HC Deb 03 July 1935 vol 303 cc1867-8

(by Private Notice) asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, in the course of his recent conversations with the German naval delegates, they offered to abolish entirely the use of submarines, and, if so, what reply did His Majesty's Government make to this offer?


As was stated by the German Chancellor in his speech of 21st May, Germany is ready to agree to the abolition of submarines provided that other countries will do the same, and her willingness to do so was reaffirmed by the German Representatives in the recent conversations. As is well known, this country has long taken the lead in endeavouring to secure a general agreement for the abolition of submarines, and has over and over again pressed for this at every possible opportunity from the Washington Conference onwards. The German Representatives were reminded of our views on this point, which are in full accord with their own. Unfortunately, however, these views are not universally shared by other countries.

It will be clear from what I have said that the report quoted yesterday by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) to the National Convention on Peace and Reconstruction is absolutely without foundation. This report, which alleged that, whereas Germany offered to abolish submarines, we were not prepared to accept this offer, is not only contrary to the plain facts, but ignores several authoritative statements made by His Majesty's Government quite recently on this subject.


May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will take immediate steps to give the utmost possible publicity to the true facts as stated by him, and so counteract as far as possible the effects of the irresponsible and mischievous statements made yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman?


I hope my answer will receive full publicity. I am not afraid of the mischievous effects in this country, because I cannot believe that anybody except the right hon. Gentleman is unaware of the true facts of the case. I am concerned with its effects internationally. A kind of submerged attack of this sort on His Majesty's Government must tend to damage the credentials of this country in the eyes of the world and so hamper the ceaseless efforts which His Majesty's Government are making for the preservation of world peace.

Major OWEN

Is it not a fact that the German Chancellor, in his speech on the 21st May, made the following statement—[Interruption]. I think I am entitled to read the words that the German Chancellor used. I am merely quoting the words that he used on that occasion: Finally, they (meaning the German Government) are ready to agree to a limitation of tonnage for submarines or to their complete abolition in case of international agreement. Is it not on record that the German Government were in favour of the total abolition of submarines at the Disarmament Conference and that France was the only one that objected?


Is it not a fact that at least half-a-dozen of the great Powers have expressed their willingness not only to abolish submarines but all armaments if each other will do it, but none of them will make a start?


Is it not a fact that the Japanese Government have always refused to abolish submarines?


Yes, Sir, there are some of the great Powers that have not yet consented to abolish submarines, including Japan and France.