§ [SEVENTH DAY.]
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [20th November]
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—[Mr. Noel Lindsay.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 3.29 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the words:But humbly represent to Your Majesty that, in the present circumstances of the world, the strength of our national defences, and especially of our air defences, is no longer adequate to secure the peace, safety, and freedom of Your Majesty's faithful subjects.To urge the preparation of defence is not to assert the imminence of war. On the contrary, if war were imminent preparations for defence would be too late. I do not believe that war is imminent or that war is inevitable, but it seems very difficult to resist the conclusion that, if we do not begin forthwith to put ourselves in a position of security, it will soon be beyond our power to do so. What is the great new fact which has broken in upon us during the last 18 months? Germany is rearming. That is the great new fact which rivets the attention of every country in Europe, indeed in the world, and which throws almost all other issues into the background. Germany is rearming, that mighty Power which only a few years ago, within our own experience, fought almost the whole world, and almost conquered. That mighty Power is now equipping itself once again, 70,000,000 of people, with the technical apparatus of modern war, and at the same time is instilling into the hearts of its youth and manhood the most extreme patriotic nationalist and militarist conceptions. According to what we hear, according to what we are told and what comes in from 858 every quarzter, though little is said about it in public, Germany has already a powerful well-equipped army, with an excellent artillery, and an immense reserve of armed trained men. The German munition factories are working practically under war conditions, and war material is flowing out from them, and has been for the last 12 months certainly, in an ever broadening flow. Much of this is undoubtedly in violation of the treaties which were signed. Germany is rearming on land; she is rearming also to some extent at sea; but what concerns us most of all is the rearmament of Germany in the air.
In my Amendment other aspects of defence besides the air are comprised, but I shall confine myself absolutely to the danger from the air. I shall be specially careful not to exaggerate. Indeed, I hope that every statement that I make will be admitted to be an under statement. I shall try my utmost to keep within the limits of what is really known and proved. Let us, first of all, look at the dimensions of the danger as it affects this country at the present time. However calmly surveyed, the danger of an attack from the air must appear most formidable. I do not accept the sweeping claim of the extreme votaries of the air. I think that a great many statements which are made are calculated to frustrate the purpose of reasonable precautions by presenting the problem as if it were one which was insoluble. But without accepting these claims no one can doubt that a week or 10 days' intensive bombing attack upon London would be a very serious matter indeed. One could hardly expect that less than 30,000 or 40,000 people would be killed or maimed. I see that General Seely, now known as Lord Mottistone, in the other House made some calculations on this subject. They were said to be of a reassuring character. But even those reassuring figures and calculations, I think, at least justify the statement I have just made, that a week or 10 days of this kind of intensive attack would result in 30,000 or 40,000 being killed or maimed.
The most dangerous form of air attack is the attack by incendiary bombs. Such an attack was planned by the Germans for the summer of 1918, I think for the time of the harvest moon. The argument in favour of such an attack was 859 that if in any great city there are, we will say, 50 fire brigades, and you start simultaneously 100 fires or 80 fires and the wind is high, an almost incalculable conflagration may result. The reason why the Germans did not carry out that attack in 1918 must be stated. It was not at all, as Lord Mottistone suggested in another place, that our air defence had become so excellent that we were protected against it. It was because the advance of the Allied Armies, with the British Army in the van, already confronted the heads of the German State, the Imperial Government of Germany, with the prospect of impending defeat, and they did not wish to incur the fury of retribution which would follow from such a dreadful act of power and terror as that which would have been involved in such a raid. Since those days the incendiary thermite bomb has become far more powerful than any that was used in the late War. It will in fact, I am assured by persons who are acquainted with the science, go through a series of floors in any building, igniting each one simultaneously.
Not less formidable than these material effects are the reactions which will be produced upon the mind of the civil population. We must expect that under the pressure of continuous air attack upon London at least 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 people would be driven out into the open country around the Metropolis. This vast mass of human beings, numerically far larger than any armies which have been fed and moved in war, without shelter and without food, without sanitation and without special provision for the maintenance of order, would confront the Government of the day with an administrative problem of the first magnitude, and would certainly absorb the energies of our small Army and of our Territorial Force. Problems of this kind have never been faced before, and although there is no need to exaggerate them, neither on the other hand is there any need to shrink from facing the immense, unprecedented difficulties which they involve.
Then there are the questions of the docks of London and the estuary of the Thames. Everyone knows the dependence of this immense community, the most prosperous in the whole world, upon the Eastern approaches by water. I need say no more about that. We 860 studied it very carefully in the War, and I have not the slightest doubt that it has weighed very much on the minds of His Majesty's Government. It ought not to be supposed that the danger of an air attack, assuming that such a thing occurred—I am only making an assumption and not by any means saying it will come to pass—would necessarily be confined to London or the area around it. Birmingham and Sheffield and the great manufacturing towns might all be made the subject of special study, and every part of the country is equally interested in whatever measures of security can be taken to provide against such a peril. Not less dangerous than the attack upon the cities and the great working-class areas and upon the manufacturing centres, would be that directed upon the dockyards and the oil fuel storage which, unless proper precautions are taken, as I trust they have been or are being taken, might actually paralyse the Fleet, with consequences which no one can fail to perceive.
Therefore, I suggest to the House in this first part of the argument, that the danger which might confront us, however moderately put, would expose us not only to hideous suffering, but even to mortal peril, by which I mean peril of actual conquest and subjugation. It is just as well to confront those facts while time remains to take proper measures to cope with them. I may say that all these possibilities are perfectly well known abroad, and no doubt every one of them has been made the subject of technical study. I, therefore, have stated to the House as briefly as possible—and I trust I have not overstated the case—the kind of danger which reasonably ought to be taken into consideration should, unhappily, a breakdown in European peace occur.
I come to the second part of my remarks which deals with the much more difficult and much more debatable question of what remedy can be applied. What measures can we take to provide against these very great perils, or at any rate mitigate and minimise their effects? I do not think, to give a personal opinion, that it is much use planning to move our arsenals and factories over to the west side of the island. When one considers the enormous range of foreign aeroplanes and the speeds at which they travel—200, 230 and 240 miles an hour— 861 it is evident that every part of this small island is, I will not say equally, but almost equally, within range of attack. If enormous sums of money were spent in displacing our arsenals from their present position, it might well be found that before this cumbrous process was completed, improvements in aeroplanes would have more than discounted any advantage which might have been gained. The flying peril is not a peril from which one can fly. It is necessary to face it where we stand. We cannot possibly retreat. We cannot move London. We cannot move the vast population which is dependent on the estuary of the Thames. We cannot move the naval bases which are established along our southern coasts with the great hereditary naval poulations living around them. No doubt, where new factories were being created the factor of distance would be an important consideration, but in the main I am afraid we shall have to face this peril, whatever it may be, where we stand.
I think it would be a great mistake to neglect the scientific side of defence against aircraft attack—of purely defensive action against aircraft attack. Certainly nothing is more necessary, not only to this country but to all peace-loving and peace-interested Powers in the world and to world civilisation than that the good old earth should acquire some means or methods of destroying sky marauders. It is a matter which is of interest to us all that we should be able to meet this present menace which no generation before our own has faced, which shakes the very fabric and structure of all our civilised arrangements, and, by spreading fear and danger far and wide, makes it more and more difficult to preserve security and tranquillity in the minds of the different great States. If anything can be discovered that will put the earth on better terms against this novel form of attack, this lamentable and hateful form of attack-attack by spreading terror throughout civil populations—anything that can give us relief or aid in this matter will be a blessing to all.
I hope that the Government will not neglect that aspect of the question. There is a committee, I have no doubt, studying it. It ought to be the strongest committee possible, it ought to have the greatest latitude possible, and it ought to 862 be fed with the necessary supplies to enable experiments of all kinds to be made against this danger. I have heard many suggestions with which I would not venture to trouble the House now, but they ought to be explored and explored thoroughly and with all the force of the Government behind the examination. It ought to be not merely a question of officers of a department doing their best, but of the force of the Government, and I do hope that my right hon. Friend when he replies will tell us that steps of this kind will be taken; that there will be no danger of service routine or prejudice or anything like that preventing new ideas from being studied, and that they will not be hampered and subjected to so many long delays as were suffered in the case of the tanks and other new ideas during the Great War.
The fact remains that when all is said and done as regards defensive methods—and all that you can say now has been said already—pending some new discovery, the only direct measure of defence upon a great scale is the certainty of being able to inflict simultaneously upon the enemy as great damage as he can inflict upon ourselves. Do not let us under-value the efficacy of this procedure. It may well prove in practice—I admit you cannot prove it in theory—capable of giving complete immunity. If two Powers show themselves equally capable of inflicting damage upon each other by some particular process of war, so that neither gains an advantage from its adoption and both suffer the most hideous reciprocal injuries, it is not only possible but it seems to be probable that neither will employ that means. What would they gain by it? Certainly a Continental country like the one of which I have beep speaking, with large foreign armies on its frontiers, would be most unwise to run the risk of exposing itself to intensive bombing attacks from this island upon its military centres, its munition establishments and its lines of communication at a time when it was engaged or liable to be engaged by the armies of another first-class Power.
We all speak under the uncertainty of the future which has so often baffled human foresight, but I believe that if we maintain at all times in the future an air power sufficient to enable us to inflict as much damage upon the most 863 probable assailant, upon the most likely potential aggressor, as he can inflict upon us, we may shield our people effectually in our own time from all those horrors which I have ventured to describe. If that be so, what are £50,000,000 or a £100,000,000 raised by tax or by loan compared with an immunity like that? Never has so fertile and so blessed an insurance been procurable so cheaply.
Observe the reverse of the picture. Assume that one country has a powerful air force and that the other has none, or that the other country has been so decisively beaten in the air that it has hardly any air force left. Then not only war machines but almost any flying machine that can be fitted to carry bombs will be employed to go over and to torture every part of the State and the community in that other country until it surrenders all that is asked from it. Absolute subjugation could in the end be enforced by such air attack, once a country had lost all power to fight in the air. Once complete ascendancy in the air had been secured, the victor Power might almost at leisure pick out any aircraft factory and make a special study of it, an intensive attack upon it, and thus there could be no recovery. It is almost the only form of war that we have seen in the world in which complete predominance gives no opportunity of recovery. That is the odious new factor which has been forced upon our life in this twentieth century of Christian civilisation.
For all these reasons, it seems to me, and I submit to the House, that we ought to decide now to maintain, at all costs, in the next 10 years an Air Force substantially stronger than that of Germany, and that it should be considered a high crime against the State, whatever Government is in power, if that force is allowed to fall substantially below, even for a month, the potential force which may be possessed by that country abroad. That is the object with which I have put this Amendment on the Paper. I am not going into other questions than those with which I am specially concerned to-day, but I must just mention that if, to this provision which I have suggested, you add those measures towards collective security by what I would call placing special constables 864 upon the dangerous beats in Europe and perhaps later on elsewhere, under the aegis and authority of the League of Nations, I firmly believe that we may have it in our power to avert from this generation the supreme catastrophe of another war. The idea that we can intervene usefully in sustaining the peace of Europe while we ourselves are the most vulnerable of all, are the beggars in fact, is one which cannot be held firmly by any man who looks at this in the faithful discharge of his duty.
I have now spoken of the danger, and I have indicated, as far as I can see, what is the only remedy or mitigation which is in our power, and I have suggested that it is a good and effective mitigation and a very reasonable security. I now come to compare the actual strengths, present and prospective, of Great Britain and Germany, as far as I have been able to form an opinion about them. Here again there is no reason to assume that Germany will attack us. In fact, the German people have very friendly feelings in many ways towards us, and there is no reason at all why we should expect that they would attack us; but it is not pleasant for us—I will put it to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition—to feel that it may soon be in the power of the German Government to do so unless we act.
I will not dwell this afternoon on the character of the present German Government, because the House knows it all, and there is no need to repeat all that. I will content myself by saying that the decision of a handful of men, men of the 30th June, is all that is required to launch an attack upon us, if such an attack were possible, and that only the shortest notice or no notice at all could be counted upon. Never in our history have we been in a position where we could be liable to be blackmailed, or forced to surrender our possessions, or take some action which the wisdom of the country or its conscience would not allow it to do. Never have we been in a position where we could be subjected to that or, alternatively, have to face the horrible ordeal I have tried, very briefly, to place before the House. It is a danger to all Europe that we should be in that position, and I do not think His Majesty's Government ought to put us or leave us in such a plight, where we, with our wealth and Empire, exist on the good 865 behaviour and good faith, which may not be lacking, but which may not be present, of the present rulers of Germany. I am sure our people are not willing to run such risks, and yet, as I am going to show, I think indisputably, this is the kind of danger which is coming upon us in a very short time unless we act upon a great scale and act immediately.
According to the Treaty of Versailles, the German Government are not allowed to build any military aircraft or to organise any military air force. Now this stipulation was intended to be a protection to the other countries and for their greater security and assurance, but it has in fact become an additional danger. What was meant for a safeguard for the Allies has in fact become only a cloak or a mask for a potential aggressor. With any other country, the facts about its air development would have been stated quite promptly. We could have put an unstarred question on the Paper as to the strength of the air force of France, or the United States, or any other country. It fact, the League of Nations collects these figures. It is part of the process of waging war against war that there shall be full disclosure, that people shall know where they stand, at any rate, if you cannot remove fear, that at least you can remove suspicion. With any other country this would make no difficulty, but it is just because Germany is under this special disability. I understand how it has arisen. It has not been considered etiquette, or at any rate the Government have shrunk hitherto from stating the facts which they know well—I am sure they know—about the German rearmament, and very naturally, because, if the Foreign Secretary had said there was this or that that they were doing contrary to the Treaty, he would immediately have had to make good his statement, or perhaps stand by his statement, that he was charging a great Power with a breach of the Treaty, and I can understand that until certain disclosures which have been made on the Continent had been made, it was necessary for the Government to proceed with great caution in this respect.
But the time has come when what was meant to be a protection for others must no longer be a cloak or a mask for Germany. The time has come when the mystery surrounding the German rearmament must be cleared up. We must 866 know where we are. The House naturally in these matters leaves the main responsibility to the Executive, and that is quite right, but at the same time it cannot divest itself of responsibility for the safety of the country, and it must satisfy itself that proper measures are being taken. I will therefore this afternoon assume the duty of stating what, to the best of my belief, are the strengths and programmes of the German military air force which is being built up in contravention of the Treaty, and I invite my right hon. Friend the Lord President to confirm, correct, or contradict me when he speaks, as I believe he is going to do immediately after I sit down. If he does not contradict me or correct me, the House should assume that the statements which I make are true or at any rate that they are under-statements; that is to say, I have not revealed the real state of things. In order that my right hon. Friend might be able to deal effectively with these issues and might not be confronted with them abruptly in the House, I sent him in the last week précis of the exact points which I propose to put to him, and I understand that he has had an opportunity of consulting with the high expert authorities upon this matter.
I therefore assert, first, that Germany already, at this moment, has a military air force—that is to say, military squadrons, with the necessary ground services, with the necessary reserves of trained personnel, and material—which only await an order to assemble in full open combination—and that this illegal air force is rapidly approaching equality with our own. That is my first submission to the Government and to the House. Secondly, by this time next year, if Germany executes her existing programme without acceleration, and if we execute our existing programme on the basis which now lies before us without slowing down, and carry out the increases announced to Parliament in August last, the German military air force will this time next year be in fact at least as strong as our own, and it may be even stronger. Thirdly, on the same basis, that is to say, both sides continuing with their existing programme as at present arranged, by the end of 1936—that is, one year further on, and two years from now—the German military air force will be nearly 50 per cent, stronger, and in 867 1937 nearly double. All this is on the assumption, as I say, that there is no acceleration on the part of Germany, and no slowing down on our part. So much for the comparison of what may be called the first line air forces of the two countries.
I come to the second line—civil aircraft which are capable of being used for military operations, the dual purpose machines, as they are called in Germany. Here the story is very much worse for us. Germany has already between 200 and 300 machines of long range with great speed, 220 to 230 miles an hour, which are now ostensibly employed, or actually employed, many of them, in carrying mail bags and to some extent in carrying passengers, which machines can be converted into long-distance bombers of the highest efficiency in a few hours. All that is necessary is to remove some parts of the passenger accommodation and fit bomb racks in their place. Those bomb racks, I told the House five months ago, are already made and kept in close proximity to the machines. That is the position at the present time. Germany has already between 200 and 300 of these machines. This time next year the number will have risen at least to 400 of these machines, which in the case of war will be a direct addition to the German military air force.
Against that we, as I understand, can set nothing that is in the slightest degree comparable for military purposes. Our civil aviation is valueless for war purposes. Indeed, it has been the custom of Ministers and others to boast of this fact as proof of our pacific intentions, if, indeed, proof were needed. Everyone knows that we have built for comfort and for safety, and without the slightest contemplation of convertibility. Therefore, I assert, and I invite the Government to contradict the statement if they can, that by this time next year, taking both the military and the convertible civil aircraft into consideration, Germany will have a substantially stronger Air Force than we. Frankly, I do not think that the country has prepared itself to realise this fact. The conditions in 1936 and 1937 if the German convertible machines are added to the military machines, will be that the German Air Force will, of course, be far more adverse 868 to this country than the purely military figures, which are bad enough, that I gave a few moments ago.
I come to what I may call the third line—the ordinary civil aviation. It is difficult to compute the value of this for war, but it represents reserve pilots, mechanics, landing grounds, factories, aerodromes and a general familiarity with the flying art, which is, indirectly, of great importance. I think you may say that civil aviation bears the same relation to the fighting force as the mercantile marine has for so many generations borne to the Royal Navy. It is quite certain that the German pool of civil aviation, from which a military air force can be expanded and developed, is already far larger and far more closely related to military purposes than ours. The principle underlying German civil aviation, and all the regulations and subventions, point to their being made efficient for rapid transformation into military machines, or, as far as possible, into training machines.
Nor is Germany neglecting defensive preparations. Air alarm arrangements, gas drill and so forth are taking place all over Germany as well as in many other parts of the Continent of Europe. The House must not miss the bearing of this upon retaliation, upon the protection one can get from the power of retaliation, because if of two populations, both exposed to attacks of this kind—which God forbid—one has all kinds of protection which enable it to avoid the loss of life, it is perfectly obvious how great will be the injury to the one unprepared. I know that the Government have been considering this matter, and I understand the reason why nothing has been done is the fear of frightening the population. I say that it is much better to be frightened now than to be killed hereafter. It is much better to be frightened before it happens than when the danger actually comes to pass.
There is another point which, I notice, was referred to in a Question and Answer in the House to-day. I am assured that many of the German aerodromes are proof against air attack. They build earth concrete embankments round the shelters where the aeroplanes are stored, so that the place is quite safe; where as you have only to look at our aerodromes for our Air Force to see that they are vulnerable to any attack of that 869 kind, and might be put out of action altogether. Anyone, however pacific he may be, must admit surely that there is no proper protection of our aerodromes. I think that this is a primary and an urgent duty of the Government. I heard the Debate the other day upon the devastated areas of our country. Many suggestions were made for remedying the situation. Suppose there is a great deal of work to do in earthing up these aerodromes which will have to be constructed, why not give it to those unemployed people? Recruit 20,000 or 30,000 men from those areas on good wages, and let them go about the country and do this necessary work, instead of being employed on relief work and so forth. Let them act, not as unemployed, but as a labour reserve, and let them go forward and revivify their own homes by sending back the wages which they earn by doing the most necessary and urgent of public tasks. I throw that out by the way.
I have now completed my review of the two countries and I invite my right hon. Friend the Lord President to state, if I am wrong, where I am wrong, and to what extent I am wrong. But I cannot leave this subject without also referring to another cause of anxiety. So far, I have dealt with what, I believe, is the known, but beyond the known there is also the unknown. We hear from all sides of an air development in Germany far in excess of anything which I have stated to-day. As to that, all I would say is: Beware. Germany is a country fertile in military surprises. The great Napoleon, in the years after Jena, was completely taken by surprise by the strength of the German army which fought the war of liberation. Although he had officers all over Germany the strength of the army which fought him in the Leipzig campaign was three or four times as strong as he expected. Similarly, when the Great War broke out, the French general staff had no idea of the reserve divisions which would be brought against them. They expected to be confronted by 25 army corps; actually more than 40 came against them.
It is never worth while to underrate the military qualities of this most remarkable and gifted people, nor to underrate the dangers that may be brought against us. I only say it does not follow that, in stating the figures I have to-day, I am not erring grievously 870 on the side of under-statement. It sounds absurd to talk about 10,000 aeroplanes, and so on, but, after all, the resources of mass production are very great, and I remember when the War came to an end the organisation over which I presided at the Ministry of Munitions was actually making aeroplanes at the rate of 24,000 a year, and planning a very much larger programme for 1919. Of course, such numbers of aeroplanes could never be placed in the air at any one moment, nor a tenth of them, but the figures give one an idea of the scale to which manufacture might easily assume if long preparations have been made beforehand, and a great programme of production is launched.
The danger I have dealt with. I have mentioned the remedy so far as it can be described, and I have compared the two air forces. But what have we done in the last year? This is the last aspect with which I wish to deal. We had a Debate last March, and there was a good deal of anxiety expressed. My right hon. Friend the Lord President made a very weighty declaration, and he broke the back of the Debate. But in the evening the Debate revived, and a great deal of anxiety was expressed for a more explicit statement, and my right hon. Friend showed a little less than his usual imperturbable urbanity and patience, and said, "If you are not satisfied, you can go to a Division." What was the use of going to a Division? You might walk a majority round and round the Lobbies for a year, and not alter the facts by which we are confronted. What happened after the March Debate? Very little—so far as I can see, nothing happened for five months. Then we came to July. In July, the right hon. Gentleman came down to the House with the full authority of the Government and announced the programme; of the 42 new squadrons to be added to the Air Force in five years. I pointed out there and then that this scheme did not propose to strengthen the Air Force even by one additional squadron before 31st March next, and only by 50 machines—that is to say, 50 machines in their proper squadrons with all their reserves, and so on—by 31st March, 1936. Another five months have passed, and we now know that nothing has been done, and that nothing will be done before 31st March which will involve a Supplementary 871 Estimate. I am well aware of all that has been rightly said of the complication of this service and the necessity of preliminary preparation, and so forth. 1 will deal with that not now, but when an opportunity occurs upon the Air Estimates. I submit to the House that to continue this dilatory process in the present situation, even for a few more months, and certainly for another year, will deprive us of the power ever to overtake the German air effort. I therefore invite His Majesty's Government to tell us, firstly, what are the facts; and, secondly, if the facts are admitted, what will be their action?
I have only one more thing to say, and I address myself to the Liberal and Labour Oppositions. We read almost every day—certainly every week—in their great popular newspapers the most searching and severe criticism of the existing German regime. Nowhere is that criticism put with greater force and ability and from no quarter is it, I believe, more resented by the present rulers in Germany because it is in the main true. Things are said which are capable of raising the deepest antagonism, not in the breasts of the German people, because they have nothing to say as to their own destiny, but in the breasts of those powerful men who control the people. How can hon. Members opposite reconcile that criticism with the other parts of their policy, which is to cover with contumely and mockery and odium every attempt to secure a modest and reasonable defence to maintain the safety of the country? I have not always found myself in full agreement with this House of Commons, but I have never lost all hope that it will prove itself to be what its creators hoped for it, a great House of Commons in the history of the country. The election which brought this House into power was one in which the greatest number of voters ever called upon to record the franchise in this country voted, above all things, for the maintenance of the strength and the security of their native land. That was the emotion which brought us into power, and I would venture to say: Do not, whatever be the torrent of abuse which may obstruct the necessary action, think too poorly of the greatness of our fellow countrymen. Let the House do its duty. Let the Govern- 872 ment give the lead, and the nation will not fail in the hour of need.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Mr. Baldwin)
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) for having given the House an opportunity this afternoon of discussing what is one of the most difficult and most important subjects to which it can possibly devote its attention. It is a subject to which the Government must have called the attention of the House before long It is a subject which has engaged the earnest attention of the Government for some time past, and a subject with which I cannot deal, however much I should desire, by confining myself entirely to the observations of my right hon. Friend, for it is a subject that touches not only ourselves and our defences, but the whole of Europe. We must approach it, first of all, from that point of view. I say that, because, having been, for my sins, through so much of these troubles for the last 14 years, I have perhaps been in as close touch with the difficulties as most of those who sit either beside me or opposite me. Even now, when things look at their blackest, I have not given up hope either for the limitation or for the restriction of some kind of arms. The end is not yet, and I will say nothing in this Debate that will make more difficult the approaches which must follow from this discussion, and I hope that no one in, the House will. I do hope that when statesmen in Germany read this Debate they will do me the honour of reading every word of what I am going to say, and judge it by its general sense and in the spirit, and not by the picking out of words.
