HC Deb 18 December 1935 vol 307 cc1855-905

Postponed Proceeding resumed on Question, That this House is of opinion that serious consideration should be given to the desirability of an international police force for the better maintenance of world order and a tribunal in equity to provide for peaceful change."—[Mr. Mander.]

7.58 p.m.


Before the light and liquid interlude which has just concluded I was endeavouring to give three examples of the use of international force. I have referred to the fact that the despatch of an international force to the Saar created a valuable precedent and showed to people, who up to the last were hesitant about the possibilities in that case, that such a force could be used effectively, that its mere presence made for the pacification of the area because it was known that the whole world was interested in that spot and that the forces of the whole world were behind that limited international force. Let me refer to an earlier example, the proposals placed before the Air Commission at the Disarmament Conference by M. Pierre Cot in connection with the abolition of military aviation and the internationalisation of civil aviation. It had been pointed out that if that took place there was a rea danger that some traitor State might seize all the civil aircraft within its territory and convert them into bombing machines to drop bombs on some foreign capital.

The answer proposed by the French Government was that, there should be, under the control of the League of Nations, an international aerial police force which, because it was highly organised and because of its greatly superior speed to any hastily improvised and necessarily slower civil aircraft, could in a short time set out on the aerial routes and meet and destroy the suggested bombers. I think some reply to that difficulty was given in the practical proposal that was laid before the Disarmament Conference by one of the great nations of the world. I venture to hope that when the Disarmament Conference reassembles, as I hope it may in due course, the British Government will give it somewhat more sympathetic consideration and less obstruction than it did on, the previous occasion, and if it is found in practice that an aerial police force used for that very limited purpose is effective and practical, it may well be, as many of us hope, that it will form a precedent for using that force on a very much wider scale for the preservation of world order as a whole.

There is the other example of the Western Air Pact. That again is potentially an international aerial police force, and a reference to that was made by the Under-Secretary of litate for Air in a Debate in the course of this year. Potentially, four Powers in that pact would act together against a fifth Power who might have acted as an aggressor, and it would certainly seem that a very substantial advance has been made. If such a pact can actually be worked out in practice, very important experience will have been gained as to how far we can move in that direction.

I would like, in dealing with the practicability of an international police force, to quote the words of a very distinguished Air officer in this country, Air Commodore Fellowes, who in company with a distinguished Member of this House flew over the top of Mount Everest. At a recent conference he used these words: I defy any acknowledged expert whatsoever to say that it is impossible to organise, to administer, and to operate an international force. He was referring to an international air force. There you have it stated as a technical possibility from one whose qualifications cannot be challenged. We all know the main difficulties are political, and it is for us as politicians to overcome those difficulties.

I turn now to the third example in connection with naval action. I would venture to point out that in the present dispute between Italy and Abyssinia we have a potential example of international naval force action. Supposing that at any moment since sanctions were commenced—and the danger existed from the very beginning when they were imposed—Mussolini had taken it into his head to reply with military action, as he might have done long ago without waiting for oil sanctions. It was, I understand, agreed long ago that any action we might take as part of the League of Nations sanctions policy would be supported and defended by the French Fleet and by the other Fleets belonging to the League of Nations. We should have had, in fact, an international Navy, composed of British, French and other Fleets, resisting the aggressor. That might have happened during the last few weeks and it may happen in the future. We do not know whether the French Fleet would in practice actually turn up or not. There are very grave doubts as to whether it would be there on the day when it was required. That is an argument which proves that if you are to organise on some international basis it should not be ad hoc, should not be composite for the occasion, but organised on an international basis so that when the order was given by the international authority it would be there without any shadow of a doubt, and there would be no question of some national contingent saying, "We are not going to do anything that would annoy the aggressor. We cannot go because the aggressor has told us he does not like it."

The international force would simply obey the order given by the international authority and go out and preserve order. It may be said that such a thing is impracticable, that it is difficult to conceive of the many countries acting together for any joint defence purposes of this kind. It was not so many centuries ago that this country was divided up into seven different kingdoms, and I have no doubt there were people in those days who suggested that it might be possible on some occasion in the future to organise into one kingdom. I have no doubt that they were scoffed at as hopelessly impractical cranks and that it was said that their idea was contrary to human nature and quite fantastic. The national practice, as we have found it here, has now got to be moved on and developed over a world area, and we shall find that the best way of preserving world order is to do what we have done inside our own country, organise a national police force for preserving order. So in the world we should organise an international police force for keeping order. It is not enough simply to hold the world down as it is organised at the present time. The world, as the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, if he still is Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, said at Geneva in his admirable speech, that the world is not static and some arrangements must be made for change.

There is provision for it in Article 19 of the Covenant of the League and we must give life to Article 19. In our national experience, if changes in the law are necessary we make them through legislative institutions, through Parliament. There is no world parliament, but in the dim and distant future such an organism may arise, and we have to find some machinery which will perform the function that a world parliament would perform. We have to place the legislative function in commission until there is some other means of dealing with it. There are various ways to do that. I am going to allude to three different proposals. I do not want to limit the terms of my resolution to one only.

There is the Permanent World Court of International Justice at the Hague. It deals with purely justiciable disputes. It has been suggested that it might be authorised to deal with political disputes. As a matter of fact there is the precedent of the well-known dispute of the Geneva Zones between France and Switzerland. When in the end an actual decision had to be made as to what was a just arrangement to make, changing the existing law, it was left to the World Court and they did come to a decision, altering international law, which was accepted by France and Switzerland and has led to a peaceful solution of that very difficult and tiresome problem. There is the precedent so far as the World Court is concerned. There are others who think it is not fair or wise to place these functions on judges trained in the law, and who say that you want another tribunal, ex aequo et bono, to deal with questions on the basis of what is politically wise and just. The definition which has been given to the tribunal might well be taken from that given in the words of the 1924 Protocol when it said that the tribunal ex aequo et bono should be composed of persons who "by their national and their personal character and by their experience appear to furnish the highest guarantees of confidence and impartiality."

The other method of dealing with it would be through the Council of the League of Nations appointing special ad hoc committees for the purpose, and there have been valuable precedents, one at the beginning and one at the end of their work as far as it has gone up to the present time. The first one was the dispute between Finland and Sweden about the Aaland Islands. An entirely expert commission was appointed and worked out a suggested settlement which was accepted by both parties and has led to peace and harmony between those two countries right up to the present. We have had the Report of the Lytton Committee, an admirable report, objective, neutral, which would have led to a satisfactory and just settlement of the whole problem out there if it had been carried out. It was not carried out because the world at that time had not the basis of an international police force to see that the will of the world was carried out and that the aggressor should not be allowed to get away with it and do exactly what he liked as he did in the case of Manchuria.

Have we not a lesson to learn at the present time in the dispute between Italy and Abyssinia? We have seen the grave difficulties and dangers and even the scandals that have arisen through attempting to settle this question on the lines of political expediency and bargaining because of some remote and secret danger which is supposed to exist. Would it not be much better to refer this question to such a tribunal as I suggested, composed of people with the qualifications I referred to, who would look at this question objectively and impartially and with a view to what is fair and equitable? Having propounded such a solution it would have the backing of the League of Nations. It should be made clear to the aggressor that these were the only terms that would be accepted, and the pre sure of sanctions should be continued increasingly until the aggressor reached such a state of mind that it was willing to accept these proposals of the League.

If the present sanctions are not enough let us go a step further and apply oil sanctions. If oil sanctions are not enough let us go a step further and cut off Italy from Africa. There is no doubt at all that finality would be reached by pressure of this kind. What is quite impossible is that we should start on the policy of sanctions, and then half way through abandon it and thereby let down every nation who has come in on our request to co-operate in the application of sanctions, and let down the great trust which rests upon the shoulders of this country at the present time.

I hope that serious consideration will be given, in the present difficult situation, to handing over the question of terms of settlement to some body other than one which is purely political and moved by questions of expediency. Here again we are simply proposing to adapt our own practice in this country to the world arena. If there is a territorial dispute in England between one local authority and another we do not go to war about it. To take an example, near my own constituency, suppose that Wolverhampton had designs upon the County of Stafford, as has happened before now, and wanted to extend the borough boundary. There would be no arming and no military language. The parties would place their case before a tribunal in equity appointed by this House and consisting of Members of this House. The case would be argued peacefully within these precincts. A just and fair settlement would be arrived at and it would be carried out, because it would be known that the whole forces of this country were behind that settlement. It is our own British and Imperial practice in many matters that we want to see put into operation for the benefit of the world.

The policy indicated in this Motion is only an extension, I will not say of the Government's policy, because, frankly, I do not know what that is, but of the policy on which the Government won the General Election and obtained their majorityy of 250. Without that policy, they would never have obtained that majority or indeed any majority at all. I trust that it is still their policy and that what has happened is just a temporary aberration which will soon be forgotten. But what the Motion proposes is just an extension of and in the long run is implicit in the policy on which they stood at the Election. I am not saying that the terms of my Motion should be put into operation now or at any particular time. I am asking that serious consideration should be given to this method of dealing with a terrible and menacing question. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr) has put down an Amendment to the Motion. I do not really object to the terms of the Amendment and it is not inconsistent with the Motion. There is no reason why a study of this matter should not go on. I do not suggest that this method of settling disputes can be put into practice at the present time, but I say that serious study ought to be given to it, in view of the dark clouds which we see on the horizon and at a time when all of us desire that every possible step should be taken to avoid the gathering storm.


I beg to second the Motion.

8.19 p.m.


