machines from America and engines from this country. The Germans will study the whole technique of the machines and engines they get from America and from this country, and I know sufficient of the German designers to know that they will produce some of the finest machines in the world before very long. Already they have raised their speeds to some 200 miles an hour. We hear a great deal about French security, and we hear a great deal in this House about the security of this country, but what about German security? Germany is ringed in by nations that at any time might be hostile to her; a glance at the map will show how close her great cities are to her frontiers, and how they are all open to aerial bombardment. Very naturally, the Germans want to be secure in the air; we should want to be secure in the air if we were in their situation; and I think it is very unlikely that they will agree to continue in their present position. They will want to have sufficient machines for their air security, and they will say perfectly openly to the countries of the world that they are going to have air security; they will not give in on that question.
The Disarmament Conference is now, perhaps, coming to a conclusion, and I 2133 feel quite certain that Germany is determined to arm in the air. I feel certain that the other nations, too, will not reduce to our level, and that we shall have to level up to them. I ask the Government to consider, if the Disarmament Conference breaks down, whether we ought not, perhaps, to level up to the other countries in air power, and whether we ought not to bring in an Air Defence Bill and tackle the whole question of our air defences properly. The people of this country will not be content to see their homes unprotected against attacks from the air, or to see our royal dockyards, our shipyards, our great industrial centres, and our great cities unprotected. I ask the Government to tackle this question immediately a decision is arrived at at the Disarmament Conference.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour) spoke a good deal about an air convention. If it is decided to go in for an air convention and to appoint delegates to a conference, I hope the delegates will include many airmen, because airmen will get decisions in these air matters far more quickly than diplomatists. They will get decisions in a few weeks, and I feel certain that, if the airmen are got together, they will soon draw up regulations for limiting the areas where bombing should take place. The Viceroy of India has told us that we should retain air bombing for peace services in India and the distant parts of our Empire, and I think he is perfectly right; he is the man on the spot, and we should trust him. It would not be difficult for airmen to get together and agree that they would not bomb open cities where there are no armaments or munition factories or combatants, and I am certain that it would be possible to outline those cities in the daytime by balloons and at night by a single cordon of searchlights. People will say that that would only be making a target which could be bombed, but I am certain that, if the nations agreed to that, they would keep their word, exactly as they refrained from using explosive bullets in the late War. I am certain that that could be done, and the airmen would be the best people to draw up a convention of that nature.
§ Mr. MANDER
May I ask the hon. and gallant Member if he does not recollect that various restrictions during the War 2134 with regard to the use of poison gas were totally disregarded? Would not the same thing happen in this case?
§ Sir M. SUETER
I was talking about explosive bullets and not poison gas. They are rather different.
§ Mr. SIMMONDS
Is it not a fact that the nations agreed before the War not to poison wells and running water, and that promise was kept.
§ Sir M. SUETER
I am basing my argument on the fact that the nations of the world refrained from using explosive bullets. With only a very few exceptions they kept that, and I believe if you out-lawed open cities, you would find that the airmen would respect their signatures to the Convention. I would also remind the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), who is an airman, that airmen do not want to kill women and children, also that in the late war many German Zeppelin commanders dropped their bombs in fields near cities, and many bombs were found with their pins in, which showed that they did not want to kill women and children. It may be that some fell in London, but, if you took the whole of the bombs that fell, you would find that what I say is right. Hundreds of bombs were picked up just outside cities, showing that some of the Germans were not keen on bombing women and children.
I will leave that, if the hon. Member will not interrupt me any more, and pass to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). As I listened to him, I wondered what his feelings were about the Government cutting down in the cruisers to 50. He said, "There you have Japan slicing off great portions of China, first of all Manchuria, then Jehol and so on. Then they are penetrating through the North Wall and perhaps they will get more of China." I am certain that, as the Chinese see law and order produced in Manchukuo and Jehol, some of the Chinese will say, "For Heaven's sake, come in and put law and order into our part of the country and free us from the war lord brigands, who have battened on the 2135 country for hundreds of years," and Japan will do it. There is no getting away from the fact that Japan is going to be the great Power in the Far East. They have practically thrown down the gauntlet. We have a Munroe Doctrine over there, and we cannot get away from it. As Japan is building up as a great Power in the Far East, jealousies will arise and incidents will occur, as happened last week when a Japanese sailor was shot and another wounded by Soviet troops. We ought to be in a position to protect our interests in the Far East. We cannot do that with only 50 cruisers. We cannot protect our interests in the Far East, with 80,000 miles of trade routes and only 50 cruisers, when it took 40 ships to hunt down the "Emden." We want to look into our whole naval position. We ought to set up an Empire Defence Council to settle this question of our naval and air defences.
