HC Deb 11 July 1935 vol 304 cc509-631

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £108,900, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1936, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

3.41 p.m.


I trust that hon. Members will not think it rash or presumptuous on my part if, within a few weeks of going to the Foreign Office, I attempt to make a rather fuller statement of foreign policy than is sometimes made, and if I attempt to deal with the questions that I know are in the mind of every hon. and right hon. Member by trying to fit them into the bigger background of our foreign policy generally. So far as I am concerned, I would gladly have delayed making this statement for weeks, or, indeed, months. I felt that, after four years under the suns of India, I required a little time to acclimatise myself to the colder winds of Europe. I felt also that, if I was going to jump into the water, I would rather jump into the shallow end than into the deepest part of the pool. But there it is; the House and I have to take things as they are; and I believe, myself, that the House will expect the British Foreign Secretary, whoever he may be, to give his views on the questions which are in everybody's mind, and will feel that, if he does not give his views, there will be the risk of rumour, misrepresentation and misunderstanding running riot. Finding myself, therefore, in the deep end of the pool, I intend to start swimming at once, and I intend also, even at some risk to myself, to avoid the shallow end of platitudes and generalities.

Let me begin by reminding the House of the kind of background against which we have to consider the urgent questions of the moment. The War left the world impoverished, suspicious, irritable and apprehensive. The War also impressed upon the minds of most people the fact that peace is peace as a whole; and, indeed, it was that conception that led the countries of the world to form the League of Nations. Thirdly, the War left the world with almost everyone in it who is at all interested in public affairs deeply interested in foreign politics. I have said that the War left the world impoverished and suspicious. Have we not seen many signs in these 15 years to that effect? Have we not seen the judgment of the world often embittered and biased? Have we not seen the nerves of almost every country in the world frayed? Have we not seen almost always the temperature of the world higher than it should be, and perhaps the critical faculty of the world more highly developed than it would be in more normal times? Moreover, there are many people—I am not thinking of anyone or any country in particular—there are many people who seem to take a morbid delight in alarms and excursions, in a psychology, shall I say, of fear, perhaps even of brutality.

Only yesterday I heard of a small child, a child of one of my friends, who was found surrounded by a number of air balloons, and her nurse said to her, "Why is it that you have so many air balloons?" The child answered, "I like to make myself afraid by popping." That may be a harmless habit in the case of a child, but it is a dangerous habit in the case of the many alarm-mongers and scaremongers who now seem to take this delight in creating crises, and, if there be crises, in making the crises worse than they otherwise would be. Even in the few weeks during which I have been at the Foreign Office, I have remembered more than once the episode recounted by Voltaire of a young man, the son of a king, who appeared to be becoming active and loquacious. The king determined to cure him of what he thought to be a bad habit. Accordingly he sat by his side four chamberlains. Two of them were to say, whenever the young man looked like saying something, "The prince is sure to be right," and two of them were to say, as soon as the prince had said anything, "The prince is right." The result of that procedure was just what we should expect. The prince became taciturn, and neither said nor did anything at all. If you substitute, for "He is going to be right" and "He is right," "He is going to be wrong" and "He is wrong," it not inaptly describes the Job's comforters who at the present moment surround many of the Foreign Secretaries of the world. I am inclined to think that the more they say, "He will be wrong," and the more they say "He is wrong," the more likely it is that the result will be the same as it was in the case of the prince, and that Foreign Secretaries both here and in other countries will be tempted to give up saying or doing anything at all.

I venture, therefore, in all humility to make an appeal, which I am sure the House will excuse my making on the first occasion on which I address it as Foreign Secretary; and I want to make this appeal, not so much to the House and to the country generally, but to other countries as well. It is that we should try to introduce, both into our conduct and into our consideration of questions of foreign policy, a little more good nature, a little more common sense, a little more of the kindly tolerance which we believe has been one of the best characteristics of the British people. It is in that sense that I aproach the difficult questions that we are here this afternoon mainly to consider. It is in that spirit that I would ask hon. Members in every part of the House to consider them—not from the point of view of trying to destroy this or that course of action by negative criticism, but to face the difficulties, and, if they have constructive proposals, to make constructive proposals.

I begin with the Anglo-German Naval Agreement. The Naval Agreement is in no sense a selfish agreement. On no account could we have made an agreement that was not manifestly in our view to the advantage of the other naval Powers. On no account could we have made an agreement that we did not think, so far from hindering general agreement, would actually further it. The question of naval disarmament has always been treated distinctively from the question of land and air disarmament. The naval question has always been treated apart, and it was always the intention, so far as I know, of the naval Powers to treat it apart.

Apart, however, from the juridical position, there seemed to us to be, in the interests of peace—which is the main objective of the British Government—overwhelming reasons why we should conclude the Agreement. In the opinion of our naval experts, we were advised to accept the Agreement as a safe agreement for the British Empire. Here again we saw a chance that might not recur of eliminating one of the causes that chiefly led to the embitterment before the Great War—the race of German naval armaments. Incidentally, out of that discussion arose the very important statement of the German Government that henceforth, so far as they were concerned, they would eliminate one of the causes that made the War so terrible, namely, the unrestricted use of submarines against merchant ships. Thirdly, we came definitely to the view that there was a chance of making an agreement that seemed on naval grounds manifestly to the advantage of other naval Powers, including France. On this point I have a particular word to say. From the practical point of view, the position assured to the French Navy is one of great and solid advantage compared with its pre-War position. With the French Fleet at approximately its present level as compared with our own Fleet, the Agreement gives France a permanent superiority over the German Fleet of 43 per cent., as compared with an inferiority of about 30 per cent. before the War. I am quite aware that the logical and juridical mind often sees things from an angle different from that of the empirical and the practical. But His Majesty's Government have no apologies to make for a practical all-round contribution to peace.

Of one thing I am sure. Had His Majesty's Government refused to pursue an agreement profitable alike to peace and to the taxpayer, not only in this but in other countries, our critics at home would have been the first to throw at us not bouquets but the stones of justifiable criticism. To our friendly critics abroad I would say, in defence of our realist attitude, that, where any of our foreign friends have in the past seen fit to conclude independent arrangements for their own advantage and security and without detriment to anyone or consultation with anyone, we have not only not criticised but have ap- plauded and done our best to assist, as they know that we are doing now and shall continue to do. I am, therefore, bold enough to believe that, when the world looks more dispassionately at these results, the overwhelming majority of those who stand for peace and a restriction of armaments will say that the British Government took not only a wise course but the only course that in the circumstances was open to them.

I pass from the naval question to the question of the Air Pact—the present state of the negotiations—and I will put before the House as frankly as I can the present position. We are anxious for an Air Pact accompanied by air limitation. Years ago, when I was Secretary of State for Air, I remember expressing the view that an Air Pact was necessary for the future peace of the world. Even 10 years ago, long before aircraft became as formidable in speed, performance and destructive power as they are now, it seemed to me that the danger of a knockout blow was so great that only the deterrent of an almost overwhelming Air Force might save the world from a great catastrophe. I believe those views are generally shared by the great majority of Members. We all want an Air Pact. We all want air limitation. The question may then arise, If we all want an Air Pact and we all want air limitation, why is it that an Air Pact cannot be concluded without further delay? I think, when I have put the position before the Committee, they will see that the problem is not quite so simple as it may at first sight appear.

I would remind the Committee that the fundamental condition of an Air Pact is that the five Powers must all agree to it. It is not always easy to get five Powers to agree even to a basis of negotiation about anything. In the case of the Air Pact there is the fact—it is no good blinking facts—that several of the Governments, among them the French Government, take the view that peace is an indivisible whole, and that you cannot deal with one part at a time, but that you must deal with all parts of it together. Let us take into account this view, and let me analyse it to see how far it is justified by the actual position, how far it is a fact that peace is one and indivisible, and that it is impossible to deal with one part of the problem before you deal with the problem as a whole. I would say it is an indisputable fact that, as a result of modern developments, particularly as a result of the development of flying, it is becoming more and more difficult to dissociate one great question of the world from other great questions of the world. It is becoming more and more difficult for any country to adopt an attitude isolated from the attitude of other countries. We may regret the fact. We may look back with regret to the days, the pre-aviation days, when we could lead an insular existence, when we had an undisputed naval supremacy, when our trade had few or no rivals, when we could live our national life complacently, peacefully and usually prosperously. I wish we could back to those days. But we cannot recreate the past, and we have got to take the situation as it is, and to face facts as they are.

Let me illustrate the contention that peace is a single whole by trying to answer a question which, I am sure, has been in the minds of many hon. Members, and it is certainly in my own mind. It is this: What has Great Britain to do with an Eastern Pact, that is to say, a pact of non-aggression in Eastern Europe? Let me tell the Committee what I believe to be the interest of Great Britain in an Eastern Pact, and what I also believe to be the interest of Great Britain in a pact of non-aggression for Central Europe. There is no question of further commitments. But the exclusion of further commitments on our part, to which frequent allusion has been made in the past, does not exclude our interest in these settlements. There are many Governments in Europe—I need not name them—that regard the centre and East of Europe as the danger points. Certain of them go as far as to believe that a settlement in the West by an air pact separated from a settlement of the other peace questions would make the danger in the East even more acute than it is at present. While I cannot go the length of these fears, I do none the less agree that a war started in the centre or East of Europe might, indeed, judging by experience, probably would, lead to a general conflagration, and that on this account it is essential to deal, and to deal without delay, with any danger points that may exist. This is the reason why the British Government is most anxious to see an Eastern and a Danubian Pact of non-aggression concluded at the earliest possible moment.

There was a time when the German Chancellor was opposed to an Eastern Pact. The proposals took a form that he could not accept. All that, however, is changed now. The German Chancellor agreed, during the Stresa Conference, that objection would not be raised to the conclusion by others of pacts of mutual assistance, provided that no more was expected of Germany than agreements of non-aggression, of consultation and denial of assistance to the aggressor. The German Chancellor further stated in his recent speech: The German Government are ready in principle to conclude pacts of non-aggression with their individual neighbours, and to supplement them by every provision which aims at isolating the combatants and localising the war-makers. The French Government have notified the German Government that they accept the German proposals as a basis of negotiation. I believe that the Danubian Pact is susceptible of similar treatment. There is, therefore, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, now no longer any reason at all why rapid progress should not be made toward the conclusion of an Eastern Pact; and His Majesty's Government have fully explained to the German Government their view to this effect.

It is now in the power of the German Chancellor to make and to make easily a real contribution to the cause of peace, a contribution which will remove a cause of anxiety from the minds of many Governments not only in Central and Eastern Europe but in Western Europe as well. I would venture to urge him to make it. I think, indeed, that he will be serving his own cause by making it. He himself spoke very frankly in his speech of 21st May, and he will, I know, feel no resentment if I speak equally frankly. We here—indeed the world at large—have been disturbed not only by Germany's programme of rearmament, but also by certain other phenomena in modern Germany. None the less we have taken the Chancellor at his word, and only in the last few weeks we have given practical proof of it by concluding with him the Naval Agreement to which I have already referred. We have, thereby, as we hope, taken a step forward on the road to reconciliation. But reconciliation, like peace, is one and manifold; and all roads lead to many capitals. Let him now therefore take the next necessary step forward, and help on the negotiation of the Eastern and Danubian Pacts, thereby giving a great impulse to the conclusion of an Air Pact, which I know that he desires.

I hope I have said enough to convince the Committee that we are deeply and continuously interested in the settlement of Central and Eastern Europe. This leads me naturally to a subject which I desire particularly to mention before I come back to the Air Pact—the independence and integrity of Austria. Time after time we have explained our considered view that Austria occupies strategically and economically a key position in Europe, and that a change in her status would shake the foundations of European peace. We shall continue, therefore, to take the closest and most sympathetic interest in the courageous efforts that her Government and her people are making to maintain and strengthen her independent existence. This is one of the reasons why the British Government would like to see a Danubian Pact of non-aggression and non-interference concluded for Central Europe without further delay.

The Committee will see that I have purposely digressed for a few minutes from the question of the Air Pact to deal with other features of peace in Central and Eastern Europe. I have purposely digressed with the object of showing to what extent one question in Europe depends upon another. For our part, we wish to see them all settled, and with that sincere intention of settlement we say, let simultaneous discussion start upon them all. An Air Pact cannot be completed without quintuple agreement. No one, therefore, is being compromised by beginning the negotiations. And here, again, we shall arrive the sooner at our needful destinations if we all practise good humour, common sense and tolerance, of which I spoke at the beginning of my speech, and let us all be realists and keep our minds open to the future course of procedure, when we see how we progress on as wide a front as possible, bearing always in mind that a practical world will expect of us practical results, and will not for ever wish the whole coach to stand still should one horse lag behind. So far as in us lies, we shall do out utmost to see that the team moves forward steadily and evenly. And peace is team work, and sometimes collar-work, which calls for a sustained effort on the part of us all.

I have spoken, and I believe I have spoken truly, of the universality of peace, and the interest of this country in pursuing a policy of general peace. I now come to the question of the machinery of peace, and particularly the machinery of collective peace. Let one say at the outset—though of course I do not wish to discuss the subject to-day—that you cannot have collective security without not only contribution, but proportional contribution. You cannot defend a principle, let alone a neighbour, if you are not prepared and able to defend yourself. By all means let us have peace and reconstruction, but we shall never have it by the force of words unsupported by adequate measure for defending ourselves and carrying out our commitments. The Government at least intend to practise realism, and would be lacking in their duty to collective peace if they failed to do so.

This observation brings me to the key of collective security, to the League of Nations and the British attitude towards it. When I consider the League, I think of it from two standpoints, I think of it, first, from the British standpoint from which we should regard one of our own institutions, for example, the Imperial Parliament. I believe that the strength of the League in Great Britain, just as the strength of the British Parliament, depends upon the amount of public opinion behind it in this country, and on the adaptability of a great institution to a continually changing world. Secondly, I consider the League not from the angle of the past but from the angle of the future. I think much less of what it has done and what it has failed to do in the last 15 years than of what it may do in the next 15 years if it is given a fair chance.

The more I look at the future prospect, whether it be a near or a far prospect, the more sure I am that a system of collective security is essential to peace and stability and that the League best provides the necessary machinery. If the system of collective security that is gradually being built up with great care and patience were smashed, if the League became so feeble and futile as to have no real influence upon the course of events, the old system of alliances, that is the reverse of collective security, must necessarily reappear with all its ancient disquiets and intrigues. I said earlier that the War had not left an easy or gentle world; but it would have been, and would be, far worse without the League. As things are and as long as there is an effective League and a system of collective security we are ready and willing to take our full share of collective responsibility. But when I say collective responsibility, I mean collective responsibility. Over and over again we have stated, and no one better than the Prime Minister, our fidelity to the League and its principles, and I reaffirm it to-day.

This has been the settled policy of this Government, but it has also been the settled policy of every Government since the War. It is the settled policy not of one party but of all parties in the State. We are all, therefore, in duty bound to do our utmost to prevent the development of any crisis that is likely to weaken or destroy the principles upon which the League was built and upon which its influence for peace depends. This is the reason for our grave interest in the Abyssinian controversy. This is the reason why, even at the risk of criticism, we have been prepared to make constructive proposals for the avoidance of a war that, however it ends, must have serious repercussions upon the whole League system. This is our sole reason for our efforts to find a basis of settlement. Here in this House, at any rate, I need not repeat in detail the complete contradiction that we have given to the wild statements as to our motives and our action that have been made in certain sections of the Italian Press. We have no ulterior motive but the motive of a peaceful settlement, and the statements that we are thinking of our own colonial interests and that we are massing troops in the neighbouring British colonies are completely devoid of foundation. I trust that my contradiction will be given the fullest possible publicity in any Italian papers that made themselves responsible for these groundless charges.

I come now to the actual situation. I will purposely not repeat the details of the conversation between Signor Mussolini and the Minister for League of Nations Affairs. The conversation was confidential; it took place at our request, and on my right hon. Friend's side was conducted on the instructions that he had received from the Government. It was, I am certain, of positive value that this discussion should have taken place. I will make only one observation upon it. Signor Mussolini and the Minister for League of Nations Affairs could not have spoken more frankly to each other.