I support the Motion, as a realist and not as a visionary or an idealist. In my view, world peace will never be firmly and completely established until the proposals mentioned in the Motion are put into practice. Most Members will agree that the bulk of the world to-day desires peace and if one is right in assuming that it will be necessary to have such machinery as this, as a necessary precondition of a firmly established peace, I refuse to believe that that is an impracticable proposition or a mere Utopian dream. It is a practical proposal. I know the difficulties of bringing it about, but it is as a practical proposal that I support it. It will be agreed that ethical standards have only been established under a rule of law and order and that law and order have only been established, gradually, through progressively increasing material sanctions. That statement certainly applies in domestic affairs. It is a commonplace of the history of the civilisation and what applies in domestic affairs, in my view, is a complete analogy with what will have to take place in international affairs. It is true that once you haave a certain order and civilisation in society, habits and customs grow up and the degree of the strength of your sanctions is progressively diminished. But, even to-day, I submit, in many instances mass psychology is of a very low order and the material sanctions which are always present in any domestic system of affairs are necessary for the preservation and maintenance of our ethical standards.

The Covenant of the League of Nations is, to use the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), a majestic structure, and in my humble view it is the only hope of permanent peace in the world. These proposals for the establishment of a tribunal in equity and an international police force are designed to strengthen the power of the League. They are in no way contrary to the League, but rather implement and give the League force to carry out the principles laid down in the Covenant. Majestic as the Covenant is, I think it will be admitted by the greatest enthusiast for the League that the machinery of the League is in many respects tenuous and vague, and that the several parts of the Covenant in many respects lack cohesion and unity. Anyone who reads through the Articles of the Covenant carefully must admit that there are great gaps still to be filled up in the machinery of the League. Fortunately, we have seen that, with good will those gaps can be filled up even ad hoc in dealing with a particular dispute. We have seen the very remarkable exhibition of unity which has been displayed over the application of the economic sanctions. But, I submit that you will never obtain that complete unity between the several Articles of the Covenant which is necessary until you have more effective machinery such as that proposed in the Motion.

I am a very enthusiastic supporter of the League of Nations, but I think it is a mistake to attempt to put too great a burden on the League until you have provided effective machinery for the support of such a burden. Too hot enthusiasm can be almost of as much disservice as indifference or hostility. The inherent difficulty in the Italo-Abyssinia affair has undoubtedly been the uncertainty as to what collective support will be forthcoming when it comes to the practical application of any given sanction. I should have thought that our experience in this dispute would have emphasised the importance of setting up machinery which will be more certain in its operation. There is no doubt that if you are to get effective machinery, it is far better to have it set up and to know how it will work before a dispute arises. It is always unsatisfactory to have to build up the machinery to deal ad hoc with any given dispute. That is the essence of these proposals, and I think it is important to emphasise that both parts of this Motion are essential. One is not sufficient without the other. You must have the tribunal in equity as well as the international police force, and the tribunal must have ample and adequate powers.

I always feel, when one talks about means of securing peace, that there is no attempt to reconcile what are strictly incompatible, namely, peace in the world and complete sovereign independence of each individual nation. If it is wrong to submit a dispute to the arbitrament of arms, clearly then a nation cannot be entirely its own judge over its own affairs or punish its own wrongdoings. The very essence of the League of Nations is that when it comes to disputes between nations, there must be a tribunal to adjudicate on these questions and that the matter cannot be left entirely to the parties themselves. This tribunal must have the power to judge or settle a dispute on the broadest possible grounds. It cannot be based purely on juridical grounds—that is an impossibility in dealing with internatianal affairs—and the grounds cannot be static in character. They must be flexible and have inherent in them the power to effect changes. That is recognised in the Covenant of the League of Nations, and it is set out in Article 19, but that, unfortunately, is one of the Articles which is more lacking in machinery almost than any other Article in the Covenant; and we shall probably be faced with difficulties under that Article in the case of Germany before very long. We must recognise that before we can get machinery to act, we must have a tribunal which has the widest possible powers both to rectify Treaties and to settle disputes on the broadest possible grow ads of equity and policy, and on practical as well as on purely juridical considerations, because, as I have already said, it is impossible to lay down definite rules which will be available in determining the varieties of disputes which can arise between nations. One of the essential ingredients, therefore, in the powers of a tribunal must be to effect this change which is contemplated by Article 19 of the Covenant of the League of Nations.

The hon. Member who moved the Motion referred to the objection which is raised to any proposa of this kind, the objection always being that it is not practicable. I have already said that I support the Motion on realistic, not on idealistic, grounds, although I support it on those as well. Is it impracticable? We have heard in the past of many things being impracticable which, within even a very short time afterwards, have proved practicable when these was the will to make them so. We are familiar with all that was said not so long ago in this House about economic sanctions. So great a supporter of the League of Nations as the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) only a short time ago expressed the view that economic sanctions we re probably impossible without bringing about war, and yet we find that there is no stronger supporter of economic sanctions to-day than that right hon. Gentleman. The difficulties of working econcmic sanctions have been very obvious in the proceedings at Geneva, but it is a fact that when they settled down to it, certain principles were laid down and machinery was devised. We have not yet had the opportunity to see how it will work in practice, but there is no doubt that all the preliminary machinery has been practicable.

When it comes to a question of the actual establishment of a police force, we know that there are always difficulties in getting a homogeneous force when there is a variety of allied nations, but it has been achieved in the past. We had to achieve it in the last war in order to attain the success that the Allies did attain. I have no doubt there are many critics of the acts of the Supreme War Council during the War, but the fact remains that co-ordination and an international force were obtained and eventually, at any rate in the last few months of the War, operated with great effect. History is full of instances. Perhaps no greater difficulties faced any man than those encountered by the Duke of Marlborough, and the forces at his disposal were probably about as conglomerate in their character as any allied forces in the history of the world. Then we had another instance—true, not nearly so difficult as the international force which is contemplated in this Motion, but nevertheless so difficult that it would have been considered impracticable prior to its being attempted—in the international police force in the Saar. There were difficulties in the establishment of that force; not only were they overcome, but never has anything worked so well in practice as the international police force in the Saar.

When those who support the idea of a tribunal in equity and an international police force speak of that force, we mean, at any rate within any approximate future, an international air police force, and the importance of that is on this very question of practicability. There is no doubt that strategic and administrative difficulties are far less in the operation of an air force than in the operation of either a military or a naval force, from the very nature of the fighting weapon—a single unit, of course working in formation—but the whole of the administrative and strategic questions involved are relatively simple compared with those involved in an army or a navy, and it is for that reason that it is not suggested that this force, at any rate in its inception, should be anything more than an air force. There is another necessary condition before an international air police force could be established: Each nation must give up its own national military air force. If it is said, "Then you immediately come into the realm of ideals," I submit that it is not so, because we have only to look at the various proceedings and discussions on disarmament which have taken place at Geneva to see that a great many nations, including our own, have expressly said they were willing to give up their own military air forces on one condition, that condition being that there should be effective control of civil aviation.

I submit that there have been many methods suggested for the control of civil aviation, but I do not think it could be disputed that if you did have an international military air force, that would be a very effective control of civil aviation. The whole reason why this emphasis is laid on the control of civil aviation is that civil aeroplanes are potentially war planes and can be converted, and the power would be given to that country that had the largest number of civil aeroplanes. That danger would not arise if we had an international air police force which was the only force which contained military aeroplanes. We have already expressed our willingness to abolish military aeroplanes subject to this control of civil aeroplanes. France has certainly done so. I have not the list of the various nations that have agreed, but I think that in view of those who have already expressed their assent, it cannot be said that there would be any difficulty in having that condition complied with if military air forces were abolished and an international military air force established.

Such a force would be a homogeneous military air force recruited as an international force as one unity, not necessarily with contingents subscribed to ad hoc by various countries, but it would be established and its machinery would be worked as one unit. When one speaks about that being impracticable, we should remember that our country recently entered into an agreement with France with regard to the Western Air Pact. The proposals were more than merely draft proposals because there was an agreement on the matter between France and this country, and the only reason why it is not in force is that it was made conditional upon the adherence of other nations. Surely the administrative difficulties in operating the Western Air Pact are just as great as they would be in administering an international military air police force. Not only would the administration be as difficult but it would be much less effective, because it would be more uncertain in its action than a homogeneous force set up as proposed in this Motion. I repeat what was said by the Mover of the Motion, that the real difficulties in the way of establishing this tribunal in equity and an international military air police force, are political and not technical. I am sure that if you could get rid of the political objections, all the technical ones could readily be surmounted.

I finish with this candid admission. Of course, an international police force cannot be set up without the consent of other nations; otherwise, it would not be international. It necessarily presupposes the adherence to the idea of establishing a force by, at any rate, the preponderating number of nations in Europe. I think that one could make a start with it in Europe. It would be too ambitious to make it a world force in its initial stages, and we would have to restrict it in its inception to Europe. That would mean the adherence of the preponderating number of nations in Europe, and it is not, therefore, a matter which this Government can bring into operation of its own will. All I appeal to the Government to do is to take the initiative in endeavouring to obtain that adherence of the preponderating number of nations to this idea. We are now committed to the principle of collective action and the principles laid down in the Covenant of the League of Nations. I submit that this scheme is only providing the very machinery without which we have had all the difficulties that have arisen over the Italian and Abyssinian affair. I do appeal to the Government to say that they are prepared to take the initiative in endeavouring to obtain a sufficient adherence by the nations of Europe to render the establishment of this force and tribunal possible.

8.40 p.m.