As I shall show, one of the foundations of the malaise to-day in Europe is not only fear, but ignorance outside Germany and secrecy inside. It is only 12 months ago last January that the present regime in Germany came into power. I am not going to criticise that regime. Each country within its own confines must do what seems to itself good in the way of government, but the necessary results of a revolution, whether a great or a less great revolution, whether a more or less peaceful one or a bloody one, are common in this, that you get a dictator or somebody in the position of dictator in power, and it is notoriously more difficult to get 873 contact with a dictator than it is with a democratic government. That is one thing. Secondly, it brings into power, as a rule, a number of new men who have not had experience of dealing for their country in foreign affairs, and whose personalities are not known to the statesmen of other countries. It takes time to get over that difficulty and to re-establish contacts which for many years have been working hopefully in Germany.
What has happened in Europe during last year and this year to illustrate what I have just said? It was only in January that the new regime came into power, and the next month witnessed a strengthening of the constitution of the Little Entente, the first part of Europe to give a response to the new order. Not much later we saw the great perturbation in Austria, largely owing to Nazi propaganda. In October Germany withdrew from the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference which had been going on up to that moment. I do not think that anyone familiar with Geneva would deny that at that moment we had fairer hopes of accomplishing something substantial than had been the case for many years. Cynics may say that that may not amount to much, but it is a fact that there did look to be a chance of success on the limited armaments which had been suggested not long before by the Prime Minister when he was at Geneva. The team work among European nations was thus broken, and broken for the time to bits, and it was broken in relation to a nation whose presence, to my mind, was of the first importance to any discussions on either disarmament or the limitation of arms.
The harm that that has done to the Concert of Europe is beyond even what we could have imagined at the time. This year we have seen signs of nervousness in countries not generally affected—Switzerland and Scandinavia. We have seen in France credits voted and proposed for increasing the fortifications in the north, for reorganising in some way the air force, and for expenditure on equipment and munitions. We have seen Italy on the other side of the Alps disturbed by the reaction of the Nazi propaganda on Austria, and we had a speech from Signor Mussolini himself, 874 which, if taken literally, was a very alarmist one. It was the speech in which he pointed out the imminence of war. We must not leave Russia out of account. When Poland made a non-aggression Pact with Germany which followed not long after the introduction of the new regime, Germany rejected the Russian suggestion for a guarantee—a German-Polish guarantee of the Baltic States. Russia is a country which enjoys by her natural position more security than is given to any of us in Europe, yet we can see that she, feeling perhaps some apprehensions in the Far East, at the same time felt nervous of what might be going on—I say might be going on—on her western frontier. Certain rapprochements were made by her to France, and there have, been conversations, none of which, I guarantee, would have taken place had not Germany left the League of Nations and had not her internal actions with regard to arms been shrouded from that date in mystery. It was that that led to the proposals for the mutual assistance pact in Eastern Europe, to which we gave our warm support, and we made suggestions to bring it more into line with Locarno, and generally to make it acceptable among the proposed parties to it.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
It had nothing to do with us, but we used our good offices, for we were very anxious to get Germany into it. As a net result of nearly two years of that regime in Central Europe, we have a condition of nervous apprehension running through from one country to another, which bodes ill for the peace of Europe or, anyway, ill for that mentality in which peace can be maintained. I will leave it there at this moment, and just express a hope that when these questions which we are debating to-day are considered in Germany they may ask themselves whether the secrecy that is being maintained and the breaking of the link at Geneva between her and her sister nations in Europe are worth the price that they are paying in this mental condition of Europe.
Next I wish to turn to the questions which were raised by my right hon. Friend. I shall have a few words more to say on the European situation before 875 I end. I have spoken more than once of the secrecy that enshrouds what is going on in Germany. It makes it extraordinarily difficult to give any figures or to say anything for certain. Possibly my right hon. Friend has many sources of information, and probably they are all different, and probably not one who gives it can guarantee the accuracy of the information he has brought home. It is a dark continent from that point of view. This is my great difficulty in this matter, that I cannot say to the House, "Germany has X numbers of this and Y numbers of that. She is doing this and that—for certain." But I will give the House what information I have. I will give the House accurate information of what we are doing and what we are going to do. All the figures that I am going to give may be examined later and compared, and they can all be relied upon, except that I cannot guarantee the German figures. The rumours that have been prevalent about the formation of the army we believe are founded on fact—that Germany is in course of expanding her long-service army of 100,000 men into a short-service peace-time army of 300,000. That claim, if I remember aright, was made for her at the time she left the Disarmament Conference. To what extent that task has been completed I cannot say for certain, but undoubtedly it is proceeding, and undoubtedly it will be accomplished. The Reichswehr Budget has made provision for the addition of 172,000,000 Reichsmarks this year, which was defended by the German Government as being necessary in view of the preparation provided for in the current fiscal year with regard to the transformation of the Reichswehr into a short-service army.
Far more interesting is the air position. I think it is correct to say that the Germans are engaged in creating an air force—creating an air force. I think that most of the accounts given in this country and in the Press are very much exaggerated. I cannot give the actual number of service aircraft, but I can give two estimates between which, probably, the correct figure is to be found. The figures we have range from a figure, given on excellent authority and from a source of indisputable authority, of 600 aircraft—
§ Mr. BALDWIN
—600 military aircraft altogether—to the highest figure that we have been given, also from good sources, of something not over 1,000. The probability is that the actual figure ranges between those two, near which limit I cannot say; but it is interesting to note that in the French Chamber the French Government—and I do not think their tendency would be to minimise figures—gave the figure of the military aircraft as 1,100. So far as we know, no service units have yet been formed, but great haste is being shown in the preparation of aerodromes, and great secrecy in their construction and as to where they are. There is no doubt that during the last six months the productive capacity of the air industry has been very much increased. The air budget in 1932-33 amounted to 43,250,000 Reichsmarks, and on that budget Germany was operating a very successful, a markedly successful, service of civil aviation. The next year the figures rose to 78,000,000 Reichsmarks and this year to the surprising figure of 210,000,000. The excellence of the civil aviation in Germany, her air lines and so forth, was known throughout Europe, and a great deal of criticism appeared in the foreign press at the enormous rise in the figures, and the German Government issued voluntarily an explanatory statement that this sum was required solely for the improvement and re-equipment of her commercial air lines and for the extension of her passive air defence system.
That is so much for the moment on figures, but I would like to make a few observations very pertinent to the subject. I daresay that many Members of the House, certainly all those who have studied the question, are familiar with this point, but many Members are not, and I am convinced that a great many of the figures we see in the Press today, and the confusion of figures, arise from the fact that sufficient account is not paid to what I am going to say. The total number of service aircraft which any country possesses is an entirely different thing from the total number of aircraft of first line strength. The total number, of course, includes the first line strength and all the reserve machines used in practice and many things of that kind. I would like the House to remember that one may get a wholly erroneous picture in 877 making comparisons—just to mention the number of aircraft of our own country—when perhaps the figures that have been mentioned are but the figures of first line strength.
We might examine the figures of this country first. The first line strength of the regular units of the Royal Air Force to-day, at home and overseas, is 880 aircraft. Of these, including those of the Fleet Air Arm, 560 are at present stationed in the United Kingdom. There are also at home the Auxiliary Air Force and the Special Reserve Squadrons, with an establishment of 127 aircraft: making a total of just under 690 aircraft available to-day in the United Kingdom that could be put into the first line. But the House must realise that behind our regular first line strength of 880 aircraft there is a far larger number either held in reserve to replace the normal peace time wastage or in current use in training and experimental work. Therefore, I say that there is no ground at this moment for undue alarm and still less for panic. There is no immediate menace confronting us or anyone in Europe at this moment—no actual emergency. But we must look ahead, and there is ground for very grave anxiety, and that is why we have been watching the situation for many months past, are watching it now, and shall continue to watch it. But in the interests of Europe and the world as a whole such examination must be done with such accuracy as we can command, with impartiality, with regard to our own position, with regard to our own position in Europe and with regard to our position as members of the League of Nations and as subscribers to Locarno. It is in that spirit that the Government are acting and will act, and should an emergency develop, of which at the moment we do not see the signs, we shall not be caught unprepared.
The House will wish to know what we have been doing in the last few months, and, although it means going into a little detail, I do not think hon. Members will grudge five minutes spent on it. It was on the 19th July that, on behalf of the Government, I made the announcement to the House to which my right hon. Friend alluded, and I explained a few days later that that programme could be made subject either to acceleration or deceleration either in this or in any subsequent year, according to the outlook in 878 the world at large. Our present approved programme provides for a very substantial portion of the whole programme being completed within the next two years. We propose to form, in the years 1935 and 1936, 22 squadrons for home defence, and, in addition, three squadrons for the Fleet Air Arm, which is an integral part of the Royal Air Force. These 25 squadrons are additional to the four already forming in the current year. That means that by 1936 our first line strength will be increased by some 300 aircraft over its present figure.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
Yes, it is being done in the course of the next two years. This means that our first line strength, as I said, will be increased by 300 aircraft; but, to return to the point I made, they will be the first line strength, and they will carry that large number behind them that we consider necessary for reserve against normal wastage and for using in the training establishments. I would rather not, and I am sure that the House would not wish me to, give what figures we consider, on the present establishment, to be sufficient for the reserve. I can assure the House that for a peace time reserve it is what the Royal Air Force themselves consider ample and satisfactory, and that the Government agree with them.
It is no use forming squadrons unless you have somewhere to house them and aerodromes from which they can operate. So that matter has been put in hand as a matter of particular urgency, and since July, over 90 sites for aerodromes in 19 counties have been inspected in detail and sites for 11 new stations have been finally selected. Of those 11 sites,' six have actually been acquired or are in process of acquisition, and plans for increasing or altering some 40 existing stations are well advanced. In some cases work is actually started. The Air Ministry contemplate placing orders next year for between 80 and 90 per cent, more aircraft than in the present year, and there will be a large increase in the number of engines to be ordered. In regard to the provision of personnel, an additional flying training school has already been opened, and another will open next April. The number of short-service officers is being increased and the 879 annual entry of pilots in civil life directed to reserve has already been increased and next year will be about 100 per cent, greater than in the present year. There will be an increase of about 100 per cent, in the entry of aircraft apprentices at Halton next January.
I think the House will see, considering that this programme was only announced before the Recess, that no time has been lost in giving effect to the desire of the House that the programme should be proceeded with. In view of the rapid progress that we are making, we find that it will be necessary to bring in a Supplementary Estimate in February, I hope in time for it to be included in the Appropriation Act at the conclusion of the present financial year.
There are one or two more points which I think the House ought to dwell upon in regard to this matter, because very often—and again I must speak with a great deal of cricitism of the information that appears in the London Press—we might easily draw the conclusion that we are not in the front rank in many things pertaining to the air, that the foreigners do things better than we, and that, in fact, we are getting behind all round. That is not the case, and I should like very briefly to say one or two words in praise of ourselves. When I say ourselves, hon. Members do not need to be alarmed by thinking that I mean the Government; I mean our own country.
Under war conditions, as everyone knows, an air force can be created speedily. Labour is enrolled for the purpose and men are conscripted for the service. Numbers can be got, but remember that the casualties towards the end of the War were something terrific. They were terrific because men had not time to learn their jobs. That is one of the features of modern warfare. I want the House to remember that and to realise it. Let us take the mechanics first. If you take a raw hand and want to make him an accomplished mechanic in charge of aircraft, that is about three years' work. You cannot take them away wholesale, even if they were willing to go, from the aircraft factories. They would learn to do the work very quickly, but if you take them away that lessens the 880 productive capacity of the factory, and it is all-important to keep that up. That is why we have to recruit them from the beginning. It is on the work of the mechanic that very often ultimately the life of the pilot depends.
Now take the pilot himself. To train a pilot for military flying takes 12 months for the flying; after that he has a great deal to learn in the way of night flying, navigation and gunnery, things that are essential for his own protection and for the work that he has to do. There is all the difference in the world between the finest qualified flying pilot in civilian service, driving an air mail, or anything like that, and the man who has to go into action against an enemy. The two jobs are not comparable. You can be the finest pilot that ever was, but before you can go out in war, if you are not going to be shot down at once, you have to go through an intensive course of learning to defend yourself.
I stress that point for two reasons. I want the House to realise why, although we are pushing ahead with the programme, you cannot in 12 months have an efficient new force. Secondly, what I have said is not without its implications on the position in Germany to-day. Germany can produce the aircraft rapidly, if she chooses, and she can rapidly produce men, if she chooses; but a country which has for years possessed no military air force starts under a very heavy handicap, and it must necessarily be some time before, from a military point of view, such a force can be equal in efficiency to a force which would have behind it, ever since the War, the whole of the technique of its training under which men were trained in the War and have been trained ever since. People are sometimes apt to forget with what respect our air service is regarded in the world. There have been officers from nearly every nation in the world seeking to come and have a short term of training with our men. Our machines and our engines are used in almost every country in the world; there are none to-day which are better.
I am going to speak about speeds for two or three minutes and of what the Royal Air Force are doing, because we have nothing to be ashamed of. I believe that it is far better that people should know exactly what we are doing 881 and I want to show in return what other people are doing. That is a form of publicity that makes for peace. I have seen it freely stated that foreign civil aircraft can pass our fastest modern military fighters and leave them standing. That is a good round statement. If you take one or two of the latest types of modern civil aircraft of outstanding performance, and compare them with the slowest of our fighters which are already in course of replacement, it is to a certain extent true—I do not know about the standstill—but it is truth which is exaggerated and a form of truth we sometimes hoar in this House. If those civil aircraft had to be equipped for military service and with a means of defence and offence, there would be a very big falling off in their performance.
People try to compare things which are not comparable. It is like trying to compare Oxford and Cambridge, or Eton and Winchester; they are not comparable. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping and my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), both perfect but not comparable. If you take our latest type now in production and passing actually into squadrons, as the House were informed the other day, these have a speed of over 230 miles an hour. Other types now flying, but in the development stage, have a yet higher performance, while newer types again, the design of which is well advanced, will show a remarkable further advance in speed and general performance. Our latest single-seater fighter now coming into service compares more than favourably with any in the world. I am contest to leave it at that. I am glad to be able, as one of the people who have never been and never will be Secretary of State for Air, to pay a tribute to that great service in this House this afternoon.
Now, although I have very little time left, I would like to come to the specific points raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping. He was good enough to send me a note of the principal points that he was going to raise. I am very grateful to him, because I could not have answered them without notice, and, as it is, I have been able to devote some time for the last two or three days in examining and checking them with those best able to assist me. I can answer at any rate part of what 882 he wants me to answer, to the satisfaction of the House. I wish to point out that in part of what he wants to know we get into hypothetical regions where I cannot follow him. The right hon. Gentleman's statement was that Germany has already at this moment a military air force which is approaching equality with our own, and that by this time next year, if Germany continues to execute her programme without acceleration and if we continue to carry out the increase announced to Parliament in July last, the German military air force will be at least as strong as, and may be stronger than, our own. I have given the o House that very wide estimate, which was the nearest I could give, of the number of German military aircraft. It is not the case that Germany is rapidly approaching equality with us. I pointed out that the German figures are total figures, not first line strength figures, and I have given our own first line figures and said that they are only first line figures, with a considerably larger reserve at our disposal behind them.
Even if we confine the comparison to the German air strength and the strength of the Royal Air Force immediately available in Europe, Germany is actively engaged in the production of service aircraft, but her real strength is not 50 per cent. of our strength in Europe to-day. As for the position this time next year, if she continues to execute her air programme without acceleration and if we continue to carry out at the present approved rate the expansion announced to Parliament in July—I would ask the House to remember that we deliberately said nothing at that time as to the rate of expansion—so far from the German military air force being at least as strong as and probably stronger than our own, we estimate that we shall still have in Europe a margin—in Europe alone— of nearly 50 per cent. I cannot look farther forward than the next two years. My right hon. Friend speaks of what may happen in 1937. Such investigations as I have been able to make lead me to believe that his figures are considerably exaggerated. Quite trankly, it is impossible to say what the figures will be in that year; what the rate of acceleration or deceleration may be. I cannot look with any certainty either into their figures or our own for more than the two years that I have 883 given. All that I would say is this, that His Majesty's Government are determined in no conditions to accept any position of inferiority with regard to what air force may be raised in Germany in the future.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I referred to machines available for home defence which are stationed in the United Kingdom. I should like to make one or two further observations on civil aviation. The whole of the German money, ability and training was thrown into her civil aviation until these recent days, when she decided to throw it into military aviation. Therefore, she undoubtedly has made much more progress than she would have done had civil aviation not been for many years her only form of air service. I say that advisedly. No one in his senses would spend money on civil aviation as a. means of getting military personnel or craft, because it is the most expensive form of subsidisation to obtain your end that could possibly be undertaken.
I will give the House one very illuminating figure which I take from our friends across the channel, the French, because it is a nice, easy, round figure and will illustrate what I mean. In the current year the French subsidies for civil aviation have been about £1,250,000, and for that expenditure the great French lines are maintaining in commission about 185 heterogeneous types of aircraft, many of them capable of being used in war for bombing purposes but less efficient than aircraft would be if specially designed for that service. For that expenditure for which they have only these 185 heterogeneous types of aircraft we could maintain, and I have no doubt they could maintain, 10 regular and five auxiliary squadrons, with a first line strength of 180, equipped with aircraft of military types, with trained personnel, with a proper reserve behind them, to say nothing of the background of service organisation which is so vital to the efficiency 884 of military air services. Therefore, I think the threat of what may come from civil aviation is exaggerated, because civil aviation as it exists to-day is of subsidiary importance in war so long as there are efficient military air forces in existence to cope with it. An efficient military air force can always cope with it, but, if there were no military air forces, then indeed the civil air forces would become the masters of the situation. That has always been one of the greatest difficulties we have been up against in examining this whole question of the restriction of air services.
I apologise to the House and to my right hon. Friend. I had forgotten tha£when I mentioned the service aircraft in Germany I should have added that among them are a number of bombers. We do not know the exact number, but they are there.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I have tried to give the House as clearly as I could a statement of facts, and there are two or three words that I desire to say in conclusion. It is my conviction—and I speak with a sense of responsibility—that the state of apprehension that exists throughout Europe, not only as I expressed it but apprehension over some unknown terror that may come, is an apprehension that has largely been caused by a want of knowledge of what is going on inside Germany. I believe it is right to say that to Germany herself, behind the cloud she has put up of her own will, that apprehension is not unknown. We all share it, just as we all share the industrial anxieties and troubles of Europe. What I feel is happening in Germany is this tragedy, that Germany, by cutting herself off from the comity of nations at Geneva, leaving our discussions, whether on disarmament or whatever they may be, is concentrating all her efforts on trying to recover her industrial position at home. She has vast numbers of men out of work. There is a great deal of poverty in that country. We have all suffered in Europe. We have all endeavoured to help our own country, but we know quite well that there is a point at which that ends. Some of us have been more successful than others and some less successful in dealing with the situation at home and locally.
885 Situated where Germany is, she is more dependent than most of us on friendship and ion trading with her neighbours. When will the day come when she will recognise that? May the opportunity come before long when she will tear this veil of secrecy away and bring to light the things that are alarming Europe, and we may discuss them and see what, even now, may be done. If she does that, she may be able to resume conversations with her neighbours, all of whom are ready to help her in regard to trade and in trying to stabilise the broken exchanges of this old world; but so long as she stays by herself, having no direct communication with other statesmen in Europe, so more and more these suspicions will grow and, may be, more and more her own troubles will grow. After all, there are periods in the lives of all countries when the greatest perils come to them through not having looked after their own people in time. I hope and believe that this Debate, inaugurated not perhaps with those ideas tout with a genuine and rightful desire to get to know the truth in Europe, may have greater consequences and better consequences than any of us could have thought. It may be that an opportunity has been made for a first step once more to bring together the nations of Europe, and it may be that, having learned some wisdom by the deterioration and the degeneration of the conditions of Europe in the last few years, the voice of wisdom and the voice of peace may prevail.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, at the end, to add the words:but regret that, notwithstanding the sentiments expressed in Your Majesty's Gracious Speech regarding the maintenance of world peace and the desirability of the Disarmament Conference attaining definite results, Your Majesty's advisers have embarked upon a counter policy of increased armaments calculated to lead to a renewal of international rivalry and to hinder the establishment of durable peace through the League of Nations.The Members of all parties have heard with distinct approval the concluding passage of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, in which he made a fervent appeal to the people and the leaders of Germany to consider once again how they 886 may more fully act in accord with the rest of Europe than has been possible in the last 12 months or so. I confess, however, that the other part of the discussion this afternoon has left me, and I doubt not that it has also left my colleagues on this side of the House, in some degree of apprehension by reason of one or two characteristics which were discernible in the course of the Debate. I suppose I should be right if I said that in thousands of homes in our country tonight men and women will have before them a copy of a ballot paper in regard to which they will be determining what their answers shall be on at least two of the five questions put. Those questions are:Are you in favour of an all-round reduction of armaments by international agreement?Are you in favour of an all-round abolition of military aircraft by international agreement?In that way a referendum will be taken of the people of the country and an opportunity will be given to those who examine this document to express their view one way or the other. I gather that the answers so far received have been overwhelmingly in the affirmative on these two points. Yet the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and those associated with him have presented to the House to-night, not after any referendum, any poll or any inquiry as to public opinion, but on their own initiative, a demand not for fewer armaments but for more. In the case of the ballot the people have, at least, been consulted. What people have been consulted in respect of the Amendment before the House? As I gather, the Government have indicated, broadly speaking, their determination to sign on the dotted lines. In the first sentence of His Majesty's Gracious Speech there are these words:My relations with foreign Powers continue to be friendly.The right hon. Gentleman, a supporter of the Government, says: Let us show our friendliness, let us show our appreciation of this friendly condition of affairs, by building more armaments—bigger armies, bigger naval equipment and bigger air forces—just to give point, no doubt, to this condition of friendship which is supposed to exist. I propose to examine the implications of the Amendment which the right hon. Gentle- 887 man and his friends have presented to the House, and I hope I shall be deemed to be strictly fair if I say that the Amendment embodies three propositions. The first is that it is desirable to promote the peace, the safety and the freedom of our people. I think the right hon. Gentleman will accept that as a fair statement of the first concept which ho advances. His second point is that that condition of peace depends for its preservation upon national defences; and his third point is that the present state of our national defences, and in particular of our air defences, gives cause for anxiety on the ground of their inadequacy. I think I have fairly presented the propositions embodied in the Amendment.
As to the first point, namely, our desire for the peace, safety and freedom of our people, I want to say quite categorically that I and my hon. Friends on this side of the House question very sincerely whether the method proposed by the right hon. Gentleman is the best method of maintaining peace, safety and freedom for our people. There has been a, good deal of discussion in the country lately concerning the will to peace, and for my own part I do not doubt that other people are just as keen upon achieving peace as I am myself. Where we differ is as to the methods whereby we can secure that peace which is our common aim and object. The Lord President of the Council and many others—many Cabinet Ministers, for that matter—have, when speaking in the country, deplored what they considered to be an unfortunate development, namely, our constant discussion on our platforms of the question of peace and war. They say that that should be kept out of the party ring altogether. With very great respect, I differ from them, and for this reason: We on this side of the House, at any rate, cannot dissociate armaments policy from foreign policy; both are very closely interrelated; and, therefore, it is useless to complain that the question of peace and war is dragged into our political discussions.