I should like also to make it clear that we have always understood and well understand Italy's desire for overseas expansion. Indeed, we have in the past done our best to show our sympathy with Italian aspirations in a practical way. In 1925 we ceded Jubaland to Italy, and in the present negotiations we showed our willingness to endeavour to ensure for Italy some territorial satisfaction by a reasonable and legitimate arrangement with Abyssinia, to which I will return in a few minutes. Let no one therefore in Italy, in view of these outward and visible signs of our sympathy, suggest that we are unsympathetic to Italian aspirations.

We admit the need for Italian expansion. We admit again the justice of some of the criticisms that have been made against the Abyssinian Government. But are the facts that Italy needs expansion and that complaints are made against the Abyssinian Government sufficient cause for plunging into a war? We have surely found in the past that it is possible to adjust demands and differences of this kind without recourse to war, and I am not prepared even now to abandon any chance that may present itself for averting what I believe will be a calamity, whether it be through the machinery of the 1906 Treaty, or whether it be through the machinery of the League, or whether it be through both. To-day I cannot say more than that we are working on these lines. In the meanwhile, let hon. Members dismiss from their minds the rumours, altogether without foundation, that we have asked the French Government to join in a blockade of Italy and that we ourselves are preparing some isolated form of coercion against the country which has been our friend since the Risorgimento. We stand for peace, and we will not abandon any reasonable chance that may offer itself for helping to prevent a disastrous war.

I promised a moment ago to say a word about the so-called Zeila project. The facts are already clearly before the House. Here also the Government have no apology to make. I myself may have used an unfortunate phrase in reply to a supplementary question the other day, but that does not in any way lessen the fact that the Government are in no way to blame. The Government feel that they took the only course that was open. We have all professed our belief in the League of Nations. I profess my belief in the League of Nations to-day. I say to those who profess their belief in the League of Nations that it is an obligation upon us, when we see the system of the League of Nations threatened, to make constructive proposals, if we can find them, for avoiding what we believe would be a calamity. It is in that spirit that my right hon. Friend went to Rome.

We knew that any suggestion that we might make would probably be open to criticism. We knew that our action might very well be misunderstood, and might very well be misinterpreted, but we felt that the issues were so serious that it was essential that we should make some constructive proposal with a view to preventing a calamity. I am glad that we made that proposal. I believe myself that if it had reached the point at which we could have submitted it to this House and to our treaty-partners, not only that every Member of the Government would have rejoiced but that nine out of 10 hon. Members would have rejoiced with us. I believe further that if we had not come forward with a constructive proposal of this kind many would have blamed us, and we should have blamed ourselves subsequently for not having tried any reasonable expedient that seemed open to us to help to prevent a catastrophe that might have the widest possible reactions. I believe also that when these questions are put in their right perspective many hon. Members who are surprised, and perhaps rightly surprised, at the offer will agree with us that we took a wise course and that we had no right to allow minor difficulties to stand in the way of the possibility of a major settlement.

I have now said something about each of the three burning questions of the moment, and for each of them once again I ask for the good humour, common sense and kindly tolerance of every hon. Member when he comes to consider them.

I now pass, if I am not unduly wearying the Committee, to say a word or two about our foreign relations with certain other countries. I will begin with our old and intimate collaborator, France. She has filled that part for 30 years. It is a friendship which reposes fundamentally on a common political theory of freedom, too easily forgotten and under-estimated in these days, and it reposes furthermore on a deep stratum of common interest. We are the Powers of Western Europe primarily responsible for the settlement of 1919. We are, therefore, together very specifically interested in the modifications of that settlement which are now being made by the imperious bidding of time. We have stood close together and collaborated for many years, and for deep reasons of common interest we shall continue to stand together and collaborate in the future. I need not go far for instances. They are supplied by the London Declaration of last February and the Stresa Resolution of April, and we adhere to the principle of co-operation embodied in those Declarations.

It is not the British way to sacrifice old friendships for the sake of new friendships. That is not to say that we do not seek new friendships, but we seek new friendships in such a way as not to endanger old friendships. It is well that al this should be remembered on both sides of the Channel. If our French friends should be tempted to think that we have recently gone further than they in practical realism, I hope that we may agree to forget any passing differences and to remember a touch of their own humour, when Candide, speaking of the execution of Admiral Byng, observed to Pangloss that the French must have been as far from the Admiral as the Admiral was from the French. We should both be wrong to question a friendship in which no wedges can be driven save by our own two selves.

With Italy we have an old and valued tradition of amity. I have illustrated it in speaking of Abyssinia, and I will only return to it to say that we confirmed it two months ago at Stresa. I have no warmer or more sincere wish than that it should continue.

As regards Russia, I am glad that our relations, both political and commercial, with that Government are now better than they have ever been since the Government was established. Recent developments have brought the Soviet Republic into closer touch with European Powers through their entry into the League of Nations. Any State sincerely desirous of maintaining the peace of Europe, whatever may be its government, will have our collaboration in that aim.

I have already spoken of our relations with Germany, and I need only repeat the keynote of the whole, that our attitude is one of practical and comprehending realism.

Two important subjects still remain, our policy in the Far East and our relations with the United States of America. I feel sure that I need not underline the capital importance that we attach to friendly relations with Japan. We British feel that we have much in common with Japan. We see their great Empire, living under the inestimable blessing of an hereditary Monarchy, full of enterprise and deeply interested in naval questions. We are glad to think that though our respective trade and commerce often come into competition, and sometimes into rivalry, the two countries have never come into conflict. We are anxious to see the most friendly relations continue, but I should not be frank with our Japanese friends if I did not say that the friends of Japan in England have been disturbed and disquieted by certain recent events in North China. I trust that this chapter of anxiety is closing, and that our desire for the most friendly relations will be given unrestricted opportunity of fuller development.

In regard to China, His Majesty's Government have lately given emphasis to the importance that they attach to Anglo-Chinese relations, first, by raising His Majesty's Legation to the status of an Embassy, and, second, by the decision to give our Ambassador accommodation nearer the seat of government where he can keep in closer contact with the Chinese authorities. The House will also remember that we are sending to China one of our most distinguished civil servants and economists, Sir Frederick Leith Ross, on an economic mission of investigation, the importance and scope of which I have already described to the House. It is the belief of His Majesty's Government that steady progress towards order and stability in China can only be maintained, first, by the promotion of good relations between China and Japan and, second, by co-operation between those two countries and other countries with similar interests and aims. In a word, the maintenance of the principle of the Open Door, coupled with the full recognition of China's right to control her own destinies, remains the broad basis of English policy in China. If China is to regain her historic place in the world, she will need help from the West as well as from the East.

There remains, finally, the chapter of our relations with the United States of America. Here I may be happily brief. They are excellent and, I doubt not, will remain excellent. On this side of the Atlantic there will never be a Government but will do its best to ensure this essential relation, essential to the world as well as to ourselves. All that we have in common has often been said. It has, however, sometimes been suggested that the United States have made offers to us and that we have refused them. There is no foundation for this criticism. We have refused no offers for no offers have been made to us. I need hardly add that if offers of co-operation are made to us they will always find a friendly welcome in Great Britain. In the meanwhile, let us foster our friendships and maintain in our intercourse a realist attitude towards each other.

The truest friends of Anglo-American relations are those who do not make impossible demands on them. While attaching the fullest value to Anglo-American co-operation, we must expect no more of our American friends than they are able or willing to contribute. Let us never in international affairs make the mistake, so common in private life, of continually analysing contentment, until somehow it seems insufficient. Let us rather be thankful for all that we already have and intend to maintain. It is with this feeling of thankfulness that I think of our two great peoples, differing it may be in many small respects, but never, I believe, likely to differ on any big issues.

I have finished my survey, and I return once again to the appeal that I made at the beginning of my speech. I do not expect that there will not be criticism, and criticism over a wide field, of anything that the Government does or anything that the Government does not do, but all that I ask is that the criticism should be constructive, that the difficulties of the problems that I have brought to the attention of the Committee this afternoon should be realised, and that we should all of us, whatever may be our ultimate conclusion, attempt to approach them in a realist and practical manner. I ask for the maximum of attainable unity in this country on these matters of common, concern. After all, we are all agreed upon the broad principles of British policy. We all realise the great responsibilities of the British Empire. We have no intention of adopting a jealous or a selfish attitude against countries whose possessions are smaller or less various than our own.

We intend to maintain the pledges that we have given in our treaties and in the Covenant, and we are ready to work with Europe upon a basis of collective security. We are determined to use our full influence for the reconciliation of old animosities, but we will use it in such a way as shall not alienate old friends in our desire to make new ones. The friendships of the British Empire are not exclusive. We gladly hold out our hand to any country in the West or in the East that will work with us for stability and security, for justice and fair dealing, for peace and good will. We are, I believe, agreed at home upon these principles of policy. Let us make a further and greater effort to carry them into effect abroad.

4.44 p.m.


The Committee has listened with close attention to the comprehensive statement which has been made by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on his first appearance before the Committee in that capacity. There will be uppermost in the minds of hon. Members in all quarters, first, a desire to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on personal grounds on his accession to that high, office, and, second, a feeling of sympathy with him in the magnitude of the problems with which he has immediately been called upon to deal and the greatness of the responsibilities that rest upon him. It is a responsibility which the House of Commons, in some degree, must share itself, and the House has never been slow to respond to the appeal of any Foreign Secretary, whatever Government he may belong to, for that co-operation, the maximum obtainable unity, for which the right hon. Gentleman himself has pleaded in his concluding remarks. Our efforts in all matters of foreign affairs must be to help and not hinder His Majesty's Government. I hope that the Committee will approve the action taken by hon. Members on these benches in asking the Government to put down the Foreign Office Vote so that we may have a comprehensive discussion of these important questions.

At the time when we asked for this Debate we desired, in particular, to inquire how matters stand with regard to an air pact and to direct renewed attention to the importance of this question. Since then two other issues have arisen which have occupied a great part of public attention in this and in other countries—namely, the Anglo-German Naval Agreement and the dispute between Italy and Abyssinia. While these two matters may be perhaps more urgently and prominently in the minds of hon. Members than the other, we desire that the question of an air pact should not be allowed to slip into the background. Therefore, let me begin by reminding the Committee of the course of recent events in that regard. It was discovered some months ago that Germany was increasing her air force with great rapidity and a feeling of alarm spread in this country. The Government declared that it was essential that we should with equal rapidity enlarge our own air force and laid proposals before Parliament to that end. At the same time, they declared that this increase could be stopped at any moment, and that if an agreement for limitation could be arrived at with Germany the vast expansion of our air force could be suspended. Whereupon the German Chancellor, in his famous speech of 21st May, gave a public pledge that Germany would be prepared to build no more aircraft than were necessary to give her equality with any Power in Western Europe.

This matter was debated in the House of Commons on the 31st May, again on a Motion from these benches. We most strongly pressed upon the Government that it was an absurd situation that we should be spending vast sums of money in order to treble our own air force to secure equality with Germany when Germany had publicly declared that she required no greater air force than any Power in the West. Consequently, as I said then, the yardstick was France. We urged that it was essential that every effort should be made at once to secure agreement for limitation. The present Home Secretary, who as then Foreign Secretary, replied in the Debate on 31st May, and he declared that he was in full agreement. He used these words: Time is a tremendously important factor. … Every exertion is being put into this matter. … It is being pursued with very great energy, and without any loss of time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st May, 1935; col. 1454, Vol. 302.] Six weeks have elapsed since then and in answer to a question yesterday the Minister for League of Nations Affairs told us that negotiations between the five Locarno Powers regarding an air pact have not even yet begun. Not merely have we made no progress, not merely have we failed to come to an exact agreement, but we have not even begun, six weeks after that Debate, to discuss the matter. Meanwhile, recruits are being enlisted in the air force in large numbers; there are placards in all towns calling for volunteers, for 2,500 additional airmen and 20,000 additional mechanics. Contracts are being made for new aeroplanes, land for new aerodromes is being purchased, and aerodromes laid out, and within a few days this House will be faced with an additional supplementary Estimate which we are told will amount to not less than £5,000,000. And all this when Germany, against whom we are building, has declared that she is willing to stop building at any moment provided she has an assurance that other Powers will do the same. The Foreign Secretary to-day has told us the reason why these negotiations for an air pact have not yet been begun. The reason is that certain Powers in Europe, he mentioned France in particular, hold that all these matters are inter-related, that you cannot touch the question of an air pact without touching a variety of questions, some of them dealing with armaments on land and sea and some dealing with political matters.

I venture to draw the special attention of the Committee to this. We have here a new issue emerging into European and world politics, the issue whether all questions relating to peace and armaments must be dealt with simultaneously or whether it is right to pick out a certain area and deal with that prior to what may be called a global arrangement. I strongly urge on the Government that the latter course is the right one; that we should not accept the view held in some continental countries that unless you can get everything done nothing should be done. We have had several years' experience of that procedure at the Disarmament Conference. The result has been absolutely nil. The principle which is now emerging is that any one Power is able to stop any agreement of any kind in any part of Europe. Each one is to have the right to say that unless I get satisfaction in this matter no one shall be satisfied in any matter. That is, essentially, what it comes to.

Probably the worst constitution of any country at any time in history was the constitution of Poland in the 17th and 18th centuries, which allowed what was called the Liberum Veto to any individual member of the Polish Diet, which consisted of hundreds and I think thousands. This power, which was vested in any one individual member, of stopping the conclusion of any agreement and preventing the passage of any law, made that constitution absolutely unworkable and was the chief cause of the ultimate partition of Poland. We do not have to go as far away as Poland or to such a distant period as the 17th century. Here in this House everyday at 2.45 and every night at 11 o'clock we have the same procedure in operation. Any Member rising in his place and saying "I object," can stop the passage of any Private Bill or any Resolution. But there is here an alternative procedure; that is not the end of the matter, and another opportunity can be found for these questions to be discussed. In Poland that was not the case, and now, apparently, in Europe it is not to be the case. Any Power is, apparently, to be allowed to impose a liberum veto on the progress and solution of any of these matters.

The Government, however, have broken through that rule by making the naval agreement with Germany, and the Com- mittee to-day must express its views as to that agreement. I know that it has caused a great searching of hearts among the many friends of disarmament, particularly on the ground that this is a separate agreement made with Germany without the intervention of the League, without consultation with others, and obviously and clearly in direct conflict with the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, which still pro forma are valid in international law. Many also regret that this agreement should have been made without co-operation from France and Italy, and consider that it might be regarded as a breaking of the front established at Stressa. Indeed, I think most of us who consider that in the main the Government were right to make the Naval Agreement, that it was essential that Herr Hitler's offer should be taken at its face value, accepted and clinched at once—I hold that view myself—also consider that the matter was not perhaps very happily handled diplomatically, and that there was a certain lack of skill in the prior preparations and negotiations, which is to be greatly regretted. It would have been far better if an agreement of that sort had been in a provisional form, taking effect from the date of signature but awaiting ratification until there was a general settlement with regard to the disarmament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles.

With regard to the technical aspects of the agreement, I do not propose to say anything, and this is not the occasion. No doubt they will be discussed on some day when the House or the Committee devotes its attention to Navy Estimates. But I express the view that the Government are to be commended for not having let the opportunity slip of securing, at, all events in this one point of the disarmament problem, some actual achievement. For some years everything has been attempted and nothing done, and at long last there is clearly and visibly in the sight of all the world an agreement between two great Powers, which puts a stop, in one province, upon a race in armaments which otherwise would have been unlimited. Herr Hitler made the offer that Germany would not built up to the level of more than 35 per cent. of the strength of the British Navy. As things are in Europe to-day that offer was made voluntarily. It was to be accepted or rejected. If it was not accepted, it might well have been withdrawn, and if it were withdrawn, if the offer had not been accepted, the result would not have been that no German navy would have been built.