I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: while warmly supporting the ideals of collective security and international justice, holds that the time is not yet ripe for proposals as definite as those outlined in the Motion. I am certain the House will be grateful to the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mandel) for raising this issue. He has spoken with sincerity and eloquence on a subject which he has studied with care, and upon which he feels deeply. When, however, we consider the terms of his Motion we must draw a distinction between the underlying principle and its application. We applaud the principle, for whatever adds to the force and majesty of international authority, whatever measure deters the aggressor from future aggression, we naturally support. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton and the hon. and learned Member for Bolton (Mr. Entwistle) argued that we must arm justice, that we must give justice, in the shape of an international authority, not only the scales which weigh human behaviour, but the sword of temporal power. Such a proposition would have delighted the ingenious and eloquent jurists of the Holy Roman Empire. It likewise has found an eloquent advocate in this century in M. Pierre Cot a former French Air Minister.

But when we consider the application of this principle, considerable technical difficulties arise. Let is look at the one or two examples of international police forces which history shows. There was the international police force of 1900, commanded by General Waldersee, which went to Peking to relive the imprisoned legations, and put to flight the ill-organised and ill-equipped forces of the Dowager Empress. There was the instance given by the hon. Member who moved the Motion, of the Saar police force earlier this year That force went to the Saar with the support, if not the invitation, of the two great Powers concerned, Germany and. France. When it arrived on the scene, it was faced by no hostile armed forces. Therefore, although the example is valuable, we must feel that it is not a fair instance of an armed force in the field. I think that the best example of internatioral co-operation for means of defence to-day exists in the British Commonwealth of Nations. The first characteristic of the British Commonwealth of Nations is a desire for co-operation. Therefore, the Committee of Imperial Defence, when it embarks on its deliberations, knows that its judgments will be accepted more or less by the several members of the Commonwealth. Officers come from the Dominions to the Imperial Staff College to study strategy and tactics. A certain community of ideas therefore exists when an emergency arises. Secondly, there is a standardisation of weapons and equipment which is carried out between the several forces in the British Commonwealth. Most of those forces drill according to the same drill manuals, and they use the same types of munitions. Thus, should an emergency arise, co-operation becomes easy and is readily carried out. Thirdly, the several Dominions undertake financial responsibility for their respective forces. Those are the three conditions which make possible co-operation between the several members of the British Commonwealth.

Can we, wise with this experience, apply some of those facts to the organisation of an international police force? When we come to study the world as a whole we must frankly admit that a general desire for co-operation does not exist. Three great Powers stand outside the League of Nations. There is the United States of America, which, since the days of George Washington, attempts to follow a policy of isolation, and looks with disfavour on European commitments. There is Japan, which, faced with the problem of a fast rising population and with the problem of providing raw materials to industrialise her economic system, seeks outlets on the mainland of Asia. Finally, there is Germany, that great Power in the centre of Europe, which bases its present philosophy on the supremacy of the Aryan race. These three great Powers, unfortunately, stand in the way of complete world co-operation. Therefore, we must frankly admit that conditions, unfortunately, do not exist in the world as a whole for the immediate creation of a police force which depends upon the willingness of the several members to co-operate.

Let us narrow the field to Europe. Even in Europe the absence of Germany from the League presents an enormous difficulty. I cited the instance of the Committee of Imperial Defence devising a common strategy for the British Empire. We must likewise, if the comparison is to be fair, draw the picture of a general staff of this world police force. A police force demands a general staff, commanding officers, and an intelligence service. Can we, in the present unfortunate temper of the world, imagine a staff officer representing a certain nation listening to his colleagues working out plans for applying military measures against his country in the event of his country being an aggressor? Can we imagine him listening with equanimity to his colleagues saying: "The chief aim of our naval blockade would be to deprive you of nickel and of oil, upon which you base your economy. Our authorities believe that a rigorous bombardment with mustard gas of your industrial areas will paralyse your economic system and cow the morale of your civil population." He would be the first, I am afraid, to go back and reveal those plans to his own country, and advise his country so to equip its economic life as to resist any possibility of economic strangulation. Then, in the British Commonwealth there exists a standardisation of weapons and equipment. Is such a measure possible in the organisation of an international police force? At the present moment arms are turned out by the factories of Creusot, Skoda and Krupp, and in the event of an international police force taking the field we can well imagine the disorganisation in the matter of arms among the separate contingents along the lines of communication—always the Achilles Heel of an army.

Finally, we have the question of finance. We must admit, regretfully, that only too often nations have been behind-hand already with their payments to the League of Nations. Can we not well imagine, in the economic crisis prevailing, the Chancellor of the Exchequer of some other nation announcing in his constituent assembly "Unfortunately this year we have had to raise taxes, and we shall have to raise them still more, because our expeditionary force against country X has been an additional strain on our resources." Those arguments seem to me very grave and almost insuperable when we consider the immediate creation of an international police force. Because two requisites for the success of such a force are lacking in Europe at the present moment. The first is that, to be really effective, an international police force should act in a disarmed world. The police in this country are assured of popular support not only by public opinion but because their criminal opponents do not possess weapons. But in a highly armed world an internatnonal police force would necessarily have to possess twice the number of arms of any possible opponent in order to ensure its success.

Secondly, nations have not as yet agreed upon a satisfactory definition of aggression. Many interesting proposals have been put forward, notably the Russian proposal. But such a case as the following might possibly arise. It arose in the Sino-Japanese conflict of 1894. A Chinese transport was proceeding with troops towards Korea to reinforce the Chinese garrisons in that province. A Japanese war vessel came down and sunk the transport and its escort. Who, in this instance, was the aggressor: China, who was sending reinforcements to her garrisons in Korea, probably against Japan, or Japan, who sunk those reinforcements? Since the essence of modern war is speed, a delicate discussion on a subject would really invalidate swift action by a League force. The French plan of 1932 put forward a more ingenious suggestion. It suggested that nations should set apart from among their armed forces separate contingents which, in an emergency, would be able to form the international police force. But, again, grave difficulties arise. Because presumably the officers and men composing those forces would have to swear allegiance to an international authority. They would be, so to speak, extra-territorial units in their own country, and it is one of the fundamental principles of democracies like France and England that the armed forces are under the control of the individual Parliaments.

I am afraid, again, difficulties like those would arise when we come to discuss the principle, so eloquently outlined by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, of a tribunal in equity. This idea has been outlined for Empire purposes—a Commonwealth tribunal—but so far the separate members of the British Commonwealth have not agreed as to its exact constitution. It would be interesting to see how this experiment would work. But, in the troubled state of Europe, we can imagine instances arising somewhat like the following. Say that Hungary went to this tribunal of equity to plead for the revision of the frontiers which the Treaty of the Trianon imposed upon her. Her neighbours of the Little Entente would have had to consent beforehand to an abrogation of their authority in this respect, that they would be willing to accept the findings of this tribunal of equity. I am afraid that in the troubled state of Central Europe, M. Titulescu and his colleagues would not be willing at the present moment, except under very grave threats of force, to accept the decision of such a, tribunal.

It seems to me that, in judging international affairs the saying of the Seventeenth Century French wit and philosopher, La Rochefoueauld, bears a great deal of truth. He said "We should keep a certain proportion between our actions and designs if we wish to draw from them the results they are able to produce."If we limit our objectives, very often we have a, better chance of achieving them. Scientists tell us that so comparatively an uninteresting object as the human foot took 18,000,000 years to develop, and I am certain that a very great idea like that of inter national co-operation must take a certain time to develop. At the present moment we are progressing, I think, aloe; the one possible line—regional security pacts. The classic example of such a pact is Locarno. I hope in time that the idea of mutual assistance contained in this pact will spread all over Europe, and that we shall see the conscience of eankind raised to a state in which all men are willing to act together for the good of the whole. From these small local and regional pacts there may, in the future, be a great security system built up in Europe, and Europe may be as united as she was in those days when Charlemagne, at the height of his power, ruled from Aix-la-Chapelle.

8.56 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I should like to join with my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. H. Kerr) in congratulating the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) on the competence and sincerity with which he has once more pressed forward the same Motion as we had the pleasure of hearing from him about two years ago. I should like to congratulate him also upon the persistence with which he returns to this particularly difficult subject. The more one considers the subject, the more one comes to the conclusion that of all the difficulties associated with an international police force of the kind that the hon. Member envisages, the chief difficulty will be to find an ideal leader for that force. If anybody has qualified himself by assiduity in probing into the depths of this difficult problem, it is my hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton. He seemed to make some suggestion two years ago as to whether it might not be difficult to seepre recruits for that army. I cannot help feeling that if the potential recruits have the privilege of serving under the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton and of listening to his commands in excellent and eloquent Esperanto, there will be less difficulty in securing the recruits desired.

I should like to draw attention to one other observation the hon. Member made two years ago, and to ask whether the unreality that has since been shown to have hung around the discussion at that time will not in all probability be found also to enshroud the speech that my hon. Friend has made this evening. Two years ago he made suggestions, in the course of a similar discussion, as to the sating up of an international authority which would give the orders to this international force, and he recognised, as indeed he was bound to recognise, that if a unanimous decision were required, it would be very unlikely that any decision would ever be arrived at. He came down from the high level of unanimity and said that perhaps a two-thirds majority might be adequate for the decisions of that body. I am not going to labour the subject now, because to-morrow there will be a full discussion on this complicated problem, but I would ask him to consider between now and to-morrow afternoon's discussion whether he would consent to a two-thirds decision on the oil sanctions as binding upon His Majesty's Government, at the present critical moment in international affairs.

He then said that it was possible in the future that Germany would have 500 first-line aircraft. When we are discussing Germany's aircraft rearmament, it is not whether Germany has 500 aircraft that occupies our discussion now, but whether or not the building programme has yet brought Germany up to her figure of 2,000 by the end of this year. The hon. Member warned His Majesty's Government that they might, in the comparatively near future, be receiving from the Italian Government an interesting communication of great moment. He was referring, I believe, to suggestions for facilitating the government of the League of Nations. He said: I understand from the Press that the Government are likely in the near future to have certain proposals made by Italy … I have no doubt that … if they are found to strengthen and increase the power and influence of the League they will receive every sympathy and support."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1933; col. 451, Vol, 284.] Unhappily there have been observations and suggestions by the Italian Government that have scarcely taken the form that the hon. Member had in mind. I cannot help feeling that some of the pious aspirations to which he has just given expression will be found in two years' time to be equally without foundation.