I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping in the course of his speech, had his customary gibe, if I may be allowed so to express it, at the Labour party because of what he considers to be our misrepresentation of 888 the attitude of our opponents with respect to this question of peace. I am not in favour of misrepresentation myself; I prefer to state as fairly as I can the view of my opponents without exaggeration. But I object to the obvious and conscious effort which is being made in the speeches of right hon. Gentlemen opposite and in their Press to place the responsiblity for this war scare on the shoulders of the pacifists, as they call them. The people who are responsible for this war fear are the Members of His Majesty's Government and their supporters, and I submit that they are not entitled to pass on the responsibility to us. The right hon. Gentleman, at Glasgow on Saturday, made reference to some leaflet or other. Let me give him a quotation from a Member of the Government on this point, just to show how faithful to the truth his colleagues can be on occasion. One of them—I will give the name presently—speaking in reference to the Peace Ballot, said:Another question is: 'Are you prepared to enforce this or that by force of arms?' I say quite frankly that I am not prepared to go to war in any cause to which Great Britain is not already committed or where British life is not involved. That is why I will not lend my name to a dishonest piece of propaganda of this kind.He was referring to the Ballot. He then went on to say:The people who are asking this are the Labour party.That is a piece of honesty, I take it; it is a fair expression of the position, I suppose. By what authority has the right hon. Gentleman to whom I have referred held up to a public audience the Labour party as responsible for this ballot? He said, further:The last thing they"—that is the Labour party—put their names to in a convention was that whenever a quarrel is started anywhere in the world Great Britain has to be in it. That is the situation. You have to put your own judgment in pawn to some international body.If we are to examine our respective degrees of fidelity to truth, I can only ask the right hon. Gentleman, perhaps by way of relaxation, to read the speeches of his colleagues occasionally. I can explain this one quite easily, and forgive it, too, for it is headed in this way in the "Golders Green Times" of Friday, 9th November: 889Mutton Supper. Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister takes apple pudding with his supporters, and asks for some more.That is not the first time that apples have misdirected men's activities and minds. I say to the right hon. Gentleman frankly that, before hon. Gentlemen opposite accuse us of misrepresentation, they might apply a little vigorous scrubbing, shall I say, to their own political doorsteps before they examine ours.
Let me now examine the way in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, and his colleagues approach this problem. Incidentally, I might observe that I should have been glad if the right hon. Gentleman had paid us the courtesy of staying for a few moments while we discussed his Amendment. In the first place, you can only examine an armaments policy from the standpoint of the foreign policy that you support. There are only three possibilities. The first is that you may advance your armaments policy in support of a policy of isolation. I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping does not accept the isolationist policy; he said so specifically in his broadcast a week or so ago; but I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), who also supports this Amendment, sub scribes to that point of view. From previous speeches of his, I doubt whether he is not convinced in his heart of hearts of the efficacy of a purely isolationist policy. In my judgment the only person who can adopt an out-and-out isolationist policy is the person who believes in complete disarmament—
§ Mr. JONES
The pacifist, if you like. He could do so quite consistently, but people who believe in isolation with armaments will find that it is untenable. I can prove that very quickly. Why do you maintain a certain strength of armaments? It is in the hope that your strength will be equal to that of the other fellow. But suppose that the other fellow makes an alliance, or has an understanding with his neighbour. In that case, in order to make yourself secure in your isolation—accepting the principle of armaments—you must at least make yourself as strong as both the neighbours who are opposed to you; and, if that process goes on of adding 890 neighbours on one side, you will come to this position, that either your armaments are hopelessly useless to you or, in order to safeguard yourself, you must draw to your side other neighbours, and the moment you do that your isolation is gone. The second alternative, therefore, must be considered. That, surely, is the alternative of the balance of power—that precarious equipoise of power and strength which prevailed in the days before 1914. The right hon. Gentleman spoke this afternoon of the "Concert of Europe," but clearly you cannot have a concert of Europe by a system of alliances with groups of Powers arming against each other as they were in the days before the late War. And, therefore, it is clear that the second alternative, of relying upon alliances backed by armed camps on both sides, is one that must ultimately lead to international strife and warfare. I understand—I believe I am right—that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping rejects that method too, because he specifically said in his broadcast a week ago that he believed in the method of a. collective peace system.
If you reject isolation, if you reject the balance of power or alliances, you are bound to come to the only other alternative that is left, namely, a collective peace system; that is to say, you are bound to work through some medium such as the League of Nations, or some medium comparable with the League of Nations. If I may dwell for a moment on this point, I am bound to say that I have some difficulty in understanding where exactly the Lord President of the Council stands with respect to the collective peace system. I shall refer to his words in a little more detail in a moment or two. The common objection to this collective peace system that we urge is that it involves in all who are associated with it the loss of some measure of independence for its units. That cannot be denied.
Two nights ago, for instance, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hill-head (Sir R. Home) attacked my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee). He quoted a speech of his delivered at Southport, and said he had been guilty of using expressions of slushy, impracticable sentiment. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman forgot the implications of a portion of his own 891 speech. He said, "Here am I a Scotsman, proud of belonging to the Scottish race, but I also belong to a larger unit, Great Britain, and a still larger unit, the British Empire." The moment he left the Scottish consideration and entered into the realm of the British consideration, to that degree he showed that he had sacrificed some measure of his identity as a Scotsman in the larger unit. The moment he speaks of himself as a citizen of the Empire he loses again some of his identity as a member of the unit called Great Britain. What does my hon. Friend say? He says, "I am a Londoner. I belong to Britain, but I also belong to the Empire and to the world." The only difference in practice between the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend is that the unit which my hon. Friend visualises is a larger one than that called the Empire. The contrast may be presented in this way. The right hon. Gentleman says, "I have evolved from the concept of Scottish citizenship to the concept of Imperial citizenship." My hon. Friend says, "I have evolved from the concept of London citizenship to the concept of world citizenship." The moment you come to that point both gentlemen have to some degree subordinated their local patriotism to allegiance to a larger unit.
It is important that we should get this 23oint clear, because I am sure that as the years roll by we shall be compelled to face the implications of this thing. The concept of hon. Members opposite who speak of the Empire—I am not decrying it—is an exclusive one. My hon. Friend's concept is an inclusive one. Their concept, properly examined, is one of domination. Our point of view is that of co-operation, and that co-operation in the world can only be guaranteed through the medium of some collective peace system. The Lord President of the Council, speaking at Glasgow on Friday, used these words:There is growing in the Socialist party support for what is called a collective peace system. This is impracticable in view of the fact to-day that the United States is not yet a member of the League of Nations and that Germany and Japan have both retired from it. A collective peace system could never be undertaken without those countries, of that I am quite certain, and so long as I have any responsibility in the Government for deciding whether or not this country shall join a collective peace 892 system I will say this. Never as an individual will I sanction the British Navy being used for the armed blockade of any country in the world until I know what the United States of America are going to do.The right hon. Gentleman will have his own interpretation of that, but it is top late for him to say it, because he himself was a Member of a Government in 1925 which established a limited collective peace system at Locarno. It was implicit. Not many months ago the present Government, through the mouth of the Foreign Secretary, expressed their joy that there was a prospect of an Eastern Locarno Pact between Russia and the border States and others. There again is a collective system, a limited one but still a collective system. Such a system will not be complete, nor will it be absolutely reliable, until finally you get the United States, Germany and Japan in, but surely that is no argument against a European collective system without the United States at all. If he disagrees with that statement, I really do not see what the right hon. Gentleman's alternative is.
I want now to turn to the implications of this Amendment as we see it. I have tried to submit that three alternatives are presented to us in point of policy: isolation—that is rejected—alliances— that is rejected—and a collective peace system which I think is inevitable. The moment you accept that it seems to me that you must fashion your armaments policy in relation to the European unit or to the world unit rather than in relation to a particular country in Europe. If I may make a criticism of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, and indeed of the speech of the Lord President, it is this. They spoke—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping rather more so perhaps—in terms of armaments vis-á-vis one other country, that is Germany. Germany was the only country of which they spoke. They forgot the rest of Europe. I very much doubt whether a speech narrowing down the issue to the armaments of one country as compared with others is a contribution to peace at the present moment.
What does this thing mean to us? We are brought again exactly where we were in the days before the War. With an almost sinister exactitude we get a parallel to what prevailed in the days 893 before 1914. I remember Mr. Snowden, as he then was, making a speech in which he called attention to the operation of the armament firms nationally and internationally. I remember speeches being delivered by members on the Conservative side in which their arguments were directed to show how much more strong, navally, Germany was than we. To-day we are told how much more strong Germany is aerially than we. But the argument is the same, the thesis is the same, the proposition is the same and the intention is the same.
Let us examine, therefore, this new proposition confined to the air in the light of the experience that we have. You made your appeal in 1914. Millions of people responded to it. So far as the Navy was concerned—I am not discussing the Army—it was efficient, so efficient that it completely blockaded Germany, and the end of your appeal to arms was to smash into a thousand fragments the one country that you singled out. Sixteen years later you are again pointing to the same enemy. You are inviting an expenditure of money because we have in mind that same country. Suppose again that you destroy her and lay her in the dust, in another 16 years she may be once more challenging you. The simple lesson that anyone of us ought to draw is this. There is no salvation for any country along the direction of armaments. The only safe course, clearly, must be to push ahead as vigorously as we can with the policy of disarmament in the world.
Let me carry the point a little further. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping has himself, I think, cut away the ground from his supporters in respect of at least one powerful section of his argument in the broadcast that he gave on Saturday week. He used this phrase with reference to Germany, which I take from the "Listener" of the 21st instant:From their new table of commandments they have omitted 'Thou Shalt not Kill.'I am not sure that it is in the forefront of ours either.It is not yet 20 years since these neighbours of ours fought almost the whole world and almost defeated them. Now they are re-arming with the utmost speed and ready to their hands is this new lamentable weapon of the air against which our Navy has no defence.It is not I who say that, but the Mover of the Amendment. He tells us that so long as you go ahead with aerial arma- 894 ments naval preparations provide you with no defence whatever. I know that the First Lord will not subscribe to that. Does aerial equipment provide you with defence? The Lord President of the Council has himself answered that. You may add to your equipment, you may build your first line of bombing planes and your second and your third, but the right hon. Gentleman said in that memorable speech two years ago that in the ultimate resort there is no known method of safeguarding people from an invasion by this kind of flying machines. It is not, therefore, our business to be content merely with the statement which the right hon. Gentleman made this afternoon, that there is a. vast amount of equipment being prepared in Germany, though I was very glad to hear the Lord President of the Council tone down the picture a little bit and reassure us that the situation is not as bad as the right hon. Gentleman painted it. Even if you grant the figures of the right hon. Gentleman, you have still to answer whether, even though you build as much or twice as much as the Germans, that will give us the safety and security of which the Amendment speaks.
We on this side of the House, as I have said, take our stand upon international action. We believe in the collective peace system. We want to drive that vigorously forward, because, the collective peace system alone gives us the opportunity for removing the apprehensions and dangers of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke so eloquently this afternoon. Indeed, we go further. We say that the Air Force is an organisation peculiarly susceptible of international control. No man can be an airman flying over these European routes without becoming himself, in some degree, internationally-minded. The man who flies over France, Switzerland, Italy and the Near East or the Far East, and whose daily vocation: it is, must inevitably acquire not a purely nationalist outlook, but a somewhat internationalist outlook, tell me that the international control of I daresay that some hon. Members will an air force is an impracticable proposition. Let me put this proposition to them. Would anybody hazard a prophecy that, suppose civil aviation in the main remained under the control of private ownership, the time might not speedily come when international arrangements and understandings, even between private 895 interests, would virtually have established a form of international control? We know that that sort of thing happens in regard to various other forms of commercial activity, and I do not doubt that civil aviation could similarly be internationalised in the matter of control. We say that it is incumbent upon governments, in order to secure the safety and freedom of their people, to internationalise the control of their civil aviation so as to rid the world of the menace of war.
The right hon. Gentlemen have rightly called our attention to the grave apprehensions which we all entertain concerning the present state of affairs in Germany and her isolation among the nations of Europe. I hasten to say, if it is necessary to say it, that we on this side of the House hate, detest and loathe the philosophy which dominates the mind of those who now control Germany, but we are not willing to allow ourselves, because of our anti-Hitlerite feeling, to be exploited by people in the interests of a new armament race. Let us face facts. Reference has been made here this afternoon to the Treaty of Versailles, and it has quite properly been recalled to our minds, that in some respects it can be fairly argued that Germany is breaking certain instruments in that Treaty. That is tine, but it is also true that when that Treaty was signed undertakings were given in the most precise and explicit language that German disarmament was the preliminary to a measure of disarmament among the other nations of Europe. It is because we have failed to be equal to our word that young Germany has been encouraged to fall back upon the philosophy of force. I can think of nothing better for Europe at this moment than that Europe should speedily march back upon her tracks and take up the position on which she stood when the Versailles Treaty was discussed, and, in the matter of armaments, any-way, carry out loyally, faithfully and honourably the undertaking which was given when the Treaty was signed. We have no right to ask other people to be loyal to their word unless we first be loyal to ours. [An HON. MEMBER: "We are."] No, we are not. We have not done what we said was to be done when that Treaty was signed some years ago. [An HON. MEMBER: "We have done a 896 lot more."] In the long run all this business of fear, apprehension, and so on arises from the fundamental point that we have not yet been able to establish among each other that confidence in each other's good faith which ought to prevail. We on our side, therefore, desire to bring before this House this simple proposition. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping has presented us with an Amendment from his side of the House, and as we are exceedingly anxious not to be deprived of an opportunity of voting on this matter to-night; I desire to move the Amendment to the Amendment. I hope that it may be possible, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for you to accept it in its form. I move it for the reason that, without questioning the good faith of other people at all, we believe that our method is the only sound method for the achievement and attainment of peace. In that condition we believe that we can best realise the position of which a distinguished poet in the Victorian era spoke:When the commonsense of mostshall hold a fretful realm in awe,And a kindly earth shall slumberlapt in universal law.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
I hope that the House and the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones), who has just delivered such an eloquent and interesting speech, will not expect me to deal with the Amendment to the proposed Amendment which, you, Sir, have just put from the Chair. We are discussing to-night a question of immense complexity and of vast importance to the future of our country and to the peace of the world, and it is really impossible to address ourselves at a moment's notice to a fresh proposition of that character. The Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has been on the Order Paper of the House for a great many days, and everybody has had full notice that it was to be moved, and I cannot help thinking that it is a little unfortunate that if an Amendment to the proposed Amendment was to be moved in the House, it should not have been put upon the Paper. Indeed, neither I nor, I imagine, the great majority of hon. Members of this House have received a copy of the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Caerphilly.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I appreciate the point which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman makes, and I think he will appreciate our difficulty. We were exceedingly anxious not only to hear the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in defence of his Amendment, but also the response of the Government today. We, therefore, could not put an Amendment upon the Paper until we had heard them, otherwise we might have been accused of passing our judgment without having heard the statement of the Government.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
Even so, I cannot help thinking that the Amendment should have been on the Paper. It would have been open to the hon. Gentleman and his friends to move it or not as they pleased. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is capable of discourtesy personally, but it would have been more courteous to the House on the part of the official Opposition to have given us an opportunity of studying their Amendment before they asked us to discuss it.
Let me make it clear, in the first place, that I approach this problem of defence from the point of view of the preservation of world peace. In some parts of the world, but probably not in all, it is still possible for a conflict between two small nations to be insulated, but the world has so shrunk, and is still shrinking so fast, that the outbreak of war between any two great Powers would undoubtedly, inevitably lead to a worldwide conflagration from which no great country, and least of all a country like Britain with possessions in every part of the globe and trade relations with every country of the world, could be immune. Consequently, our only hope of preventing this country from being overwhelmed in the catastrophe of war is to prevent war from breaking out anywhere. From this it follows that we must be faithful to our international responsibilities for the preservation of peace and be prepared to play our part in resisting aggression. Unless at this stage in the development of the world we are able to play an effective part in resisting aggression, we shall not be able to secure and establish the rule of law in international relations. For Britain to adopt a policy of unilateral disarmament would be to rejoice the hearts and play 898 into the hands of tyrants and dictators and general staffs all over the world. If we do not want to leave the destinies of the world in the hands of dictators, it is by the possession of force that we must prevent and deter them from using force.
Therefore, we must have armaments and a sound policy of defence. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping says that we cover with contumely those who suggest that we should take adequate measures for defence. I deny that suggestion. It may be that we have criticised, perhaps at times somewhat sharply, those who make exaggerated demands for armaments, but that we have ever denied, or criticised those who ask for moderate and proper armaments for this country or for an effective system of defence, I flatly deny. If it be agreed that we must have armaments, then it must be agreed also that those armaments must be powerful. Armaments are intended to be powerful and deadly, and the quality of the armaments we place in the hands of our soldiers and sailors and airmen must be as powerful and as deadly as those of any dictator.
The right hon. Member for Epping has delivered to the House a sombre, sober and powerful speech. Even his opponents will admit that. May I, in passing, point out to the House and to the Government, and in particular to any Minister who is going to reply to the Debate, that there was one point in the speech of the right hon. Member for Epping of some, although of subsidiary, importance, to which the Lord President of the Council did not give an answer. The right hon. Member for Epping protested against the suggestion that the problem of defence against air attack is necessarily insoluble. We all know that at the present time there is no means of defence against air attack. It used to be said in the Navy before the War that there was no defence against the torpedo, and it was only after the lapse of many years and under the pressure of the War that bulges were invented. Many men who were employed during the War by the Air Force on research problems are now dispersed among different firms in the aircraft industry, or are working as scientists and professors at universities, but at the call of the Government they would gladly throw themselves into research work in order to discover a means of defence for 899 our towns and cities against hostile aircraft. Much money has been rightly spent since the War on research in order to make our aircraft more efficient, and I associate myself with the question which the right hon. Gentleman put, as to whether a corresponding effort is being made into the problem of the defence of our great cities against air bombing.
That, however, was only an incidental part of his speech. He went on to develop a powerful argument for an enormous strengthening of the offensive power of our Air Force. It was not a small increase that he demanded; it was a matter of £50,000,000 or £100,000,000 which he desired to see expended. He said that if our Air Force was large enough no country would incur the risk of retaliation by attacking us. From what I have said, the House will see that my view is that we ought not to remain defenceless. The Lord President of the Council has shown that we are far from defenceless, and that next year we shall be not 50 per cent. weaker in first line aircraft, as stated by the right hon. Member for Epping, but 50 per cent. stronger.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
The right hon. Member for Epping said that in 1937 the Germans would be twice as strong, and in 1936, 50 per cent. stronger than we should be in military aircraft. The Lord President of the Council said that in 1936 we shall be 50 per cent. stronger than the Germans.
But there is no more dangerous argument, nor one which has been more completely falsified by history, than the argument that you can obtain security by multiplying armaments. While armaments are, under present conditions, a necessity —and as long as they are a necessity must be of the most deadly and efficient quality—they are not by any means the only factor in the problem of Defence. To isolate air armaments, as the right hon. Member for Epping has done today, and suggest, as he has done on many other occasions, that we can find security in a one-Power standard of military air-craft, irrespective of the policy of that Power, or of the policy of the other Powers, hardly less strong, seems to me to be unreasonable. In the political notes of the "Times" this morning a hope was 900 expressed on behalf of the Government that the limits of this Debate would be narrowed severely to armaments, and that we should not range over the whole field of foreign policy. I was glad to find that the speech of the Lord President of the Council widened the scope of the Debate. For, to concentrate upon armaments will lead not to security but to insecurity and disaster. The greater the accumulation of arms by one country the greater the insecurity of its neighbours. Great additions to armaments necessarily lead to an armament race, and that means an immense financial strain upon the countries taking part in it. It means discontent among the populations of those countries, and throws back the hopes of world economic recovery. In my view the world is at the present time as much in danger of an economic disaster as of a military disaster. Under the terrific strain of providing these great increases in armaments the thoughts of the leaders of all countries will inevitably tend towards war as the only way out. Therefore as Lord Grey said, "Great armaments inevitably lead to war," and thus precipitate the very catastrophe which they are intended to avert.
It is sometimes said by hon. Members opposite in these Debates that they understand the point of view of men like the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Opposition, who has frequently voted for the complete abolition of the Army and Navy—for unilateral disarmament—but that there is no logical resting-place between that and meeting all the demands of the chiefs of staffs of the services. In my submission the only sound solution of the problem of defence is one which takes account of all its factors, armaments, finance and, above all, policy. Among the most potent weapons of Britain has always been finance. Had it not been for the financial strength of Britain, the Napoleonic wars and the Great War would have ended differently. But while our present armaments are roughly equivalent to those we had before the War, our financial position is dangerously weaker. Then our National Debt was £640,000,000; to-day it is £7,640,000,000, a twelve-fold increase. Then our Income Tax was Is. 2d. in the pound and Surtax 6d., a total of Is. 8d. Now Income Tax and Surtax, on the highest range of incomes, are 4s. 6d. and 8s. 3d. re- 901 spectively, or 12s. 9d. in the pound, besides the crushing burden of Death Duties and indirect taxation, which is now higher than it was then, and on a much wider range of commodities. Then we exacted from the taxpayer and ratepayer a revenue of less than £300,000,000. Now we are exacting in taxes and rates the prodigious revenue of just under £1,000,000,000. Even now we are spending the equivalent of 2s. 6d. in the pound on armaments, and if the expenditure on. our War Debt and War pensions is taken into account, it amounts to £357,000,000 a year, or £12,000,000 more than the total yield of Income Tax, Surtax and Death Duties.
What are the prospects for an alleviation of this almost intolerable burden? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking at Manchester on the 21st of this month, said:We have been eating our cake in the tray of new expenditure so rapidly of late that I warn you that a very large increased revenue will be necessary to meet this increased expenditure before there is anything over for the relief of the taxpayer in the next Budget.Our national revenue, that vital arm of our defence, is like an overstretched catapult; overburden it with swollen demands for armaments, add to our armament expenditure the £60,000,000 or £100,000,000 of which the right hon. Member for Epping spoke so airily, and it will snap in the day of decision. From the standpoint of defence, there is no more urgent task than to restore its elasticity.
There remains the vital factor of policy. It is not to be denied that there are storm centres in the world. Some nations under their present leadership are repudiating the principles of law, upon which alone security can be based, and glorifying the rule of force. Are we to be alone in facing such a menace? I am certain that we shall not be alone in confronting it. The Lord President of the Council in his speech has pointed out the formidable reactions which the menace of German dictatorship has provoked in nearly every country in Europe. The primary aim, surely, of our policy ought to be to strengthen the forces of resistance by basing them on the firm ground of political principle and the common interest of all civilised peoples to resist aggression; the principle that war is illegal, a principle enshrined in 902 the Kellogg Pact, and that those who resort to it, whoever they may be, are our enemies and that Britain will never resort to war except in resistance to aggression.
No longer can we find security or base our resistance to aggression on a policy of the balance of power or on old-fashioned alliances in defence of national interests. Such alliances are objectionable on many grounds. In some parts of the world, where grave dangers to peace and to British interests exist they are quite unobtainable. No one expects the United States to enter into an exclusive alliance with this or any other country. Nor can we in the existing state of our finances support the stupendous burden of isolation. Moreover, th6 policy of isolation has this in common with the policy of unilateral disarmament, that it means the repudiation of our world responsibilities. It also involves inevitably the disruption of the Empire, because the Dominions would not only be unwilling to accept its positive implications, but would refuse to abandon the position of world influence which they hold at Geneva.
There remains only one policy, the policy of the Covenant, of strengthening the League of Nations by making it the firm foundation of a new system of collective peace and security. There are two ways suggested for strengthening the League, to widen its foundations or to pile a still heavier superstructure on- the too narrow foundations which now exist. There are those who would give the League an armed force at once and bind its members to undertake automatic commitment to go to war in certain eventualities. I believe that the next step must be to bring into the work of the League those Powers which are now otuside it, to widen its foundations. To my mind the decisive argument against increasing the existing commitments of the members of the League is that it would inevitably check and reverse the present tendency of the United States to closer association with the League. Indeed, to secure for the League the inestimable benefit of the full co-operation of the United States of America in its work it may well be necessary to separate the Covenant from the Peace Treaties, to free the non-European members of the League from any obligation of active intervention on the Continent of Europe 903 which may be involved in Articles 10 and 16 of the Covenant of the League, and to free the League from its direct territorial responsibilities in Europe.
The Lord President of the Council in his speech at Glasgow last week referred to the use of the British Navy to enforce economic sanctions, and said that he would never allow it until he knew what the United States was going to do. Subject to certain reservations as to our existing commitments, which, I presume, were implied and even made in the course of that speech—I have seen the speech only in the form of an abbreviated report—I agree that that is the beginning of wisdom. But it is only the beginning. The abbreviated report of the Lord President's speech almost gave the impression that he was using with satisfaction an argument to confute the believers in the collective system of peace. If that would be an unfair interpretation of his speech, what is the Government doing—I put this question to the Foreign Secretary who is to speak later—to get over this obstacle to the enforcement of collective sanctions against an aggressor. What is the Government doing to ensure that the United States Navy, instead of being an obstacle, will become the champion of the cause of peace against aggression?