Those who criticise the Agreement declare that we have sanctioned and contributed to the resurrection of the German navy. That is not the position at all. If the offer had been rejected, or allowed to drop, the German navy would have been built, but, instead of being formally, definitely and solemnly limited to a, distinct proportion of our own, it would have been constructed without any limitation at all, with the result not that the Treaty of Versailles would have been vindicated but merely that the infraction of the Treaty would have gone further than it has yet. We should realise that the disarmament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles are dead, and the fact that they have not been buried merely poisons the air of Europe. Their ghost cannot stop the re-arming of Germany, but they may still be potent to forbid any agreement to limit the re-arming of Germany. It seems an absurd position taken up by the opponents of this Agreement to say to Germany, "You must not build in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles, but if you do the proprieties forbid our accepting your own offer to limit the extent of your building." To say that is to say that whatever is illegal must therefore be unlimited. That is not statesmanship but diplomatic pedantry.

We on these benches have not been slow to criticise the Government in very many Departments. We are not like the chamberlains in Voltaire's story to which the Foreign Secretary referred. We know those chamberlains very well—the two who say, "What the Prince is about to say is right," and the two who say, "What the Prince has just uttered is very right." Two of those chamberlains are of course National Liberals, and the other two are National Labour. For our own part, while we are ready to criticise and with emphasis whenever the occasion requires, we have no sympathy with those who, when some action is taken of which we may approve in general, seize the opportunity to say, "Not now and not thus," and express condemnation which is really undeserved.

With regard to the Naval Agreement, I do not think that the concern which is felt in France and in other countries on broader grounds of international politics is well founded. It has been said that this Agreement implies that public opinion in this House and in the country generally with regard to the regime in Germany has changed and that we feel less revulsion against the violence and intolerance practised there. I do not think that that is so. I think that this Agreement has been arrived at entirely independently of any considerations of that kind. Nor do I think it is true to say that it implies a going back of this country from France and a tendency to enter the orbit of Germany, or that we do not realise the menace to the peace of the world that may come from the militarism of Germany and the philosophy of racial predominance which is preached there. I think that public opinion in Britain realises that that is one of the great perils in front of the world. Nor do I think that this Agreement implies any lessening of our readiness to take part in any front against any possible aggression. We see as well as our friends in France the danger that may arise to Europe in that quarter and the further danger that may arise from the constant declarations of the German Chancellor of antagonism to Russia. It may be true that Germany is planning to have a policy which will give her security on the west in order that she may have a free hand in the east.

I think that all of these things we realise quite clearly. But the divergence between British policy and French policy now—and has been for some years past—is a divergence as to the best way to handle the actual situation in Europe. The British thought some years ago that it was a profound mistake on the part of France to occupy the Ruhr and that that would not lead ultimately to the pacification of Europe. We have urged for years past that it was not a possible policy, and could never be a possible policy, to keep Germany permanently disarmed and surrounded by a ring of armed neighbours. We thought that it was a great mistake on the part of the Government of M. Doumergue and M. Barthou to reject categorically in April, 1934, the German offer that was then made for a limitation of armaments.

Many of us are inclined to think that again a mistake will be made if the French insist that everything is to be attempted at once and no agreement made, with regard, for example, to an air pact, unless simultaneously all the other problems to which the Foreign Secretary referred are dealt with also—that we cannot get on with this limitation, that we cannot stop the threefold expansion of our Air Force, unless first the Danubian problem is dealt with, the Lithuanian problem is dealt with, and the pact of non-aggression in the East is dealt with.

The other matter to which I would wish to refer, and the third of the great questions which are now exercising our minds, is that of the Italo-Abyssinian dispute, which fills us all with the gravest anxiety. It is not for us in this House to anticipate what may be the decisions of the League Council. The procedure for conciliation has not yet been exhausted. The conference representing the two parties which has been meeting has broken down, but there has been no clear and full statement of the reasons for the breakdown or of the rights and wrongs of these matters. The Italian grievances have not yet been definitely formulated and have not yet been examined by the League. All that is true, and in this discussion to-day I suggest, with respect, that it would be an error for any Member to assume that the matter has already been decided, that aggression has already been declared, and that it is the duty of this House to express its views on that situation.

But what profoundly disturbs us all is the method that has been pursued by Italy. Italy was a signatory with all the other nations of the world, great and small, of the Pact of Paris, or the Kellogg Pact. That pact was in short and simple terms. Each signatory undertook to renounce war as an instrument of national policy. The question now arises whether Italy's present action in consistent with that solemn undertaking. Has she renounced war as an instrument of national policy? The whole world applauded the conclusion of that pact, which it was thought might raise civilisation to a higher level. If there is a direct repudia- tion of both its spirit and letter, it cannot but cause us all the gravest apprehension. And no distinction can be drawn between war and violence as an instrument of national policy. It is difficult to say at what moment violence passes into war, but the dispatch of division after division of troops to the frontier of one of the parties to a dispute does not appear at first sight to be consistent with an undertaking to renounce war as an instrument of national policy.

The world's concern is all the graver in consequence of the declarations on this question in general by Signor Mussolini, who is the sole authority directing the policy of Italy to-day, and I feel bound to quote these words from a speech by Signor Mussolini, made last year, which was not some casual and unconsidered declaration, but was an important speech officially communicated by the Italian Government to the Press of the world. In the course of that speech, he used these words: It is, therefore, necessary to be prepared for war, not to-morrow, but to-day. We are becoming—and shall become so increasingly, because this is our desire—a military nation. A militaristic nation, I will add, since we are not afraid of words. To complete the picture, warlike—that is to say endowed ever to a higher degree with the virtues of obedience, sacrifice and dedication to country. This means that the whole life of the nation, political, economic and spiritual, must be systematically directed towards our military requirements. He went on to say later: In spite of all conferences, all protocols and all the more or less highest and good intentions, the hard fact of war may be anticipated to accompany the human kind in the centuries to come just as it stands on record at the dawn of human history. That is a very significant and, I venture to suggest, sinister utterance, and, when we see the preparations that are now being made, we cannot dissociate them from declarations of that kind. Perhaps, however, we may see once again a wise restraint such as he has previously shown more than once when matters had apparently reached a highly critical position, and it is possible still that at the eleventh hour he may agree to some settlement on not unreasonable lines which will enable him to go to the Italian people as a statesman who has achieved peace with honour. It would be a mistake for this House to treat a crisis that is impending as though it had already occurred, to forestall the League's decisions and, most of all, to use language which might be regarded as menacing. At the same time we ought not to leave Italy or any other Power in ignorance of what is the feeling permeating large bodies of opinion in this country—I believe the overwhelming body of opinion in this country—if any action is taken which cuts at the roots of collective security established by the League of Nations.

We may be approaching at this hour one of the supreme issues of our time, when we have to ask if collective security has any meaning or not, and whether the Covenant of the League and the Pact of Paris are documents of serious binding importance or documents that may be ignored by any Power, great or small, whenever it thinks that it is to its interest to do so. It has been declared again and again by spokesmen of all parties that support of the League is the corner stone of British policy, and the League, if it exists for any purpose, exists to prevent deliberate aggression by one member against any other member. I regretted that the Foreign Secretary to-day struck a rather piano note in dealing with this subject. He did not exhibit any very resolute spirit to make sure that the functions of the League should be carried out in a courageous and effective fashion. This House in general—there may be some dissentients here and there—would be ready to support His Majesty's Government in any measures they may be willing to take within the League and in co-operation with the other League members to vindicate the principles on which the League is founded. Certain it is that whatever is ultimately done by the members of the League must be done publicly and at Geneva. Any action or refusal to take action cannot be a matter of private understanding or representations or assurances, but must be done in pursuance of the principles of the League, publicly in the presence of the whole world, and each Power will sooner or later have to state before the bar of the world's opinion where it stands, what it will do and what it will not do. I feel sure that I am expressing the opinion of every Member of the House, for it is a point that is quite obvious and not open to any disagreement, that we all most earnestly hope that an accommodation may still be reached, that this crisis may be avoided, and that the efforts now being made by His Majesty's Government to that end may result in a successful conclusion.

5.15 p.m.


I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.

This Debate has been rendered very important by the speech of the Foreign Secretary. We have had speeches from the previous Foreign Secretary in this House throughout the duration of this Parliament up till now, and in those speeches we have generally found a lot of lip service to the League of Nations. The new Foreign Secretary has asked us to be realists and his realism is such that it was not until a late stage in his speech that he even mentioned the subject at all. I really think the House is to be congratulated on having had such a realist speech from the right hon. Gentleman. For the last three and a-half years a kind of Jekyll and Hyde business has been going on but now we have Jekyll and Hyde separated and we have had Hyde this afternoon. Jekyll represents the idealist view of foreign affairs based on the League of Nations, and the kind of principles which we have been trying to establish in the world since the War. Hyde represents Imperialist realism and that is what we had from the Foreign Secretary this afternoon.

I am moving to reduce this Vote as a protest against the fact that the whole speech of the right hon. Gentleman was utterly retrograde and an entire going back upon all the principles of the League. In fact he took us straight back to pre-war foreign policy. I am sorry not to be able to respond to his suggestion that we should all smile and look on happily. In the last four years we have seen the kind of world which we hoped to build up after the War tumble down in ruins and one of the principal architects of that ruin has been the late Foreign Secretary who is now Home Secretary. He has the unfortunate habit that when confronted with a difficulty he runs away from it and tries to dodge it in every way. We have seen him during all this time running away from any attempt to put into practice the principles of the League. If anyone suggested for a moment that he should stand fast for those principles, that person was at once condemned as a war wisher.

We must all be gratified to see that our present Foreign Secretary is at least doing justice to China. China did not ask for much. She only asked that the solemn pledges given under the Covenant of the League should be observed. Of course she has lost Manchuria and she has lost Jehel and she is rapidly losing other provinces, but we are giving her an Ambassador instead of a Minister. I am sure that that will be extraordinarily gratifying to China and to all those who believe in collective security. Next we have the question of Abyssinia. Abyssinia is a member of the League. I am not concerned with the question of whether Abyssinia as a State is or is not a very worthy member of the League. I see letters in the "Times" suggesting that Abyssinia is not a very respectable State, but there are a great many States in the League of whom it might be said that they are not very respectable when one comes to examine their interior organisation. Abyssinia at any rate was accepted as a member of the League. She appealed to the League as she had a right to do. She put herself entirely in the right. We offered her a strip of territory but nobody seems to have offered to stand by her on the principles of the Covenant of the League of Nations.

You can, if you like, say that the Covenant of the League is all wrong, that we ought not to have any Covenant and that there ought not to be any pledges for collective security. What I object to is that we should remain nominally bound by all kinds of promises when there is no attempt by us or by anybody else to fulfil them. Let me make it plain, because this is a matter which is widely misrepresented in the country, that we have never suggested that this country should take unilateral action against an aggressor. We never suggested it in the case of Japan. We never suggested it in the case of Abyssinia.


By "unilateral action" the right hon. Gentleman means solitary action.


We have never suggested that this country should take single action. What we have suggested is that this country should take such action as can be taken with the League and should take a position in the League worthy of our position in the world. As a matter of fact, we have taken solitary action because on every occasion when these matters came up the late Foreign Secretary was always the first to show a clean pair of heels. He always set the example of running away and that is why we have such a melancholy position exhibited to us by the present Foreign Secretary in his tour round the world this afternoon. I listened with great interest yesterday to a speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in which he drew a picture of what had been going on during the last four years. He began by describing the early days of this Parliament and he showed how this "young and vigorous" Parliament, I think he said—


"Young and raw" Parliament.


I would not disagree with the right hon. Gentleman on a choice of epithets because that is a, subject in which he is a past master and I certainly accept his correction. The right hon. Gentleman on that occasion described the appalling effects on the foreign situation of this Parliament's record. The fact remains that the issue which we have to face to-day is: Is there any value at all in professions of devotion to the League; is there any value at all in the idea of collective security; is there any value at all in the words of Governments; is there any value at all in treaties; is there any value at all in Locarno to-day? We have had a remarkable statement from the Foreign Secretary. He said we were now seeing what, I think he described as the reformation of the Peace Treaties at the imperious bidding of Time. We have seen the tearing up of treaties at the imperious bidding of Japan and of Hitler and of Mussolini. What we have now got is this. We have a League, founded on certain principles, in which it was agreed that war should not be an instrument of policy; in which it was agreed that the integrity of each State should be the common interest of all and in which it was agreed that peace should be the common interest of all. And yet we find by experience that those who pursue Imperialist designs can "get away with it."

The question which arises is, how long are we to carry on that farce? We are out to make the League of Nations a reality. This Government have reduced it to a farce. What is the good of the right hon. Gentleman talking about collective security? What is meant by that phrase now? What would happen to any small State which was dependent on collective security? The right hon. Gentleman to-day has given his own answer. He has said that collective security is all very well but that you have to depend on your own strength and that before you can help anyone else you have to be prepared to defend yourself. That is all very well for the big State but how does it apply to the small State? Where then is your collective security?

In fact what we see to-day is that under the cover of the League of Nations certain States pursue their Imperialist designs. I do not think that we ought to try to put ourselves on a kind of pillar of virtue in considering this matter. This country is a great Imperialist State and the right hon. Gentleman not very politely but very frankly recognised that we were a State rather like Japan. We have done things in the past rather like those which Japan has done in China or Italy in regard to Abyssinia. In those days of course people preached a frank Imperialism. If you are going to preach a frank Imperialism then by all means do so but do not practise Imperialism under the cloak of the League of Nations. The right hon. Gentleman clearly did not look at the Abyssinian question from the point of view of rights under the League at all, because the thing that was weighing with him apparently was that Italy had a right to expand. I do not suggest for a moment that the boundaries of all, the States in the world are sacrosanct. But how does that argument apply in connection with the League of Nations? How can Italy better her case by citing the fact that she has a large population and wants expansion? If I were found burgling it would not be taken as a, good excuse that I wanted a good deal of money and was rather short at the time. That indeed is a very common plea in such cases, but that is the kind of plea which is being put forward to-day.

I want the Government to face the fact that masses of people in this country to-day believe in the League system though they do not believe in a League system which is only Imperialism in disguise. To use nice phrases about collective security and the peace of the world and to connive at the actions of every Power that wants to use force is sheer hypocrisy. I respond readily to the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that we should be realists, and I hope that he will be realist enough to recognise that there are masses of people in this country who will not support that old Imperialist line of politics. I am not suggesting that this country is planning the annexation of this or that territory. We have made seizures of territory in the past but we do not adopt that policy so much nowadays. If, however, we acquiesce in the rule of the strong against the weak, we are just as guilty as the rest, and what has disturbed me during recent years is that in all these discussions about the position of Abyssinia and so forth what has appeared to concern us most has been, not so much what is right, as what will be the effect on something else in connection with foreign affairs. Can we afford to break with this Imperialist Power?

The right hon. Gentleman said, quite rightly, that the alternative to a League system was a system of alliances, but have we not got back to alliances already? Are there not a whole lot of veiled alliances? The fact is that you have torn up entirely the Treaty of Versailles, and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal faction below the Gangway was quite right when he said that. You have made an agreement with Germany with regard to the Navy. The right hon. Gentleman is very easily satisfied. He welcomed it as a great step towards disarmament—the re-armament of Germany as a great step towards disarmament! We say it is nothing but a steady progress towards re-armament and towards competition in armaments again. It is not my purpose to discuss the question of this Naval agreement to-day. We shall ask as soon as possible for a day on the Navy Estimates in order that the matter may be discussed in all its bearings. I do not think in the least that it is an agreement that is so welcome. The right hon. Gentleman welcomed it because, he said, if you had not got it, you might have got something much worse. That is not the point, however. The point is that these things are done at the dictation of the Hitlers, the Mussolinis, and the rest of them, and it is because no attempt has been made to give a lead in Europe to stand up for the rule of law against the rule of force.