The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton said that all England was watching us. The whole of England is watching to see what the Government are going to do in regard to building up our air and naval forces. We want England to be strong, and it is better for the peace of the world to have a strong Navy and a strong Air Force than it is to be weak, as we are now. I submit that the Government should take bold action at the Disarmament Conference when decisions are arrived at, in order to put us in a proper position with regard to our naval and air defences.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Mr. HALES
I should like to tell the House what I think we need in the way of armaments. The word "Disarmament" like the blessed word Mesopotamia is all very well in theory. There was a General some time ago who told us "To trust in God and to keep our powder dry." While I do not for a moment suggest that we should drop every endeavour to bring about disarmament, I should like to tell the House something of what is happening in other parts of the world. One of the greatest blessings which the Dutch residents in the Dutch East Indies enjoy to-day and one which they rely upon more than anything else is the British naval base at Singapore. They are looking forward to the completion of that work with the greatest 2136 satisfaction, for, though they are themselves unprotected, they think that while we have a naval and air base in close proximity, Britain would not stand to see any aggression by Japan in the Dutch East Indies. I heard that significant statement on more than one occasion when travelling through Java and Sumatra.
There is nothing like a little bit of practical experience in bringing home to one the relative dangers of each kind of armament. In my experience during the War in Gallipoli, I was successively sniped at, and shot at by machine guns; I faced high explosives and submarines and experienced aircraft bombardments. I never remember experiencing any real fear, but the nearest I came to it, and that was very close, was when I was sent to guard an ammunition dump on the extreme southern point of Cape Helles in Gallipoli. Two Turkish aeroplanes were endeavouring to bomb that ammunition dump which I was left to guard and I never wanted to go home more in my life than I did on that occasion. One feels when an aeroplane is above you, that you are its immediate objective, and the one thing in the world being aimed at. Aircraft is, and will be, the greatest arm the world will ever know. I think that warships have had their day. Given submarines and aircraft, the warship and the battleship in particular is at the mercy of those craft I remember a battleship lying off Cape Helles, the "Majestic," with transports on either side making it impossible for torpedo craft to approach it. One of the transports sailed one day, and within two hours the ship had turned turtle and gone down with hundreds of men. It was torpedoed. There was a boat costing millions sunk in half-an-hour. In fact, no battleship can be regarded as safe when it is attacked by aircraft or submarines. When one travels down the coast of Arabia and the Red Sea across those deserted tracks, there is only one arm which is of any use, and that is aircraft.
I do impress upon the Air Ministry that if ever there were a time in the history of this country when aircraft should be encouraged and money spent liberally on that arm, it is at the present moment. To-day the world is arming to the teeth. Someone said that Japan was going to be the great Power in the East, 2137 Japan is the great Power in the East to-day. Nothing on earth can stop her. The League of Nations is a mere plaything in her eyes. She is going right through, and we shall see, for some reason or other, that China will be in her hands before many months are over. We have to face these matters. At close quarters we see more clearly what is happening. This little island is too remote to appreciatoe the dangers which beset us, but I do say that if there is one arm upon which we should not show any disinclination for liberal expenditure, it is the areoplane.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Mr. Baldwin)
Before making a few observations, I must thank my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) for the kind word which he uttered about me at the beginning of the latter part of this Debate. Amazed as I was by it, it was nothing to my amazement when it was followed by an equally kind one from the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Sir. M. Sueter). I do not know what is happening to the House. Indeed, it so moved me that I could sit here all night—but I am not going to do so. This has been a kind of pendant to the earlier Debate in which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke, and it will not be expected that I should cover, or even touch, any of the ground which was discussed in the earlier part of the day. I am not prepared for it, and it is perhaps a little bit outside my own peculiar functions. But when I came into the House and learned what the nature of the latter part of the Debate would be, I felt that, though I should have been only too pleased if my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air would have spoken, there were one or two important points of principle raised which would, perhaps, come better from a more senior Member of the Government.
The hon. Member for Altrinctam asked us to face the consequences if the Disarmament Conference breaks down. Do not let us assume that it is going to break down, and let us bear in mind what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said. He will have a very difficult task at Geneva, but there are no two men more competent than he and the 2138 Lord Privy Seal in the work they have to do, and every effort that can be made will be made by them. But I would like to utter one word of warning. Do not let us lose all heart and give way to despair if, for the time being, it should break down. Let us remember, after all, that these what I may call concentrated efforts after peace have seldom been made, if at all, in the world until these years after the War, and it is impossible to imagine that you are going completely to change in ten years a habit so ingrained in human nature from the beginning of time. The world is full of people as keen as the keenest of us here to fight this evil of war, and the fight will go on, whatever happens at the Disarmament Conference. But we should be no more depressed because the whole world does not immediately turn from war and provide some means of fighting it, than we should lose our faith in Christianity, which after 2,000 years has not yet covered the world.