The hon. Member seems entirely to have overlooked the fact of the absence from the League of Nations of the United States, Germany and Japan, three of the most powerful nations. He has forgotten also that an effective international police force presupposes world disarmament. My experience in my own constituency is that members of his party are inclined to gloss over increases in national armament in other countries and to think that in this country we pursue almost alone a policy of unilateral rearmament. I hope that it is germane to this discussion to remind the hon. Member that since the start of the recent development in naval expenditure the United States has increased by over 60 per cent. and Japan by well over 100 per cent., expenditure on naval armaments. It is obvious that, if an international police force is to be effective, it must be stronger than the strongest possible potential opponent. Otherwise I am reminded of the cynical cartoon that appeared two years ago in a French newspaper. It portrayed a League Fleet preparing for action in Port Arthur and there was a picture of a Japanese Admiral dictating a despatch to be sent from Port Arthur: Deeply regret unfortunate accident honourable League ships. The hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Entwistle) entirely overlooked the circumstance that it is impossible to envisage an effective international force which is confined purely to an air force. The same mistake was made by the hon. and gallant Member for Carlisle (Brigadier-General Spears) who, I think, seconded the Motion of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton two years ago. He said that it would be quite possible to have an effective international force which was purely and simply an international air force.

There are two misapprehensions in regard to the air problem and both find expression in this House. One is the view, to which I do not subscribe, although it is the view of the Prime Minister whom I support, that there is no effective defence against air attack. I do not believe that to be true; anyhow, it is not proved true. The other misapprehension, obviously held by the hon. and learned Member for Bolton, is that an effective, overwhelming and victorious stroke could be made by an international air force operating against a national army or a national navy in collaboration with their national air force as well. We have only to follow what has happened in the Abyssinian campaign to find that some of the high hopes held out as to the speedy conclusion of hostilities because the air position was strong have not been justified.

I suggest a problem to hon. Members: In the event of the Army of one nation invading the territory of another and occupying a somewhat crowded industrial centre, and the armed forces of the League being confined simply to an air force, how is it suggested that a punitive force should be brought to bear? Should you bomb the town that has been occupied by the invading army and destroy at one and the same time the invaders and the inhabitants, or should you go back behind the lines and bomb the cities vacated by that army and destroy, in the name of the international army, the noncombatant people left behind? To pose these questions does not mean that we are not sympathetic with the natural and laudable desire of the hon. Member to try to suggest how we could best evolve a system which will permanently maintain peace. I think he would agree that the problems which I have suggested have only to be read in order to be appreciated.

The hon. Member for Oldham touched on another problem of great importance and that is the problem of speed in modern warfare. I take it that there is little likelihood that tie warfare of the future will change, but he who strikes first obviously has an advantage. In the French proposals of 1932 on this question of an international force, it was suggested that there should be kept in the different towns of Europe units of the world force, recruited in the name of the League of Nations, which could be brought to bear against an aggressor in the event of aggression taking place. When the French Government and the French people put forward those proposals at Geneva, the problem that worried me and still worries me a good deal is, when are these troops to be mobilised? Are they to be mobilised at the first suggestion of aggression, and, if so, is it not likely that the mere fact of mobilisation will mean that the threat of aggression will be followed by earlier action on the part of enemy Powers? Or are they to wait until the act of aggression has taken place? In that case, if the act of aggression is done by an air force, then by waiting they will have lost so much advantage that their victory will be by no means certain.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham drew attention to another problem that springs out of the problem I have just suggested. In any effective modern campaign, it is essential that the general staff should work out in advance the plan of campaign against the suggested enemy. Everyone knows that in this country in earlier days, and no doubt it is done now, plans of campaign against anybody who might attack our possessions or imperil our safety have been gone over in the Staff College of this country. In the future, presumably, if we have an international army, the international general staff must consider plans, not against one or two possible breakers of the peace, as we, acting alone, might be obliged to do, but against every nation in the world that might at some time or another break the world peace. This general staff would be composed of nationals of the different countries—men who would not only, if they are to be successful, have to possess almost unique military and political powers, but also, what really goes with that, an entire absence of national or local patriotism. For instance, Marshal Badoglio, if he happened to be the representative of the Italian Government on this general staff, might be called upon to sit down and take part in, or listen calmly to, a discussion on how best to bomb Brindisi or Turin; representatives of the French general staff would have to be asked to listen to discussions on how most effectively that famous Maginaux line, behind which they hope the integrity of their front will be safeguarded, could be broken; and the representatives of this country would have to envisage sitting down and listening to discussions on the bombing of Woolwich, or perhaps of civil air stations like Heston, or even Hatfield. Even if my Noble Friend the Under-Secretary, who will wind up this Debate, were the British representative, we could scarcely put upon him the burden of sitting quietly by and hearing a discussion on the bombardment of his own home centre.

For this arrangement to be effective, it must also, as my hon. Friend has suggested, function automatically, and this demands a definition, upon which all parties are agreed, of what constitutes an act of aggression. It is certain that, if the League of Nations has done nothing else, it has stopped one thing which took place in every previous century, namely, the actual declaration of war. It has certainly stopped countries from declaring war, but it has not stopped war. These are rather different things, and I think we can scarcely hope for the successful functioning of a League army unless we come to some decision as to what constitutes aggression. The only material that we have at hand so far to help us in our deliberations on that question is that most certainly an act of war is not necessarily an act of nonaggression.

The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton skated most tactfully over all the innumerable technical difficulties, and indeed, the hon. and learned Member for Bolton seemed to suggest that, just because in the past some people had rather foolishly called some things impracticable which history has shown to be practicable, so everything that is put forward now, no matter how fantastic it may be, must inevitably prove to be right when history comes to be written. I am waiting anxiously for the Debate to-morrow, and I am certain that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be very grateful for the admirable argument of the hon. and learned Member for Bolton, which personally at the moment I do not entirely comprehend myself.

He also referred to the Marlborough campaign in the 18th century. I would like to put this question to him. If we suggested that a modern Duke of Marlborough should be for all time the Commander-in-Chief of the League of Nations Army, would that be accepted by France, Germany or Italy? The very success of Marlborough's campaign came from his world reputation as a great master of war and captain of men. His wars, moreover, were in the interests of one country alone, although they were waged, of course, by an army containing people of different nations. It would scarcely be possible to find a parallel, in the unified command under the Duke of Marlborough, or, indeed, under Marshal Foch, to the problems which would confront anyone who was compelled to wage a war on behalf of the League in future, and, in addition, to wage it—and this is a new argument—with all the modern weapons that now lie to hand. After all, these modern weapons do constitute a very considerable problem which has got to be faced. Two years ago—I believe I am not misrepresenting him—the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton suggested that all the most modern weapons should be reserved for the use of the League army, and that the obsolete and out-of-date weapons should be left for the national armies to use. These modern weapons have to be made somewhere, and the men who are to wield them have to be trained somewhere. Are we to see a great barricade or screen, say half-way across Wellington Barracks, on one side of which men are to be trained in the bow and arrow for use in defence of England—I should have thought that that would demand the use of the most modern weapons—while on the other side men are being trained in mysterious devices which public-spirited scientists and inventors had placed at the disposal of the League of Nations army?

However much we sympathise with the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, and however much we admire his public-spirited efforts both to improve the defence services and at the same time to see those defence services give way to an international army, we cannot possibly concede that the second objective is likely to be achieved by the Motion that he has put on the Order Paper. He agreed, as I think the hon. and learned Member for Bolton also agreed, that that problem will never be satisfactorily solved until the problem of civil aviation is properly tackled, but, if the suggestion made by one hon. Member who supported him were carried out, namely, that nations should be allowed to have aircraft up to a certain horsepower—say 500 or something less—which they could expand on their own account quite happily at home, while the bigger civil aircraft were put under international control, I would ask him to recognise that most of the bombing damage done in the last was was done by aeroplanes, the best that had then been evolved, which were very little stronger than, and sometimes not as strong as, the smallest Moth aeroplane that we see in the sky to-day.

This problem, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham said, will never be tackled at all unless public feeling is behind the organisation that it is proposed to set up. If public feeling in every country in the world that matters were entirely behind the League of Nations, the present unhappy situation in the world would not have developed. If public feeling were entirely behind the setting up by the League of new machinery before which people who suffer under treaty inequalities could bring their grievances to be acknowledged, then I think the machinery of the League of Nations under Article 19 would have already been used in the past. It is no use adding to the machinery under which the world is going to try to evolve a peaceful solution for all our troubles until we have proved that we are able to work the machinery that we have, and have got the will to peace acknowledged all over the world.

9.14 p.m.


I could not help thinking, while I was listening to the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, that many of the problems and difficulties which they traversed, serious and important as they are, were of a similar character to difficulties and problems which could be put forward in reference to other measures of collective action, notably the Western Air Pact. After all, no one wishes to minimise those difficulties, but we have to consider them, and the question in general, from the standpoint not only of abstract discussion but also with reference to the practical alternatives in front of us.