I am not blaming the present Foreign Secretary, who has come into a, terrible inheritance. The late Foreign Secretary came in at a time when this country stood high in the world, but he surrendered every single position, and now we come back to this grave position, in which it is suggested that we shall have to acquiesce in another spoliation of a weak State by a strong State, and the only course suggested is that we should form more and more pacts. When I look at the map of Europe, I see it strewn with broken pacts. What is the use of suggesting that we shall get any safety from an Eastern pact, a Danubian pact, an air pact, a German pact, when the series of broken pacts almost impedes the Foreign Offices of Europe? He would be a bold man who would say whether the Locarno Pact was of any effect. I do not think ayone would suggest that the Nine Power Pact is of any effect—he would be a cynical man who would say so—or the Kellogg Pact.

What has become of the Treaty of Versailles? How much remains of it, I do not know, but it looks as if a great experiment was failing. The experiment was that after the War people were really scared of war, and they came together to try to form a League of Nations. The question was: Was there enough common intelligence, enough common honesty, enough idea of what the future might bring forth to induce Imperialist Powers to come together and sink their Imperialist interests in the common interests of the world? It is proved that at present that is a failure, that the Imperialist Powers are following up their Imperialism, and that we are now faced with a world suffering under fear and lapsing into disorder. The right hon. Gentleman talked about people who make scare speeches and so forth. His speech scared me. It seemed to me to show no clear line of policy whatever on the part of the Government. When the right hon. Member the Minister for League of Nations Affairs speaks I can always see throughout his speeches that there is an ideal to which he is working, but I can see nothing in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman but a temporising and a parleying with all the forces of disorder in the world.

We think the Government, by their mishandling of foreign affairs, have brought the world back practically to the situation in 1913 and 1914, and judging from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that the Government have nothing more in view than that, it is useless to think that they are going to lead us out of our present difficulties. I believe that if they would take the line taken by the masses of the people in this country, the line taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for League of Nations Affairs, and try to make the League a reality, give up power politics, try to act together with all the small and law-abiding States, and not run at the first shaking of the fist of every bandit State, they might save Europe and the world, but as it is I have lived to see to-day a most terrible example of drift, and drift, and drift that is leading on again to war.

6.37 p.m.


I have some comments to make upon the recent conduct of foreign affairs which, I cannot disguise at the outset, may be deemed to be of a critical character, but I must say that I do not find myself in any closer agreement with the speech which has just been delivered by the right hon. Gentleman who speaks for the Labour Opposition. It was a speech which certainly was entirely devoid of any kind of constructive suggestion. I do not say that private Members, or even Members who speak with great authority for organised parties, are called upon in every speech to make constructive suggestions, and it is a very easy thing for Governments to say, "Let us have your alternative plan." My experience leads me to believe that it is a very great risk for private persons to attempt to offer constructive plans. But still, the right hon. Gentleman, representing as he does a scheme of thought and putting his case so very high, ought, I think, to have given us a little more to build on than the statement that all pacts are useless, that Europe is cumbered with the litter of pacts, and, at the same time, that we ought to join with the small nations as far as possible in endeavouring to secure that reign of law and that inauguration of permanent peace which his adherents desire and which is the common property of us all.

I do not quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman, I must say, in his references to the late Foreign Secretary. I have criticised him, and I shall no doubt criticise his successor, but I certainly think it is very unfair to try to pile upon a single man the blame for all the awful transformation and degeneration which has occurred in European affairs and in world affairs during the last four or five years. Certainly I feel that the late Foreign Secretary devoted to his task talents which are not easily to be rivalled by any one in this House, and a sincere, profound desire for peace and for working for peace, in pursuance of which he has made sacrifices which have never been surpassed by any Member now sitting on the Front Opposition Bench, except perhaps the Leader of the Opposition himself. No; I hope that we shall not go about imagining that we are going to make our discussion of these matters any easier by simply trying to throw upon a single man the blame for events which all men have so far found themselves unable to contain or to control.

I listened to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I have seen a great deal of him this Session. I hope he will not mind my saying that, in spite of my differences with him on India, I rather wish he had remained to see that important matter through, but at any rate he may be quite sure that no friction engendered in those Debates will or should in the slightest degree prejudice any of those who may differ from him on the India matter. We all hope his tenure of the Foreign Office—indeed, we have no alternative but to hope, for what choice have we, considering that all our interests are in the matter and all our lives and fortunes are in the matter?—we all hope and pray that he will have good success. It was, therefore, with those sentiments that I listened to his speech, and I do not think anyone could find positive fault with that speech. It certainly was a survey of the world designed to deal with these different matters in such a way as to leave calmer and quieter feelings behind. If it did not, as I agree, face the grave issues which exist, it certainly was designed to have a pacifying and soothing effect, and for the right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Opposition to pretend that it was a sort of speech of a Mr. Hyde reverting to old, pre-war, jingo, Imperialistic policy, and as it were to class the right hon. Gentleman and the entirely well meaning, blameless, and peace-minded Government whom he represents with the kind of Imperialist dictatorships of Europe, is an absurdity which has only to be presented to win the universal condemnation which it deserves.

My right hon. Friend began his speech by saying that he would leap into the deep end of the pool and not go to the shallow part where the platitudes and generalities exist. I do not blame him that, after a few vigorous strokes in the deeper end, he found himself swimming in the part which is more usually frequented, the safer part of the bathing pool. As I say, we must wish him well in his task, and to say that we welcome him arriving in his position is not, in my opinion, to cast an invidious reflection upon the man whom he has succeeded. I do not think that when Ministers leave great Departments it should be supposed that it means that they have failed or that they are thereby humiliated. It may well be that circumstances, which are constantly changing, do require that new agents should come and take a new view at particular moments, and I am sure that the House will not support ungenerous attempts to blame on an individual what after all is beyond the compass of any human being.

I now must say that when we last discussed foreign affairs I thought there was very general agreement. We were agreed, or we seemed to be agreed, to what had been done at Stresa, the declaration of comradeship between the three great Powers that met at Stresa. We were agreed, I think, in supporting the action of the Government in joining in the resolution of the League of Nations condemning treaty breaking by Germany in the matter of armaments. We were agreed to work in combination through the League of Nations for those principles of collective security—real collective security—which mean that the contributions to that security shall be adequate to give a sense of relief and assurance to all. I thought we were all agreed on that. I found myself in closer relation to His Majesty's Government on foreign affairs than I had been in the whole of this Parliament. Curiously enough it seemed to me that the last act of the late Prime Minister—who is now Lord President—in foreign affairs, in making his comments on the Stresa negotiations, made him more truly the mouthpiece of British feeling and British interest than ever before. We have now heard a speech from the Foreign Secretary which, I say, in no way conflicts with those general principles which were established when we last discussed foreign affairs.

Meanwhile, however, a number of things have happened which do conflict most markedly with those general principles, which the right hon. Gentleman has recited to us to-day. The scene is gravely changed. We have condoned, and even praised, the German treaty breaking in fleet building. I see that Lord Beatty, speaking somewhere else, said that we ought to be grateful to Germany for not having demanded 50 per cent. On that basis we ought to be more grateful that they did not demand 100 per cent. We have condoned this unilateral violation of the Treaty, and we have become a party to it without agreement with any of the other contries concerned. We have, however unintentionally, nullified and stultified the League of Nations' condemnation of treaty breaking in respect of armaments, in which we were ourselves concerned, in which, indeed, we took a leading part. We have, it seems to me, revealed, again quite unintentionally, a very considerable measure of indifference to the interests of other Powers, particularly Powers in the Baltic, who were encouraged by our example to join with us in the League of Nations in condemning treaty breaking. Our defence has been made by the right hon. Gentleman, and it is, I gather, that we have taken this step and made this naval agreement, as he said, for our own advantage and security. Of course, he contends, and rightly contends, that it is in many respects not necessarily contrary to the advantage and security of others. But, at any rate, it is an entirely separate action. I must say a word later about this naval agreement and the alleged advantages which we are supposed to have derived from it. For the moment, I only refer to them to bring to the notice of the Committee that we have in this matter, in the name of what is called practical realism, seemed to depart from the principle of collective security in a very notable fashion.

We have seemed to depart from—although I hope we may return again to—the comradeship agreed upon at Stresa and from the League of Nations resolution against Treaty-breaking, and we have done it in order to make a side deal with Germany which we thought to be in our interests, and not contrary to other interests in Europe. We cannot have done this without affecting prejudicially—although, again, I hope only for the time being—the confidence which exists between us and France, which is so vitally necessary for us at all times, but never more vitally necessary for us than during these years upon which we are now entering, when our air defence will be so woefully inferior to that of Germany. It is not a very good tale which I have had to tell of what has happened since we last had a full dress debate on foreign affairs. But it is only one part of the story. At the same time that we have been diverging from the League of Nations in one direction for our particular and legitimate national interest, real or supposed, Italy has made it plain that she means to invade and conquer Abyssinia. I hope that the optimism of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal party may be borne out.


I was not optimistic at all.


Shall I say, then that I hope that in the tenacious grasping of the last straws of hope exhibited by my right hon. Friend he will be right and correct. As he said, however, what is reported every day about the movement of troops and the declarations of the head of the Italian State leaves us very little room to doubt that, as soon as the season of the year is suitable, the only hope of Abyssinians retaining their territory and the lands on which they have lived for so many thousands of years will be in the fighting qualities of their men. I greatly deplore that. Here is this threat to the League on the one hand, and it has happened at the very moment when 11,000,000 people in this island have testified their own fidelity to and conviction for the League. In this short space of time we have made a separate arrangement for ourselves of a perfectly innocent character, but still separate, and at the same time the League is confronted with this grave embarrassment through the ambitions of Italy in Abyssinia. In the course we have taken we have placed ourselves in a position where it makes it very difficult for us to remonstrate too strongly with Italy without being exposed to a somewhat severe reply that when we think our special and particular interests are involved we show but little consideration for the decision against treaty- breaking to which we have just urged the League of Nations to come. I thought it right to place before the Committee these two aspects of what has happened since we last discussed the matter.

There is, however, a third aspect. Simultaneously with all I have recited, we have nevertheless seemed to allow—I say "seemed to allow" because I do not attribute it to the policy of the Government at all—the impression to be created that we were ourselves coming forward as a sort of bell-wether or fugleman to gather and lead opinion in Europe against Italy's Abyssinian designs. It was even suggested that we would act individually and independently. I am glad to hear from my right hon. Friend that there is no foundation for that. We must do our duty, but we must do it with other nations only in accordance with the obligations which others recognise as well. We are not strong enough—I say it advisedly—to be the law-giver and the spokesman of the world. We will do our part, but we cannot be asked, and we ought not to put ourselves in a position of being supposed, to do more than our part in these matters. I rejoice, indeed, that my right hon. Friend corrected that, but still the fact remains that throughout Italy we have been regarded with great resentment which has been fed by altogether false and absurd rumours which my right hon. Friend has rightly characterised and exposed to-day.

As we stand to-day there is no doubt that a cloud has come over the old friendship between Great Britain and Italy, a cloud which, it seems to me, may very easily not pass away, although un- doubtedly it is everyone's desire that it should. It is an old friendship, and we must not forget, what is a little known fact, that at the time Italy entered into the Triple Alliance in the last century she stipulated particularly that in no circumstances would the obligations under the Alliance bring her into armed conflict with Great Britain.

Viscountess ASTOR

It was a free Italy.


It would complicate matters very much if we attempted to run a discussion on the internal policies of Italy, Germany or Russia at the same time as we are dealing with the general relationship of peoples and nations. Lastly, not only have we as it seems got into the position in which we are thought to be working against Italy, but we have made this proposal of handing over a portion of British protected territory in the hope of procuring a relinquishment of Italian ambitions. I cannot help saying—and it is only expressing what everyone feels up to the present—that no explanation has been offered by the Foreign Secretary in his excellent speech of the very unfortunate methods by which this project was put forward. The policy of ceding British protected territory and British protected subjects in order to get round some diplomatic difficulty, or in order to assuage the disputes of foreign countries, or even to pay our own way from year to year in the modern world, is a very dangerous one for this country to open. When we are considering our vast innumerable possessions and the reduced state of our means of defence, and at the same time the obvious hunger which is exhibited in so many quarters on the continent of Europe, it seems to me that any steps that might tend to direct appetites upon ourselves should be viewed with the utmost caution and scrutinised with the greatest strictness by Parliament.

Still, I say, supposing that, in these years so critical for the peace of Europe, my right hon. Friend the Minister for League of Nations Affairs had returned from Italy with an agreement that she would abandon her anxious and alarming venture, I believe that the gain would have outweighed the loss; but what I do not see, and what I hope we shall be told by my right hon. Friend, is how it ever came to be supposed that this particular proposal would have attracted the Italian Government. Why should Signor Mussolini want to prolong the standstill on the borders of Abyssinia while Abyssinia enjoyed a corridor to the sea through which a transit of arms could take place year after year? However you look at it, it was a forlorn hope. It was an honest, well-meaning proposal, but it was a forlorn hope. We have been told that it was an informal, tentative suggestion, and so forth. Why could not that have been put through the ordinary diplomatic channels There was a letter from Lord Hardinge in the "Times" the other day advising the use of the trained diplomatists much more than they are used at the present time in matters of prime importance. I do not say that there are not occasions when Ministers should go, and the League of Nations is meant to be a place where foreign ministers meet, but I do say the occasions when Ministers go must be most carefuly selected, and they should really only go, in most cases, when they are pretty sure that the result will be to put the seal on an understanding already arrived at by the diplomatists. The matter could have been dealt with in this case by the Ambassador having a private talk, asking whether this kind of offer would be any use, putting it forward as it would be only as a gesture of sincere friendship and desire to help. If he had put it forward in that way behind the scenes, which could so easily have been done, I do not think the Government would have got into the embarrassment in which they are at the present time. I must say one word to my right hon. Friend the Minister for League of Nations Affairs. Some two years ago I ventured to recite to him those words of Dr. Johnson: Ye who listen to the whispers of credulity and follow with eagerness the phantoms of hope, who expect that age will perform the promises of youth and that the deficiencies of the present will be made good by the future, attend to the history of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia. I am afraid my right hon. Friend has been taking my counsel too literally. Everyone had the greatest hopes of his career, and the whole House, irrespective of party, welcomes the appearance of this new figure, but we hope he will choose his occasions with a little stricter discrimination, and make quite sure before he undertakes these different journeys that he will not be asked to run risks which injure himself, and are not sufficiently slight to justify the hope of a satisfactory result.

To recapitulate. During the last six weeks the League of Nations has undoubtedly been weakened by our action, the principle of collective security has undoubtedly been impaired, German treaty-breaking has been condoned and even extolled, the Stresa Front has been shaken if not, indeed, dissolved. Although I cannot believe that any nation in contact with the British Government can doubt our sincere desire for peace, British influence undoubtedly has to some extent been dissipated, and our moral position, or at any rate our logical position, has been to some extent obscured. You could not have had a more complete and perfect catalogue of how not to do it than has been presented by the events which have taken place since we last discussed foreign affairs. Frankly, I cannot understand how it was done. Nothing that has been said shows us how or why it was done. It seems to me as if there were four or five different policies at work inside the Cabinet, and that now one and now the other gain the ascendency according as the incidents of the hour or the events of the day bring these or those considerations to our attention.

That brings me to the new plan of having two equal Foreign Secretaries. I was very glad indeed that the Prime Minister said yesterday this was only a temporary experiment. I cannot feel that it will last long or ever be renewed. At any rate, it is in the nature of poetic justice that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary should, on leaving the India Office, have a personal experience of dyarchy in its most direct and homely connection. What we want in foreign affairs is not, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister suggested, a team, however loyal—and it certainly will be loyal—and however well disciplined it may be. What we need, first of all, is a plain, simple policy, which can be declared in Parliament and to the nation and can be generally approved by them. And then we need that this policy should be adhered to through all the chops and changes of the situation. Secondly, we need the integral thought of a single man responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, ranging over the entire field and making every factor and every incident contribute to the general purpose upon which Parliament has agreed.

The Foreign Secretary, whoever he is, whichever he is, must be supreme in his Department, and everyone in that great office ought to look to him, and to him alone. I remember that we had a discussion in the War about unity of command, and that my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said: "It is not a question of one general being better than another, but of one general being better than two." There is no reason at all why a strong Cabinet Committee should not sit with the Foreign Secretary every day in these difficult times, or why the Prime Minister should not see him or his officials at any time, but when the topic is so complicated and vast, when it is in such continued flux, it seems to me that confusion will only be made worse confounded by dual allegiances and equal dual responsibilities.