I have suggested one way in which it may be possible to bring the United States into closer association with the work of the League. But there is another way in which we could bring the United States in as a secure buttress of world peace, and that is by developing the Kellogg Pact. Mr. Stimson, speaking not as a private individual but when he was still Secretary of State, declared definitely that the Kellogg Pact had made war "an illegal thing," and that those who resorted to it must be denounced as law-breakers. Mr. Norman Davis, the American Ambassador at large, speaking at Geneva for the present Government of the United States, declared that:If the Powers in conference determine that any State has been guilty of a breach of the peace, then if we concur in this judgment we will refrain from any action tending to defeat any collective effort that the Powers may make to restore peace.Are the British Government endeavouring to secure the assent of the signatories of the Kellogg Pact to the proposition that a nation which is adjudged guilty of 904 an act of aggression and has therefore broken the Pact, is not entitled to the status of a belligerent, and that, if other nations take economic and military sanctions against such an aggressor, no signatory will insist on neutral rights?
In short, while there are no projects for strengthening the League of Nations and the collective system to which I feel unsympathetic in principle, there are some which seem to me inconsistent with a policy of securing the closer co-operation of the United States of America in securing the maintenance of peace and the rule of law in international relationships; and it is because I believe that the co-operation of the United States in these great tasks is the most urgent need of the world to-day and the best means of allaying the fears of nations—fears which would otherwise inevitably lead to a new race in armaments—that I hope the Government will be able to carry the discussion of this vital question further to-day than the purely negative statement of the Lord President of the Council at Glasgow.
Meanwhile the Lord President has said that there is no emergency, that there is no ground for panic. If the Government thought it necessary to state that our armaments are inadequate to withstand some imminent threat from the foes of peace or to enable us to meet our obligations under the Covenant or the Treaty of Locarno, we would listen to their case with anxious attention. We shall consider very carefully the weighty statement which the Lord President made this afternoon, and we shall consider it with a full sense of responsibility; but when the' Service Estimates come before the House in February we shall demand, first of all, proof of the necessity for any increase in armaments which may be asked, and, secondly, that the Government shall demonstrate beyond a peradventure what the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) and the hon. Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Law) have said in these Debates that the Government have not yet demonstrated—their firm conviction and faith in the policy of disarmament through the League of Nations; and that they shall give to the House, to the country and to the nations of the world a firm and consistent lead towards disarmament.
§ 6.24 p.m.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
We ought to be thankful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) for raising this Debate to-day. It was very necessary that it should be done, because there were a great many rather wild rumours about as to what might happen in the near future. It has given the Lord President of the Council an opportunity for delivering a speech which I regard as a very reassuring one. May I say that even the speech of the right hon. Member for Epping was very much less alarmist than I had apprehended? In more senses than one this Debate has cleared the air. Above all it has cleared the air of that enormous swarm of 10,000 German aeroplanes which were to attack us in the immediate future and reduce this great Metropolis to ashes. That is an advantage and a great advantage. It has also brought a very clear and reassuring statement as to the steps that are being taken by the Government.
It would be a great mistake to assume that the people of this country are divided into those who are prepared to defend its integrity and peace and honour, and those who are indifferent. There is no such division. I think it is well that that should be known, not merely here but abroad. There may be difference about methods, as there is, but surely that is legitimate. There may be a difference of opinion as to the steps that ought to be taken to press disarmament. But on the question of defending these shores I do not believe there is any division of opinion in this land. Everybody would like a general disarmament, that is a reduction in these great armaments and arrest of the growth of armaments. It is a very sinister fact, when you come to think of it, that at this time there is not a great Government in the world, there is not a Parliament in the world that is not discussing, not disarmament, not reduction of armaments, but the direction in which armaments are to increase. Every Parliament in the world is discussing it at this moment, whether it is to be in the air, whether it is to be at sea, or whether it is to be on land. There are proposals in every Parliament for an increase. It is an ominous and very sinister fact. Undoubtedly the real security for us as well as for all lands is 906 to stop that growth and even to diminish the present armaments.
But meanwhile I do not know of any advocate of unilateral disarmament. I do not know of any party or any group in this country which would accept the responsibility for reducing our defences to a limit where we should be powerless against attacks upon the integrity of this land. It is important that all countries should understand that—that when we discuss these problems, one emphasising one aspect and others emphasising the other aspect, there is no difference upon that fundamental proposition. No one proposes that we should disarm completely. Everyone is in favour of adequate defence, having regard to the reasonably probable dangers that may confront us. Nobody proposes that we should simply trust to eloquent speeches at Geneva, without ensuring the security of cur native land and defending the interests of the Empire. I do not believe that there is any important group that would reduce us to that condition of garrulous ineptitude.
Having regard to all these conditions the question which we have to consider in the present Parliament—and each of us is responsible, because the responsibility is not merely the responsibility of the Government but that of everybody who represents a constituency here—is: what is the duty of the Government in face of conditions as they are? Their first duty is, undoubtedly, to do their best to clear away the obstacles in the way of disarmament. I do not believe that that is challenged by anybody. As I shall come later to point out, there are two or three paramount obstacles in the way of even discussing the problem of disarmament, and until you clear those out of the way, every discussion at Geneva or outside will be futile. I have a great admiration for the tenacity and courage with which my right hon. Friend the Member for Clay Cross (Mr. A. Henderson) has stuck to his task but until those difficulties are cleared out of the way by the Government you will make no progress at Geneva or elsewhere with the problem of disarmament.
What is the second duty of the Government? It is to organise a defence which is adequate to our reasonable needs and to practical probabilities—not things which you can imagine merely, but things which are likely to happen. If you 907 go beyond that and try to use your imagination and conceive every possible combination against you, you bankrupt the country in trying to protect yourself against those dangers. You must have your defence based on reasonable assumptions. May I point out what I conceive them to be. The first is that you must not consider that we have enemies everywhere and no friends anywhere. The second is you must not try to arm against imaginary and exaggerated dangers—and that is where, I must say, I welcome from my heart the very courageous and statesmanlike speech made by the Lord President of the Council. The third assumption is that no armies or navies or air forces are sufficiently powerful to fight bogies. You must fight those with common sense. The last assumption is that your defences must be well considered. You must take the problem all round, and not consider, one day the air, and another day have a discussion about the Navy, and then have somebody finding that we have not enough of something else. You have to consider it as an all-round problem. You have to consider it as a whole and not as a patchwork of concessions to meet successive and alternate panics and clamours. There is no part of government which requires more calm consideration. If we make mistakes in any other sphere they are our own mistakes and we pay for them, but, as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, if yon make mistakes here, there are repercussions in every other country in the world. You stimulate a competition by taking an unnecessary precaution.
Those are the considerations and I would point out by way of illustration an instance of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping and I both had some experience. Take the controversies which we had before the War with regard to the Navy. Between 1908 and 1914 there was a great controversy going on, which really amounted to the one question of whether we should build six Dreadnoughts or eight. Both parties fought it and the Press fought it and what happened? When the War came we found that that was the least important matter and the result of our concentrating upon that problem alone was that we neglected matters which turned out to be far more vital when the actual struggle 908 began. Do not let us make that mistake now of getting up a scare about one thing and concentrating upon that alone. If we are going to consider defence, and it is part of the essential duty of the Government to do so, let it be considered as a, whole and co-ordinated. It is necessary that each part should be carefully examined; it is necessary that there should be a survey of your needs and of the probabilities and the perils, and then of the best method of meeting them. My right hon. Friend has said the same thing, that you should consider carefully all the best methods.
You should, of course, consult the experts. Experts are dangerous in some respects, and they need a good deal of watching. Civilians are now and again very conscious of their limitations, but not nearly as conscious as the experts are of the limitations of the civilians. There have been conflicts between them in the past and I have no doubt there will be such conflicts in the future. But you need the check of the civilian. After all, that is the whole basis of our constitution. It is the sort of jury system of which we are so proud. It is the civilians sitting in judgment upon the expert, listening to what he has to say, and then delivering their own verdict. Take our Departments. We do not always put an Admiral at the head of the Navy. To-day we have a. First Lord who has expert knowledge of his own, and I have no doubt that he will acquit himself as creditably in that office as he has in any other office he has ever filled. But at the War Office we have a distinguished lawyer. At the Air Ministry we do not necessarily have men who are trained pilots, although I believe my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is one. At any rate, that has been the system. You must co-ordinate your experts and your civilians to get at the right solution.
Then we must not think departmentally. That is the danger in dealing with all these problems. Each Department comes forward with its own demands upon the Treasury. The subject goes before the Cabinet and it depends entirely upon the particular advocate representing a particular department at the time. If he is a good bamboozler, he gets his Estimates through. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping knows that very well. Another thing is this, and I should like 909 to put this point to the representatives of the War Office, the Admiralty and the Air Force. I hope they are not confining their consultations with experts merely to the men inside their own Departments. There are men who went through all the fighting in the War and who are experienced—which means that they are experts—and who have knowledge of these matters. There are men who fought the submarines and men who know all the difficulties about the air. I wonder whether they have been consulted. My information is that they are not brought into consultation. If so, that is a mistake. When the life of the country is at stake you ought to have the advice of all those men who went through the war and who know what it means.
Further, I hope that the Government are consulting those who have had experience of organising behind the lines. The difference between modern warfare and warfare under the old conditions is that war to-day is a fight, not of armies or navies or air forces, but of nations. You have to organise all the resources of a country—transport, shipping, manpower, all organised by civilians behind the lines—and, may I add, equipment and munitions. Then there is the question of food. I wonder whether it is realised that it was the food problem that broke down the resistence of the enemy in the late War. Austro-Hungary was not beaten in the field. It was starvation that drove it to surrender. The same thing is largely true of Germany, and it very nearly became true of us. I do hope that when the Government tackle the problem of defence they will tackle it all round, and have a considered scheme of action, instead of merely dealing with it in departments. I hope they will not deal with scares and clamours here and there, but will consider the whole problem of the defensive system of this country and the Empire.
I also hope that before you decide upon your defensive system as a whole you will consult the Empire to begin with as to the policy which you are going to defend. We did not do it before the last War. I hope that in future, whatever our policy is, we shall consult the Empire with regard to it. We are entitled to ask that, upon an agreed policy, they should come in. That would not be putting to them something that they would not be prepared to do. They did it voluntarily 910 in the last War, and I have no reason to believe that they would not be prepared to do it in their own defence now; but before you decide upon your defensive system in this country the Dominions ought to be consulted. One advantage of the discussion to-day is this, that even my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, who was making a very strong case, if I may say so—I thought he spoke with moderation and very great power, as he always does—I mean with power—even he did not put the point of danger at an earlier date than 1936, and the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council makes it clear that so far as Germany is concerned there will be no menace at any rate for two years.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Well, it is not so far between the date given by my right hon. Friend and that of the Lord President, and that is what struck me very much. There is not all that difference between them, and no one knows better than my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping that, after all, the Government have at their disposal means which you cannot discuss by which you ascertain what is going on. I do not agree that we were so misinformed before 1914 as regards defences. The French were very misled as to their assumptions of the use which Germany would make of resources which we knew that she had—the way she threw her reserves in. We knew she had them, but no one then thought she would throw them in in the way the did, and the way she used her heavy artillery as a mobile weapon—the French did not realise that. They thought she would depend on her soixante-quinze gun, which was the best of its kind at the beginning of the War. But that was not information which had been withheld. It was not a case of the secrecy to which the Lord President of the Council referred. We knew all about it, but we did not know the way in which they would use it.
Therefore, when the Lord President of the Council tells us what the facts are, personally, knowing the way in which this knowledge is acquired, I accept it, and I think it is exceedingly reassuring. I will tell the House one reason why it is reassuring. It means that there is no reason for deciding things in a panic, 911 that there is really time for considering them. I am not for procrastination, but I am for considered and planned action as the result of a real survey, and I am in favour of that survey being taken immediately in view of all the contingencies that are possible. We might as well discuss the question of Germany as it has been raised. When you talk about the menace from the air, where is the danger to come from? The only countries which at the present moment have air superiority are Russia, France, and the United States of America, I believe. I am not sure about Italy—I do not know enough about the facts—but include Italy as well, and call it four. Nobody is afraid that any one of those four countries will come here, without warning or notice, or without any quarrel or dispute, and suddenly raid London and destroy our ports. Therefore, my right hon. Friend chose Germany, and he has had his answer.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The answer in the first place is that my right hon. Friend himself does not contemplate the possibility of superiority before 1936. The Government, with their sources of information, say that in 1936 we shall have superiority, and I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman did not say that in 1937 we should also have superiority, provided there was no acceleration.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I said that, so far as I knew, the right hon. Gentleman's figures were exaggerated, that it is impossible to give any accurate estimate for longer than two years, but that we were able to maintain a position not inferior, whatever happened.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Yes, that is the position. I am only emphasising this point, that I cannot see that there is that immediate hurry which would make us take precipitate action. I am not criticising the action taken by the Government. I should like the discussion to proceed on the lines of whether superiority in the air is so devastating that any country would attack merely because they had superiority in the air. Why should they? They would only provoke reprisals if they had superiority in the air and no superiority at sea or on land. No doubt they could come here and 912 kill thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of poor civilians, and they could destroy a lot of property, but what would they gain by that? As part of a general offensive mechanism, the air was a formidable weapon, and I have no doubt that at the present moment it is an infinitely more formidable weapon, but merely as a means of conquering a country, of intimidating a country into surrender, I do not believe that any sane country, and certainly not a military country like Germany, would commit the blunder of believing that they could intimidate a country that was prepared to suffer a casualty list of 3,000,000 into the surrender of its Empire or its liberties.
It would be a different thing if it were an integral part of a great machine. Let us examine it. Navally, Germany is negligible. From the military point of view, I have no doubt that Germany is infinitely stronger for defence than she was a year ago. The facts revealed by the right hon. Gentleman just confirm everyone's impression, but there is a vast difference between an army which is very powerful for defence and an array which can invade another country, beat down fortresses in another country, crash through entrenchments in another country. Nobody knew that better than my right hon. Friend and myself when we came to deal with Russia. The Russian army was simply a rabble, but for defence it was a pretty powerful weapon, and I have no doubt that at the present moment Germany would be in a very formidable position if she were attacked, but the idea that she could break through those tremendous fortresses which the French have put up—if they had had them in 1914 they would not have had devastated areas—she could not do it. The Germans have got light guns, but there is no evidence of any kind that they have manufactured heavy guns.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I should begin at six, which is where we always began, as my right hon. Friend knew, when we came to the heavy guns. The others were 4.5, 4.7, and so on. With the Germans we began at 5.9, I admit, so my category of heavy guns would begin at 5.9, and there is no evidence of any kind that they are manufacturing them.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Where is it? The French have not got it. It takes a very long time to manufacture weapons of that kind. During a war you can manufacture very rapidly if you have the whole man-power of the nation at your command, all the engineering shops in the nation at your command, the whole equipment of the country at your command, where you practically suspend the manufacture, certainly of the superfluities of life, and, more than that, some of the very necessaries of a civilised community. When we suspended that and concentrated on manufacture, even then it took us two years before we had an equipment that was quite equal to that of the Germans. Therefore, I rule them out from a military point of view for a great many years to come. But the other point is this: You have only to look at their Budget. Their Budget is one which is something like less than half that of France, and I cannot imagine Germany attacking us wantonly. They would only do it with some purpose in view. They might want our wealth, but what for? To strengthen them, to put out of action a country whose intervention was the decisive factor in the last War, and without whose intervention the French resistance would have been unavailing? But all this time the supposition is that France is to look on. This country is bound by a pact to help her whenever there is any aggressive attack upon her, but she is to look on at the crumbling of our cities to ashes and the destruction of the quays and wharves of this country; she is to look on while bombs from the air are thrown into the fairway along which millions of gallant young men went to the aid of France, and France is to do nothing.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Not at all, but my right hon. Friend knows very well that that is the assumption upon which the scare has been worked up by some people, and we have to deal with the thing as a whole. I acknowledge that my right hon. Friend has reassured one very considerably by the very temperate presentation of his case. He knows perfectly well that that was not the case made out.
914 May I say one word about secrecy? I think it would be infinitely better if Germany were to state specifically what she is spending and let us know, but the hon. Member must also realise how difficult it is. There is no doubt at ail about her building up an army, of her conversion of the 100,000 long-service army to a 300,000 short-service army, which is of course a breach of the Treaty. Everyone knows she is doing that. It is thoroughly well known, but if Germany were officially to avow it, were officially to give the figures, the difficulty would be that France would then be confronted with what appeared to be a challenge. I do not believe French statesmen want trouble; in fact, I am perfectly certain they do not. I believe the vast majority of the people of France are pacific, but there is no one who knows better than the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary that there are powerful elements in France who say that war is inevitable, and that it would be far better to take it now before Germany arms. If you get Germany giving these facts officially, which would he an exposure of a breach of the Treaty, I should not envy the position of the French Prime Minister in those circumstances. Therefore, I am not at all sure whether it is advisable to press them, inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that on the whole we know the facts.
May I just come back to the question of air. What really matters with regard to air is the power of rapid expansion. The right hon. Gentleman has given us figures of hundreds here and hundreds there. That is not the real peril; that is not the real method of assessing the peril. When you come to a war basis, it has little reference to your peace establishments. It is the reserves of every country that matter. My right hon. Friend pointed out that the surprise at the beginning of the War was the French reserves. I do not know what army figures are quoted; they vary according to the purpose, say, half-a-million, or it is sometimes put at 600,000. That does not represent the army of France. If there were a war France would have over 4,000,000 of trained men in reserve, every one of them trained, every one of them with a rifle there ready, with formations of machine guns and their complement of machine guns, light and heavy artil- 915 lery, tanks, aeroplanes, everything that would enable France to bring an army of millions into the field. I would say that France is better equipped for a great war at this moment than in 1914. It is the reserves that matter. That is why I would advise no one to look at the League of Nations book on armaments. It is stuffed with the kind of information that nations think they can impart, and conceals all the information that matters.
Germany is not the only country that has a cloak between realities and the published facts. It is the same thing with regard to our Navy. Anybody who knows realises what immense reserves we have in our sailors and fishermen who made their contribution to the winning of the War. That is our great reserve. The question is whether you have got available the same kind of reserve here when you come to the air. My right hon. Friend says that Germany is working up her reserves, which is a more formidable fact than the few hundred aeroplanes which she has. Why is she doing it? Because she is developing her civil air force, her commercial air lines. Why do not we do it f know the answer given is that we have not the distances. There are three things that matter; one is the machine—you should have machinery ready, though it is not the deadly thing—you should have mechanics which means three years' training, and you should have the pilots. All these reserves you could have had, and you could have if you developed your commercial air lines not only in this country but in the Empire. Distances are short here, and you do not want high speed machines to carry you to Birmingham, Bewdley or even Criccieth, to which as a matter of fact you could get in a high speed plane in an hour. In Karachi, Rangoon, Singapore, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Capetown and Montreal, you have every reason for developing a great commercial air service, for bringing our Empire together. I think the Government could spend more usefully in many ways by developing a system like that. There you would have your mechanics which would have to be provided; there you would have your pilots. I do not say that there you would have your machines, because that must not be discussed. At any rate, I leave it there. In the matter of air 916 service, I would recall a famous phrase of the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain: Let the Government think Imperially."
I would have liked to venture to throw out a suggestion that you should utilise your territorial system more for developing your air system. Thousands of very venturesome young men would be only too delighted to be trained to be available for any emergency that arises. But this brings me to what I consider the most important consideration—that armaments depend on policy. There can be no doubt as to the terrible devastation that could be wrought in the event of a war by attack from the air. I do not agree that whatever precautions you take you can escape it. There is a terrible menace about which I have heard little discussion. If the merchant marine were attacked by submarines during the War, to what extent would they be damaged by attacks from the air? That is a problem which ought to be considered. There are ways of meeting this form of attack; myself I would put two or three suggestions before a committee. Though I think it would be most difficult, I think it could be met. But it all depends on your policy. If the menace is in Europe, you may say that the air is most important; if the menace is in the Pacific, it is a naval question. Therefore, what are your armaments going to be? The direction in which you develop depends on what your policy is in Europe and in Asia.
There are two dominating paramount questions upon which the whole problem of disarmament turns. One is that Germany is a distracting force and is one of the most powerful people the world has ever seen—highly trained and with a genius for war. The other is the Pacific. These two problems are paralysing every effort for disarmament. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister went about 18 months ago to Geneva with a project for disarmament. It was a practical and concrete proposal, which, if it had been accepted, would have advanced the whole question of disarmament several stages. It would have been a beginning, but it was a hopeless task because there were unavowed things behind.
What is happening at the present moment? I want to speak with great reticence because that Conference is still proceeding, and I should be sorry to say 917 anything that would add the slightest to the difficulties of the Government. There are certain things which are obvious. Japan is demanding equality with Great Britain and the United States. If the Conference fails—and everybody must earnestly hope that it will not—there is no doubt that there must be the same old competition in the construction of ships. Take Europe. France is increasing her armaments enormously. Germany is rearming. France is increasing armaments because Germany is rearming. Germany is rearming because France is increasing instead of decreasing as she promised. Here are we discussing the question of increasing our armament's again for exactly the same reason. You must deal with the problem itself before you can handle disarmament. There is more security in disarmament than in rearmament. The building of the Dreadnoughts is the best proof of that. We had complete security. Then we built a Dreadnought, and instantly began the great competitive building which had the effect of disturbing everybody. It was the costliest and silliest ramp in history. We must avoid that.
The Lord President of the Council made an appeal to Germany. It was eloquent, moving, and, I think, kindly and sympathetic. Could he not extend that appeal to other countries? Is there no other country to whom an appeal of that kind might be addressed? It is difficult to put the German case at the moment, because the German Government have for the last 18 months been doing their best to work up a bad Press against themselves. It has offended every kind of sentiment—Jew and Gentile, Protestant and Catholic, Communist, Socialist, trade unionist, the Constitutionalists who believe in constitutional government and in law and order, and those with Liberal sympathies. There is no sentiment which they do not seem to have set themselves to exasperate and outrage. The right hon. Gentleman used the word "revolution" in reference to what has happened in Germany. I think it is the right word. It is a revolutionary temper, and a revolutionary temper is the temper of a fever, and a fever-stricken person is not an easy neighbour. He is not normal for the time being. But a revolutionary country is a very dangerous country to treat as a pariah. Europe discovered 918 that with the French at the end of the eighteenth century, and although the outrages in Germany this year have offended every sense of decency they were no worse than the September Massacres, which drove us to a war which lasted 21 years.
You want time for them to calm down, and meanwhile, let us make it clear to them that we mean to give fair, impartial and judicial consideration to their grievance. What is it? It is that they were promised solemnly by the signatories of the Treaty of Versailles that if they disarmed the rest would follow suit. That was the promise. For 14 years they waited for a redemption. They had a succession of the most pacific Ministers in the world—Ebert, Stresemann, Rathenau, who was assassinated very largely because of his pacific views, and, one of the best, Braining. They entreated the great Powers to begin redeeming their bond. They were mocked by a succession of pacts and pacts outlawing war, and meanwhile every country except Britain increased its armaments, piling on guns and reserves, and money was lent to Germany's neighbours to build up formidable armies right on her frontier. Can you wonder that at last they were driven into revolution, driven into this revolt against what they regarded, and which I cannot call by any other name, as this chronic deception of the great countries? You must put that right. You will never get disarmament in Europe until you do it. Do not forget what General Smuts said in that remarkable speech the other day, that Germany is very largely the key of our difficulties in the East. We failed very largely there because Europe had its attention so diverted and concentrated on the German difficulties that it did not feel free to handle that proposition as a body.
Just think for a moment what has happened with Russia. It is full of meaning. It is a great lesson. It is a tragedy which has ended in one of the greatest and most joyous comedies in history. I remember very well when the Russian army was a mere rabble, ill equipped, and yet all Europe was trembling. It was just imagining hoards of Lenin's banditti tearing down and trampling over Europe. There has been no feeling like it since the days of Attila and the Roman Empire. They invaded Poland 919 and they came within a few miles of Warsaw, but could not get any farther because they had no wagons. They had no equipment. Now they have equipment. In the French Chamber the other day the Rapporteur of the Army Commission said that Russia had one of the finest armies in the world and that their air force was the best in the world. Was there a shudder? Not at all. The whole French Chamber burst into acclamations. Russia, they said, the hope of the world. The Russian army, with its terrible air force, its fine equipment, the guarantee of peace, good order—and property. It is infinitely the best army they have had in equipment, in training; still more, they have a better transport, which is where they broke down before. In addition to that, they have developed their manufacturing capacity in such a way that if there were a war they could supply unlimited munitions for themselves. Russia is Communist at this hour.