The Mover of the Motion began by presuming that the Labour party would be in general sympathy with it. That is perfectly true. The Labour party supports the idea in principle of an international police force and an equity tribunal, although I would make the reservation that there may be, especially in regard to the second of those proposals, some questions of detail where we might have points of difference. But in general it is natural that the Motion should find support within the Labour party, for the Labour party has always been fully aware that the solution of the problem of eliminating war as a method of settling disputes, or as an instrument for effecting change, necessitates the organisation of peace in such a manner that not only the static question of security shall be considered and that there shall be adequate machinery in connection with this question, but also the dynamic principle of change. There may be questions as to the way in which an equity tribunal shall be set up and it is true that there are methods, through the nineteenth section of the Covenant, by means of which it is possible to deal with questions involving, for instance, the revision of treaties. The purpose, I take it, of an international tribunal of equity is to deal with this question and others rather more important and bigger, and others, too, which involve the consideration of problems which might arise in the future. Much of the feeling of insecurity that troubles the nations of the world to-day arises from the fact that science has developed a method of warfare which can lead to quick devastation when employed by one nation against another, and it is because of that more than any other consideration that this desire for international machinery, an international police force, the power of enforcing international law, is so important at the present moment.

I should like to say a word or two about the use of the aeroplane in modern warfare. Our point of view is that pacts are no guarantee of security at all. We have heard from several speakers about the Western Air Pact which is being held up owing to the situation to-day, but it is wrong to speak of the proposed Western Air Pact as an air Locarno. It is nothing of the kind. It is a substitution for Locarno, because it is outside and not inside the machinery of the League of Nations, and when it comes down to matters of practical detail, I feel that the Western Air Pact proposals should receive very close and critical attention indeed. What is the air policy of this Government, because a great deal depends upon the attitude of Britain in respect to air armaments so far as concerns the possibility of international agreement and anything in the nature of an international police force. The air policy of this Government, at any rate, is not one of filling up gaps. It has been definitely stated by a former Secretary of State for Air when he said that it was proposed to build an air force equal at least to any air force within striking distance. He went on to say that, if that were not sufficient, it would be necessary to increase expenditure above that, and he anticipated that the country would be behind any Government which took measures under necessity in that direction. That policy of building up an air force equal to the strongest air force within striking distance, as things are to-day, means that we have to keep step by step with Germany. That is the meaning of the air policy of this Government. I am not for the moment criticising it as a policy but I want to examine what it implies and what effect the situation in Europe and in the world to-day may have on the whole question of air armaments in this country.

Germany has half as big a population again as this country, and her capacity for industrial expansion corresponds to that larger population. More than that, Germany is not a country with colonies. She has no far flung Empire and no large trade routes to protect, whereas Britain has all those. We have commitments controlling in some degree or other a quarter of the earth's surface, commitments in all parts of the world—in the Pacific, Singapore, the Mediterranean, the Near East, India, and so forth. If we are to keep step by step with Germany in the air, we have to do that over and above the maintenance of the efficient defence of the Empire. Let us consider what that means. The Prime Minister said a little while ago that a dictatorship has great advantages over democracy in questions of armaments. It has, for instance, the advantage of secrecy, the advantage of being able to overthrow any internal opposition, the advantage of being able to tax to the point of exhaustion, and, above all, the power to reduce the standard of life to a level lower than any open democracy would tolerate. It seems to me that a policy of that character, which is the alternative to some measure of international agreement, of an international police force and machinery for the maintenance of international law—the policy of keeping step by step with the strongest air force within striking distance means that you have to accept the political philosophy of Germany. I am sure that the people of this country, with their history, with all that democracy has meant in the development of our nation, would not tolerate the political conditions which would enable us to arm in the air, in addition to our other commitments, against Germany as a potential enemy, upon the political and structural terms which are implied with regard to the German nation and its dictatorship.

I would like to say a word or two on another subject upon which most of the speakers have touched, and that is the question of the civil aeroplane and the possibility of its conversion to a military aircraft. A great deal of nonsense is spoken about that possibility. It is perfectly true that if you abolish every kind of military aircraft, just as you might fight with stones and slings and bows and arrows, you might be able to fight with civil aircraft. Some people have the idea that some day the sky will be darkened by a great fleet of commercial aero-planes coming over to drop their bombs out of their cabin windows or over the sides. A future Wellington or Blucher might say: The pterodactyl and the busy bee, The gyro and the flying flea, They may not fright the enemy, But, by God, they frighten me. I do not think for one moment that the real menace which is associated with this question of civil aviation has to do with the use of the civil aeroplane for military purposes. It is more a question of ground organisation, aerodromes, training of pilots and so forth. This last year an experiment was tried in America with a Northrop E.2 machine, to which a bomb dropping apparatus was fitted. This aeroplane, from a civil point of view, had a very great speed, was very strong and was the best of its type. The result of the experiment was to show that the adjustment of a bomb-dropping apparatus had the effect of reducing the performance of that aeroplane to something lower than the normal performance of a civil aeroplane of that type. A plane such as an interceptor would be able to make rings round an aircraft carrying bombs and sufficient petrol to make the journey here and back again to any country likely to be a potential aggressor. It is true that there are other types of convertible aeroplanes, notably the German kind, where the structure approximates to that of a bombing aeroplane. It was used for civil purposes uncommercially and could be easily converted into a bombing aeroplane. It would be quite untrue to regard it as a convertible civil aeroplane. It was a convertible bombing machine and was converted into a civil aeroplane as a form of camouflage. Lord Londonderry himself must know that the abolition of the bombing aeroplane, if it is accepted by the nations of the world, includes the abolition of that type of bombing aeroplane which is regarded as a convertible aeroplane.

With regard to the tribunal in equity, the Labour party is not tied to any particular method of dealing with this question. I will admit that evolution takes time. I am not sure that I want to wait 18,000,000 years before some of the ideals I hold are realised. It may take 18,000,000 years to evolve a foot; it does not take 18,000,000 years to evolve a bomber. Probably the best method would be much upon the lines of the Lytton Commission, more of an ad hoc body than a permanent body, but that is a matter of detail. I am concerned about the problems which face us that are unsoluble by purely national effort. Take, for instance, the question of Japan. There we have a nation in the Far East that we call an aggressor as far as its aggression in Manchuria was concerned. But let us be fair even to Japan, which is a country 18.9 per cent. of which can be cultivated. It has a population pressure of 2,148 per square mile of arable land, and an annual birthrate of 908,000.


The hon. Gentleman said an annual birthrate of 908,000. I think he meant an annual increase of population.


I thank the hon. Member for the correction. I meant an annual increase of pot ulation of 908,000. What is Japan to do? You must remember that there is one great area of land in the Pacific which is populated by 5,000,000 to 6,000,000 white men, a huge continent, a great part of which is available for development on Asiatic lines. We say, "Hands off." I am not arguing whether that is desirable or not, whether we should keep the Japanese out of Australia or not. We can think Victorian or Elizabeth in if we like, but that problem is some day going to be a very urgent problem in the Pacific. It is all very well to talk about thinking imperially, but we have got to face these world problems, which, if they are not solved, may mean the overthrow of civilisation, including ihe British Empire itself.


Does the hon. Gentleman imply that it is the policy of the Labour party that Australia should be given to the Japanese?


I do not imply and I do not impute that, but I say that it would be better for this nation and for the world to face that problem in time. We have to reach some kind of arrangement with regard to the economic resources of the world. That has been admitted by the Foreign Secretary, and surely the best thing that can be done is to deal with that question before the great urgency arises and not think about these matters merely from the point of view, as was evidently behind the mind of the hon. and gallant Member who interrupted me, of ordinary Imperialistic thinking.


Does the hon. Gentleman mean that before these problems become acute we should now make arrangements to hand over parts of Australia to the Japanese?


I have already referred to what the Foreign Secretary said at Geneva. The hon. Member must think in advance about these problems. Does he or any other hon. Member imagine that Britain can go on controlling a quarter of the surface of the world without at least being ready to consider and debate questions of this character, especially in view of the development of modern armaments, the necessities of nations and the economy of the world in general.


Even though we control these countries are they not, under the Statute of Westminster, all free countries?


I am not talking about Colonies or Protectorates. I am speaking, by way of illustration, of Australia and the problem of the Pacific, and it may be possible to solve the problem which I have mentioned in another way, but I insist that an equity tribunal, some method and machinery, for the consideration, in time, of these important problems should be set up. I do not wish to say a word about the British Empire or the necessity of maintaining that Empire. I am not dealing with that question, but merely suggesting to hon. Members that it is exceedingly desirable that we should look at the question with a long sight, and also within sight. As far as the idea of splendid isolation is concerned, Britain might probably have been more splendid, but she did not remain isolated very long, and under the conditions of modern warfare it is absurd to talk about isolation. The question of civil aviation and its use for military purposes is wrapped up with the international control of civil aviation. I would point out to those who object to the idea of international civil aviation that, after all, aviation is in itself international in character. The very essence of flying involves the passage of aeroplanes over various countries, and there is a great deal of international control of civil aviation.

There is a body which controls, to some extent, civil aviation from the international point of view. When the development of Imperial Airways to the Cape and to Australia was first under consideration, the greatest difficulties were those which arose from national aviation and the various conflicting arrangements that were in force in different countries, and also the commercial difficulties where there were small lines using smaller machines for commercial purposes and so forth. For these reasons the machinery for peaceful change and the power to enforce law are principles which the Labour party support in general. It is true that the question presents difficulties, but they must be faced in advance of those kinds of political and economic storms that we shall have if we are prepared merely to observe the old rule-of-thumb in this matter. If the political Governments of the world remain stationary while the scientific side develops rapidly, we may be plunged into chaos and ruin because of the vital importance of these problems. It is obvious that research into the best methods of effecting peaceful change and obtaining security should not be left solely to individual groups and societies, and with the reservations which I have mentioned, the Labour party support this Motion.