I now propose to say a few words on the Naval Agreement. I am not going into any detail in this matter, because we Are to have a special Debate, but the Foreign Secretary opened his speech with it and dwelt upon the advantages which it confers upon us. I think that those advantages are very dubious. Of course it is quite wrong to pretend that the 'apparition of Germany as a formidable naval power, equipped with submarines and all the other apparatus of war, is the result of the Naval Agreement. That would have happened anyhow. The deep purposes of great nations are not, I am afraid, governed by the ebb and flow of political discussions or by temporary agreements which are made. It has for some time been evident that Germany, intends to embark upon a great process, a gigantic process, of re-arming by land, sea and air, which will make her the most formidable military power in the whole world. I am not blaming upon this Agreement these events and misfortunes which will follow from it, but when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister says, as he did the other day, that he hoped this would be a great measure of disarmament, let me tell him that I am afraid it is not. I venture to hazard the prediction that it inaugurates the arrival of Germany—not the Naval Agreement in particular—as a great naval power, and that this will inaugurate an outburst of shipbuilding in almost every country in the world the like of which has never been seen.

Let us suppose that some great, distinguished and powerful person, who has played a great part in life, dies and his posts, offices, appointments and possessions are distributed, and then he suddenly comes back from the dead. A great deal of inconvenience would be caused. That is what has happened in the resuscitation of German naval power. The equilibrium—such equilibrium as we have been able to establish—in naval matters is entirely ruptured and deranged, and we shall find in every country, in the present temper of the world, that great new constructions, replacing old ships or increasing the total tonnage, will be begun without the slightest delay. And let me say that if the first German programme, which has already been announced, and which is really last year's programme, the programme of 1934, is followed by similar programmes in the next few years, the German 35 per cent. limit will have been laid down, if not completed, by 1938 or 1939, and in the same period, if we are not to endanger our naval security, it will be necessary for us to rebuild and lay down in new construction practically half the tonnage of our existing fleet. I cannot feel that this is at all a, matter for rejoicing—this German Naval Agreement. I remain still under this impression, that the one great fear of Europe is the power and might of the re-armed strength of Germany, and that the one great hope is the gathering together of Powers who are conscious of that fear, but have no aggressive intentions of any kind, in a system of collective security under the League of Nations in order that this tremendous process of the re-armament, of Germany may not be attended by some lamentable breakdown of peace.

6.11 p.m.


I should like to congratulate the new Foreign Secretary upon giving us a very lucid and interesting survey of the situation. It was cautious. In some respects I think over-cautious. It did not quite carry out his promise of telling us clearly and fearlessly what were the actual difficulties in respect of some of the matters now perplexing the world. With regard to Abyssinia, I agree with my right hon. Friend that this country cannot intervene alone. She is under no obligation to do so. She is under an obligation to enter with other countries into a combined effort to prevent this danger. I was disappointed with what was said by the Foreign Secretary, not so much because he deprecated anything in the nature of isolated intervention but that he rather disclaimed approaches to our friends in Europe with a view to carrying out our obligations under the Covenant of the League. They are not merely our obligations under the Covenant of the League. They are our obligations under a much more recent document, the Geneva Resolution of April, which made it quite clear that the Powers would apply economic and financial sanctions in future whenever any Power infringed a Treaty. That may or may not have been directed against Germany, but you cannot have one rule for Germany and another for Italy; in fact, that would vitiate the whole principle of the League. It would not only do that but put us in a thoroughly false position. We did not go there merely to attack Germany. We went there to lay down general principles of general application.

The first case in which they are applicable is Abyssinia, and although I know that we cannot intervene alone, and nobody could expect us to do so, still I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not carry too far his rather emphatic disclaimer of any intention to approach our friends and allies in Europe and elsewhere with a view to seeing whether some effective intervention short of war is not possible in a case of this kind.


What is that?


I am quoting the Geneva Resolution, which refers to financial and economic sanctions. I am using the very words of the Government.


It means war.


The actual words that were used there were: and in particular in the economic and financial measures which might be applied should, in future, a State, whether a member of the League of Nations of not, endanger peace by the unilateral repudiation of its international obligations. Those are the words which were drafted by the late Foreign Secretary at Geneva, and I am simply using the exact words which are part of that document. That is not a document which mentions Germany but any State, who, in the future, unilaterally breaks a treaty. It is contemplated by that Resolution, passed three months ago, that those economic sanctions shall be applied. I can only put it to the Foreign Secretary that I think he rendered an unconscious disservice to his cause when he assured Signor Mussolini beforehand that he was taking no steps even to approach our friends with a view to seeing whether—[Interruption.] I shall be very glad if that is not what he intended. It is essential that it should be made clear that we are not ruling out the possibility of our own Resolution carried three months ago, apart altogether from the Covenant of the League, and that it has not been left out; that the Foreign Secretary has not in the least ruled out the possibility of approaching our friends.


I used some rather well chosen words on the subject. I think the right hon. Gentleman will find that they are quite clear when he looks at them to-morrow. I prefer not to add anything more at the present time.


As long as they are not misinterpreted. [Laughter.] Really, this is not a laughing matter. I have had charge of great affairs in this country, and I know what these things mean. It is vital that it should not be thought by Italy that under no circumstances will we seek co-operation with a view to carrying out our own Resolution and the Resolution to which Signor Mussolini was a party in April this year. If he is under that impression, believe me, war—I am not sure that it is not inevitable—but I am certain that the very last chance of averting it has gone. I wanted to say that, because it is essential at this very critical moment, when it is very desirable that a war should be averted of which no one can tell the end. Attacking a country of that kind is a much more serious business, even for the best organised armies, than they possibly contemplate. Abyssinia has a huge population—I forget what it is exactly—I think about 10,000,000 of very gallant people, and the mere fact that it is disorganised, and that you can- not find one army that you can crush and then get the whole of the country into your hands, makes it a very serious business for Italy. I do not believe that you can possibly contemplate, in her present position, what will happen to a great friend of ours, Italy, an old friend of ours, one for whom we have the very warmest feeling. Although the Italians may not think so at the present moment, a good deal of our feeling in favour of averting war arises very largely from a genuine apprehension of what the economic effect may be upon Italy herself.

With regard to Zeila, I certainly say that if you could have averted this trouble by a grant of territory of that kind, I should be one of those who would have congratulated the two right hon. Gentlemen. It would have been worth while. We have gigantic territory. We have far more really than we can manage; I am certain far more than we can develop. The only thing I was very doubtful about and could never understand was why we should imagine that a grant of this territory to Abyssinia would have averted Italy from attacking. I do not know enough about it. There may have been special reasons. We did exactly the same thing in the War. In 1915, in the treaty with Italy which brought Italy into the War, there was a clause by which we, France and ourselves, undertook to give compensation out of our own territories to Italy if it were found that Italy herself could not get the necessary compensation from Turkey or from Germany. We carried out our part of the bargain. It was actually done in 1925, I think. I am quite willing to take my share of the responsibility, because it was an offer that was made in 1919, although it was only carried out in 1925. That was Jubaland. That was simply carrying out an undertaking that we gave. I am not sure that the French had ever done it, but they have been talking about it recently.

With regard to the general position, I am afraid that the Foreign Secretary has far too optimistic a view of the situation. He deprecated alarm, but that ought not to justify us ignoring the actual facts of the case. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) has already reviewed the situation, and I agree in the main with his comments on the actualities of the situation. There is no doubt that during the last two or three years the international situation is worse, and very much worse, than it has been probably since the War. When there were difficulties in the times of my right hon. Friend as Foreign Secretary, there were not such armed forces in Europe confronting each other as would have precipitated at any time, as were likely to precipitate at that moment, a, war. What has happened in Germany recently has revolutionised the whole situation in Europe, completely. I would ask the Committee to bear with me while I am pointing out where I think the situation is very seriously aggravated.

The League of Nations has been flouted time and again, and successfully flouted. I was very struck by what was said by the Foreign Secretary about Japan and Germany, very friendly and quite rightly; but there was not a single reference to the fact that those countries and Italy had flouted the League of Nations; Japan, a unanimous vote of the League; Germany, an almost unanimous vote of the League; Italy, I believe, also. Not a word said about that, although that is not a fact that you can ignore. Do not let us be under any misapprehension. If the League fails to settle the Abyssinian question, the very last vestige of its authority has gone. Up to two or three years ago we were discussing the question of cutting down arms and getting rid of great defensive weapons; that has gone, everywhere. Two or three years ago we were discussing not merely the abolition of bombing from the air, but the entire system of naval and military aircraft. We are now considering whether we cannot build against each other until neither one nor the other can get an advantage, and whether there is a possibility that you can sooner or later stabilise at a very high figure. With navies it is just the same. It was then a question of cutting down; it is now a, question of building new navies. The whole of the discussion on disarmament has been scrapped, and there is a universal re-armament going on throughout all nations without exception, including ourselves. Everywhere, in every direction, land, sea, and air. That is the change that has taken place in the last three years, and it is no use failing to call attention to it as though it were nothing to be alarmed at. We are bound to look at the facts of the situation.

You may have a dispute as to who is responsible. Nobody can challenge the fact that the Government cannot absolve themselves of a certain measure of responsibility. I had anticipated this afternoon the discussion on the matter of the submarines and the naval situation, but I understand that a separate day has been allocated for that purpose. I have seen the First Lord of the Admiralty and he agrees that it will be far better to discuss the matter of submarines when that occasion arises. In that case I shall not enter into the details of the subject, although I have my documents. I hope to be present when that discussion takes place, and to present my case before the House. There is the fact of an agreement between us and Germany, which first of all ratifies shipbuilding which was undertaken in defiance of the Treaty, and which sanctions, in addition to that, an increase which goes up, I think, to 35 per cent. of our own forces in new ships, and 45 per cent. of submarines. If she wants more she can come back and talk it over, up to 100 per cent. That is a new factor.

Take aircraft. In 1931, I think it was, President Hoover proposed the abolition of aircraft. I believe that all the Powers agreed, including ourselves, but we introduced an exception in favour of police bombing, which meant that you could use it against everybody except the white races. Every country objected to that, and quite rightly, because, the moment you had your bombers for any purpose, you could use them for every purpose. There is no such thing as a special machine to bomb yellow races or black races which could not be used against the white races, and, if an exception had been made in favour of the British Empire for bombers at all, the result would have been that we should have had bombers and no other country would have had any. They were not so foolish as to agree to that. I believe that afterwards that exception was withdrawn, but it was too late.

I have here the actual document of the League of Nations which gives the proposals that were put forward by Britain, Germany and France. It is dated May, 1933. There was our proposal to abolish subject to police purposes, and there was no nation that did not propose cutting that out. Germany not merely proposed cutting it out, but had a second provision—that within two years military and naval aircraft should be abolished altogether. France was anxious to internationalise the Air Force. At that moment you could have had an agreement that would have removed that menace away from the civilian population of this country. Afterwards, I am told, we withdrew it, but Germany had left the League. The whole story is a story of missed opportunities. When the chances have come, we would not take them; when they had passed away, we said, "Here we are, we will take them now." That is not the way in which you can settle a great question of this kind. When nations are willing, when nations are ready, that is the time when we ought to seize the opportunity.

The same applies to what happened with regard to what is known as the MacDonald Disarmament Scheme. The Lord President of the Council will forgive my describing it by his name. That was on 16th March, 1933. He proposed the destruction of all big guns and tanks, that is to say, all offensive weapons—weapons which are only used for attack, not for defence. Man-power was to be reduced; there was to be no increase in naval armaments; there were to be conferences for further reduction; and, most important of all, equality was to be accorded to Germany upon that basis. The only exception was that equality was not to be accorded to her in aircraft or submarines. The Germans protested, but, on the 19th May, the German representative at Geneva announced that, in spite of that exception, Germany was prepared to accept the British draft convention, not merely as a basis for discussion, but as a basis for the ultimate convention itself. Why was it not done? It is very significant of the kind of opportunities that have been missed. It would not have achieved everything, but at the time I was one of those who acclaimed and supported it, because I thought it would have achieved very considerable results and it would have been a very substantial contribution to the efforts for disarmament.

What happened? By 16th October there was a complete change of front. The MacDonald draft had practically been abandoned in substance. It was not to apply to the armed Powers for four years. A period of probation was introduced for Germany. During that period all those provisions which were in the right hon. Gentleman's draft proposals were not to apply at all to the countries that had these great armaments. Germany was to be watched during that time, and if at the end of the four years she behaved, then those provisions would begin to come into operation. That was a repetition of the Versailles process, where Germany had been let down once before. Germany treated it as an intolerable discrimination, left the Disarmament Conference, and resigned from the League of Nations. If we had stood by our own proposals, the proposals which Germany was prepared to accept, instead of going back upon them, the trouble of the last few years would never have occurred. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I venture to say that some of the young gentlemen opposite will live long enough to realise that what I am saying now is historically true. It has created the power of Nazi-ism in Germany; it has established its prestige. We have failed to carry out our promises under the Versailles Treaty.

Will the Committee permit me to say one word about that Treaty? I have never said one word in palliation of it. Will the Committee permit me, as almost the last survivor of the framers of that Treaty, to say one word? Like every other human production, it was full of defects. It was written under conditions of unexampled exasperation. Wanton war had been provoked; France, particularly, bad been devastated in her greatest provinces; millions had been killed, and tens of millions mutilated. We were there under the influence—the irritating influence—of the sword; and, considering the conditions, I think it is wonderful that we were able to get in some of the things that are there at all. The best, we could do was to make provision inside the Treaty for future revision. If we had attempted it then, it would have been folly, and there is no party in this House that can point a finger at the framers. I came back here and put the Treaty before a crowded House of Commons. There was not a party that raised a voice against it—in the House. There was no Division. The only protest that I had was from 203 Conservative Members who sent me a telegram to suggest that it was not harsh enough. I will give the names of two or three. One was Sir Samuel Hoare. Another was Mr. Edward Wood, now Lord Halifax; and a third was Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister. Since then they have mellowed a good deal. So have I. But I will say this for the Foreign Secretary, that, when the Treaty came back, he was the first man to get up in the House and say, "My view is that the terms are very good." That was the view at that time. What is my complaint? My complaint is that the harsh conditions of the Treaty have been enforced, while the more equitable, perhaps the fairer conditions, the more beneficent provisions, like the Covenant of the League and the International Labour Office, were thwarted, delayed, procrastinated, and very often trampled upon.

Germany disarmed, practically, by 1926. I could give the House a schedule which I have in my possession of the enormous amount of material destroyed. Mills and factories and machinery were scrapped. So far had it proceeded that the Council of Ambassadors decided to withdraw the Inter-Allied Control. It had practically been completed by 1926. There was the promise of M. Clemenceau on behalf of the whole of us that, if Germany disarmed, the others would follow the example to the very minimum of practical security. What has happened? Armaments have grown and extended year by year, in spite of Locarno, in spite of the Kellogg Pact. My right hon. Friend did his very best to produce an atmosphere of peace and good will, and it is inserted in the Locarno Pact that all this was done with a view to discussions on disarmament.




There was a phrase of that kind in it.


There was a letter written by us to the German representatives which did refer to our hopes in regard to the process of disarmament. That is quite true. But it was not in the Pact, and it was not in the terms to which the right hon. Gentleman is referring. It is rather important.


It was in a collateral letter. The same thing applies to M. Clemenceau's letter. It was the letter that accompanied it. It gave the authority, and I think that in any court of law it would be interpreted as part of the agreement.


I am quite certain that it would, but it did not say what the right hon. Gentleman just began by saying was in it—that all this was done for the purposes of disarmament. It never said anything of the kind.