This gentleman from the right who made the speech the other day hailed Russia as the deliverer. He saw Communist Russia on the one hand and poor Germany on the other, violently anti-Communist, with its Communist leaders in gaol and scattered, and their newspapers suppressed and everything done that we could do under a Sedition Act in this country by a stroke of the pen. He saw immense Russia standing large over anti-Communist Germany. It was not merely France that welcomed it. I was very sorry to see that my right hon. Friend had fallen from grace and also welcomed it—that Russia was coming to the aid of the peace of Europe.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
But I never knew that there was in my right hon. Friend's mind any danger comparable to that of Red Russia. I had as soon predicted it of him as I would have predicted that Lord Hailsham would have served under a Socialist Prime Minister. Really, it is an amazingly topsy-turvy world. And I would not mind venturing another criticism, that in a very short time, perhaps in a year, perhaps in two, the Conservative elements in this country will be looking to Germany as the bulwark against Communism in Europe. 920 She is planted right in the centre of Europe, and if her defence breaks down against the Communists—only two or three years ago a very distinguished German statesman said to me, "I am not afraid of Naziism, but Communism "—and Germany is seized by the Communists, Europe will follow; because the Germans would make the best job of it that any country could. Do not let us be in a hurry to condemn Germany. We shall be welcoming Germany as our friend. I beg the Government to consider whether there is not another chance of trying to persuade the Powers in Europe to reconsider their undertaking, their solemn bond, to disarm if Germany did so. We shall not have peace in Europe until we do.
My last point deals with the Pacific. We must settle that question. What is it? There is China, potentially the greatest international market in the world, with a population of 400,000,000 of industrious people but living under conditions which are penurious and precarious. Under favourable conditions that country could double and quadruple its purchasing capacity. All it needs is order and good government, and a certain amount of financial aid from outside to set it going. Japan realises the possibilities, and also realises the conditions, and she is, to all appearances, establishing either a continental empire or a hegemony in that part of the East which is vital to Britain as well as to other countries. I realise Japan's difficulties, and it is no use ignoring them. She has a thronging population, which she cannot maintain on her own soil, and has to look for fresh outlets for the products of her industries, and in my view she could achieve her end better by co-operation with other countries than by conflict. We have to persuade her that the other countries are not trying to exclude her, and mean to give her fair and equal treatment, but they cannot concede exclusive and preferential treatment to her.
We must make it clear that the China Sea is not to be a closed sea, either in name or in effect, that the trade of every country is not to be at the mercy of any one Power. The integrity and independence of China must be respected in the spirit as well as in the letter, and China—this is important—must be given 921 the necessary assistance to restore order over her vast territories and to develop her enormous resources in peace and quiet. The last thing is that there must be complete equality among all the Powers in their dealings with China. At present, owing to the lack of combined action among the Powers, very largely because of the distractions of Europe, Japan has been giving the impression in China that she alone counts, that she is the only country that can be depended upon to translate thought into action. If we adopt a clear and definite policy in China with other Powers which are equally interested with ourselves, then, I think, we can change the situation. We must settle the Pacific. We can have a settlement which, in my judgment, would be not merely friendly to Japan but favourable to Japan, and which would wean her from her desire to burden herself further with gigantic armaments, because she would see that no purpose was to be gained, or, rather, that the purpose which she was seeking to gain could be attained by a friendly and amicable understanding. Until those two questions are settled it is idle for the Prime Minister to make the promise that he will raise the disarmament question at Geneva in January. I was glad to hear it, but I do not believe he has the slightest chance of achieving even the measure which he proposes until he clears those two questions out of the way. We must know where we stand on these two matters. With a firm policy on these matters we can secure disarmament; without it, even rearmament will be nothing but a muddle. Why should not Britain give the lead to the world?
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
No, I was not saying that—a lead in the settlement of these policies. With regard to the settlement of these policies, it is my honest conviction, as one just watching the whole thing quietly, without taking very much part in the controversies and the rough-and-tumble, that the world is expecting it. The world wants peace. We are more disinterested in the peace question, certainly so far as Europe is concerned, than any other country. They are jealous of each other, they are very apprehensive of each other, full of suspicions of each other, but I do not believe they have that feeling towards Britain. That 922 is why I think we can give them a lead, and on the eve of great rejoicings, which stir the heart of the people as I have not seen them stirred for many a long day, I ask the Government to acid to those rejoicings by giving a lead to the world away from the shambles which are awaiting it inevitably at the end of the journey which it is travelling blindly to-day.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has made a most eloquent speech in which he has, not for the first time, but perhaps for the twentieth time in the last 40 years, drenched the House with his eloquence, carried it away, and left it at the end with—what? The right hon. Gentleman talks of "giving a lead." For 16 years this country has been giving a lead to Europe in disarmament. For 16 years this sort of speech has been made—"Give a lead," and one Minister has attacked another. I remember the speeches which used to be made when the right hon. Gentleman was Prime Minister—"Give us a lead,"—and how the House used to listen in hushed silence to that sort of speech and to the right hon. Gentleman's reply. "Give us a lead." How can we give a lead in the questions between Japan and the United States of America at the present time? The right hon. Gentleman told us, very truly, that one thing had been prominent during the last 16 years, and that was that the world, with the exception of ourselves, had not followed what had been laid down in the Versailles Treaty, but he went on, quite falsely, to assert that that was the principal grievance of Germany. I will tell him what is the principal grievance of Germany. I was there not very long ago, and I know a, good many Germans, and. I will quote some words that have been used about it, I think in the very Chamber. "That back-breaking burden." "That brutal instrument of torture," "That cruel vice and grip." Does the right hon. Gentleman know to what those words refer? I will tell him. It is the Versailles Treaty. When the right hon. Gentleman comes here, 16 years after that Treaty, and tells us that the only thing that Germany objects to is disarmament, let me take his mind back to the Summer of 1919, I think it was, when he and the late President Wilson and the 923 late M. Clemenceau got that treaty passed.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Yes, with the support of the Tory party, but I admit things, which perhaps the right hon. Gentleman does not, when they are wrong.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Not merely with the support of the Tory party but of every party in the House. Not a single party in this House challenged it.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly accurate and could go further and say it was done with the urge of the Tory party, and I should not object. But what nonsense it is to talk as if disarmament were the only question that annoys Germany. Everybody knows it is not so. The right hon. Gentleman can drench the House with his eloquence—he has always done that; he can hold the House with his eloquence as no other man can, so that a pin can be heard to drop—and afterwards hon. Members go away in despair. For what is the result of all these speeches? Until Europe recognises and the right hon. Gentleman recognises that what is standing between Europe and peace are the conditions which were laid down in 1919, all the eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman will be nothing more than sound and fury.
Having said that, I would like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon his return to the House of Commons. For 30 years I have listened to him with mingled admiration and apprehension, the latter always predominating, even when I was in his Government. I should like most heartily, in the name of the whole House, to congratulate him also on the most eloquent speech which he has just made upon his first return to the waterlogged trenches of the Front Opposition Bench. I would like to say, on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who also, in the general opinion of the House, made an eloquent speech, that there are one or two points which should be cleared up about our attitude. In the first place, we disclaim any intention of hostility to Germany. Like the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken and the Lord President of 924 the Council, we admire her great virility and determination, and the way in which, through all these years of torture, she has still maintained her national spirit.
Equally, we say that we are not content to see the most powerful of our former enemies equipotent—if I may use that mediaeval word, for which there is no modern equivalent—with us in air power, with none of her grievances, at least in her judgment, redressed, when she is united in a demand for changes in the Versailles Treaty and in her status, which changes other Powers will not grant, and when she has contracted out of the League of Nations and discarded the so-called collective peace system. Germany has discarded that collective peace system because, she asserts, the nations of Europe will not accept her claim for equality of status. She goes further and says that that claim cannot be accepted so long as the Versailles Treaty is in existence. The right hon. Gentleman ought to remember, and so ought all who speak in this Chamber, that Germany most bitterly protested at the time against being compelled to sign the Versailles Treaty. She asserted that it was a case of force majeure. That is at the root of the trouble.
Except upon the Labour Benches, we are in agreement upon one thing. The right hon. Gentleman, with much of whose speech all of us were in agreement, said that we cannot allow Germany to be superior to us in air power. We are all agreed on that. I do nut want to follow him in that, but, while he quite correctly says that air power is not, everything and that Germany would be in a very desperate position if she chose to use that power against us or against anybody, he must not ignore—I am sure he would be the last to ignore—what I might call the possibility of gangster war. Under the present conditions of air strength, that would certainly be possible. We are, at any rate, faced with the situation—I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would not deny it—that we must either get Germany back into the League and accept the principle of her equality of status, which she wants and will eventually get—here again I must tell the right hon. Gentleman and the House, even if I am the only person to say it, that it is not the least use 925 saying that we must give a lead in that matter. Nobody knows better than the Foreign Secretary, although he might not care to admit it, that it is certain that France will never accept equality of status for Germany. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs would interrupt me and say what lead we can give when there are two nations, one of which says "I demand equality of status in everything," and the other of which says "I cannot grant it because I am not satisfied that your intentions are honourable, or with the form of Government that you have."
§ Earl WINTERTON
Yes. What lead can this country give? I hope that that question will be answered. It has never been answered yet in Debate, although we have had an emotional appeal and most eloquent speeches from the two Front Benches. If we cannot grant that equality of status—not because of our attitude but because of the attitude of other Powers—there is only one thing for us to do and that is to have an air force which is at least equal to that of Germany.
Before I come to questions of detail, let me refer to another matter in that connection. Some time ago some of us warned the Government that unless they showed greater definitiveness about their foreign policy and Empire defence they would fail to satisfy either of two strong and opposite trends of opinion, those, on the one hand who wish to see Great Britain's defence forces no greater but no less than her needs, and, on the other hand, the small energetic and vociferous minority who have always objected to any form of naval, military or air defence in peace or in war, on conscientious grounds. Until recently, the Government have succeeded only in offending both bodies of opinion, lout they never had a better chance than now of fighting one of them, namely that represented, I am sorry to say, by the speaker for the Labour party to-day and to some extent by right hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway who represent the Liberal party, and who are not prepared to see Great Britain in a position to defend herself.
926 There has never been a better case against those people than there is to-day, firstly, because they tell us that we should rely upon the collective peace system when Germany is obviously out of that system, as she must be as long as she is not a member of the League of Nations, and when Germany has herself broken the Versailles Treaty. Secondly, those same people have been more prominent in attacking Germany and German institutions, as the right hon. Gentleman has just pointed out, than I suppose any body of people at any time in our recent history. Why, the Labour party and their followers in the country have hardly let a week or a day go by during the last year in which they have not with vigour, and I might almost say with virulence, attacked Germany and the Nazi Government. What sort of response do they think that will have? Is that the way to have peace and good will with Germany?
Let me quote some examples. Mr. Citrine is advocating an anti-German boycott—a fine way to get peace and good will in Europe and an admirable way to carry out the policy of the Labour party. Then we have the resolution passed at the Trades Union Congress. I would like to say to the Labour Opposition that no one does more damage to our prestige abroad than those unofficial persons who dash fussily about Europe, investigating alleged tyrannies and injustices and making all sorts of charges against foreign countries, and who then, having caused the maximum of irritation against their own country, come home and beg people not to fight. The Greeks had a name for it. They called them "mouth fighters" or "tongue heroes." A more craven and cowardly part has never been played by any party of the left than that played by the Labour party, which is a party of the left. Nobody must fight because it is always wrong, you must be prepared to support other nations in defending the League of Nations, and we must go all over the world, causing the maximum of trouble and irritation in every country in which the form of Government is one that you abhor. The other day people were grossly offended in Spain by the visit of two members of the Labour party. The same thing happened in Germany last year at the time of the trouble.
927 I say to the Foreign Secretary that the Government have never had a finer opportunity than now of putting forward the need for an adequate form of defence, not only for this country but, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said, for the whole Empire. I am entirely with him. It should not be an aggressive form of defence; it cannot be a form of defence if it is aggressive. It should be a correlation of all our resources, home, Dominion and in the Crown Colonies, and the usage and utilisation to the fullest degree of the unrivalled opportunities, which we have in our air routes for the development of our resources, and with the end in view not mutual defiance but mutual defence against the possibility of aggression. What instruction have the public had in these matters? I say deliberately to the Foreign Secretary that that is the real danger at the present time. I make the most friendly observation to him from supporters of the Government on this side of the House, that we are only too anxious to do what little we can to support him, and to stand behind him against the most unfair attacks which have been delivered against him from various quarters. In these matters attack is the best form of defence—I am talking of political attacks.
I must make a reference to the extraordinary attitude which has been taken up by the Labour party, especially in regard to the manuscript Amendment which has been handed in, and which had no relevance to the matter under discussion. The hon. Member who spoke made no attempt to discuss the matter which my right hon. Friend has been discussing. This country and the whole of the Empire need to be instructed in the potentialities and the possibilities of the mutual system of defence of which the right hon. Gentleman has just spoken so ably. I know how extraordinarily difficult a House this is to speak in, and it is not always very easy to follow the right hon. Gentleman, who is not only the most eloquent in this House but, I think, in all Europe. No one can hold an assembly so much as the right hon. Gentleman.
I want to ask one or two questions as to the statement which was made by the 928 Lord President of the Council, and to compare that statement with the questions which were put to him by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping. First of all, let me say that the announcement in that statement that there is to be an acceleration of the air force from a maximum of five years to a period of two years, is one which we very greatly welcome and for which we have been pressing. It is also satisfactory to learn that there will be 22 squadrons, out of 42 which have already been voted, available at the end of two years. To that extent we are very pleased.
The supporters of the Amendment are anxious to go a little bit more deeply into one or two of the figures. The real test of this matter will be when the Estimates are presented next year, and when we shall know in detail the full amount of the money and personnel, in the broad sense of the term, which will be provided. I understand that by the end of the financial year 1935, there will be 11 squadrons for home defence. By the end of 1936 there will be 300 more aircraft, and the four more squadrons now forming.
Now I come to a figure which is very important, and that is the relative numerical position of German and British aircraft at the present time. My right hon. Friend, in moving the Amendment, said that he believed Germany was rapidly approaching us in equality. The answer of the Lord President of the Council was that Germany had between 600 and 1,100 aeroplanes, but he was unable to say what were first line aeroplanes and what were reserves. As opposed to that position we have 580 first-line aeroplanes at the present time at home and 880 in all in the Empire, including India and the Colonies, but not including the small Dominion force. From the figures presented by the Lord President of the Council it does not appear to us that there is a very large margin of safety. We have 580 first-line aeroplanes available for home defence at the present time. The Government tell us that, so far as they can ascertain, Germany has from 600 to 1,100 aeroplanes, but they cannot say how many are first-line aeroplanes and what the reserves are. That is not a wholly satisfactory situation, although I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it probably is not desirable to press Germany in regard to it at the 929 moment, for the reason that he mentioned.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The figures that I took down were 560 first-line aeroplanes and 127 others, making a total of 687.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, but that does not vitiate the comparison that I am making. Even assuming that we have another 100 or so, the right hon. Gentleman must realise that there is still the difference between the 600 and the 1,100 aeroplanes in Germany, with all the unknown factors concerned in those figures. We do not know how many are in the first line or what are reserves. We should like to know, further, how many of those machines are bombers. That is an important consideration. I am not an air expert, but I think the Lord President of the Council rather exaggerated the difficulty there would be in transforming ordinary commercial machines into machines that could be used for semi-military purposes. I have travelled in a Luft Hansa machine, a magnificent type of commercial machine, and I should think that with all the capacity they have those machines could very easily be fitted for carrying bombs. They carry a fairly heavy passenger load.
The really sinister thing about these figures is the admission of the right hon. Gentleman that the productive capacity of the German aircraft industry has increased, and I presume that we may say that it is also increasing at the present time, although the Government are unable to give any figures. The right hon. Gentleman also gave an exposition, no doubt perfectly accurate and based on expert advice, of the difference between training pilots for work in war time and for work in peace time. He said, truly, and nobody knows this better than the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs that in the later stages of the War, owing to pressure, pilots had to be given training far less than was really desirable, and in consequence we had a number of casualties. From that fact the Lord President of the Council seemed to conclude that we need not be too nervous about the effect of the large training of pilots which is going on in Germany. That is not the impression left on my mind. From my knowledge of Germany, which I do not pretend is extensive, although I have lots of Ger- 930 man friends, I know of one thing that is characteristic of modern Germans, perhaps rather unlike the young men of this country. For reasons mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, they have been in such a miserable condition that risk of death seems very little to them. I do not think that a pilot in Germany would mind going up with less training than some of our pilots had during the War. Therefore, there is very little satisfaction to be obtained from that standpoint.
There is another matter to which I would call attention, and that is in regard to the German army. A serious admission has been made officially from the Front Bench, although it has been known to most of us from the debates in the French Chamber, and other sources, that the old long-service German army of 100,000 men has been turned into a short-service army of 300,000 men. But that is not the full extent of the increased force. Information was given the other day in France to the effect that there is reason to believe that that force has been formed into 21 fairly well-equipped divisions. I am assured by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, who has just given me the information, that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is inaccurate in thinking that the German armament does not include a large number of guns up to and including 6-inch guns.
§ Earl WINTERTON
It is difficult to arrive at the actual number, but we have information to that effect. These 6-inch guns, if they are of a type with which some of us were familiar in the War, are very devastating weapons. Moreover, there is a considerable reserve of rifles, and there is a very large man power. One of the most prominent things about the European countries is their man power. They train their boys from a tender age. They are inculcating into the youth of the Continent of Europe lessons which are almost incredible to people in this country. It is a terrible state of affairs. In Germany it is mixed with a 931 curious form of what one might call moral ethical teaching. Boys are told not to waste their time playing silly games, unless they are of a very physical nature and involve danger, not to spend their time taking girls to cinemas, and not to go about riding motor bicycles. They are told, "Do not do those things; they are only for a country like England." They are told to fit themselves in body and mind in order that they may be prepared for the inevitable day when their ser vices will be required for their country. That is going on all over Germany.
§ Earl WINTERTON
In Germany, in Italy and almost every other country on the Continent, and we have to take that fact into consideration when we are thinking of the power of the German Army. There are a great many other questions of that kind that I should like to ask. I would sum up by saying that we who support the Amendment do so in no spirit of hostility to the Government. I realise also that what the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has said was not intended to be anything but helpful to the Government. There is common ground between the right hon. Gentleman and ourselves in that we want, if possible in the course of this Debate, a definite answer to some of the figures that have been produced. I agree that we must accept what the Government say, speaking with all the authority behind them of the knowledge obtained from their experts, but one must remember that the experts themselves do not claim to have the great knowledge that the experts used to have before the War. The right hon. Gentleman will agree that before the War in the case of every great country we knew what their armaments were. We have not that information in regard to Germany to-day. Therefore, it is necessary for us to examine rather closely the figures which the Government give and to seek answers to our questions.
While agreeing fully with everything that has been said about supporting the collective peace system, it seems to me folly to talk of that in connection with this particular matter at this moment. We are not going to get Germany back into the League of Nations until not only France but the nations of the world 932 generally change their attitude towards Germany. I thank the Members of the Labour party for having listened without interruption to my attack upon them, but in all sincerity I would say to the Labour party that they will never get Germany back into the collective peace system so long as the Germans feel that there is a party here which is hostile to their form of government.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Will the Noble Earl cast his mind back to a period not very long ago when his own party, because they disapproved of the form of government in Soviet Russia took certain action, and this country and America put a cordon round Russia. In this House I have heard the most ferocious denunciation of Soviet Russia because of its form of government. It may be that some of my friends have learned an example from the example set by the Noble Earl's own political friends.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I think that is a perfectly fair reply by the right hon. Gentleman, and there is no answer to it from the controversial aspect of the ease. What he says is perfectly true. I do not think there would be a wide gap of disagreement between the right hon. Gentleman and ourselves on this matter. I think we feel in our heart of hearts, whether we are Tories or members of the Labour party, that as human beings we have a great feeling of disgust and resentment at the treatment of certain persons and races in Germany, but I do not think it is altogether advisable for us, putting it in a kindly way, to criticise the Nazi Government in the way it is being criticised in this country. I do not think that you will get agreement with Germany until you stop that. Tories and Socialists alike have to realise certain facts. We Tories have to recognise that there is a Government which, whether as individuals or as politicians, we dislike in Russia, and hon. Members opposite have to realise that there are two Governments in Europe, in Italy and in Germany, which they dislike. We want to bring Germany into the collective peace system, but while we are trying to do that we ought not to use some of the arguments that we have been doing. Meanwhile, we who have put down the Amendment now before the House ask that the country should he given adequate protection against an imminent danger.
§ 8.14 p.m.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
With the permission of the House, I should like to say another word with reference to one statement made by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), and to ask whether the Foreign Secretary could give us the answer—not now, but later—in order to clear up the question of heavy artillery. The figures with regard to aeroplanes have been given, and I think it is very important that it should also be known whether Germany has a considerable equipment of 6-inch guns—I do not mean whether she has a few, but whether she has a formidable equipment of 6-inch guns. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary could obtain that information for us by the time lie replies.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Might I also ask the right hon. Gentleman if he could give us some further information about the German military strength, by expressing in divisions the figure of 300,000 which has been mentioned? What is the number of divisions of the first line that the Germans have fully equipped at the present time? There is no reason why we should not know that; and there is also the question of the reserve divisions.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir John Simon)
With regard to the last point, I think it may be convenient if I say now, though I will repeat it towards the end of the Debate, that our information is that the peace-time short-service army of 300,000 in Germany is being organised in 21 infantry divisions, together with, I suppose, mechanised formations. I will not deal with the other matter now, because I have not got it exactly under my hand, but I can deal now with the question asked by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) was quite right.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. ANEURIN BEVAN
I do not propose to detain the House for more than a few minutes, because I know that many Members are anxious to speak, and the few things that I have to say I can say in a short space of time. I have been brought to my feet by the statement of the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) and the speech of the 934 right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). One would have gathered from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, that disarmament or armament is itself foreign policy, because the right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his analysis when he was approaching the second part of his speech, said it was quite useless to discuss the question of armaments independently of the policy that was being pursued in the foreign field, and he suggested that one of the reasons why we are face to face with our present problem is that, a pledge having been made to Germany and not having been fulfilled, the German nation has taken the bit between its teeth and is careering upon its present course.
Although I have heard the right hon. Gentleman make the same statement on three separate occasions in this House I do not believe that a more superficial judgment could be passed on the German situation than the assumption that the reason why the present régime in Germany has been established is because the disarmament pledge in the Peace Treaty has not been fulfilled. That is an utterly superficial judgment; it is an entire oversimplification of the case. As the right hon. Gentleman himself has said, for practically 14 years Germany was one of the most pacifist nations in Europe. She was represented at international conferences by pacifist statesmen, and for practically 14 years the German national eagle did not feel itself outraged by either the War Guilt Clause or the subordinate status to which it was reduced by the Peace Treaty. These became flags which the Nazis waved for the purpose of their own propaganda when the economic situation turned them against capitalist Germany, and they afforded a means of distracting the Germans from their own economic pre-occupations; but to assert that the reason why this extraordinary change has taken place in Germany is because of the War Guilt Clause or the disarmamemnt situation in Germany is a complete falsification of the situation.
I should also like to say, in following up that matter, that the right hon. Gentleman misled the House, because I believe that all Members of the House were expecting that he was going to get 935 down to the fundamentals of foreign policy when he said that policy lay behind armaments. Hon. Members in all quarters of the House cheered the right hon. Gentleman when he said that this nation had shown an example to the rest of the world in disarmament; and the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham made the same statement. If anybody ventures to make a single sound criticism of that statement, he is immediately regarded as an unpatriotic craven coward. I think that those were the words of the Noble Lord, whose choice of Parliamentary language always arouses my admiration.
§ Earl WINTERTON
While I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his compliment, I must correct him. I did not use the words in that connection. I was not accusing him or any of his colleagues. What I said was that it was craven to insult another country by interfering in its internal affairs, and then to say to people at home that they must not fight.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The difference between us is that we are prepared to fight to save our country. Are you?
§ Earl WINTERTON
That is quite wrong. Unlike most of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues, I fought in the last War. That is the difference between us.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I do not want to pursue that matter any further; I have taken it as far as I desire to carry it. But I think it is perfectly obvious that the strictures which the Noble Lord passed upon those people who had been intervening in the affairs of other nations were wholly unjustified, especially coming from that side of the House. We are perfectly entitled as private citizens to come to the rescue of people in other 936 countries who, we consider, are being badly treated. That has always been regarded as the prerogative of every citizen in every country, and many great statesmen have won the applause of this House by fulminating against uncivilised treatment which was being meted out to people in other lands.