9.41 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) will not expect me to try to follow his arguments, since they had little to do with the Motion on the Paper. He has, however, demonstrated that he has not lost touch with air matters since he has unhappily deprived us of his presence in this House, and that he is fully qualified to resume his old position in those dim far off days when possibly the Socialist party may again resume office. I hope also that the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) will not expect me to support his Motion, and, unhappily, while not supporting his Motion, I find myself equally unable to support the Amendment, because my realistic mind teaches me that it is impossible to envisage a period in the history of the world as we know it when an international police force can either be raised, equipped or function. I will try to demonstrate why I am right, but to pass for a moment to this tribunal in equity with which a large part of the Motion is concerned, candidly I am not going to refer to it at length, because I do not understand what it means. I think that it is rather a slur on the word "tribunal" that the words "in equity" should be added. A tribunal surely should carry out its function in equity to all concerned, and therefore I feel that if there is any tribunal to be established, we have a tribunal at the present time to settle all these international disputes. We have the tribunal of the League of Nations itself.


If it is called a tribunal in equity it deals with disputes on an equitable basis and not on the basis of the law, which is a justiciable matter dealt with by the International Court of Justice.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

Is not the law supposed to deal with matters in equity? I thought that the law was established for the purpose of ensuring that.


Not in the World Court which only deals with justiciable matters.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman takes such a cynical view of the law that he wants to have some additional tribunal established to try and bring justice into law. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion and his hon. Friend who seconded it seemed to be at variance. The Motion says an international police force, but as far as I can understand the position from both speakers, they tried to edge off on the question of an international police force and to concentrate upon an international air police force, which are two very different things indeed. If you assume, and everyone must assume who urges the formation of such a force, either an international force of all arms or an international air force, where are the forces to be located? I imagine that science may one day devise a means of maintaining aeroplanes permanently in the air, for, after all, that is the only neutral zone that is left in the world. Any land, any territory, any country that might be selected as neutral might any day become a potential belligerent and therefore it could not be neutral. Consequently, you must select the air. Science, as I have said, may devise means of keeping aeroplanes in the air, but I cannot see any development of science to enable tanks, battleships or guns to be anchored in the ether. That is something even beyond the best science and something which even the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton has not yet attempted to solve.

The hon. Member is an eloquent advocate, but, like all eloquent advocates, he stresses the good features of his own case and neglects the bad. We all know that in theory the ideal of an international police force is perfect: that of the virtuous nations of the world uniting to punish the sinner. The hon. Member would no doubt say: "That is not so; it is the virtuous nations of the world uniting to prevent the sinner from sinning." I will accept that correction, but if the virtuous nations go on trying to prevent the sinner from sinning and the sinner refuses to stop his sinning, ultimately punishment must be meted out. Then you are up against force, up against war. You are up against the very thing which the hon. Member is apparently trying to prevent.

So far as I can see, the hon. Member makes a mistake in his whole philosophy and in his whole thesis on this subject. He bases his argument on the fact that armaments are the things most likely to produce war. Never was such a mistake made. Armaments do not produce war. There was war before ever a tank, an aeroplane or a gun vas devised, and when only slings or bows and arrows were used. Armaments merely affect the results of war, but never its inception, as history has shown: War springs from entirely different reasons; it springs from greed, envy or revenge. I admit, in answer to the unspoken question of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, that the strongly armed nation no doubt shows less concern about war than the weakly armed nation. Therefore, the hon. Member will say: "You need to equip the League of Nations with more arms still," so as to enable it to cope with the strongly armed or possibly the super-armed State of which he complains. Can anyone visualise what the result would be in adopting the hon. Member's policy to avoid war?

Let us consider the actual operation of starting this international police force. What about the command and what about the staff? Wherever you have an international police force you must have training centres, barracks, depots, aerodromes and the various equipment and methods of carrying on which are required by an army, navy or air force. There are other problems. There is the problem, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) with regard to language. If you have 54 nations loyally subscribing to the League of Nations, you would have a score of different languages. Who is going to decide what language should be used. Unless Esperanto, as my hon. Friend suggested, were introduced, I cannot conceive how the various instructions and orders on which the efficiency of an armed force depend, would be carried out. We should have many troubles to face.

We should have to consider the question of command. Is it possible to conceive that an enlightened nation like ourselves, allied possibly to a virile nation like the Serbs, serving under a Liberian commander-in-chief? Although that may be an exaggerated suggestion, that is what might possibly happen under this policy, because we should bind ourselves all to join together to serve under, to work with and to fight with all these various nations comprising the new assembly of 54, or whatever the number might be.

Again, what is to be the position if you bring it down to the purely personal philosophy of the individual What is to be the position of the soldier of a State member of the League who is asked to give his loyalty to an army that may be turned to killing his own family? I ask any government in any part of the world whether they could stand up to the proposition that one of their own sworn soldiers, on the courage and gallantry of whom depends the success of whatever enterprise they may be engaged upon, should give his loyalty to an organisation that might at any time be turned against his own wife and children. Take the position of the strongly armed nation. Would they willingly subscribe to part of their forces, seeing that they are strongly armed already and able to maintain themselves on their own feet, being handed over to this international organisation, which in turn might operate against them?

When we look at the Preamble of the Covenant we find that it says that "scrupulous respect" shall be paid to international obligations of mutual co-operation or non-aggression. Take as an instance what happened last year when, owing to the death of their heroic King, Jugo-Slavia felt that she had a case against Hungary. Supposing in order to satisfy the passionate revenge and grief which was caused to that nation by the death of her King, she had invaded Hungary. The League of Nations would have had to meet to decide which was the aggressor, and inevitably their award would have been against Jugo-Slavia as the aggressor. Immediately this international force would have been brought into operation. But what about the scrupulous respect for international engagements referred to in the Preamble of the Covenant? Jugo-Slavia has international engagements with Czechoslovakia and Rumania. What would have happened would have been that this international force would have been so whittled away by taking from it the forces of those countries that could not possible subscribe to it, that eventually it would have been either destroyed or it would have been unable to take part in the righteous cause visualised by the hon. Member.

I find myself loaded with so many arguments against this international force that I am afraid I should weary the House if I advanced them. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton in principle and in theory. In his idealism I nearly always agree with him and it is only when we come to practice that I find myself in disagreement with him. I should like him to direct that great conception of world peace that he has so much in mind along more practical lines. He has many qualities which could be used for the benefit of the country and the peace of the world if only he could balance out the idealism with a practical outlook. Therefore, while I honestly and candidly subscribe to the idealism of this project I cannot see how it could work out successfully in practice, if only for one reason, and that is the question of finance.

For the last ten years we have seen how difficult it is to collect subscriptions from members of the League of Nations. How are they going to face the still more onerous contributions which they will have to pay in order to form this super-State which is going to overawe the nations of the world? If the hon. Member uses his own private resources to assist the League of Nations in its unenviable task it may be of some assistance, but I cannot see the taxpayer of this country subscribing further to this utopian idea. If my hon. Friend feels himself so wedded to interference with the peace of the world that he must force us into a war again, will he not remember that there is no one in this House but wants peace, there is no one in the country who wants war, there is no one who wants to see the young people of this country, from whatever section of society they may be drawn, thrown into the horrors and miseries of the last war. We have still one resource; we have still Article XVI which has been used, perhaps not very effectively and perhaps with no great success in stopping war, but it has taught the nations of the world how they can co-operate, it has taught them how easy co-operation is and it has also taught non-league member nations that there is still vitality in the league. Let us carry on with economic sanctions under Article XVI, and by doing so avoid the flower of our youth being again destroyed.

9.58 p.m.


While listening to the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore) I have been reminded of the Bourbons, who learned nothing and forgot nothing. It seems to me that the hon. and gallant Member is in much the same position, although his own presence in this House should have been one of the strongest reminders that history has completely falsified all his arguments. I understand that he has some relationship with Ireland, he represents a Scottish constituency and he comes to Westminster to exercise his legislative functions. It is not so long ago in the realm of history when those who were trying to bring these three nations together in the way they are in his own person would have been regarded as attempting an impossibility, as impossible as he regards everything for which we have been pleading tonight.

The hon. and gallant Member alluded to the difficulty of language in an international force. For a brief time during the War I was attached to the Portuguese Army. I was under orders, the colonel sent me there, and as the Portuguese were not very often in harm's way after the first experience, I was sorry when I was removed. It was true that there were some difficulties. I spoke French after the manner of Stratford-atte-Bow, and I discovered a Portuguese noncommissioned officer of equal rank with myself who spoke French after, I imagine, the manner of Lisbon or Oporto. Still we managed not too greatly to confuse the troops. My principal task was to teach the Portuguese how to get a gas mask on in six seconds, and that can be done by ocular demonstration rather better than by verbal explanation. The fact that we won the War in the end with or without the help of the Portuguese shows that even language in an international force is not the difficulty which the hon. and gallant Member would have us believe. His argument was really directed against the greatest of all military truths discovered in every war that where you have allied troops you are bound in the end to have unity of command. I doubt very much whether at the beginning of the War you could have got the assent of this House to our troops serving under the orders of a French marshal, but we came to it in the end.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

In the case of the War it was the combined allied troops acting under one Commander-in-Chief to defeat the common enemy. In this case you are going to have an allied army to hit one of themselves. That is entirely different.


That, point has already been answered by my hon. Friend behind me, and I am quite prepared to leave it where he left it. I believe that ultimately the nations of the world will be compelled to accept the doctrine of an international police force, just as in this country during the last. 100 years we have been compelled to accept the idea of a local police force controlled and established under the Home Officc. I am a member of a standing joint committee and I cannot have an additional constable in my police force without the assent of the Home Secretary, or make a constable into a sergeant above the establishment unless I get the right hon. Gentleman's consent. These police forces within the country are valuable and act on a co-operative basis where there are cases of public excitement. When Sir Robert Peel first established what is now the Metropolitan Police Force the establishment of a local police force controlled by the Home Office and available for duty in any part of the country would have been quite unthinkable.