This shows the anxiety not to deal with the broad facts, but with a mere quibble. I accept completely what my right hon. Friend says; he knows the whole thing very much better than I do; but his idea was that it would lead to disarmament, and that is the point that I am making. It did not. The Kellogg Pact did not. Since 1925, armaments have gone up from 2700,000,000 a year throughout the world to 21,000,000,000, and this year to £1,100,000,000, and the commitments will run up, probably, to £1,200,000,000 or £1,300,000,000. That is what is happening. That is why the situation is so very much worse than it was. Just see what has happened. My right hon. Friend referred to the Stresa Conference. Honestly it was a fatuous piece of bluster. See exactly what happened and why it was summoned. We first of all issued a White Paper to say we were going to increase our Air Force because of Germany. France then said she was going to increase her forces. Herr Hitler had issued a most momentous announcement. He said he was going to establish a conscript army. He meant to levy 550,000 men. I do not think the House has completely realised what the full implication of that is. It is not 550,000 men with equipment, but 550,000 conscripts per annum. They pass on to the reserve.

We have been, for the purposes of the Allies, suppressing all this information about reserves. We have been talking as if the only thing that mattered was the peace army. We say France has only 400,000, Germany 200,000 or 300,000, Czechoslovakia 50,000—all a sham. The army that matters in the event of war is the reserves that are available to be called up and the question whether there is equipment against them. The right hon. Gentleman knows that the reserves of France are over 4,000,000. That was concealed, and because it was concealed we are not now going to be told the truth about Germany. It is far better that the whole truth should be told. It means 550,000 men trained and passing into the reserve and then another 550,000. In a very short time you will have a military force in Germany which will be the greatest in the world. France and Russia will sink to the position of second and third place. Which conies second and which comes third I do not know, but I know which will be the first. You have a formidable air force also announced for the first time. When this was announced France, Italy and Britain felt that the time had come to take counsel together, and quite rightly. They knew what it meant. So they met at Stresa. What did they do there? Defiance of treaties—a gigantic defiance. You could not plead de minimis non—that it was merely a trifle. It was something that revolutionised the whole position in Europe. They met at Stresa and, after a very long recitation, you come to the final declaration: The three Powers, the object of whose policy is the collective maintenance of peace within the framework of the League of Nations"— Mussolini signed that— find themselves in complete agreement in opposing by all practical means any unilateral repudiation of treaties which may endanger the peace of the world, and will act in close and cordial collaboration for this purpose. What did that mean? Unilateral repudiation of treaties. Was there ever such repudiation of a treaty as Herr Hitler's gigantic army and great air force? "Endanger the peace of Europe." Does anyone doubt that? They will "act in close and cordial collaboration for this purpose." Where is the action? Where is the close and cordial collaboration? Is it the Naval Agreement, or is it Abyssinia? But they were within the League of Nations and, therefore, they must go to Geneva to regularise it. They were, after all, only three Powers. They had the greatest respect for the covenant of the League. Here is the text of the resolution: The Council, considering that scrupulous respect for all treaty obligations is a fundamental principle of international life and an essential condition for the maintenance of peace"— They refer to the first resolution moved by a representative of the country whose most distinguished national leader had promised disarmament if Germany disarmed, and seconded by the representatives of another Power which had now defied two treaties, the 1906 treaty and the 1919 treaty, by making war on a member of the League: That it is an essential principle of the law of nations that no Power can liberate itself from the engagements of a treaty nor modify the stipulations thereof unless with the consent of the other contracting parties. The "Times" says that the most forcible speech delivered in support of the resolution was that of the representative of the Government that negotiated the Brest-Litovsk Treaty—a Treaty which left in the lurch a country that had come to the rescue of Russia in the hour of her trouble. What smug hypocrisy those two resolutions were. They did not mean it. It is only three months since then. Hitler's answer was: "I will give you another breach of a treaty. I am building submarines." Where was the action? Where was the collaboration? Where were the sanctions? Mussollini went away to Abyssinia to do a little bit of treaty-breaking on his own. The French Government slipped over the franc and was no more. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary who negotiated that are no more. The new Prime Minister and the new Foreign Secretary have extended a cordial invitation to the treaty breaker that you were going to act against to come over and discuss a few more breaches.

The whole machinery of the League has been discredited. Japan defies the League. The League says, "You must not do that," and Japan takes no notice of it at all. We call Japan our friend. We wish her well. She is frogmarching China from one province to another. As a British merchant in China said to me the other day, she is pushing us out of our trade there. She has defied the League quite successfully. Even Paraguay and Bolivia did not listen to the League. They fought themselves to a standstill. They could not do any more, so they listened to Argentina. They did not listen to the League even then. Germany has flouted the League. Italy is doing the same. The nations congregate at Geneva to carry the Ark of the Covenant into action and then leave it in the hands of the Philistines. What remains? Common action has gone. Collaboration has gone. But the great German army remains. The great air force of Germany remains. This is the condition of things which the right hon. Gentleman has been called upon to straighten out. I am certain he has the sincere sympathy and good will of everyone in this House, as has his colleague beside him, but they will do all the better if they realise the grim fact that all the elaborate machinery for disarmament has gone, that every nation is arming and building up these huge armies the momentum of which crashed into each other some years ago, and that the machinery of conciliation is completely discredited. They must begin afresh. They must think it out seriously and solemnly and see whether there is seine means of devising something by which the nations will [...] and, to save civilisation from a great catastrophe.

7.1 p.m.


I have listened to my right hon. Friend's speech with very mixed feelings. At the beginning of that speech I hoped that I was going to be in general agreement and sympathy with it. I, too, had thought that in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary one phrase had been rather dangerously worded and might give rise to misconception; and I hope that the Secretary of State will satisfy himself that his meaning was exactly expressed by the words that he used. I agreed, too, with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that the situation with which we are confronted is sufficiently grim; and though I do not wish to encourage panic-mongering, I think we had better face the fact and realise that the atmosphere in Europe is much worse than it was a few years ago and that events have happened which, instead of allaying fears and removing suspicions, have increased and intensified them all. Europe at this moment has got in a state of tension and nervousness which is very dangerous, and it is perhaps little to be wondered at that the Powers of Europe who feel that shortly they may themselves be threatened are so very cautious about making any common contribution to the preservation of peace in fields in which they are not immediately interested So far I could go more or less with the right hon. Gentleman. But did he really think he served the cause of peace by lecturing every other nation, and by using language of offence about the heads of other nations? If such language were used about our Ministers by other nations, I should resent it; and when it is used I do resent it. I think we do well to exercise a wise restraint, but we do not overlook, and perhaps we shall not find it so easy to forget, the kind of language which those we thought our friends have permitted themselves to use about this country and its policy and its statesmen in the last few weeks or months. Do not let us imitate those bad habits. You do not aid peace be doing that.

Above all, may I beg my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) not to supply those who have no need of it—for they have a large manufactory of it—with more false history. I am not going to follow the right hon. Gentleman in reviewing the past; I am much more interested in looking forward and in looking at the present than in looking back. But I am just going to take a couple of instances. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the reservation made by our Government at Geneva of the use of bombing aeroplanes for what is called police purposes. He went on to say that he believed that you might have had an agreement there and then; and that though he had understood that this condition was later withdrawn, it was withdrawn after Germany had left the League. I do not think I misrepresent him. Every one of those statements is incorrect. We were not the only Power which expressed its desire to attach conditions to its assent to the abolition of bombing; and our Government had undertaken before Germany left the League that if that were the only obstacle it should not be allowed to stand in the way.

One other illustration. The right hon. Gentleman, as he rightly said, had more responsibility than any other Englishman for the Treaty of Versailles. He rightly recalled the circumstances in which it was made—and I will bear testimony to the fact that though his language on the platform was sometimes reckless, his mind was at, that time much more temperate than that of the majority of his countrymen. That is fair to say. But if he says that all the harshest provisions of the Treaty have been maintained, then I would ask where has he been sleeping during these last few years? Have his literary labours so occupied his time that he has been wholly unaware of what has been passing in the world? Reparations have been swept away; and one of the harshest provisions of the Treaty, the occupation, terminated five years before the Treaty stipulated. That is what I mean when I say I hope he will not add to the manufacturing of false history.


With regard to reparations, I say that reparations were enforced within the terms of the Treaty of Versailles to the utmost limit. The Treaty of Versailles fixed no figure at all, but it said that Germany must pay to the utmost limit of her capacity. As a matter of fact, nobody doubts now that Germany paid beyond the limit of her capacity. We exacted from her to the last halfpenny. There is not a financier in Europe who will not say so.


My right hon. Friend was not only a party to the fixing of all the earliest and highest figures but up to, though not including, the occupation of the Ruhr he was a party to all the sanctions to enforce Germany's obligation to pay. If he cannot be correct on the general history of the world, do let him remember his own history!

I come now to the right hon. Gentleman's comments on Stresa. It is quite true that the announcement of Germany that she was going to create this immense force in defiance of her Treaty obligations was the most serious fact with which the world could be confronted. And it was particularly serious at that time when what the right hon. Gentleman still calls the Allies—a word I have never used since Locarno, because I do not want to maintain that distinction—but at the very moment when France and Italy and Great Britain were inviting Germany to sit down and discuss an agreement by which she should be relieved of her disabilities and come into a common limitation. I think a graver fact we could not have had. When the right hon. Gentleman called Stresa, "fatuous bluster" he was denouncing the Government because it did not allow these breaches of the Treaty to pass unnoticed. What would he have done? It is no good talking in that case of economic sanctions without war.


May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that it is not I who talked about that? It is the Government themselves who put these exact words in. What is the good of their putting these words in if it meant war?


The right hon. Gentleman is very free with his criticisms of the Government, but he has been very careful not to say what he would have done or what he would do. He reminds the Committee, and very justly, that he has borne great responsibility. For that reason I think that the Committee is entitled to greater help from him. If all that the Government have done was wrong, what was it he wished them to do? If Stresa was "fatuous bluster"—


I would never have allowed it to come to that stage.


Let the Committee note what that means. It means that when it became evident that Germany was re-arming the right hon. Gentleman would have proposed to France, who had not proposed it to us, that the French army should march into Germany at once.


What do you mean by "economic sanctions"?


I know exactly what I mean. I mean the employing of blockade, which is an act of war; and nothing short of an effective blockade—with all that that involved, to the knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman as well as to my own knowledge during the War—would make economic sanctions effective.


That is not so. It shows you know nothing about it.


I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his courtesy! I leave it with that observation.


If that was regarded as a discourteous observation, I apologise and withdraw it at once. The right hon. Gentleman is the last person to whom I would ever dream of being discourteous.


I am much obliged. The right hon. Gentleman is my political opponent, but always my personal friend. I said I was less interested in these matters than I was in the present and the future. I listened with close attention to the speech of the Foreign Secretary, and I think it will be thought a more important declaration of policy by the British Government when it is read in foreign countries than perhaps it has been perceived to be in some quarters of the Committee to-day. It is the first time for a very long time that a Foreign Minister has attempted to survey the state of the world and to define the position of the British Government in relation to it. On the whole, I think I may say that I was in agreement with the line taken by my right hon. Friend. I cannot imagine a more perverse misrepresentation of the speech of the Foreign Secretary than that contained in the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lime-house (Mr. Attlee) when he said that it was a renunciation of the League and a return to pre-war Imperialism. I think that it was the exact opposite. It was a re-affirmation of the fact that support of the League and co-operation with other Powers in the League, if they will give their co-operation, is the sheet anchor of British policy, as the Prime Minister said the other day. We are coming very near to what may be a test case for the League as to whether it does mean collective security; whether it does mean anything for any one or nothing for any one. It is not to be supposed that the League can be flouted under the eyes of Europe, that League methods can be repudiated, a policy of force and conflict engaged in, and that the League can pass all that by, because it happens to occur in Africa and not in Europe without thereby destroying the value of collective security not for Africa only but for Europe.

I take an example. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary reaffirmed the view of His Majesty's Government that the maintenance of the independence and integrity of Austria was a British interest, and rightly so. I am quite certain that it is one of the keystones of peace in Europe, but the British Government have never taken upon themselves any special obligation to Austria. If the central European Conference meets, they have announced beforehand that they are not going to undertake new obligations but they have repeated again and again, as they have repeated to-day through the mouth of the Foreign Secretary, that we are ready to stand by those obligations which we have already undertaken under the Covenant. The value of the Covenant to Austria and to the Powers that are interested in Austria is exactly the value that the League can secure for it when Abyssinia comes to plead at the Council, and it is idle to suppose that what is at stake in this matter is merely a quarrel between Abyssinia and Italy—a quarrel which might or might not affect our interests.

What is at stake is the system of collective security. We cannot be the policemen of the world—that is an impossible position—but we ought to take our fair share in promoting security in co-operation with other members of the League, particularly with those who in a particular case can give the most effective support and are best situated to uphold its authority. We ought to do that only after discussion in the Council, and if it can be obtained with that authority. But if we do not live up to those obligations, then the whole collective system is gone. It is not merely that it has failed to protect Abyssinia; it is that it is a broken reed for any European Power to rely upon. It is more; in fact, it does not exist. I should be the last to attempt to say to my right hon. Friend how he should proceed in negotiations or at what time he should make up his mind, if he has to make it up, that the negotiations will give no result, but in the last resort we have to take our decision at the Council table at Geneva. We have to take the risk of saying, "We are prepared to fufil our obligations under the Covenant if others will do the same." We ought to say that openly to the Council even at the risk that others may refuse. Even if we have to use that language and others are offended by it and we come home empty handed, that much we owe to the honour of the British name and to the efforts that our successive Governments have made to make the League of Nations a real force in international life in the interests of peace and security for us all.

7.21 p.m.


I have merely got up to say "Thank you" to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) for expressing exactly the views that I wanted to express. I am not concerned about the dog fight between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and any other party in this House, but I am concerned with preserving the honour of England at the particular juncture we have reached. We are now being tested. Everyone in this House, I will say almost everyone in the country, believes in collective security not for Abyssinia or any one country, but for the whole of the world as based upon the Covenant of the League of Nations. We have sufficient safety at the present time in exercising the power of collective security. It is within the province of every man to say that we should have done this in the case of Japan last year. I do not believe that at that time the policy of collective security was half so well founded as it is to-day. We had not got the results of the peace ballot showing the mind of the people, but now we know. Moreover—I am no hero and I do not go into a fight when there is a probability of my being defeated—I do not know how anything can be said against our policy to work through the League to preserve peace. I believe that there is no man or woman in this country who really believes that if we and France and the rest of the League said to Italy, "You shall not fight," Italy would dare to resist the power of the League by arms. The League in this matter is all-powerful.

What is the situation with Germany? We are faced now with the collapse of the League as the basis of international law, and with the collapse of that collective security which is the sheet anchor of our foreign policy. We are faced with the fact that the Government, rightly or wrongly, will not express, as the right hon. Gentleman has expressed and as I think many Members of this House would like the Government to express, a frank opinion on this position. I am quite ready to believe that it is more or less impossible at the present time to do so, but let us realise that this is the turning point. If the League fails to enforce peace, the League itself is dead as far as we are concerned, and we shall have to go back to that system of alliances with free powers which may indeed build up between ourselves and our Empire and the Scandinavian countries a new League of free peoples who are, at any rate, based upon a uniform morality and a uniform idea of liberty. That may be the only alternative. But surely it is obvious to everyone, if we face the situation frankly, that that does not rest with the League. It rests at this moment with us. If, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, when we come to Geneva, we say, "We are prepared to take on our part of this responsibility," we can put before them the clinching argument that, "If you do not take on your share of the responsibility, we will leave the League," and then let other Powers look after themselves. We will stick to the League for preserving peace for all people, but we will not remain in the League for preserving peace, not for those who are in the League, but for other people.

7.26 p.m.


This is the first time I have had an opportunity to speak in a foreign affairs debate, and I do so with some diffidence. We have heard to-day several remarkable speeches, but the one that I would like above all to endorse is the one we have heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). I should like to examine the case, I hope logically, from the point of view not only of Abyssinia, but, above all other things, from the point of view of Europe. Whatever sort of nation Abyssinia may be, I believe that what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) has said is true—she is a member of the League, and if she is invaded the Covenant of the League ought to apply. Let us look at that situation from the point of view of the three countries most concerned, Italy, France and Great Britain. Italy's commitments are, I believe, specific enough. She signed the Treaty of 1906, she signed the Treaty of amity in 1928, she endorsed the Covenant of the League, and she pressed for Abyssinia's entrance into the League. All of these, I believe, are relevant facts, and, if Italy should invade Abyssinia, then surely it becomes as much a case of treaty breaking as the invasion of Belgium in 1914.