We have had, since the War, the armaments which we thought were necessary to secure our defence against any enemy that lurked in the offing at the moment. The reason why we did not have a larger Army or a larger Navy or a larger Air Force was because what we had were effective instruments of the foreign policy we were carrying out at the moment. In other words, we were a nation armed to the extent that is necessary to give it a sense of security if it does not want to embark on an offensive war. If a nation harbours designs of an offensive war, it arms to the extent that is necessary as an instrument of that policy. Our armament, therefore, has been an effective instrument of our foreign policy. There was no nation or combination of nations that was feared by Great Britain, and, consequently, it was an unnecessary luxury for us to spend more money on armaments. That is the realistic view of it. This nation has not disarmed as an example in disarmament. This nation has not armed as much as some other nations, because it was unnecessary to do so in order to obtain a sense of security. So I regard it, if I may borrow some of the language of the Noble Lord, as hypocrisy to say to the rest of the world, "We have shown you an example in the matter of armaments and you ought to follow it." France had no such feeling of security as we had, and France wanted larger armaments and she got them. Therefore, whether a nation has large armaments or small is a purely superficial matter in this regard. The system of veiled alliances that we built up by the Peace Treaties is showing signs of toppling and the sense of security which has prevailed hitherto is disturbed, and then hon. Members say we want a bigger Air Force, a bigger Army and a bigger Navy. In other words, when we find ourselves exposed to the same fears and the same set of circumstances as other nations to whom we have been pointing the finger of scorn, we do precisely the same thing as they have done all along. The size of our armaments therefore has borne no 937 relationship at all to any desire on our part to secure a reduction of armaments in other countries.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, however, made a speech which will substantially add to the sense of insecurity felt throughout Europe. I do not believe when the next few days have passed hon. Members will disagree with me when I say that in the present situation his speech was one of the most dangerous ever delivered in this House. Sentences from it will be placarded to-morrow throughout Germany. As far as their Government is concerned, it is a complete justification by a world statesman of most of the excesses that Hitler has indulged in in the last year or two, because as a matter of fact the right hon. Gentleman used the arguments that Hitler has used all along. He has said, "What right have you to attack me for what I have done, for putting pacifists and Communists and Socialists into concentration camps? What right have you to attack me for murdering my enemies? I murdered them in order to protect myself against a bigger enemy within the country." The right hon. Gentleman says that Hitler is justified, because Hitler will be recognised in the next year or two as the principal bulwark between Communism and capitalism in Europe. We now find, not in the exact language of the right hon. Gentleman, but in the only meaning that we can attach to his speech, that we must be prepared to adopt a more tolerant attitude towards Germany in order that Germany may feel herself more secure against her own working-class. When the Noble Lord rebukes us for attempting to intervene on behalf of working-class people in other lands, he knows very well that what is behind all this is the collaboration of the capitalist forces of Europe for the purpose of preventing what they think worse disasters. We are to involve ourselves in the danger of war because there is another danger more sinister, and that is revolution in Germany.
That is the statement that we get from the right hon. Gentleman. You say to the country as a whole, because it was almost universally applauded in the House: "If you have to choose between war and Socialism, you must choose war," because the right hon. Gentleman agrees that a nation is justified in fighting Com- 938 munism and stamping out the pacifists inside that nation, and the Noble Lord applauds the obliteration of the pacifists in that nation as a justification for the obliteration of pacifists in this nation. We have the right hon. Gentleman allying himself with the Noble Lord and with the Tories and saying, "This is the situation in which we are placed. There is a nation whose capitalist class has come into conflict with its own working-class in a revolutionary manner earlier than we have. It has been driven to resort to revolutionary measures to resist that working-class. It has stamped out all opposition inside its own country." And that is made the justification for re-arming in the other capitalist countries of the world. We have this situation, that either we get universal Socialism or universal Fascism.
Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
May I point out that a great many Members want to speak and each interruption lengthens speeches.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I think we are entitled to cross the t's and dot the i's of the Debate and try to show that what is actually involved is a clamant cry on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs to rally to the assistance of the German nation, because it is the only way of preventing revolution spreading from Russia right down to the Rhine. I am prepared in the course of that policy to accept any concomitant, and the concomitants are to abolish the clauses that Germany resents, to give her equality of status, to sanction Hitler's foreign policy, and to justify Germany re-arming. You can do nothing else, because the system of collective security, according to hon. Members, has broken down, and we go back to the old pre-War system of alliances and no one can play that game better than the right hon. Gentleman. He knows it. He has learnt all the rules. He knows that once more the board is prepared for a game that he can play better than any one.
The position as I see it is that, instead of Members on this side of the House feeling annoyed by the noble Lord when he says we are cutting across the frontiers of nations and going to the assistance of our own class in another land, we accept the challenge, because they have said 939 that, in order that the class war may be implemented by their foreign policy, they will support Nazi Germany and make Nazi Germany the justification of their re-armament. If that he the policy, the system of collective peace and security falls to the ground. And what is there left for us? That we, having the peace of the world at heart and desiring to bring about security, must promote as much dissension abroad as possible and assist in organising those working-class forces abroad which would destroy Nazi and Fascist Governments, the only form of international organisation left to us. The issues have been made clearer this evening than I have ever known them to be. The issues are whether you are to have Socialism or war, and hon. Members, having looked at them have decided that war is preferable.
§ 8.36 p.m.
I will take up only a few minutes of the time of the House, but, having put my name to the Amendment which has been moved this afternoon, I should like to say a few words in support of it. I am very sorry that the Debate has wandered—I quite understand that it could not be avoided—over very broad, and almost on what I might call Foreign Office, lines, and we are to be honoured this evening with a reply from the Foreign Secretary to wind up the Debate. I rather wish that the wording of the Amendment had been a little more carefully studied by the Government, and that a little more emphasis had been given to the specific words of the Amendment which has to do with national defence, and especially whether or not the air defences of this country are adequate for the times. However, two or three things have emanated from the Lord President of the Council from which, I think, we must take some modicum of comfort: First, that as far as the Air programme is concerned, a Supplementary Estimate will be introduced in February and an opportunity will be given to the House to discuss the air position of Great Britain in minute detail. The other satisfactory statement of the Lord President of the Council from the point of view of those who have moved the Amendment is that there is an indication of acceleration of the Air programme. If half, or little more than 940 half, of the programme which was announced last autumn is really to be completed, I presume, by the summer of 1936, it will be a satisfactory implement of the promise made to the House last August.
But there have been speeches delivered this afternoon—and I feel inclined to include the speech of the Lord President of the Council—which have acted rather as a soporific, and therefore it is a matter for every individual Member to say whether he has been lulled to sleep, or whether he is still anxious. It, therefore, becomes purely a matter of degree. I am not satisfied that there is so much security for a year, or two, or three years as has been suggested by several very prominent speakers this afternoon. It is for us to judge for ourselves, and I, for one, not being very young now and having seen a good deal of this sort of thing in the last 40 years, am inclined to want to be on the safe side. I admit that I was one of those who never believed in the warnings of 1914. The great party to which I belonged in those days will probably share with me the responsibility for turning a deaf ear to the warnings of the two years before the Great War. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it is not inadvisable for us, when we think the margin is a little narrow, to make quite certain that we are on the right side.
The reason why I would emphasise this point is that in those days there was no such thing as rapid action. I remember, as a professional soldier myself at one period, that time was always available, that there was always time to think about exchanges of correspondence between different countries, and that if the worst came to the worst, there were a few days, and very often a few weeks, delay caused by the word "mobilisation". It is bad enough to have to use the word at all, but those were the days before this new weapon came into existence. Now it is purely a matter of private and personal opinion as to what one thinks that particular weapon can do, and to what extent it has absolutely revolutionised the old ideas we had—and many of us, I am afraid, still have—as to what the next war might mean. I ask the leave of the House to talk very simply. There is no question of party in my remarks. It is purely a case of anxiety, and national 941 defence embraces us all. I should feel that I was lacking in my duty as a Member of this House if I did not present them with my real honest fears as to what might happen, and as to how quickly it might happen. In order to do that, I am bound to look a little into detail, I am not going to waste a moment of the time of the House in discussing international affairs. They have been covered very widely, and perhaps very adequately, by many other speakers.
Now that the Lord President of the Council is back again I would like to say that, although I think he has told us as much as he feels it is safe to tell us, there are an enormous number of people in this country who yet think there is a great deal more that could be told. The fact that some great national newspapers have said a great deal more than he has said, may have something to do with the public anxiety which exists on this subject. I submit to the House that it would not be wise of us to consider those papers purely as propagandists on behalf of those who may have shares in munition works. They are to the best of their ability presenting their readers—and they run into millions—with the best information they can get, and with that object they devote great sums of money to obtaining the best possible staff and information that can be obtained.
I am telling the House what I think, and I do not believe that the great national newspapers, whose regard for patriotism in the past has never been questioned, would go out of their way to publish a lot of lies. Those papers have to produce from day to day the best news they can. It is not only the two papers which, I know, are being thought of at the moment by the hon Member and by the Lord President of the Council. I read a few days ago, in far more distinguished papers from the literary point of view, accounts of possible forces in Germany which far exceed the figures which the Lord President of the Council has felt it reasonable to give us to-night. He has given the figure of infantry as about 300,000. It is hard for me to believe that in the French Chamber M. Archimbaud, the rapporteur on the army budget, can be guilty of such a terrific error when he submitted to the 942 Chamber last week that Germany's potential strength was 5,500,000. He means by that organised millions. I do not want to exaggerate a single figure, but to say to hon. Members present, that I do not think that we have such a big margin of safety as we have been led to believe this evening in the speech from the Treasury Bench.
That is my excuse for drawing attention to one or two methods of putting ourselves into a securer position. I ask the House to follow me through the air in the belief that this new weapon is far more dangerous and can be far more effective than is appreciated by the nation to-day, and, I might almost say, by His Majesty's Government. Let us see how we can improve it without hurry and without alarm. We have been wisely recommended to-day by a former Prime Minister, one of the most distinguished of our statesmen, to co-ordinate our thoughts on this matter, and while doing nothing in a mad hurry to begin an investigation at once. I want to see the Government's mind completely clear on one particular point. The foundation of national air defence rests on the civil side of the movement. I heard this evening a remark on the Treasury Bench which makes me think that, the opposite view is taken; that it was not economic but expensive. I do not agree. The development of civil aviation is as much the foundation of our national air defence as is the ordinary sailor to the Navy or the ordinary landsman to the Army. I have a plan, a very simple plan, by which I suggest immense developments might be made in this direction without much, if any, cost to the State.
There are one or two figures in connection with German aviation, not necessarily military aviation, although we now know that she has 500 or 600 military machines, which I want to give to enable us to get a better perspective of what we are up against. The figures, I admit, have been collected in the best way an ordinary person can collect them, but, nevertheless, they have a responsibility attaching to them. The French Chamber were informed last week that Germany had at least 3,500 trained military pilots, and General Petain stated that the factory capacity of German aircraft manufacturers was at the moment as high as 2,500 machines a month. I do not know how they know. I only know that that is the figure given under the 943 signature of a famous French General, and I can only believe that it is true. I then read in a paper which I buy in the street like any ordinary individual that the Brussels correspondent of the "Petit Journal" gives information, which he must have collected with great assiduity and great honesty of purpose, regarding the complete programme of German military defence. He sets it out in detail. There are something like 230 squadrons, I admit they are small squadrons, but still they are effective units. These figures put together are not far short of the high figure mentioned by the Lord President of the Council, when he said that somewhere between 600 and 1,100 was the exact figure of what they have to-day in military machines.
No one, however, has touched upon the preparations of the ground organisation in the country to which we are referring. I do not say it in any unfriendly spirit, but I merely give it as a statement of fact, that as compared with our own preparations they have over 250 aerodromes and, more than that, they have hangars which are bombproof. I do not know whether we have any such hangars. I have never seen them; and that is a matter which I hope will be carefully considered. What the Government should do is to move Heaven and earth to get the youth of Britain into the air somehow. It is not so much the amount of money you spend as the importance of getting the youth of this country accustomed to this new dimension. We have all been on the sea at some time or another, and we all walk on the land, but only a limited number of the population have ever been up in the air. It is necessary to get the youth of the country into the air so that they will not feel anxious and nervous and will feel that they have mastered this new element. Only in that way will you have a nation which will keep pace with the one which is doing it to-day. It can be done so easily and so cheaply that I hope the Government will reframe their policy, and, instead of starving civil aviation, as they have done, leaving it alone in the hope that seine day it will fly by itself, will devote some small sums of money, which the Secretary of State for Air can easily find ways of spending, and thus get some- 944 where between 10,000 and 20,000 people up in the air. In that way we should create an instrument for peace and security, although I admit that it would be available for war.
If we get beaten in the air it is in my belief the end. I do not agree with the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who says he does not think it would be the end. I have some diffidence in submitting my opinion against his, but in my belief it would be the end. It is a matter of degree, and, if the degree be intense, if the bombardment be severe and continuous, and the weaker country be pushed out of the air, I believe it would be the end. It would create a panic among the civil population which would create absolute chaos throughout the land. This poor country would be so badly wounded, its capital is so badly situated, that the wounds would be fatal. I think we should consider this much more as an event which might happen and not as a bogey. It is not a bogey. France does not think it is a bogey, and we should be foolish if we thought so. These things are within the realm of possibility; they are, indeed, almost within a distance of calculation. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) used wise words when he said that at any rate let us preserve the peace, being the kind of people no one wants to attack, but at the same time have something which we can put into the collection box when we are trying to get collective peace.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Sir EDWARD GRIGG
I have been somewhat bewildered by the wide range, the variety and the complexity, of this Debate. It was initiated by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in a very cogent and moderate speech. I do not always agree with what the right hon. Gentleman does, and, therefore, I am anxious to say that I think he has rendered a public service by putting down the Amendment. Such an Amendment was inevitable at the moment it was realised that there was no reference to the defence of the Empire in the Gracious Speech, and we owe a real debt to the right hon. Gentleman for having moved it in such measured and responsible terms. No further justification for his action is required than the 945 answer which it drew from the Lord President of the Council, who gave us an absolutely frank statement. I do not think that anything wiser could have been done at the moment than to make an absolutely, frank statement to the House and I congratulate the Lord President on having made it, and share with him the hope that it may possibly give us a new start in Europe.
As far as the defences of this country are concerned, I confess that I am completely reassured by the Lord President, and I am more than reassured by the conviction which he showed, which I am sure animates the whole of the Government, that rearmament is not a policy of security in itself. It is indeed a first step towards a policy of security, but what matters, even more than the necessary process of making this country secure against attack, is the pursuit of a policy which will really help in turning Europe and the world in general towards peace. I am glad that that point was emphasised by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in a speech which covered so wide a range that I confess I did not clearly see what was implied by some parts of it. But I think the right hon. Gentleman did agree and did support the Lord President of the Council in saying that policy was the essential concomitant of re-armament which the Government has declared itself as intending to pursue, and he called very eloquently at the end of his speech for a lead.
The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Lord Winterton) got up immediately and followed very much that demand for a lead. He said that the right hon. Gentleman's eloquence was wasted on calls of that kind, and he indicated that the troubles of Europe arose entirely from the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, and that presumably nothing more could be done about it. I disagree entirely with the Noble Lord, and I should pursue the argument further if he were still in his place. I believe that a lead is desirable and is possible at the present time, and that the Government of this country is in a position to give it. It is natural to ask in what direction that lead should be given. Clearly not in the direction of disarmament. We have tried that, and no one can say that we have not given that lead with perfect 946 sincerity and gone the utmost lengths in unilateral disarmament. I presume no one would suggest that we should give it in the direction of pressing Treaty revision on other States in Europe. Anything more likely to increase disorder in Europe I cannot conceive.
There is only one other direction in which a lead could possibly be given, and that is in the direction of security, which has always lain behind the whole of the disarmament discussions. It is in that direction, and as an attempt to find a new basis on which we can reopen discussion of limitation of armaments, that I hope the Government will be prepared to give a lead now. The extent to which any possibility of limitation of armaments depends on the underlying question of security can be seen, and I think very clearly seen, from the history of the Washington Agreement, which represents the only successful limitation we have achieved since the War and which was achieved because a measure of security was established first and the limitation of armaments was based upon that security. Japan, the United States and ourselves not only agreed about the integrity of China and about the open door in China, but we also came to certain agreements which gave each of the great Powers security in the area which was essential to its own interest, and on that basis the limitation of armaments was achieved at Washington. I believe that model to be of the utmost value and one which should be noted in Europe to-day.
There was ground to hope some little time ago that such a basis might have been found in the Treaty of Locarno. That treaty did make a beginning in recognising the equality of status demanded by Germany. It brought Germany back into the League, and I think there was reason to hope that while statesmanship in Germany was moderate the Treaty of Locarno might have become the basis for some real measure of disarmament on the part of the victorious Powers and for a further recognition of German status in that respect. The Treaty of Locarno failed to produce that result, not only on account of the course which events took in Germany, but also because the nations concerned became more and more uncertain of its operation and of whether it could be counted on at all in face of the emergency with which it was framed to deal. I am afraid 947 that we ourselves have contributed very greatly to the doubts which exist in Europe about the value of the Treaty of Locarno. We have done a great deal to explain away and explain away until nothing of the Treaty of Locarno is left.
If we are to give a lead now, as I believe we can and should do, it certainly must be in the direction of giving new sense and new force to the Treaty of Locarno, or some other instrument of that kind in its place. One may ask in what direction we should undertake to go further than we have gone in the past. I do not believe that this country should commit itself to an automatic obligation of any kind to go to war; and even if this country were prepared to commit itself to automatic obligation I believe it would find it impossible to carry the Dominions with it, and the policy therefore would inevitably collapse. I suggest, therefore, that the automatic commitment would make it more difficult than ever to arrive at what we must strive to arrive at, that is some understanding of the position of the United States in case we are called upon to carry out any obligations of that sort. I do not suggest, therefore, that we should propose anything in the nature of an automatic obligation. I am convinced that the discretion must remain with this country, but if this country made it clear that it proposed to revise the Locarno obligations in the direction of dispensing with the reference to the League itself, and would undertake on its own initiative to take immediate action against an aggressor on the understanding that it retained the power to decide who the aggressor was—I believe that an undertaking of that kind might give new life to the Treaty of Locarno.
When I suggest the cutting out of the machinery of reference to the League, which is the element in the Treaty that has caused so much doubt, I intend no disparagement to the League itself. I am as convinced a believer as ever that all this movement towards security should be carried on as far as possible under the aegis of the League, but I believe with General Smuts, who dealt with this subject in a great speech not many days ago, that it is dangerous to attempt to turn the League into an international war office and to shift the responsibility for sanctions and action always upon it. I 948 believe that the best service we can render to the League now is to undertake to act on our individual responsibility in defence of League principles when League principles are challenged and broken.
Clearly there must be some limits to an obligation of that kind. We cannot undertake to guarantee League principles by intervention in all parts of the world. We must confine a definite undertaking of that kind to regions in which we have an immediate concern and in which we can intervene with effect. There are two such regions in the world. One is Western Europe—the Rhine frontier—and the other is the Far East. In both these regions I hope that we may be prepared to take a, more definite responsibility for standing by all the principles embodied in the League. I think the country would be prepared to give more support to an undertaking of that kind, resting on our own initiative with our own discretion reserved, and with the machinery of reference to the League cut out. The country fears an obligation of that kind, vague though it maybe, because our people feel that they may be compelled in honour to intervene in a cause about which they are not quite sure because other powers have somehow committed them. That is an element, I think, which introduced doubt in the minds of most of our fellow countrymen on that subject, and I should like to see it cut out. I think it might be well also, if we are considering the revision of the Treaty of Locarno to see whether it would not be possible to include an attack upon this country directly as one of the cases which would bring the Locarno obligations into effect. That would certainly make an impression upon the people of this country. It would make them feel that they are not only guaranteeing other people but that they are getting some guarantee for themselves.
So much for the support that might be won in this country for a lead of this kind. That, of course, is not the only consideration. We have to remember that "His Majesty's faithful subjects" do not reside in the British Isles alone, and that the opinion of His Majesty's subjects living in other parts of the Empire would be vital in any lead which we could give with effect at the present time. It is one of the weaknesses of our position in connection with the Treaty 949 of Locarno as it stands that while the Dominions expressed their readiness to see us entering into it, they never actually endorsed it themselves. At least, I think only one Dominion did so. It was always, therefore, open to doubt how far the Dominions were with us in the Locarno engagement. The Dominions like the United States have a definite and radical fear of European entanglements, and one of the reactions of this Debate in the Dominions will, I am sure, be an increased fear of a European situation which they do not understand.
There is, however, in the Dominions an opinion, which I believe has been growing steadily in the last two or three years, in favour of taking greater responsibility for the enforcement of law against force in the world. The feeling that they have a duty as members of the League which they have not discharged completely in the past is, I believe, growing. It would be possible, I believe, to appeal with success to the Dominions at the present time to come in and support this country in undertaking some definite responsibility or obligation for supporting League principles in Western Europe and in the Far East. If the Government were prepared to give a lead in this direction and to discuss such a lead with the Empire, it would give a sound political basis for a further Disarmament Conference—such a conference as the Lord President of the Council hoped for.
Finally, if such a lead is to be effective, if we are to undertake any more definite obligation, I hope that the opportunity may come very soon and that the Government will take advantage of it to discuss the terms of that obligation with the United States. The deep interest of both the Government and the people of the United States in the Far Eastern situation is making them, I think, more open to approach and argument on this subject than they have been for some time past. I suggest that the time may have come when it is possible to propose to them some method of consultation in case of the emergency of war being imminent, so that neither the United States nor this country will be compelled to interfere with the other's trade without some previous understanding. That, after all, is the practical interpretation of the meaning of the Kellogg Pact which we have both signed. A previous Secretary of State in Washington called atten- 950 tion to the force of that Pact in this sense that he believed it to include an undertaking to be non-neutral on the part of every Power which was a signatory to the Pact, if a breach of the Pact were committed. Some definition and understanding on that point is all we could ask for at the present time. Such an understanding would be of immense help to the Dominions. Their obligation for instance, in a European contract by which we were engaged, should be limited to non-neutrality and no active intervention should be required from them unless they themselves wished to come in and participate actively.
No one appreciates better than I do that only His Majesty's Government can judge whether conditions are now favourable for any fresh approach to the problem of the Treaty of Locarno or the problem of security, but I am convinced that unless we tackle this question of security and combine such an effort with rearmament, as to which we have declared ourselves to-night, we shall find ourselves simply following the old lines which we followed up to 1914 and that rearmament, however great it may he, will only land us in increasing competition and ultimately in war. The problem of security is fundamental. I believe that the whole Empire is prepared to face that problem. I am not without hope that if we can get the Empire to face it, we may go some way towards getting the United States to face it on the very general lines which I have suggested. I trust, therefore, that His Majesty's Government will be prepared to take this question of security into closer consideration and to give a lead upon it at the earliest possible moment.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. MANDER
This Debate has been the most depressing that I have ever attended since I became a Member of the House. Nearly all the speakers in support of the Government have used the language of 1914 and there has been no evidence or suggestion that we have a different technique for dealing with peace now as compared with those days. It seems to me that in the minds of those speakers the collective system no longer exists; that it has been abandoned and that we are living in a world of competitive national armaments. I believe that along that path lies certain disaster 951 and unless we can do something on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) in the realm of security, there is no escape from the dangers of a race in armaments and ultimately another world war. I ventured a few days ago to put down an Amendment to the Amendment which is now before the House proposing to add the words:the only true defence of the British Empire lies in the collective security of the League of Nations, and urges the Government to co-operate loyally and effectively in the organisation of this on a carefully prepared and immediately available basis.It is because I feel that the Government are showing no evidence—quite the contrary—that they are interested in the collective system or prepared to work for it, that I cannot help regarding the outlook as gloomy in the extreme. I agree with the diagnosis made by the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Amendment. We are in grave peril. We are bound to be, so long as we proceed along these competitive lines. It is notorious that there is no defence against air attack. The suggestion that if there is an equal number of aeroplanes on each side, you thereby get stability and that nobody in such circumstances would do anything, is fantastic. If you have arms lying about, sooner or later they will be used by some rash person. I am convinced that Members of the Government and supporters of the Government are sincerely desirous of securing peace. It would be unfair to make any allegation to the contrary.