I ask the hon. and gallant Member to believe that the world does move, even if it moves slowly, and I cannot think that the nations of the world will be content to leave each nation to settle the sort of armed forces it ought to have. That way madness and destruction lie. In the past few years we have seen enough and heard enough from hon. Members opposite to make us realise the disaster towards which we are again heading if we allow that doctrine to regain dominance. I hope and believe that as a result, of the experience we have been through we shall realise that someone has to say the extent to which each nation shall be allowed to arm and that this fear of the strong armed nation defying the nations of the world will not be a practical danger in the future because the nations will have combined to prevent any one nation getting into that position again.

10.5 p.m.


The hon. Member who proposed this Motion talked about political difficulties which stood in his way in forming this international police force. For my part I think that the hon. Member should be like the man in the film scenario written by Mr. H. G. Wells and entitled "The Man who could work Miracles." I am perfectly certain that if he had the power of working a miracle an international police force would be set up: but otherwise I have certain doubts. I had certain doubts, also, when I heard one of the hon. Members opposite make some remark about the French Fleet not turning up at the right moment. I think it is a possibility. Because of these possibilities I set myself to try to evolve some other solution which might help us in our difficulties. First, I would describe myself as a peace-loving citizen, although I did not have an opportunity of taking part in the last War. And I will say that unless aggressive action is taken against Great Britain or against the British Empire I do not think I should be very ready to join in the next war. I will try to disperse the suspicions of any hon. Members that I may be showing the white feather by telling them that I should be one of the first to go should the British Empire or Great Britain be affected. I believe I am voicing not only my own opinion in this matter but a very considerable body of opinion among the youth of this country.

Yet, although I am a peace-loving citizen, I am one of those who believe that if our armaments had not been reduced to such a minimum the present international disturbance would not have occurred. I would remind hon. Members that the programme of re-armament for the sake of peace which the Government championed during the General Election is not by any means a new idea. It is an idea that has been tried and tested throughout the history of the world. Tacitus wrote: The peace of nations cannot be secured without arms, nor arms without pay, nor pay without taxes. And when he said that the peace of nations cannot be secured without arms, I do not believe that he was referring to an international police force. I, for one, am delighted that this pillar, as I consider it, in the foundations of the peace of the world is being restored. I would venture again to make a statement which I made when I first spoke in this House, and that is that I believe that the peace of the world depends very largely on the strength of Britain. We heard in the early part of the afternoon the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir Henry Croft) refer to the League of Nations within the Empire, and I have the greatest sympathy with this project, as for any project which tends to draw the bonds of the Empire together and helps to ensure the peace of the world. I believe in the maintenance and not in the disintegration of our Empire. I do not believe that we should at this time consider plans of handing over or of making arrangements that Australia should be provided for Japan. I believe that we should preserve the great bonds which hold our Empire together at this time. Rather I think it might be possible to send a selection of books on birth control to Japan. I suppose it may be claimed that hon. Members opposite are as strongly interested in peace as we are. But there is a German proverb which runs: Peace is always the final aim of war. I suppose that hon. Members who are in favour of the imposition of military sanctions and of the principle of war to end war—of which we heard in 1914—must support the sentiment of the German proverb—that peace is always the final aim of war. But I believe that peace can be achieved without war and without the bloodthirsty atrocities and individual and national sacrifices which are necessitated by war. You will forgive me if I have to be somewhat of a disciple of Tacitus in this year 1935, rather than a disciple, say, of Lenin, but I have to admit that I find great truth in the writings of that eminent man. Especially in view of the recent disturbances in Abyssinia I find the following quotation very relevant: In tumults and dissensions the worst man has the most power. Peace and quiet bring out the good qualities of men. It is probably undesirable that this Debate should turn wholly to the Italo-Abyssinian question, because we are discussing the peace of the world; but in view of the war now going on in Abyssinia I think it is relevant to examine some of the causes of it. Developing my argument in relation to the strength of Britain and its effect on the peace of the world, although I do not agree that might is right I do believe that had not our defence forces been reduced to such a lamentable condition much of the present trouble and difficulties and the present war in Abyssinia might have been avoided. [An HON. MEMBER: "How?"] An hon Member opposite asks me "How?" Simply because the aggressor would have found that he would have had something a little bit more tough and difficult to deal with than this country appears to be at the present moment.


Does the hon. Member agree with military sanctions?


I never suggested that.


If weakness in armaments at the present moment is the reason why we have this trouble with Abyssinia, why is it that in 1914, when this country had the most powerful Navy the world has ever seen, we were not able to prevent war breaking out?


The hon. Gentleman opposite forgets the League of Nations, although I think the League of Nations has procrastinated considerably during the past few years. In answer to the other hon. Member opposite who asked whether I believe in military sanctions, I would say that I certainly do not. Nobody ever suggested that we should impose military sanctions. I did net suggest that we should impose military sanctions. I do not wish to speak for or against the principle of collective security. I do not undertake to say and I do not think that anybody at this stage can say whether collective security is going to be successful or not. We hope it will be successful, but I re-affirm that, had the defence forces of Great Britain been adequate, much of this trouble would have been prevented. Unfortunately it is no good dwelling upon "ifs" at this juncture. Rather must we look to the future. I, for one, am supporting the Government in their plans for re-armament and I think we ought to continue to impress on the Government the urgency of the necessity for re-armament. I also wish to express the view that a closer working connection and better understanding between the English-speaking nations would go a long way to produce what we all most desire, namely, world peace. In conclusion I would read to the House a cynical poem of the 17th century which says: Plenty breeds pride; Pride, Envy; Envy, Warre. Warre, Poverty; Poverty, humble Care. Humility breeds Peace and Peace breeds Plenty. Thus, round the World doth rowle alternatly.


Does the hon. Member suggest that rearmament is an expression, of humility?


I merely quoted that poem as a warning and not for any purpose of argument.

10.18 p.m.


I turn from the Motion to refer briefly to one remark made by my hon. Friend the Member for East-bourne (Mr. Taylor). He said something to the effect that Japan, having regard to pressure of population, ought to learn more about birth control. [Laughter.] I strongly suggest that this is not a laughing matter and that the one piece of advice we ought never to give to such nations as Japan, Germany and Italy is to limit their population.


If the hon. Member will allow me to intervene for the purpose of self-justification, may I say that I certainly did not mean it as a laughing matter?


I can imagine few things more calculated to treat international than advice of that character. [HON. MEMBERS "Why?"] It is quite obvious that if you preach to virile nations like Germany that they ought to stop increasing their population, they will retaliate by saying that there is sufficient room in the world, and that if you will not allow them to get their share by peaceful means they will obtain it by war. Now I turn to the Motion. It has been criticised vigorously as to its general idea by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. H. Kerr) and others, but I am going to support it. I suggest that a good deal of the criticism has been applicable not so much to this moderate Motion, which asks that serious consideration should be given, to these proposals, as to a Motion ordering the Government, immediately to take steps to set up an international police force and an equity tribunal. This Motion, as I say, only asks its to give serious consideration to these problems. I can imagine no more worthy subject to occupy the attention of this House.

I will deal first with the idea, of an international police force. If we seriously consider that subject, we shall be driven logically and ultimately to this, that we have to start by an international air force for Europe alone. I think that is the first and the most necessary step. I heard an hon. Gentleman speaking from the Front Bench minimise the danger of air attack and the danger from civil planes converted into bombers. We know that many civil planes in Europe to-day are already fitted as bombers. I listened in this House to the Prime Minister, in language which moved us all, pointing out that there was no real defence from the menace of the air. I sat in the House myself after that speech, and I looked at the building and asked myself, "How many years will this building last safe from air attack? How many years will it be before the Abbey near by may be destroyed? "And it is not only in London, but if this menace continues, if we cannot check war, if we get a general European war, all the great monuments built by mankind in the past must be destroyed. That must happen. Therefore I feel that the most urgent task before statesmen to-day is somehow or other to control and get control of the menace of the air.

I feel that the Motion put forward to-day gives us an opportunity of facing and considering that question and that the first step might well be the internationalisation of the air for all kinds of planes, not merely military planes, but civil planes as well. I think it must come to that. If we had a sane civilisation, we should do one of two things with the air force—we should either internationalise it or abolish it. I know it is said, "If you abolish it what would it mean? Think of the question of speed." We moderns make a fetish of speed, a fetish of moving about more and more quickly. What for? I Do we make any better use of our time or our talents to-day than used to be the case? Do we not save time in order to waste time and fritter away time? Unless we can get control of this menace, which the moral stature of man to-day is not big enough really to control, we must get international control of the whole of the air. I therefore support the Motion, because it leads one up to facing that problem.

Then there is the other point, the question of a tribunal in equity. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore) jeered a little at this and said that surely the Hague Tribunal dealt with law and surely law includes equity. If you go to the Hague Tribunal and appeal on a question of law, the only question of law you get is with regard to the breach of a, treaty. Do you think that if you removed the injustices of treaties, if you interpreted treaties rightly, you would remove to-day all danger from or causes of war, all sense of grievance? Of course not. One of the fundamental facts of the present day is that these economic causes must cause war, and war within a few years.

This is the first occasion on which I have spoken on these lines in the House. I feel that to-day Japan, Germany, Italy and other countries have a grievance, not only a grievance of treaties bearing hardly on them, but a grievance arising from that awful economic pressure and the feeling that they may not be able to import their raw materials because their exports are checked. I feel that the controversy between my hon. Friend on this side and an hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench was really beside the mark. They were arguing about British colonies and giving them away. I suggest that if we were to get that idea out of our minds we would be able to get on and to do more. We are thinking now about Italy, with one or two small colonies. We think the same about Germany, with one or two small colonies. It is in such cases that a tribunal in equity is necessary.