That is not the point of view of France, and, of course, France regards this as a European question. France depends, and must depend, very considerably upon the League, but I doubt if she has ever really considered its application beyond the boundaries of Europe. If I may quote from the most interesting book of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Tallyrand once said that the principal interests of France are never in opposition to those of Europe, and, if that is a profound truth as applied to Europe, may not it be taken in these days as applying to the rest of the world. Many of us may regret that the League of Nations is founded, as it is, to cover the world, and we would like to see it specialise on Europe and be limited to Europe for the time being. It is a world moral, and I hope effective, force, and so long as it is, I believe that it is true to say that the boundaries of Abyssinia under the League are as sacrosanct as the boundaries of France under the Treaty of Locarno, which is itself linked to the League.

I come to this country. What ought we to do? A short time ago the Prime Minister made a great speech in which he used the sentence: The sheet anchor of our policy is devotion to the League of Nations. That is true. If the Covenant of the League of Nations is still the sheet anchor of our policy, we must face up to the fact, as my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham said, that this country will in the near future possibly have to propose at the Council of the League of Nations that the machinery of the League be set in action. I believe with my right hon. Friend that, if events go so far, that is the only action which will save the honour of the British name.

I want to spend a few minutes on another matter, and that is the state of public opinion on foreign affairs within this country. I listened with great interest to the speech of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). It is the second speech from the right hon. Gentleman that I have heard within the last week. For the past year I have been trying to get into contact with public opinion on matters of foreign policy. I have not so much put what I thought as I have tried to find out what other people were thinking. I have found great confusion of thought and great devotion to the League of Nations. The confusion of thought may be natural at a time when foreign politics are the prerogative of the whole democracy and in no way the prerogative any longer of the clubs of Pall Mall. It may be natural that the very catch words of foreign policy bring confusion. I jotted down some of them: collective security, sanctions, security pacts, nonaggression pacts, international air conventions. They are all long and confusing, and I was glad that in the speech of the Foreign Secretary, for the first time for a considerable period, the people of this country have had a speech which they can understand.

In my search to discover what people were thinking I found myself in several curious places. Last week I found myself at a meeting of the Council of Action for Peace and Reconstruction, and I should like to say a few things about that meeting. In the first place, I think it was an example of confusion of thought among many well-meaning people. Lord Cecil made a speech demanding the full Covenant of the League. That speech was vociferously and wildly applauded. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition made a speech on pacifism, which was equally enthusiactically applauded by the same people. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) next made a speech saying that the country should be stirred. I do not think that needed any great comment. After such speeches I thought that I had better try myself, and I asked one or two questions. I asked whether they wished to go to war on behalf of the League if Abyssinia was invaded. Some answered "Yes" and some answered "No." One very brilliant fellow said that that was a hypothetical question. I wish it was. Then the meeting was taken back by a reverend gentleman, Dr. Norwood, into a state of semi-religious exhortation, generalisation and, if I may say so, insinuation.

It was natural that on the next day I should go to hear the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. I have given him notice—perhaps it was presumptious that I should have done so—that I intended to make reference to his speech, but I notice that he is not in his place. After his speech of to-day it may possibly be of some use in clarifying public thought as to this particular movement, which I regard as a menace to peace and collective security, if I give a very brief analysis of the right hon. Gentleman's speech on that occasion, from notes which I made and from the "Manchester Guardian" report next day. His first paragraph was devoted to a comparison of world expenditure on armaments. His second paragraph was an interlude, very entertaining, on window dressing. The next paragraph was an examination of British expenditure, and regrets as to the more useful purposes which they money might have served. The fourth paragraph was a list of opportunities that have been missed, which he repeated to-day and which have been pretty well dealt with in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham. His fifth paragraph was an interpolated insinuation about submarines. He also interpolated a statement about his own disarmament policy before 1914. After that, he asserted that military alliances were returning.

I am deeply concerned as to the education of public opinion on the meaning of terms in foreign policy and the implications of foreign policy to-day. I do not think the country understands. That is a work not only for the Government but for us to undertake. We ourselves, I think, have to be educated before we fully understand, and I hope that the Government will take us into their confidence about the implications of foreign policy in the future.

Of the speech of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs the other day I would say that if he is going to go about the country making speeches of that kind, confusing public thought, because that is what it amounts to, he is doing no service to peace, and he is doing less service still to collective security. He is making foreign countries suspicious. I hope that he will desist, because if he does not he will do much harm. His great position enables him to do great harm. I would remind the Committee that the right hon. Gentleman made that speech in support of a manifesto which demanded the election of Members of Parliament at the next election devoted to the policy of peace and in support of the League of Nations, My right hon. Friend must have known that the crisis for the League of Nations would come long before the General Election, and I hoped to hear what he advocated, but he never advocated anything.

I hope very much that my right hon. Friend the new Foreign Secretary, who has the whole House behind him in his desperately hard task, will not be afraid that he is not going to receive the full support of a great number of Members of this House who believe that the League of Nations is the only effective hope of securing world peace.

7.40 p.m.


By far the most important speech this afternoon was that of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), who, in the closing passages of his remarks, in a most admirable way, expressed the views of the great mass of the people of this country. At the same time, I should like to pay a tribute to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary for his very admirable and lucid review of our foreign policy throughout the world. It seemed to me to be a moderate, reasonable and League point of view, and I very much hope that subsequent events will show that it is the policy which he means whole-heartedly to stand by so long as he holds his present office. There were two passages in his speech with which I did not altogether agree. One was the friendly gesture, inevitable in the circumstances, to Japan. There we have a situation where the collective system has completely broken down and League ideas do not operate. I suppose the Foreign Secretary felt that all that he could do was to recognise the position as it unfortunately exists. The other point was the apparent unwillingness, it may not be real, to make clear to the world that we adopt the point of view expressed so ably by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, and that we will publicly if necessary before the whole world make it clear that we intend to stand by our obligations and to invite the other nations to co-operate with us in case of aggression, whether it be in Abyssinia or in any other part of the world.

The right hon. Gentleman was very satisfied that what he had done with regard to the Naval Treaty was quite in order, that it did not infringe any treaty or agreement, and that every other foreign country ought to be well satisfied. That may be his view, but it is not the position in Europe. Unfortunately, possibly quite wrongly, France takes the strongest exception to the way we carried through that Treaty. We have no doubt, quite wrongly, conveyed the impression that we are breaking away from our old friendship and going further into a friendship of some kind with Germany. If that were so, I do not think that there could be anything more repulsive to the people of this country. Surely, our friends are the friends of the League of Nations, and our enemies, if any, will be found among those who are hostile to the League of Nations.

When the Minister for League of Nation Affairs makes his reply I hope that he will make some reference to the question of international inspection of aeroplane fleets, because it has been suggested—I think it came out in reply to a question yesterday—that there is not a great deal of hope of securing the incorporation of that point. It is a matter of absolutely vital importance that there should be opportunities for an international staff to go to Germany and France and to come here in order to find out whether the various countries are really carrying out what they have undertaken to do. It would be some reassurance if the Government could state that they intend to do everything in their power to see that that point is incorporated.

In the very grave situation in which we find ourselves to-day I think that many people are being driven more and more to the conclusion that we shall have to adopt something in the nature of an international police force under the League of Nations and a tribunal of equity to make a reality of Article 19 of the Covenant. That, however, is going some way ahead. But I would point out the remarkable advance in opinion that has taken place recently. At the annual conference of the British Legion, a powerful and representative body, a resolution was passed practically unanimously in these terms: and, further, it urges His Majesty's Government to take the initiative in developing the League of Nations into an effective authority, through the creation of an equity tribunal, for the settlement of all disputes between nations and a permanent international police force to maintain law and order and uphold the decisions of the tribunal. That is very important coming from the British Legion. It is also the policy of the Labour party, and at the recent annual conference of the Liberal party at Blackpool a resolution in more or less the same terms was officially carried as the policy of the Liberal party. But that is looking perhaps a little way ahead. What can we do now? If the present Abyssinian dispute were to pass without this country or the League of Nations making any attempt to make the Covenant work there would be a tremendous revulsion of feeling in this country against the Government. At the same time, I know that we cannot possibly act alone, and no one would suggest it, we have merely to carry out our obligations as a member of the League. The Government, I believe, are sincere; they do really wish on this occasion to use the collective system it may be to the limit. They have not made their task any easier by rather clumsily, although unintentionally, alienating France, and queering their own pitch. But I hope that we shall not be content with going to France and saying privately, "Will you co-operate with us, will you come in with us if it is necessary to do anything about Abyssinia." I hope that we shall, in the last resort, make clear to France that we intend the question to be answered in full world publicity at Geneva, and if that is done I cannot conceive any other result but one. The choice before France would be this: are you going with the League of Nations and all it stands for, or with Italy and repudiate all the obligations you have talked so much about for many years past? There could be only one reply. But if that is not so, if France is unwilling to co-operate publicly, the effort ought to be made so that the world shall know that the responsibility for failure to make the collective system function is not ours.

The Foreign Secretary asked that Members intervening in the Debate should be as constructive as possible. It seems to me that we want a two-fold policy at the next meeting of the Council at Geneva. It is not enough to be acting merely as policemen. I suggest that there might be a way out if we were able to obtain support for the appointment of a neutral commission, as part of the machinery of Article 19, to go into the whole question of the merits of the dispute between Italy and Abyssinia, and into the very natural and proper feelings which Italy has that she has not sufficient outlets for her surplus population at the present time; and that we should give an undertaking to stand by and support and fulfil any findings such a commission might come to. If such a commission reported that there should be a sacrifice of some British territory, some transfer, I think that as a price of world peace it would be worth doing. That is a constructive idea. We must be in a position to offer Italy some way of obtaining her demands other than by the use of force.

I should like to ask the Foreign Secretary what attitude the Government propose to take with regard to the official request made some weeks ago by Abyssinia for the appointment by the League of Nations of neutral observers to be sent to the frontiers, no doubt to go about by aeroplanes, there is no other way. It would be of great value in giving absolutely impartial information to the Governments of what was taking place, and the mere fact that League of Nations officials, an international police force on a small scale, were there, would be a constant warning to the Powers concerned that they were not dealing with a purely private quarrel between the two countries. I hope that we shall act with the greatest courage in this case. There never can be a clearer case, and if the collective system collapses it will collapse not only there but in Europe and everywhere else, and it would not be possible for France to rely on the good will of this country to come to her aid in case of any trouble which might arise with Germany.

Peace is absolutely indivisible in all parts of the world. We must take all risks, and only by taking all risks can we in the end save the lives of many millions of our fellow citizens throughout the world. As regards the public opinion of this country, reference has been made to the remarkable figures disclosed by the ballot. Ninety-seven and a-half per cent. of the 11,500,000 voters are behind the League of Nations, but what is probably more significant is that three out of four of those who voted on the question stated that they were in favour, if necessary, of taking military action, in a police sense of course, for the maintenance of the Covenant of the League. If the Government were to come forward at any stage with all their strength and authority, supported as they would be by both sections of the Opposition, they would carry the overwhelming majority of the country with them in this great effort to save the League and all it stands for. I hope that they will act fearlessly, in accordance with the pledged word of this country, and in that way save the world and civilisation from disaster.

7.56 p.m.


One thing has emerged from this Debate and that is the helplessness of all past efforts to secure disarmament or any security for peace. No one who listened to the melancholy recital of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd George), when he read out the various pacts and declarations of certain nations under these pacts and agreements and pointed out what their conduct had been on the various occasions when their self interest was involved, can fail to realise that mere pacts and agreements have hitherto provided no effective security for peace. I want to examine for a moment the explanation of that; and in examining it I am going to suggest to the Committee that the only policy worth aiming at, and which has the slightest chance of giving us effective security for peace, is the idea of an international police force. In dealing with this matter I do not accept the position that it is impracticable, indeed, no greater harm can be done to the idea than to say it is a delightful utopian dream.

The failure of the efforts towards disarmament, and they have been innumerable, have undoubtedly been due to the fact that we could not procure security which would satisfy France and other nations, and the reason why such security could not be procured was that there were no effective sanctions behind any of the pacts or agreements which bind nations at the present time. There are, of course, certain sanctions in the Covenant of the League of Nations, of an economic character, but they have proved impracticable to carry out or, at any rate, those nations which agreed to carry them out have failed up to the present to fulfil their obligations. I suggest that this is the only way to provide effective security for peace. When we examine the past we shall find that all the failures are ultimately attributable to the fact that there were no effective sanctions behind any of the agreements and pacts which have been entered into. The preservation of law and order in any country ultimately depends on the police force, however small it may be, and precisely the same applies to nations. Until the analogy is realised to hold true of nations all efforts for obtaining peace will be doomed to failure.

It is said that it is an impracticable ideal; that before it can be brought into operation it will need international agreement. So does disarmament, and so do any of the pacts which this government and other governments have been endeavouring to bring about. Has any single proposal or method to bring about peace not been impracticable up to a point? What I say is practicable—and this is the burden of my speech—is that the British Government should declare itself in favour of the principle of an international police force to carry out the decisions of an international tribunal in equity, and that that tribunal, which is an essential part of the whole thing, should have complete jurisdiction over any dispute which might arise between nations. It is not impracticable that this country should declare itself in favour of that idea. Would anything result from it? Personally I am not of the belief that this would come in the dim and distant future. There is no doubt that the one proposal which France has consistently advocated since the War, and which alone would give real satisfaction to her, is this international police force, and in advocating the security of an international police force France has expressly said that she would agree to the setting up of a tribunal which should have the power of revising the Treaty of Versailles. There is no question about it. France has made these specific proposals. They were made by the then Air Minister for France, M. Pierre Cot, in February, 1933. We are inclined to forget this. I know it is said that when we get down to what are called brass tacks, France would make reservations and modifications, and that there is no knowing, when it comes to thrash out the details, whether France would go to the same distance as other nations.

The fact remains that France is desirous of peace, but that the one difficulty with her is that of obtaining security, and being logically-minded she is sincerely convinced that the only effective security for peace will be in the establishment of the international police force. The proposal was made by France in February, 1933, and the nations who gave the principle their support were Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Belgium, Norway and Spain. In fact, Spain had a proposal of its own for the establishment of such a force. That is a considerable start, and although some of the nations are not as important as others, nobody can doubt that starting with France, the Scandinavian countries, Spain, Belgium and some of the Balkan States—all previously war-like nations—is a very significant factor.

Why should not we as a nation declare ourselves in favour of this principle? It does involve a tribunal in equity which would have complete jurisdiction to decide on any dispute between nations, and unless you have such a tribunal there is no hope of permanent peace in the world. That was the whole idea of the League of Nations, but we have found that in practice the idea has not brought about the results which we hoped. All I ask is that this country should take the position which France has done and say that it is in favour of the establishment of an international police force and then let us see what would happen if we took the initiative. I think it is the only practicable way. We have taken the initiative on many matters, but never in this connection, and I believe the reason has been reluctance to accept the decision of an international tribunal which might affect Sovereign rights, and also a reluctance to becoming involved in a dispute which we might think did not concern us.

The reason for the failure of these various attempts in the past has been that nobody has had any faith that agreements and pacts would be observed when it came to the pinch, and the objection to an agreement such as the conditional Air Pact recently signed between this country and France is that it involves agreement to provide national contingents. One thing that has stood in the way of any success of the past efforts has been the fact the nations all thought that treaties and pacts would not be implemented when occasion arose. There is only one way in which you can be assured that the sanctions behind any agreement will be effective, and that is by establishing your material force before the occasion arises, before the dispute has broken out. It must be of a homogeneous character, not dependent on ad hoc contingents from other Powers. There must be an international force established in peace time ready to enter into action the moment the occasion arises. It has often been said that that is impracticable. I believe that if the force were an air force there would be no technical difficulties in the way either of the creation, administration or bringing into effective use of an international police force.