I must say equally that I believe the policy that they are pursuing is leading, against their wishes, directly in the direction of war, and I want to make some reference to the very important speech of the Lord President of the Council on Friday last. He referred, first of all, to the impracticability of the collective system at the present time, owing to the absence of Japan and Germany. The two gangster Powers have gone outside, and I agree that that makes it more difficult. It does not fundamentally alter the problem, but it makes it more urgent than ever. Then he went on to say that he would never sanction the British Navy being used for an armed blockade of any country unless he knew what the United States of America was going to do. No one would dream of 952 putting forward such a proposition, and until a few years ago the difficulty has always been that the League could not safely act because it did not know what the United States would do, but since the statement made by Mr. Stimson, and later by Mr. Norman Davis, on behalf of the United States, we have gone a very long way towards obtaining an assurance now that the United States would at any rate take no step to interfere with action taken against an aggressor State. Then the Lord President drew an engaging picture of a certain incident. He said:I remember once talking to a keeper in the Zoo in London. We were looking at the pythons, particularly a very large python. I said to him, 'That would be a nasty fellow to handle if he escaped.' The keeper relied, Well, it would take a dozen men to handle him, and you have got to trust them all. They have all got to hang on to him, because if the python got his tail round the front of a tree or anything he can get a leverage on, he would crush the whole 12 of them to death.' Well, when I have to help to put a python back into his cage, I am jolly well going to see who the other 11 men are going to be and what they are going to do hanging on to that python.As applied to the international situation, I do not think that was a happy analogy at all. Because he cannot rely absolutely on two members of the League who might be available to put the python back, he is prepared to let the python wander about, the python in this case being the demon of war; he is prepared to run the risk of having to meet it alone, and the only way in which apparently he will protect himself is by putting on some medieval armour. If he were in a position like that, his good sense would, I am sure, lead him to select all the good friends he could find anywhere, and if he could not get all he wanted, he would use his utmost endeavours with the more limited number that he was able to assemble. So it is with the collective system. We have to take the nucleus, and a very good nucleus it is, of the League membership as it exists; we have the neutrality of the United States; we may well succeed in getting Germany back again; and if Japan remains outside, then I say that if we are to have alliances again—and we may be driven to that—let us have an alliance of all those nations which believe in the collective system of the 953 League of Nations. That is the only way I can see that leads to safety at all.
My quarrel with the Government is that I do not believe they have ever sincerely tried to work the collective system. The Foreign Secretary on three separate occasions has whittled it away, and what is the Government's own record of trying to work the collective system? The Foreign Secretary very properly waxed eloquent the other day on the splendid support that had been given by the Government to the collective system of the League in the case of the Chaco. They did splendidly, I grant, and I am delighted to be able to congratulate them on any good work in that direction, but what a pity he had to spend so much time on Chaco and was not able to claim something for the collective system in the case of Manchuria, the fatal blunder of Manchuria. What a pity that in the case of Austria he was not able to point co some definite support, and not mere verbiage.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
What would the hon. Member have us do with regard to Manchuria? Does he want us to go to war with Japan?
§ Mr. MANDER
I should be only too delighted to go into that question, but there are many hon. Members who desire to speak, and it woulid not be fair to them. I do not suggest military action for a moment, but an economic blockade, though if it meant military action on the part of Japan, we ought to have been prepared to meet that, and it would have been of infinitely less danger to the world than the certain drift to disaster and another world war which is coming upon us at the present time. Again, in the case of the Saar, I can see no evidence that there either the Government look upon it as a League obligation in which they have a definite responsibility, together with all the other members.
The only response on behalf of the Government to the collective system that I have seen is that when the leading peace society in this country, the League of Nations Union, attempted to organise a plebiscite which might do something to strengthen the Government in the belief that the opinion of the people of this 954 country is overwhelmingly behind the League idea, all that the Foreign Secretary could do was to sneer at it. I quite agree that he has now told us he was rather off his drive that day, and perhaps we may leave it at that. I was glad to notice that the Lord President of the Council referred to the ballot in a kindly way and made it clear that any Conservative was perfectly in order in cooperating, as many are doing throughout the length and breadth of the country; and another Cabinet Minister, the Secretary of State for the Dominions, has presided at one of the peace ballot meetings and declared his hope that it will be a success in every way. I do hope that it will not become a party issue. If it does, it will be because one of the three parties has failed to a certain extent to co-operate in work that ought to be that of the three parties in the State combined.
May I say a, word in support of an idea put forward by the previous speaker? I hope that if the naval conversations break down, some consideration will be given to a suggestion that 1 put in the form of a question the other day, namely, the possibility, following on General Smuts' speech, of a Pacific Locarno, of a mutual guarantee treaty between England, the United States, Japan, China and any other countries interested out there, to protect each other. It would be on the collective lines and would meet the dangers which exist in that part of the world. It seems to me that the Government should insist, first of all, on a meeting at the earliest possible date of the Air Committee of the Disarmament Conference, and that the French plan, brought forward in April of last year, still before the Conference, and never discussed in full detail, and the other proposals, too, should be gone through in the utmost detail, not in the critical, obstructive spirit that existed before, but with a desire to find a way of agreement rather than to find difficulties. That plan, put forward with all the power of the French Government, supported by their technical experts, is, of course, the abolition of military aviation in the Government's own draft convention, internationalisation of civil aviation, and the setting up of an international aerial police force under the League of Nations to deal with the real danger of the conversion of civil aircraft.
955 My experience leads me to believe that the project of an international police force is finding increased support in this country. I venture to suggest that the Government should offer at Geneva to cooperate with other nations in giving rigid guarantees for the execution of a disarmament convention, and also for action against an aggressor. If the French Government were faced with a lead from us in this direction, I am sure they would be prepared to go in for disarmament which, up to the present time, they have not been able to envisage. May I say, in conclusion, that I do feel if the history of this time had to be written up to now, it would record that the Government by their hesitation and weakness had largely contributed to the failure of the collective peace system, and to the weakening of the whole structure of the League of Nations itself. I hope that the Lord President, when he threw out indications in his speech that the Government are going to try once more, was serious, and that they will succeed in that way before it is too late, in saving this country and the world from the abyss which is only too plainly lying in front of us.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Admiral of the Fleet Sir ROGER KEYES
The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) took us for a very interesting world cruise, but being new to politics I found it rather difficult to follow him in all the channels he manoeuvred so skilfully. If I understood him aright, he told us that Great Britain was the only country that had disarmed. He went on to say that the other nations of the world were afraid of each other, but not of us. That brings me to my point that a strong Britain is the best guarantee for peace in the world. The question of air defence has been dealt with fully by nay right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), the Lord President of the Council and several other Members. Although I entirely agree that it is vitally important for the security of these islands that, to quote the Lord President of the Council,in air power and strength we should no longer be in a position inferior to any country within striking distance of our shores,there are other considerations in regard to imperial defence which are also vitally important for our security and the maintenance of peace, though perhaps not so 956 vividly apparent to the people who inhabit the South of England and are within easy striking distance by air of potential enemies who might be tempted to wipe out old scores, if they thought they could do so with impunity. I refer, of course, to protection of our trade routes, and our ability to go to the assistance of the Dominions, whose people came from the ends of the earth and across the seas to stand by us in the Great War. People who fly and those who are responsible for the conduct of air operations, are under no illusions as to their inability to perform the duties which can only be carried out by surface vessels. I use the word "surface," because people who have served in submarines are under no illusions as to their limitations, and are not prone to exaggerate their powers. I have had experience, both in peace and war, of operating forces in the air and under the sea, and I have kept up to date with their advance, and, incidentally, with the advance of their antidotes. But protagonists of both aircraft and submarines attribute powers to them which they certainly do not possess.
History has proved over and over again that an antidote has been found for every new weapon, A battleship, for instance, is no more vulnerable to bombs or the torpedoes of aircraft and the torpedoes of submarines, than it is to the shells of its like. Limited spaces can also be protected against air attack. No antidote, however, has yet been found for the protection of great cities, except the possession of an air force of sufficient strength to make a potential enemy hesitate to face retaliation, and the sooner we are in possession of such a force the better. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that in this age of invention, the antidote will eventually be found, but we cannot afford to wait for this, or, indeed, trust entirely to passive defence. To return to the surface of the sea, over which the essentials of life are carried to these islands, these essentials include fuel and lubricating oil, on which the Air Force, the mechanised army, and all forms of modern transport are dependent. I would like to point out to the House the inadequacy of our naval defences.
In passing, I would like to pay a tribute to the admirably lucid statement of the Noble Lord the Secretary of State for War in another place on 14th Novem- 957 ber, which shows that the Government are fully alive to naval needs, and are receiving and accepting most excellent advice from their present naval advisers. But I submit that this does not alter the fact that our naval defence is inadequate to meet our great responsibilities. I do not propose to dwell on the evils of the London Treaty, for I have expressed my views in this House and elsewhere pretty freely, and I have never quarelled with the Treaty of Washington—indeed, I had something to do with its achievement. The First Lord told us last March, when presenting the Navy Estimates, that we were building up cruisers to our full treaty rights. But it is a fact that when the treaty expires in 1936 no fewer than 14 of our 50 cruisers will be obsolete and clue for scrapping. Some of these, owing to their strenuous War service, are already past their economic life. In regard to destroyers and submarines, we are worse off, for we are not even building up to our treaty rights. The Prime Minister told us last week:As regards defence, we have reduced, we have stood still.And he went on to say:That cannot go on for ever. We never called the Escalator Clause into use, but we cannot go on and On."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November, 1934; cols. 25–26, Vol. 295.]That is very satisfactory, for while we have been standing still Italy, France and Germany, to say nothing of Russia, quite unrestricted by the London Treaty, have been building such vessels as they require, and even powerful types which we are not allowed to build. For example, the French are building a number of destroyer leaders of which they have a number already in commission, and which are, in fact, light cruisers, and we are not allowed to answer without going into our cruiser quota allowance. This is of small moment to America and Japan, but if, for instance, we were for any reason—there might be excellent reasons—tardy in carrying out our obligations under the Treaty of Locarno, the presence in the Channel and its approaches of a great number of submarines and a strong force of destroyer leaders with a speed to escape from our cruisers and to overtake and destroy our destroyers, might be an embarrassment to negotiations. Similarly, an aerial striking force in Germany more powerful than ours might be equally embarrass- 958 ing. If we enter into commitments such as the Locarno Treaty, surely we ought to possess the power fully to implement our obligations.
The Prime Minister reminded the House that we had not invoked the Escalator Clause and declared that we had plenty of ground for doing so, but we wanted to demonstrate clearly and definitely that our armament was not an offensive armament. Perhaps he was thinking of the German pocket battleships which would be a horrible menace on our trade routes. The London Treaty deprived us of one of the only four ships in the world which could overtake and destroy the German pocket battleships. Probably, however, he was thinking of the French destroyer leaders to which I have referred, and to which we cannot provide the answer without taking from our cruiser tonnage. My varied experiences in the Services brought me into contact with many French people of moment, some of whom are responsible for the conduct of affairs in France to-day, and I can assure the House that if we invoked the Escalator Clause on their account it would give them profound relief and satisfaction. It is no breach of confidence to repeat what the present French Prime Minister, M. Flandin, said only a few weeks ago in Canada, since he said it publicly and it was reported freely in the Canadian Press:A strong British fleet is the best guarantee for the peace of the world.From the statement of the Prime Minister last week and of the Lord President of the Council to-day, it is quite evident that the Government are faced with very heavy expenditure to meet their air commitments, and whether a naval agreement is achieved or not, and whatever form it takes, they are faced with a very heavy expenditure on naval replacement—not, I would add for the benefit of the Socialist Opposition, expansion.
How is the money to be provided? Surely it cannot be found out of revenue without increasing taxation, which would seriously hamper our trade recovery. About 45 years ago, when the country realised that the Navy was inadequate to protect our trade routes, a Naval Defence Act was passed and a Defence Loan floated. I suggested in the House of Commons last July that we should 959 follow this lead. There are millions of patriotic people who would subscribe to a loan and accept a low rate of interest for an object so vital to the security of the country. I mentioned this idea in Canada and the United States, and many people said to me that not only would it be a good investment, but a good insurance, as a strong Britain was the best safeguard for the peace of the world. Since the investors would like to make certain that their money was well invested, I suggest that the excellent Committee of the Chiefs of Staffs, which has lately been strengthened by representatives of the Foreign Office and of the Treasury, should be placed under a statesman of vision, of experience, and of courage to take responsibility; and this Committee should be given under his guidance executive power and he charged with the task of putting the defence of the country in order. I had every intention of saying this before the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs urged co-ordination, and I had not him in mind when I decided to make this suggestion.
While the Government have been unsuccessfully endeavouring to get other nations to follow our example in the matter of disarmament instead of steadily replacing our old ships, our own workpeople have suffered owing to the idle shipyards. There are thousands of unemployed people in the neighbourhood of the royal dockyards and in the distressed areas who have been engaged for generations in the building of ships for the Navy and for whom no other work can be found. There are hon. Members who could tell the House what an enormous boon it would be in some of these distressed areas where there are shipbuilders and idle shipyards if they could only get a few orders for the destroyers and destroyer leaders which we are allowed to build under the Treaty of London and the Escalator Clause. The first destroyer I ever commanded was built in Durham in a shipyard which is now lying idle. Eighty per cent. of the money spent on new construction goes to the wages of the men employed in the shipyards, and a large proportion of the remaining 20 per cent. goes to the people who work on the raw material. Surely it is better to spend money on work that is neces- 960 sary for our security and which is, moreover, an insurance for peace, than spending it on unemployment pay and poor relief to men who are eking out an unhappy existence idle and longing for work. May I close by quoting from a letter which Sir Walter Raleigh wrote when he was in the Tower shortly before he was beheaded "to please the King of Spain" nearly three centuries ago, and only a few years after the defeat of the Spanish Armada:I confess that peace is a great Blessing of God, and blessed are the Peacemakers, and therefore doubtless blessed are those means whereby peace is gained and maintained: To which means of our defence and safety being shipping and sea forces.I am sure that, if he were living to-day, he would have added "and aircraft."
§ 9.44 p.m.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
This has been one of the most tremendously important Debates that has ever taken place in the history of this House. We have got the fact of German re-armament out into the light, and I wish we had got it out long ago. I am sure that the whole European situation will be the better for it. We wanted to know, as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) explained, why up to date we had hesitated to declare the fact that Germany had committed a technical breach of the Treaty of Versailles. Thank God, the Government through the Lord President of the Council, have had the courage to come forward and declare the true facts of the situation. We have, in fact, stated that Germany is in a technical breach of the Treaty, and that we are not going to do anything about it at the moment. That in itself is a very valuable thing. I do not think there is any need for serious alarm, still less for panic, in the present situation.
I have always maintained, and I always shall maintain, that arms are a symptom of conditions and are not in themselves a cause of war. In certain situations armaments have prevented war, and if my hon. Friends of the Labour party, who are so keen on disarmament, would consult their Russian friends they would find that the authorities in Moscow would tell them that in their judgment it was the air forces of the Russian Government at Vladivostok which, during the last 18 months, prevented an outbreak 961 of war in the Far East. Armaments by themselves do not cause war, they are a symptom of a condition, and I think we in this country have, during the past four or five years, laid far too much emphasis on disarmament as such. It is so much easier and cheaper to disarm than to tackle the problems which give rise to armaments. If I had a criticism to make of this country I should say that we talk too much about armaments and have ourselves disarmed too much, whereas we ought to have been tackling problems which it is still not too late to tackle.
Take for a moment the history of Germany since the War. It was open to the Allies in 1919 to break up Germany. They did not do so. There was an alternative, to make friends with the new German Republic. They did not do that either. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), in a famous aphorism, once said, "In war, resolution; in victory, magnanimity; in peace, good will." As one who has visited Germany every year for the last 10 years I do not think we can really claim to have shown much magnanimity or good will towards the German Republic, and I agree with my right hon. Friend that we ought not to lay too much blame upon the rather hysterical and fevered Germany of the moment. There were reparations, dragging on from year to year although we knew perfectly well they were uneconomic and undesirable. There was the Buhr. There was the Silesian frontier. There was the continued occupation of German territory year after year by our troops. We never really took a firm stand. There have been, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said, considerable statesmen in Germany during that period—Erzberger, Rathenau, Stresemann and Bruning. Three are dead—two assassinated and one died practically of a broken heart, and Bruning is now in exile. We never really extended the hand of friendship to the Weimar Republic, and never gave any of those men, every one of whom stood for the policy of fulfilment and reconciliation, any goods to deliver to the German people. I do not know whether hon. Members have read the very remarkable book of Mr. Bruce Lockhart—the second volume—in which he describes an interview with the dying Stresemann three months before his death. 962 Stresemann turned round with a dramatic gesture and said:There is nothing left now for us except brute force. The future is in the hands of the young generation; and the youth of Germany, which we might have won for peace and for the reconstruction of a new Europe, we both have lost. That is my tragedy and your crime.I do not want to heap blame upon this country, but in looking at the present situation in Europe one must look into the past and see the sources from which it arises. Those of us who have been frequent visitors to Germany have seen the steady rise and growth of Hitlerism and Nazi-ism through those years, and we are not surprised by the condition of things at the present time. It is no good drawing too much attention to the faults and failings of the present German administration. They are re-arming, and we admit it in this House. They are re-arming substantially, and potentially they are very formidable, and the situation gives cause for anxiety. If hon. Members want a date, one of the dates which ought to stick in their minds is the year 1937. By that time the strategic roadways in the south of Germany will have been completed, and the present armament proposals and programmes will have been carried to a conclusion. I do not think they are arming against us, I do not think they are arming against anybody; but they have got into their heads that the only way they can re-establish their position as a first-class Power is by having large armed forces. I do not believe they have any specific military objectives.
How are we to deal with that situation? What would be the attitude of the Labour party? The Labour party and the Liberal party, who are conducting this terrific peace campaign in the country, on purely political lines, have a natural reluctance to have recourse to force, but I submit that that reluctance is now finding expression in a reluctance to face realities. I can understand and sympathise with the complete pacifist—his views are not shared by the present German Government, but one can understand them—but I cannot really understand the attitude of the provocative pacifist. Let me take for example and at random, a statement which I read in the "Times" the other day by Mr. Citrine, a formidable and important member of 963 the Labour movement, and the secretary of the Trade Union Congress. He said:The behaviour of the Hitler Government since its inception has been such as to outrage the conscience of the whole world. Everything which democratic institutions had held dear was being challenged by the present German Government. In prosecuting this boycott of German goods the Conference was prosecuting a boycott on behalf of civilisation itself.I put this to my hon. Friends on the Labour benches. Supposing that in a year or two, when the German Government have completed rearmament, a Labour Government were in office, and supposing General Goering said, "We are a danger to civilisation, are we, and you are going to boycott us. Well, we do not desire that, and in point of fact we are not going to stand this boycott. Further, we think it is about time we had more colonies, and you can kindly hand them over within 48 hours." What would a Labour Government say under those conditions? We must get down to basic facts. Would they follow the course of the true blue pacifist and say, "All right, take them"? Of course they would not. They would go to war, just as the Liberal Government went to war in 1914, in defence of the honour of the country, and we should find ourselves landed once more in a European struggle with inadequate forces; and that is what those of us who have put our names to this Amendment are trying to avoid. We are not warmongers. We are trying as best we can to secure the peace of Europe and of the world.
There is only one other point. The other day the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a speech in which he implied that our financial position was one of considerable difficulty, but I do not think that considerations of finance should stand in the way of a cautious, moderate and unhysterical rearmament programme. It is quite obviously the duty of any British Government, in face of the present situation, to secure the safety and security, so far as lies in their power, of this crowded island. It is no good telling me or anyone else in the House that to leave this island defenceless in the face of Europe in its present condition is conducive to the maintenance of peace. It is not. It is one of the greatest menaces to the peace of the world.
964 I do not believe anyone objects to a proper rearmament of this country, provided that it is not provocative. I lay just as much stress upon the provision of shelters for the people of our crowded cities and upon the provision of aerodromes and the development of civil aeroplanes as I do upon the provision of a fighting air arm. All those things have to be done, and those developments have to take place. Can we afford to do it? Of course we can. The Government are in a position to do it. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer goes resolutely forward, he can get money at 2½ cent. if he wishes to do so. He could have done so a fortnight ago. I do not know why he thought fit to go and make a gloomy speech in Manchester and jeopardise the prospects of his own Birmingham loan. If the Government go forward resolutely upon a cheap money policy they can afford to finance the adequate defence of this country, and, in so doing, give employment to thousands of people who are at present out of work and provoke no one. None of these things can be wholly unrelated to foreign and financial policy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer shows signs of no longer being afraid of the cheap money that he has himself created and I hope that he will go resolutely forward to the end.
Our foreign policy is still obscure. I have travelled a great deal in the last few years, and wherever I go, I find that foreign politicians are in some doubt as to the ultimate intentions of our Foreign Office. They do not know where we are driving and for what we are heading. Any foreign policy which this country adopts during the next 10 years must be based upon these two things: In Europe, the League of Nations; in the world, the closest possible co-operation with the United States, both in economic and defence matters. If the world knows that the United States and the British Empire stand together and are adequately defended, nobody will dare to challenge that combination. To hon. and right hon. Gentlemen of the Opposition, who are always preaching disarmament and are always accusing the Tory party of jingoism and of fomenting war, I would say that if the people in the next 10 years who believe in freedom are not prepared in the last resort to defend it, freedom will assuredly perish in this 965 world at the hands of those who do not believe in it.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I want, first, to say one or two words about this party business. It is altogether new doctrine that is being preached, that an organised party, Tory, Liberal or Labour, have not the right to disagree with the Government of the day and to put their view in as clear and concise a manner as possible. We are lectured day after day by first one and then another of these superior gentlemen as to what we should or should not do and think. I say plainly and bluntly: "Physicians, heal your-selves. Who are any of you to charge us with using our party for party ends? What do you use your party for? What do you organise your party for? This is all sheer undiluted nonsense." I am surprised to hear that sort of bunk from the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby). I thought he was much too intelligent to descend to the sort of statement that he made just now. I understand that he is in some way Private or Parliamentary Secretary to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). Who in this House, more than that right hon. Gentleman, has denounced a nation that was on friendly terms with the British Government? I have not read the OFFICIAL, REPORT or the "Times" to look up the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman; he can probably do that himself, and he will see that none of us, can match him in the language he used when he wanted to denounce the Communist Government of Russia. All along the Government Front Bench are hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have done the same thing. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Henderson) was Foreign Secretary, he was bombarded day after day with the most villianous insults against the Russian Government. All that was said against that Government may have been true, but those who chose that method of antagonising a friendly Government have no right to come now in a white sheet and sit in judgment upon us.
We are advised as to what will befall us in the country if we think this way, speak this way, or adopt this policy or the other. If hon. Members really believed that, they would encourage us 966 to continue so that we should be ruined. The idea is that one party in the State can give the other advice as to how to save itself from destruction. I never heard such rubbish. Hon. Members must think that we are children at this business, but we are not so childish as they would like to imagine. When Mr. Gladstone sat here, and was not the leader of the Liberal party, he carried on a campaign against the Turkish Government. He was denounced in exactly the same kind of language as that in which we are denounced whenever we have the impudence to disagree with the Government. It is an entirely new doctrine that those who disagree with the Government have not the right to say so and give reasons why they disagree. Hon. Members of the Liberal party stand up in an apologetic manner and also instruct us. [Interruption.] Hon. Members must live a bit longer and then they will know better.
No one, not even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) who, having made his speech, has disappeared, who belonged to or supported the Coalition Government has any right to talk about boycotting. Who put the cordon round Russia? There he sits, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I know, but the right hon. Gentleman was the villain of the piece. I have not forgotten the, for me, famous occasion when I attended a War Office conference over which the right hon. Gentleman presided, and I know exactly what his attitude was. I want to make hon. Members understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping was one of those who put a cordon round Russia and who would not allow medicines, anaesthetics, or anything of that kind to go in. I met a British soldier who had to undergo an operation and have an eye removed. The operation had to be done without an anaesthetic because my country had refused to allow those things to go in. I was in Finland when the first convoy of the Red Cross was allowed by the British Government to enter Russian territory. When I sat here to-night and listened to the denunciation of Walter Citrine and others I did not know where hon. Mem- 967 bers had been living or whether they had been asleep since 1919 and 1920. I do not, however, wish to labour that point, but I hope that the Lord President of the Council and other right hon. and hon. Members opposite when they speak of the Labour party outside will remember that we do not care very much what they think about us but we do feel that they might have the decency to treat Ls as they would themselves like to be treated, and that is, that when they happen to disagree with us they should concede to us the right to have our own view without its being called into question.