You must have a tribunal to deal with things with which the Hague Tribunal cannot deal. I suggest that the proper procedure would be to have an ad hoc tribunal appointed by the League to go into the grievances of nations which may cause war, grievances which have nothing to do with treaty provisions. I regret that months ago such a tribunal was not appointed by the League and that such a tribunal has not been sitting for months past, day by day at Geneva, a tribunal with economic knowledge and able to put forward ideas to rectify the situation of such countries as Japan, Germany and Italy. I pleaded for that in this House on 23rd October. I pleaded that one more committee should be established at Geneva, for I feel that every day's delay in dealing with these essential things makes war, not a small war, but a general war, nearer. I strongly support by hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander). We may not agree about the particular type of tribunal, but the essential thing is that there should be some kind of tribunal to consider the grievances of nations which have nothing to do with breaches of the law.


The subject with which the House has been dealing to-night is no new one to it. We have on many occasions during the last few years had debates on this question. The last time, if I remember aright, was just over two years ago, on a Motion which was brought forward, as this has been tonight, by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander). The Government would not wish in any way to criticise the hon. Member for bringing forward the subject again. After all it is, I suppose, one of the most treasured rights of the House of Commons that private Members should, on private Members' days, raise subjects and invite discussion on questions which do not come within the purview of the ordinary business of Parliament, and, indeed, we have cause to thank the hon. Member for framing his Motion so widely as to permit free and frank discussion. I do not think that I have ever heard any discussion in the House of Commons range quite so wide as the discussion to-night. I have only one, I will not say criticism, but complaint, against the hon. Member. He said that this Motion did not refer, as I understood it, by any means to an international police force now, but any time, he said, in the next 100 years, 50 years, far ahead—it was just the principle that mattered. There is nothing about that in the wording of the Motion, which is: To call attention to the desirability of an international police force for the better maintenance of world order. That does not say 50 years ahead, and, indeed, the hon. Member's is own supporter the hon. and learned Member for Bolton. (Mr. Entwistle), took it to mean now. Therefore, I hope that the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton will forgive me if I deal in the few moments which are at my disposal with this question from both aspects.

There is one difference between the debate to-night and the debate we had two years ago. On that occasion the hon. Member devoted himself entirely to an international police force. To-night he is spreading his net a little wider. He has included a tribunal in equity. I feel certain that he will agree with me when I say that those two questions are what one may call variations of the same theme, the theme being that the world is now becoming an international organism, and that we ought to have one system of justice and one police force, just as we do in our own country. I was intrigued, if I may say so in passing, to hear him allude to the Heptarchy, and was a little flattered by it, because I used that particular reference in the speech I made in opposing him on the last occasion. Now he is using it in support of his Motion. I hope it means that I have put him a little bit in the right direction. Of course, it is largely true that the world has become an international organism. We all know it is true economically; it almost might be said to be becoming one great economic machine. Nations which in the past were independent and self-sufficing are now becoming rapidly interdependent and bound to each other by a thousand links of commerce and mutual interest.

One might even say that civilisation is becoming standardised. If you were to go to any of the great capitals of the world you would find people wearing the same clothes, reading the same books, seeing the same films and thinking the same ideas. We are really becoming, in all nations, much more like each other, at any rate superficially, and also much more dependent on each other. I think most of us agree that the world would be a much happier and a much more prosperous place if the Governments and the peoples—this applies to the people just as much as to the Governments—agreed to settle all their disputes by arbitration and peaceful means. If that could happen, great armed forces such as we see creating such disturbance at the present time, would become unnecessary, and the Motion which the hon. Gentleman has put forward would be not merely a distant hope and a distant ideal but a practical possibility.

To this reign of international law and order to which we are all looking, the League of Nations is the first step, and the League has the overwhelming support of the people of this country, but the fact that we are ready to take that first step does not necessarily mean that we should be wise to go rapidly ahead without looking in the least where we are going. The nations of the world are in the position of a man who is crossing a quaking bog. That man clearly has to make his foothold safe before he can take another step; otherwise, instead of getting to his destination more quickly, he might never arrive there at all.

Look at the world to-day. Can anyone say that the nations have reached a stage of civilisation in which they would be willing entirely to abolish their national forces and to trust to an international authority? At this very moment a war is raging. At this very moment Europe is seething with discontent, distrust and suspicion. I shall not try to defend that situation, and I do not want to defend it. I merely state it as a fact. In such circumstances, if the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, or the British Government, or anybody else, were to go to the German Government, the Italian Government, or the French Government, and to suggest that they should abandon, as I think the hon. and learned Member for Bolton (Mr. Entwistle) suggested to-night, all their national defence forces, and trust to an international force, I am afraid he would be regarded either as an amiable lunatic or, possibly, as a very sinister person with some very dark motive behind his suggestion.


I must point out that I only mentioned the abolition of military aeroplanes and said that this country had stated that we should be willing to abolish them subject to the control of civil aviation. That is all I said.


I am very sorry. I must have misunderstood my hon. and learned Friend. I beg his pardon. However much we may honour the sincerity of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton and those who have supported his Motion, I am afraid that we must regard such a proposal as the abolition of air forces as not a practical proposal at the present time. If we are to assume that abolition of national forces is out of the question, it means that this international police force must function in an armed world. If it is to function, as I think we all agree it must function, for some time at any rate, in an armed world, it must be superior, and conclusively superior, to any other force that could be brought against it. What does that mean in fact? We know that in the last few months Italy has mobilised very nearly 1,000,000 men; we know that Germany is forming an army of 500,000 men; we know that France has very little less, and Russia probably rather more, than that number.

What is to be the size of the international force, at the present moment, to deal with a situation such as might be created? We are told that it should be stationed in Switzerland or in some other one of the very small neutral countries, but I doubt very much whether one of the small neutral countries would be adequate to hold the international force that would be needed; it would probably have to lap out into the surrounding districts. The same is true, after all, of aeroplanes. We have been told that there should be an international air force—a police force—which should be available; but, if it is to be available and effective, and if it is to do its work in all parts of the world, it is quite obvious that, with the national air forces which are at present in existence, it would have to number many thousands of aeroplanes. I think it was the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton who said that if we had disarmed the position would be very much easier. I think we all agree with that; there is probably no difference of opinion in any part of the House about disarmament; I think it is generally agreed that, If we could get an international convention for the reduction and limitation of armaments, it would be of service to peace. If I remember aright, I must make one exception. The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore) does not hold that view, but I think that in that he is almost alone in the House.

Of course it is perfectly true that the outlook at the present time is dark, but I do not think that even now we need despair of the future. Perhaps the very intensity and urgency of the danger of war may open the nations' eyes to the necessity for a measure of disarmament. It may not be so far off as some of us fear; I hope it may not; but, even if it is not so far off, I am afraid we should all reluctantly have to agree that the time has not yet come, and, if it has not yet come, I am afraid that the Motion of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton still remains completely academic. To-night there has been no time for me to talk of all the practical difficulties—the technical difficulties. Other speakers have already mentioned them. There are, of course, difficulties of command, of composition, and of organisation; there are difficulties of maintenance and of mobilisation. All these difficulties are real; they are genuine difficulties. The force must have plans in advance. Who is to draw up those plans? Whom are they to concern? Against who are they to be aimed? Where is the force to be situated? All these are practical difficulties. I do not myself think that they are insurmountable; indeed, I am certain that they are not; but they have not been solved yet—


Does not my Noble Friend think that that is a very good reason for giving the matter serious consideration in the terms of the Motion?


No. We are all in favour of giving the Motion serious consideration, but there is much more in the Motion than that. It says: serious consideration should be given to the desirability of an international police force for the better maintenance of world order. As I have already explained, that would be taken in many quarters, and it was taken by the hon. and learned Member for Bolton, as meaning now. It is not a mere matter of consideration.


Subject to international agreement, of course. I did not say now.


I was saying that I did not think it was possible now, not that it was not desirable now. I have drawn attention to these technical, practical difficulties which I am sure are not insurmountable but which have not yet been surmounted, and I believe that is the reason why this question is less often talked about at Geneva than, shall we say, in Grosvenor Crescent.

There is another question mentioned in the Motion. I am very much afraid that the same difficulty may face us with regard to the tribunal in equity as a practicable proposition at the moment as faces us with regard to the police force. After all, there is one essential concomitant to a tribunal in equity, and that is that the nations must have the will to peace. I am afraid it is lamentably evident that not all the nations have a will to peace at present. Machinery exists in the Covenant both for the regulation of grievances and the discussion of changes. It has been argued that that machinery is not adequate, but I am afraid the honest truth is that there has not been the will to use it. The machinery has been there, but the will has been lacking. In those circumstances just to start new machinery would be absolutely futile. It would be like creating a body without a spirit. It would have no life in it whatever. Let us set ourselves in this country and other countries to create the spirit and to give life to the will to peace and then, if it is found that the machinery laid down in the Covenant is not adequate, let us take steps to alter it.

I take it that the reason the hon. Member put down his Motion was really to ventilate the subject, and I think he has been very successful, because we have had an exceedingly interesting if somewhat wide discussion. I hope he will now accede to my request and withdraw it. I do not think it will be possible for the Government to accept it in exactly its present form for the reasons I have explained. I, personally, find myself in sympathy with the Amendment in that it says that the time is not quite ripe but, after all, there is not really a very great difference between them. Let us content ourselves with recognising that our ultimate aim, the creation of an international system of law and order, is the same, and not pass on to any further steps until we have made the present position secure.


If the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) is prepared to consider withdrawing his Motion, I will withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question again proposed.


In view of the not unsympathetic reply of the Noble Lord, and the full discussion that has taken place, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.