I should like to deal with one or two details in the speech of my hon. Friend and other speeches and to give some assurance in regard to coastal defence. The scheme of coastal defence is quite complete by sea and by air. That does not mean that it has all been carried out; that is another matter, but it is under review every year and carefully gone through and is being proceeded with at the very slow speed that our present economic conditions permit. If it became necessary, if it were a matter of vital importance for the defence of the country, it the clouds were so threatening, it could be speeded up. It is rather the economic consideration to-day than one of preparation that delays progress.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour) talked about limitation in the air. It is limitation that we have been asking for in our Convention. Limitation I think is probably—I speak for myself at this moment—the only practicable form of disarmament in air. Those who have spoken have made a point, with which I agree, that if you can get limitation no single Power is in a position of such superiority that the temptation to attack becomes too much. But we must remember that there is the corollary, which I am not going to discuss this afternoon, that if you have some limitation it is difficult to 2139 see how you can avoid sanctions against anyone who breaks that limitation. The moment you are up against sanctions, you are up against war. I have probably put in as much work on these subjects as any Member of this House for the last 12 years, and one of the many conclusions to which I have been driven is that there is no such thing as a sanction that will work that does not mean war, or, in other words, if you are going to adopt a sanction you must be prepared for war. If you adopt a sanction without being ready for war, you are not an honest trustee of the nation.
I was very much struck during my luncheon interval in reading in the Library, in a Quarterly, an article by Professor Zimmern, which bears very much on what the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) and the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) told the House, and that is that force is the essence of the collective maintenance of peace. If you go in for the collective maintenance of peace, it is no good going in for it first unless you are prepared to fight in will and also in material. Nothing could be a worse guarantee to the world or a more cruel deception of your own people than to say, "We will guarantee peace by arms, but not be ready for it." There is no doubt that, if you are going to enforce a collective guarantee or a collective sanction, it means that you have to make this country a good deal stronger than she is to-day. These remarks are perhaps not directly relevant to the matters we are discussing at this moment.
With what my light hon. Friend the Member for the Drake Division (Captain Guest) said, I am in entire agreement. He spoke of the days before the war and said, speaking for himself, that he did not know who our friends were in Europe, that the whole matter was shrouded in the obscurity of secret diplomacy, and that it would be very desirable if this country could say plainly, in the event of the Disarmament Conference failing, where she stood and who were her friends. I think that was the gist of what he said. I think it is very important that this country should make clear to the world and to her own people, where she does stand in Europe. That I regard as of 2140 primary importance. No country which has a democracy—and we are almost the last democracy left in Europe—can successfully wage war unless the people are behind it, and the people will not be behind it unless they are convinced that from their point of view it is a just war. Therefore, I am in entire agreement, generally, with what the hon. and gallant Member said, that our people should be told, and constantly told, what the dangers are in the world, how we think they can best be met, and when or where we think the time may come when, for the security of our own shores and our own political liberties, the country must determine to defend herself.
I come to what is the main point of the discussion. I make no complaint at all, indeed I rather welcome the fact, that the discussion has taken place, because I know the anxiety that is felt in the country with regard to the air, especially if the Disarmament Conference should fail and no air limitation be possible. That is an anxiety that has not been lessened by events in Europe during the last few months. The House will remember the statement which I made on behalf of the Government, and which I repeated in the Albert Hall. That statement stands. Some of my friends, again I find no fault, their anxiety is such, want me to say when and in what circumstances the Government will make a more definite declaration. They must to an extent trust the Government. We are as anxious as any member of the House on this matter, and it is impossible to say yet, with the right hon. Gentleman going to Geneva in a fortnight's time, when the moment will come; but I can say something which will allay their anxieties and the anxieties of the House.
Any Member who is familiar with the Air Force is quite well aware that if Estimates were brought in to-day, or if a statement were made to-day, of any given increase in that force it might well be months before a £ could be spent. An enlargement of the Air Force means an immense amount of detailed preparation in a thousand ways. The waste of time would be if the Government waited until it became necessary to make a decision and announce a decision, and said now we are going to make our preparations. But these points are at this moment under consideration, preliminary work 2141 is being done, so that, if our fears should be realised and it should be necessary to implement that pledge, not a single day will be lost. It is only right that the Government should do that, because I am certain there is general anxiety on this subject. I am also certain, I have said so before, that there is no danger in the near future before this country. There may be Jess danger in the future than we imagine, and the preparations we are taking are in more than ample time. But I do realise that on no subject could a panic, and an unnecessary panic, be worked up by unscrupulous people more quickly than with regard to the Air, and such a panic would do nothing but harm to this country.
I think I have touched on all the questions raised. With regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds), I merely say that he should 2142 have given notice to the Air Minister that he was going to raise that point. He embarked on a very interesting discussion of a very special subject, civil aviation, and it is impossible for us to-day—I have not the knowledge, nor has my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary come prepared—to reply; but I am sure that the matter would interest the House if my hon. Friend would raise it at some time when the Air Estimates are discussed in Committee of Supply. I conclude with the hope that everyone will have as much holiday as he can get.
§ Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Three Minutes before Four o'clock, until Tuesday, 29th May, pursuant to the Resolution of the House this day.