We have no intention and no desire to make peace a party issue. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I would suggest that hon. Members opposite should not interrupt too much. If we are going to be challenged about posters, I would ask hon. Members to remember the poster that was issued in 1925 in connection with the Zinoviev letter, which depicted a very nice looking terrorist, and on which was the statement that if people voted for us that sort of thing would happen in this country—rapine and murder. We brought it to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman opposite and he did not attempt to defend it. When you talk about political propaganda, perhaps all of us are guilty of doing things that we ought to be ashamed of. I will not include myself in my own constituency. There are hon. Members here who have fought me in my division, and I think they will agree that I have never descended to any personal attack. I speak throughout the country as much as, and probably more than, most hon. and right hon. Members at public meetings, and I never mention people by name. I do my best to conduct propaganda on principles and not on personalities. Do not, for goodness sake, be so silly as to imagine that it is only the Labour party that issues this sort of statement at election times. You can give us a thousand years in that sort of thing and catch us up. It was said that it was rather difficult to follow the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs in what he said. It is very difficult for anyone who is trying to compress as much as he can in a very short time to have a continual run of interruption, whether friendly or hostile.
Speaking for our party—and I am sure the right hon. Member for Clay Cross if 968 he were here would agree with me—the last thing in the world that we want to do is to make the question either of disarmament or of peace a party issue. I said the other day that I believed everybody wanted peace but that we disagreed as to the means of getting peace. Surely that is a reasonable thing. We do not believe that armaments of themselves make for war, but we believe that policy is what determines whether you use the armaments or not. I listened to the Lord President of the Council as carefully as I could and he seemed to me twice in his speech, at the end and earlier on, to suggest that there was a door opening, or that the Government were trying to find a way to bring about a better condition of affairs. What I would like to put to the Foreign Secretary is this. Are the Government seeking an agreement? Are they attempting to find a way of an agreement, either for the rearmament of Germany, that is, the recognised rearmament of Germany, giving her equal status with France, or with whatever standard you set up, or are they going to try and find a way of carrying out the promise given by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs when he was Prime Minister and the other signatories of the Peace Treaty, that the disarmament of Germany was to lead to the disarmament of all nations?
That is, I think, where we are in conflict with the Government. I should like them to tell us, in as clear language as possible, what is the sort of settlement they envisage. As I listened to the speech of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs and others it seemed to me that what they were aiming at—I was not so sure about the Lord President of the Council—was that they recognised as inevitable that Germany should rearm. We consider that if the Government of this country and if the nations of Europe agree that Germany shall rearm and shall have the sort of status in regard to military affairs that France and other countries have to-day, then all hope of permanent peace will have gone by the board. We believe that unless the promise made that the Peace Treaty with Germany should be implemented sooner or later, war, terrible and destructive of civilisation, will take place. That is an issue that transcends all our party talk and gibes at one another. I want to-night to get from the Government a statement, 969 clear and definite, of what it is that they are trying to accomplish.
We have been challenged to say what our position is. Our position on this matter is perfectly simple. I am speaking on behalf of my friends here and the movement they represent in the country. We think there will be no peace in the world until the nations are in a position, and agree with one another, to say that the arbitrament of war is useless, and that they have made up their minds to forsake it. It is true that I may be answered that there are many economic problems and questions that have to be decided also, and we agree about that. After every war, where the victors have attempted to cripple the defeated they have always failed. It may sound like far-back history, but one of the first things that I remember as a boy is the excitement that was caused in this country when, during the Franco-German War of 1870, the Russians took advantage of that war to tear up the Treaty which blocked them out of the Black Sea. I remember the consternation that was created.
Then I remember the peace terms which Germany imposed upon France. Everybody in England who was thinking about the matter knew that that peace had the seeds of future wars in it, and we have seen what happened. France steadily and relentlessly prepared for revenge, and the Germans prepared, as they said, for "The Day." The day came, and you rolled Germany in the dust. Her fleet is very largely at the bottom of the North Sea. You said to her: "You shall not arm; you shall not have colonies; we will help your enemies, or those whom we have cut off from you—Austria and Hungary—to go into industry in order to compete with you; and, as for us, we will take your colonies as mandated territories." What have you gained by it? You have gained nothing at all. You have an empty vengeance.
Have the Government learned that lesson? If they have not, the people of this country have. I know what the people are thinking as well as anybody here. Take a vote of the common people of this country. They do not want to go across to Europe to fight again; they want to know who gained anything out of the last War; they want to know where the advantage was gained for the 970 destruction of 30,000,000 people. It was Armistice Day the other day. I wish those men could walk up here now. I wish they could come here and tell us what they think of the present situation, with Europe and ourselves re-arming, and being told that that is the only way of salvation. We do not believe it. We believe that there is a better way. We believe that if the Government had the courage to go to America, to go to Russia, and even to go to France, and say to these great countries: "Let us put everything we have into the common pool; let us lead the way and say we will throw down our arms," neither Germany nor Italy could say "No."
§ 10.19 p.m.
§ Mr. AMERY
I cannot help feeling that the speech to which we have just listened, and, indeed, many of the speeches which have been delivered this afternoon, have ignored one essential phrase in the Amendment of my right hon. Friend—the phrase which refers to "the present circumstances of the world." We all hope that a better world situation may be brought about. If it can be brought about by what is, broadly speaking, called the collective system, by all means let it be so. But when we consider the world as it is to-day, as it was described to us in eloquent terms by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), surely, so long as that position holds, a defenceless nation is a danger to itself and to the peace of the world, and the maintenance of at any rate an adequate measure of defence is one of the first public international duties of any peace-loving nation. Holding that view, I believe that my right hon. Friend has rendered a service to this House in making good an omission from the King's Speech, in drawing attention to the situation of our defences, at any rate in one particular, and in eliciting from the Lord President of the Council the very important statement which he made. In some measure, at any rate, that statement was a reassurance to those of us who have expressed our anxiety, and not least the clear pledge that he gave that in no conditions would this country accept inferiority in the air to Germany. You may say, "Why Germany?"
971 My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has taken the instance of Germany as the first case or illustration of our present defensive weakness. We may add that Germany under its present rulers is, shall we say, not the first country in whose proximity we should wish to be helpless and defenceless. On the other side, on the actual figures, my right hon. Friend's assurance took us some way, but I am not sure that it took us the whole way. He showed that as far as this year, and even next year, are concerned we have a considerable but very rapidly diminishing margin of security. I should like also to examine that. My right hon. Friend laid great stress, and rightly, upon the difference between what I might call the gross and net figures of aeroplanes, the net figures of fighting strength not including reserves and the gross figures of all available aeroplanes. In that connection he informed us that we have for home defence, including the Fleet air arm, 560 first-line aeroplanes with the regular Air Force. He also told us that we have 127 aeroplanes in the auxiliary forces. I should like to ask how far those 127 planes are really first class, modern weapons and I should like to have an explicit assurance that these 127 planes are not part of the reserve of the 560 planes but are clearly additional, and have their own reserves in addition. There is another qualification of those figures that is worth pointing to. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping made it clear that Germany possessed to-day some 300 specially fast aeroplanes available for immediate conversion to fighting purposes. Are they or are they not included in the figure of 600 to 1,000 aeroplanes to which he referred, because if they are, the margin largely disappears?
There is another point to which I think it is vital to draw attention. If we have a margin available in reserve aeroplanes attached to our military establishment, what of the immense reserves that Germany possesses, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) indicated, in engines, mechanics and pilots, all developed, as the result of Germany's tremendous recent efforts in civil aviation? All these are a reserve that can be mobilised very swiftly in the next few 972 years, and still more swiftly after the outbreak of war. The situation may not. be so unsatisfactory for 1935, or even for 1936, but if we bean, in mind the increasing acceleration of Germany's aviation development, I do not feel so deeply reassured as I might otherwise have been. Again, the Lord President referred to the fact that it takes some time under ordinary peace conditions to convert a civilian pilot into an effective military pilot. Are conditions in Germany ordinary peace conditions? Is it not the essence of the German situation that they are living in a spirit of war and with the enthusiasm of war? I think that their civilian pilots could be converted into efficient military pilots, and probably are being converted every day, at a rate and intensity we can scarcely conceive. Therefore, if you add to that the evident German powerful re-armament in every direction, I am sure that we have not done wrong to draw attention to these matters, and we trust that the Government will not lose sight of them for one moment. We can assure them that the opportunities we shall have on the Estimates to draw attention to them will not be neglected.
We hope that we have not treated this matter in any exaggerated spirit and that we have maintained a proper perspective on the air peril. What stands out is that a defenceless country may be subject to utter ruin when attacked by an overwhelming hostile air force, and when once so attacked and got under can never lift its head again. On the other hand, I think it has been shown that once you have an adequate defence, though the measure of damage which may be done to you may be serious, it is not beyond that which any brave nation like ours can face in the hour of need. All the experience of the Great War showed that against proper measures of defence, both passive and active, the power of the German aeroplanes and the damage they did amounted to comparatively little. If I may use a parallel, any one of us could carry on his person enough rifle bullets to annihilate a battalion if he were shooting at it at leisure and not encountering any resistance. On the other hand, in actual battle I think that it takes something like a ton of bullets to kill a man, and something of the same proportion applies to every form of military weapon. Those who organise 973 their defences adequately are in infinitely less danger if war should break out than those who neglect them.
In this connection, I should like to support what my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) said about the importance of carrying further than we have in recent times the question of research into the various methods of passive defence which had already proved themselves so valuable during war, and which, partly because they fall under one Department and partly under another, seem to have been unduly neglected. I say this without any disparagement of the importance of an effective counter offensive. An effective counter offensive is an essential element in defence.
The last thing I should wish to do is to suggest that the air menace is the only danger which we have to contemplate in the world to-day. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) pointed out that, however immune we may be by reason of our air measures from bombing, no air defence can protect our vital supplies of foodstuffs, raw materials and munitions of war, if the freedom of the seas is denied to us. The other day my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, in a striking phrase, said that the frontiers of this country are on the Rhine. That was a perfectly true statement for a particular limited and specific purpose. But for almost every other purpose the frontiers of England are wherever the White Ensign floats in the breeze. Let me quote to him apropos of the failure of Napoleon in his attempt on England, the words of Admiral Mahan how "The storm tossed ships which the Grand Army never saw," stood between them and their goal. The command of the sea is vital from the point of view of this country and still more vital from the point of view of the defence of the Empire. Let me add this further point that the development of aviation has given to the Navy a new weapon which it never possessed before, and that is the power to strike far inland. If this country has to face great dangers in the future the power to use the command of the sea to an infinitely greater extent than before may yet prove its salvation.
974 I do not wish to suggest for a moment that Germany, or indeed Europe, constitutes our only danger. We may be faced in the years not far distant with great troubles in the Middle East. We are already being confronted with a difficult and dangerous situation in the Far East, about which it is not necessary to say more except to remind the House that from the point of view of our immense trading interests and the security of our whole Empire East of the Suez Canal, our defensive position in the Far East is a matter of primary and vital interest to us. The problem of defence is essentially an Empire problem. The Empire, indeed, is the first instalment for us of a system of collective security. I entirely endorse what the right hon. Gentleman opposite said about the desirability of calling the Empire to our councils at the earliest possible moment, and that when the Prime Ministers come over on a happy and auspicious occasion next year, we should consult with them both as to our means and scheme of defence and upon the policy which shapes and influences the whole of our defence measures. I also whole-heartedly agree that this is not a case for panic or precipitancy. But it does call for radical and far reaching measures of reorganisation.
The whole question of our defences has been neglected far too long and it is high time that we set on foot a searching investigation into the whole problem and the policy behind it. The Chiefs of Staffs Committee should be reinforced not only by the strongest emergency expert staff which can be formed but also by men of experience wherever gleaned who can help us to study the situation. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth that the time has come when one Minister free from all administrative burdens should be set to the task as Minister of Defence Policy to study the whole problem and to secure not only additional measures of defence but that reallocation of our whole scheme of defence, which has become urgently necessary; a reallocation which is neither influenced by an exaggerated description of the dangers which confront us from the air, nor accepts the somewhat cynical view of some in the older services that nothing has been really changed by the advent of this new weapon. The part that the older services can play is as im- 975 portant as ever, but their whole structure and organisation is bound to be drastically modified and reorganised by this new phenomenon of air power. We want the whole thing reconsidered from the very foundation, and reconsidered without delay.
It stands to reason that, whatever conclusions are come to in that respect, they are bound to involve very considerable additional expenditure. I suggest that by far the best way of meeting that expenditure is for the Government here and now to come to Parliament and ask for sanction for a substantial loan, £100,000,000 or more, as we did in a less grave situation 45 years ago. We need not expend it until we actually require it. But I believe that nothing would help the world more to-day than to know that England was going to make good the breaches in her defences. There is not a lover of peace in Europe or in the world but would be rejoiced to know that we were strengthening our defences and making ourselves better qualified to play our part in contributing to the peace of the world. I do not know when the time has been more opportune for raising a loan or when the expenditure of that loan could contribute more to afford that stimulus to industry which is one of the very objects for which we have maintained so low a rate of interest in this country. At any rate that is the suggestion that I put to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. At all costs this country, loving peace, anxious to contribute to world peace, wants to know that itself it is safe. My right hon. Friend said in July:At no moment during our stewardship will we fail to have an air force adequate to the circumstances that we might have to deal with.The country expects that those brave words will be made good, not only in respect of the air but in respect of the whole of our defences.
§ 10.39 p.m.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
This has been a remarkable Debate, in the course of which most of the speeches have been contributed without the smallest tinge of partisanship or rancour. On the whole, it has been a Debate which has turned the House of Commons into a real council of State. We have been discussing very serious issues, raising tremendous prob- 976 lems, as to which it is quite right and natural that different political views should develop, but I do feel, surveying the Debate as a whole, that we have some reason to congratulate ourselves on the moderation and the reasonableness with which the whole discussion has proceeded. We are indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) not only for raising this subject, but for the manner in which he has raised it. We had a contribution from the Father of the House which was truly paternal. Some of us have reason to know that Solomon spoke truth when he said:Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.There have been occasions when the right hon. Gentleman has used the rod against some of us pretty smartly, and we have very smartly responded. To-day I wish to acknowledge, and I believe the House will agree with me, with how much interest we listened to his survey, which, whether we agree with him or not, was based upon unrivalled experience. I believe in my heart that his is going to be in some respects a very valuable contribution in the days that are to come. I must also acknowledge with sincerity the contribution made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair), but I am bound to say that I did not clearly apprehend from him whether he felt on the whole disposed to accept or to oppose the proposals which were made by the Lord President of the Council. It naturally would be a great satisfaction to us to learn that, apart from details, he and his friends were prepared to lend them their general support.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I think I made it quite clear. If the right hon. Gentleman will do me the honour to look at the Official Report of my speech, I think he will see that I said we would take into careful consideration all that the Lord President of the Council had said this afternoon and that our case would be put before the House when the Service Estimates were submitted.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I must thank the right hon. Baronet sincerely for removing any lingering doubts that I might have had. I am the more satisfied to have so dogmatic a statement because as recently as 30th July, when the Lord President of the Council presented this 977 very scheme to the House, the right hon. Baronet and his friends put down an Amendment in which they said that they would not approve of any expansion of our own armaments unless it was clear that the Disarmament Conference had failed. Not only so, but they were so far from being clear in the month of July that those of them who were here voted against the Government, on that occasion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Now we understand where everybody stands.
I was asked to reply to a number of special points, and I must not allow the time that remains to me to pass without dealing with them. There were three or four questions. One was put by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). He pointed out that although the Lord President had informed the House very clearly of our information that German military expansion was taking the form of a change from the long service army of 100,000 to a peace-time short service army of 300,000, we had not added whether we had or had not information as to how that new body was being organised. I will add what is our information, namely, that my right hon. Friend below the Gangway was quite right, according to our information, when he suggested that the new German army was being organised in 21 divisions. I was next asked whether we could give any further information as to the arming of that force. We are bound to assume that this expanded, reorganised army is being equipped with a range of modern weapons, but as to the size and the calibre of the guns, I am not able to make a statement.
Then there was next a question asked with reference to the comparison between our Air Force and the figure presented to the House of the German Air Force, and it was pointed out that it was important to understand quite clearly the comparison or the contrast between a possible figure ranging betwen 600 and 1,000 German machines and figures given precisely of our own Air Service of 560 plus 127, equalling therefore 687 first-line machines, available at home, as well as a supplement to serve abroad. Several questions were asked first, as to the 127, which have been described as auxiliary machines. I reply to the question by saying, that these 127 machines, so far 978 as their design and performance are concerned, are 100 per cent. equal to our first-line machines; that is to say, they are not inferior in construction in any way. Therefore, we may fairly put the two figures together.
§ Sir J. SIMON
No, they are not. But it is more important still to appreciate that unless we follow this very closely, we are in danger of not comparing like with like as between the German and the British figures. When we speak of 600 or it may be more, German military machines, that is a figure which includes German military machines as far as we know, whether first-line machines or not, whereas the figures which have been given to the House as to our own first-line machines are, of course, limited to first-line machines. A question was put by the Noble Lord as to whether we could break up our estimates of the German total and give a figure strictly comparable with our own first-line defence. The answer is that we cannot, but the House will bear in mind that it is impossible to organise an Air Force on the basis that you have nothing in it but first-line machines. If that was so, the first time there was a, crash you would have no machine to put in its place, and you would never fly any machine by an expert pilot if you had not got training machines where pilots learned their jobs. So you may safely assume that the German figure, which is an over-all figure, must break up into parts. I do not wish to give precise figures, but as a matter of fact our first-line machines are not the greater part but they are the smaller part of our gross total.
Then there was another question of a technical kind, namely: What is the research work which is being conducted in order to deal with the question of air defence? I would say that I do not accept the proposition, and I do not believe experts will accept it, that there is in the proper sense no defence against air attack. The best proof to the contrary is this: There are many of us in this House with experiences in Flanders and France who know something of what it is to be attacked from the air, and who know the complaint that used to be made, "Why are we being bombed by German aeroplanes? What are our 979 fellows doing?" What is the use of saying that, unless our aeroplanes could give some protection? On the question of research work, I have to say that it is the subject of constant and sustained examination with the help of the best and most ingenious minds available. That research is not limited, valuable and skilled as it is, to permanent officials, for we are getting the help of skilled persons outside the range of Government Departments. I must not dream of disclosing the result obtained, but the Under-Secretary of State for Air authorises me to say that some encouraging progress is being made.
May I make reference to one or two more general points? The Father of the House in the course of his speech made two statements which were received with general approval and I should like to register them afresh at the end of the Debate. He said there was no division in this country between people who would do what they could to defend this country from attack, and people who would not. I think that was a very valuable thing for him to proclaim, not only to this House and to our fellow-countrymen, but to the world at large. He said, in the second place, and my right hon. Friend below the Gangway made the same point, that there are really no advocates of unilateral disarmament. I hope that that is also now an accepted proposition, for speaking from long experience of Geneva—and I shall be borne out by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal—I am completely convinced that our anticipation of that which all nations ought to have joined in doing—disarming ourselves in advance by ourselves by way of example—has not increased our negotiating power in the disarmament discussions at Geneva. It is not what the Americans would call a good talking point.
As regards the Debate as a whole, I wish to make one further statement with reference to the German figures mentioned here to-day. The Government have been making a special examination of this problem for some time, and the statement made here by the Lord President about Germany's rearmament was one we felt that should be made here only after Germany had been informed that it was about to be made. Instructions were therefore given that 980 that information should be presented to the German Chancellor before this Debate and at the same time, similar information was given to France, Italy, and the United States. I had the duty in respect of all four communications to give full explanations to their Ambassadors. One reason why we did that was that this is no Anglo-German problem; it is a European problem; it is a world problem. What is there we may hope to attain? Undoubtedly we have helped to clear away a great deal of uncertainty in our midst, and there ought to result the removal of some of the anxiety, suspicions and exaggeration following these straightforward announcements. The communications to which I have referred certainly constitute a new development. They may create a new situation. This country has taken the initiative in communicating direct to Germany. We proclaim, at any rate, that this is a world problem; and the solution of a world problem depends on agreement. No amount of argument that country "A" is right will be of any use unless you can get other countries to agree.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I have not forgotten that. It is no good unless we can get an agreement. If we can get it, we should like agreed disarmament at a very low level—our draft Convention surely shows that. If we can get it, so much the better, but if there is no possibility of that and we cannot get the unattainable ideal, we must seek to secure agreement at the lowest level at which it can be got.
The House is now full, and it may be that not everybody knows that there is an Amendment to the proposed Amendment. It is a manuscript Amendment, and probably few bon. Members know its terms. It was moved at the last moment by hon. Gentlemen opposite. It attempts to set up a contrast between a certain policy and what it calls the counter-policy of the Government. I look to see what is the policy to which the Government's policy is counter, and I find it to be a policy which would aim at "the maintenance of world peace and the desirability of the Disarmament Conference attaining definite results." Well, we have just had the assurance of the 981 Leader of the Opposition that they do not wish to raise party points about peace, but it does appear to me that this Debate has shown how petty and paltry is the purely party and partisan point of view when we are discussing great issues. We declare afresh, as we have declared before, that we are for regulated limitation as opposed to competitive unregulated armaments, and we ask the House to help us, as indeed the House has helped us to-day, to treat this as constituting, we hope, a new opportunity aiming, as my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) said, at
§ pursuing a policy to turn Europe towards peace—an opportunity based, not on the prescriptions of the post-war period, but on a new effort to establish more firmly a secure prospect of peace in the world.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added to the proposed Amendment."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 35; Noes, 276.983
|Division No. 4.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Banfield, John William||Griffiths, George A. (Yorks. W. Riding)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Batey, Joseph||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cove, William G.||Kirk wood, David||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Daggar, George||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Leonard, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Davies, Stephen Owen||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Dobble, William||Mainwaring, William Henry||Mr. G. Macdonald and Mr. Groves.|
|Edwards, Charles||Milner, Major James|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Gibson, Charles Granville|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Gillett, Sir George Masterman|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Glimour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Gluckstein, Louis Haile|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Christie, James Archibald||Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Goldie, Noel B.|
|Assheton, Raiph||Clarke, Frank||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Clayton, Sir Christopher||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Clydesdale, Marquess of||Greene, William P. C.|
|Balley, Eric Alfred George||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Grigg, Sir Edward|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Colfox, Major William Philip||Grimston, R. V.|
|Balniel, Lord||Colman, N. C. D.||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Conant, R. J. E.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.|
|Bateman, A. L.||Cooke, Douglas||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Copeland, Ida||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Guy, J. C. Morrison|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Bernays, Robert||Critchley, Brig.-General A. C.||Hanbury, Cecil|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Borodale, Viscount||Crooke, J. Smedley||Hartland, George A.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Galnsb'ro)||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Croom-Johnson, R, P.||Headiam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Crossley, A. C.||Hepworth, Joseph|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Bracken, Brendan||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Hope, Sydney (Chester, Staiybridge)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Davison, Sir William Henry||Hopkinson, Austin|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Doran, Edward||Hore-Belisha, Leslie|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Drewe, Cedric||Hornby, Frank|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Duckworth, George A. V||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Eastwood, John Francis||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Eden, Rt. Hon. Anthony||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.|
|Burghley, Lord||Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)|
|Burnett, John George||Eimley, Viscount||Hume, Sir George Hopwood|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Caine, G. R. Hall-||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmiy)||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Iveagh, Countess of|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Fox, Sir Gifford||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Jamieson, Douglas|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Ganzonl, Sir John||Jennings, Roland|
|Jesson, Major Thomas E.||North, Edward T.||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Nunn, William||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Haslam)|
|Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||O'Connor, Terence James||Smith, Sir Robert (Ab'd'n & K'dine, C)|
|Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Soper, Richard|
|Kirkpatrick, William M.||Ormiston, Thomas||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Orr Ewing, I. L.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Lamb, sir Joseph Quinton||Palmer, Francis Noel||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Patrick, Colin M.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Peat, Charles U.||Spens, William Patrick|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Penny, Sir George||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W 'morland)|
|Lloyd, Geoffrey||Petherick, M.||Stones, James|
|Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G.(Wd. Gr'n)||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)||Storey, Samuel|
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Pike, Cecil F.||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Eveiyn G. H.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Power, Sir John Cecil||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.|
|Loftus, Pierce C.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Sugden, sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Pybus, Sir John||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Mabane, William||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.(P'dd'gt'n,S.)|
|Mac Andrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Templeton, William P.|
|McConnell, Sir Joseph||Ratcllffe, Arthur||Thompson, Sir Luke|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Macdonald, sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Remer, John R.||Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of w.)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Rickards, George William||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|McLean, Major Sir Alan||Ropner, Colonel L.||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Ward, Lt.-Col Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Ross, Ronald D.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Magnay, Thomas||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'taide)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Martin, Thomas B.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Milne, Charles||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Salmon, Sir Isidore||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Salt, Edward W.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Savery, Samuel Servington||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Scone, Lord||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Morrison, William Shepherd||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Munro, Patrick||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Nail, Sir Joseph||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)||Captain Margesson and Mr. Blindell.|
Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Question again proposed, "That the proposed words be added at the end of the Main Question."
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.