It is obvious that the difficulties of administration of an air force are nothing comparable to those of an international army or navy. From the purely strategical point of view the important points to be settled will be the allocation of territories over which a particular section of the air force should act. We have had international armies and navies in the past. The Marlborough campaigns were an international army and navy. When you come to an air force the technical difficulties are of no insuperable character, in my opinion. The difficulties, therefore, are purely political, and the chief difficulty is that of getting nations to abide by the decision of an international tribunal however important the issue involved. If we are sincerely desirous for peace, as we are, I suggest that this Government should follow as far as France has gone, and declare itself in favour of the principle of an international air police force and take the initiative in trying to get agreement on those lines. A declaration in that sense would, in my view, be helpful in the present position which faces us in the Italo-Abyssinian dispute. France has had reason to complain of the reluctance of this country and other countries to give her any effective security, and when she is now faced with the position of employing sanctions against Italy, with whom she has recently entered into an alliance, she is naturally hesitating. I believe that if we announced that this country was prepared to show its belief in collective security in its only logical form, that is, in the establishment of an air police force, it would have a pro- found influence in France, and indirectly would have an influence over Mussolini in the Abyssinian dispute. I beg of the Government that they should consider expressing their minds on this import- ant question of an international police force. However difficult it may be to reach international agreement on it that is no reason why this Government should not declare itself in favour of the principle. That, at any rate, is a practicable thing to ask of it, and I urge that they should make a declaration in that direction.


On a point of Order. I wish to direct your attention, Commander Cochrane, to the fact that there is no representative of the Foreign Office present. Is it that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has absorbed all their attention, or is it an insult to the back benchers in this Debate?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Commander Cochrane)

That is not a point of Order.

8.10 p.m.


I would like to wish the Foreign Secretary success in the great work that he has to do, and if I criticise him it is only because I think that when great issues are involved, things which may affect the whole future of the world, one cannot allow personal feeling to interfere with the statements that one feels bound to make on points of principle. It is rather difficult to take part in this discussion after so many eminent and ancient, elderly statesmen have spoken, and on a subject of great difficulty which is broken up into so many parts. I have rarely heard in a debate on Foreign Policy so much false history as I have heard to-night. In my view it is untrue to say that there was any time in the course of the Disarmament Conference when, if the British Government had taken another attitude, they could have abolished bombers. The reason was because there were many countries, including Germany, who re- fused to internationalise civil aviation, and without international control of civil aviation no nation would agree to the abolition of bombers. It is inaccurate, too, to say that Germany had so completely disarmed that the Council of Ambassadors took away the Committee of Control. In the last report written by that Committee, which has never been published but which is in the archives of Geneva, they stated that the disarmament of Germany had never been complete, that the disarmament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles had never been fully fulfilled by the German Government.

I think it is very wrong to suggest that France is the one country that has prevented disarmament. As the hon. Member has just said, it is impossible to get any disarmament except within a sphere of security. That has always been my view, and it has been the view of many eminent authorities, and many governments. Unless you have security, no nation will disarm. One of the reasons why disarmament has not been brought about is that this Government and its predecessors have always refused to take part fully in a system of collective security which would give that atmosphere of security in which disarmament could be brought about. This country is as much to blame as any other. The Foreign Secretary has asked us to be realists, and I want to direct the attention of the Committee to what I feel is the essential and most important issue in Europe to-day—that is, the rearmament of Germany and the aims and ambitions of the present German Government. I have no wish or intention to say wounding things about another Government, but no Government can complain if I quote the words of its leader to explain what the policy of Germany is. I wish to call attention to the following statement, which shows clearly what the policy of Herr Hitler is, and to do him justice he has never disguised it. Speaking at Nuremburg in September, 1933, he said: The programme which I drew up in 1921 was one which deliberately struck the pacifist and democratic world in the face. When we turn to that programme we find the following words: We claim all Germans in Sudetan Germany"— which I understand to be Czechoslovakia— in Alsace-Lorraine, in Poland, in the League Colony of Austria, and the States which succeeded to the old Austria … We demand land and territory (Colonies) for the nourishment of our people and for settling our superfluous population. Speaking in Munich on 20th March, 1934, he said: The map of Germany has to be altered until the unification of the German people is complete. If those views represent the ambitions of the present Government in Germany, and I have quoted the Fuhrer's own words, I put it to the Committee that that is a policy which cannot be fulfilled except by acts of force and violence, in other words by war and conquest. There is no other way. Let me now turn to the methods by which the present German Government propose to carry out this policy. I take "Mein Kampf," Herr Hitler's book which is read officially in all the schools in Germany to-day and has a circulation in that country running into millions. I quote these words: In order to regain Germany's lost provinces it is necessary … to strengthen. … the unshakable decision hidden in the heart of the people to devote its freshly gained strength to the … unification of the entire people. For suppressed provinces are not led back into the lap of an empire by flaming protests but through a well-sharpened sword. To forge this sword is the object of a people's domestic policy; to see that the forging is done and to seek allies in arms is the object of its foreign policy. I next draw the attention of the Committee to an interesting quotation about the tactics which are being pursued by Germany at present. Dr. Helmut Koltz in his book on "Germany's Secret Armaments" states that at a birthday party in honour of Herr Hitler on 20th April, 1934, the Fuhrer said to a small group of friends: In the listless irresolution of England lies our chance. The spineless passivity which has characterised the British Government since 1919 will enable us to pass unscathed through the danger zone which we deliberately entered with the victory of the National Socialist idea … In two years, at the latest, we shall have achieved our aim. That is, by April of next year. In view of what has happened during the last two years it would seem that that policy is being carried out in Germany. In face of that situation, what are the other nations of Europe to do? It seems to me that the only policy to meet a programme of that kind is for the other nations to combine together under the League of Nations in order to present an unshakeable front and to confront Nazi Germany with such an overwhelming aggregation of force that she would never dare to make war and to hold her in that unbreakable ring until the system collapses from within. That seems the only sane policy for statesmen to adopt and it is the policy which was advocated by M. Litvinoff. What on the other hand have the Governments done? I think their first big mistake was in connection with the Disarmament Conference. When Germany withdrew from the League and began secretly to re-arm we went after her and signed the Five Power Declaration in which we promised her equality of rights in a system which would provide security for all nations. I have always held the opinion that the wording of that Declaration was unwise. What we should have given her, in order to bring her back into the Disarmament Conference was a pledge to bring about a reduction of armaments in a sphere of security instead of equality of armaments. Once equality of armaments was promised she at once sought not to bring about disarmament but to bring her own armaments up to the level of those of the other Powers or above that level.

As a result of that action, German armament shares started to rise and at that very moment Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. All pacifists were suppressed, put into concentration camps or killed. All pacifist propaganda was declared illegal. Pacifist books were burned and people like Von Papen made speeches about the horrible fate of dying on a mattress. Militarism reigned supreme. The German delegates did not return to assist the work of the Disarmament Conference. Contrary to what we have been led to believe tonight, they adopted a very hostile and difficult attitude. They moved one hostile amendment after another to the plan of the right hon. Gentleman who is now Lord President of the Council. In view of the present attitude of the "Times" it is interesting to note what that newspaper said at the time. In May, 1933, the "Times" said the German Government seemed to be intent upon holding up the Disarmament Conference, and went on to say that if Germany wanted the whole population to be trained in arms the Conference was doomed to failure and the blame for that failure would be squarely placed upon the shoulders of Germany, who would find herself completely isolated. The "Times" also said that before challenging other countries to disarm it would be better to disprove, if it was possible to disprove, that one of the main objects of Hitlerism was to prepare Germany for a war of revenge. Towards the close of that month Hitler made his famous moderate speech in which he said he would accept a five years' transitional period with equality at the end. The "Times" next day struck a very cautious note and said: The militarist school in Germany is just as anxious for a period of quiet as those who genuinely believe in international co-operation. They require time in which to strengthen their armed forces and mature their plans. At this time there was great secret armament activity going on in Germany, and in July, 1933, the "Times" announced that the German armament works had increased the number of workers by one-third, and that the shares were rising. On 28th July the "Times" said: Let it be plainly stated that the one way in which Germany cannot be allowed to present her claim is at the point of the sword. Then we remember the Disarmament Conference of October, 1933, when for the first time it seemed that a general limitation of armaments was in sight. Germany withdrew, and everybody thought she was not justified in so doing. She withdrew, in my view, because she did not want to disarm, because she did not want international inspection, which would have disclosed the secret armaments that she was building up. She wanted to gain time in which to re-arm. It reminds me of the story of Themistocles when, after the Persian War, Sparta called a disarmament conference and suggested that the walls of Athens and other Greek cities should not be built. Before attending the conference he told the Athenians to start building the walls as rapidly as they could. He then went to Sparta but delayed coming to the meeting and made all sorts of excuses. Rumours came along that the walls of Athens were being built but Themistocles said that this was all nonsense. Finally, having got the information that the walls of Athens had been rebuilt, he said, "The thing is done now." The disarmament conference came to an end, and everyone went back to his own city quite happily.

That is what Germany has been doing for some years past. She has been working for postponement after postponement in order to build up her arms in secret. When Germany left the Conference in October, 1933, that was the time when the other nations should have taken firm action. They should have gone on with the Conference without her and tried to work out a Convention themselves. They should have refused credit to Germany, and they should have refused her the raw materials necessary for the building up of munitions of war. I believe Poland at that time did wish pressure of that sort to be put on her. The "Times" newspaper said: It is the first duty of other Governments to show him (Herr Hitler) that the ways of the swashbuckler and the hot-head will bring him no success in diplomacy. But the British Government made conciliatory gestures to Germany. The late Foreign Secretary said that to ask Germany to sign a Convention on the dotted lines was to drive the iron into Germany's soul.

The year 1934 was a completely wasted year. The Government continued to send Notes to other Governments and to engage in futile diplomatic exchanges. They suggested that Germany should be allowed to have aeroplanes in two years' time, although she had them already. In March there was a startling increase in the Service Estimates of the German Army, Navy and Air Force, and then we had the explanation of Herr von Neurath that it was untrue that Germany was contemplating not only preparations for defensive equipment, but the acquisition of offensive arms. That was on 27th April last year. I leave that remark without comment. Our Government did nothing. They refused to stop the exportation even of aeroplane engines to Germany and at the meeting of the Disarmament Conference in May they refused to take part in a Security Pact which might bring about a reduction in armaments and pursued instead the will of the wisp of trying to get Germany to return to the Conference. In June last year came the public exposé of the Nazi methods, when all those assassinations took place in Germany On 25th July, after ceaseless propaganda over the wireless, Herr Dolfuss was assassinated, and in that assassination the complicity of Nazi Germany has been proved up to the hilt.

Now we come to this year. From the beginning of the year the aims of Germany have been encouraged in this country, first of all by the fact that last December the Bank of England granted Germany a credit of £750,000, which has all been used for the purchase of munitions, and then by the visit of two Noble Lords to Berlin, one of them a conscientious objector and the other a Christian Scientist. They both came back with great admiration for Herr Hitler. Great harm has been done by the visit of the mischievous Marquess and the late head of the "No Conscription" Fellowship. Simultaneously there has been the astounding attitude of the "Times" newspaper, which is supposed abroad to be an official newspaper. The "Times" has had leading articles week after week and month after month, which might have been written by Herr Von Ribbentrop himself. It seems to me that the office of the "Times" might not have been in Printing House Square but in Carlton House Terrace, where the German Embassy is. On the 3rd February there came the famous declaration, of which we have heard a great deal, in which France and England decided on an Eastern Pact, a Danubian Pact, a Western Pact, Germany to return to the League, an Armaments agreement to replace Part V of the Treaty of Versailles, and so on. Germany apparently accepted that, or said she would consider it favourably. The German Government, however, did not want to return to the League or to have an Eastern Pact or a Danubian Pact.

Then came blow after blow from Germany. On the 12th March she announced that she was going to have an Air Force; on the 17th she announced that she was going to establish conscription; on the 24th and 26th March, when the Foreign Secretary visited Berlin, he was told that Germany had already reached equality in the air; on the 26th April the "Daily Telegraph" announced that the German Air Force was double ours; on the 29th April, just before the proposed Naval Conference, Germany said she was building 12 submarines. In fact, we were faced by a series of faits accomplis. As a result of that we had the Stresa Agreement, which condemned unilateral repudiation of Treaties. On the 21st May, as a result of certain speeches made in this country, Herr Hitler made a speech which has never been fully reported in the British Press even yet, although reports have come over from Germany in full translation. I have studied that speech very carefully, word for word, and I consider that the favourable impression that was created by the way in which it was put into the newspapers was quite unjustified, because, according to that speech Herr Hitler was against the collective system, which he called a mania, he was against treaties of mutual assistance, and he was against the fundamental principles for which the League of Nations stands.

He said he was in favour of nonaggression pacts, but as he had already signed the Kellogg Pact, which is a pact of non-aggression, I do not know that that meant very much. He was against the collective system. What he wanted to do when a war took place was that it should be kept between the two parties who were making the war and not be allowed to spread; in other words, that other nations should not be bound to come in and put down the aggressor. It means that if he wanted to attack Czechoslovakia or Austria, no one could come in to the assistance of those nations. With regard to the question of Germany's return to the League, he was very vague.

As a result of a question which I asked the Secretary of State last week, I was told that the present Government have tried to obtain a more definite explanation from him as to the terms on which he would consider coming into the League, but that they have failed in that effort. He did say he would not modify the frontiers of Germany by force but he demanded self-determination for the German people outside the frontiers of Germany, he hinted that the Austrian Government had no legal foundation, and he would only consent to a pact of nonintervention in the internal affairs of other countries if the question of non-intervention was strictly defined and the pact was signed internationally by all the other nations in the world. In view of the actions of Japan it is not likely that such a pact could be agreed upon. He wanted an Air Pact on the West, but he said he would not in any circumstances reduce the numbers of his Army which was to be the largest in Europe and he wanted a Navy of a strength equal to 35 per cent. of the British Navy. It was the speech of a man who wanted to gain time until his military reorganisation was complete, and although the Prime Minister said he thought he saw some light in that speech, I think it was a red light, which should be a warning to us and to Europe.

Now we come to the Anglo-German Naval Agreement. I have a statement by the late Foreign Secretary at Geneva on the 17th November, 1932, as follows: The Treaty of Versailles is a binding document. It cannot be set on one side by unilateral action. It can be modified only by agreement. By the declaration of the 3rd February, France and Great Britain agreed that neither Germany nor any other Power whose armaments had been defined by the Peace Treaties was entitled by unilateral action to modify those obligations. The Stresa Declaration has been quoted with dramatic force by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and there we said exactly the same thing. In spite of that, we find the Anglo-German Agreement, which is a distinct breach of all those declarations. The French Government were asked what their opinion of this agreement. Their Note was received on the 18th June, and a few hours later the agreement was signed. Why was there such a hurry? Why was not the French Government given the courtesy of knowing that their Note had been studied? I understand that the reason was that the German Naval Delegation said that if there was any delay, they would go back to Germany and would declare instantly that they were going to build up to 50 per cent. of our strength. If I had been there and had heard Herr Von Ribbentrop say that, I should have replied, "I have a speedy car outside. Perhaps I can assist you in getting back to Germany a little faster than you would otherwise be able to go." What I say is proved by the fact that a representative of the Government has stated that to have insisted on prior consultation with other countries, it would definitely have meant the loss of the agreement.

We in this country do not remember our anniversaries but other peoples do. June 18 is a significant date. It is the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo when the British and the Prussians fought side by side against the French. That fact has been noted on the Continent and used in German propaganda.

What has the agreement done? It has alarmed the Baltic States, which are now at the mercy of the naval power of Germany. It has enraged France. We were told to-day that the agreement will give France a bigger fleet than Germany. On looking through the figures which were kindly supplied to me by the First Lord of the Admiralty, I see that, as far as battleships are concerned, the tonnage allotted to Germany under the treaty will give them a superiority over the French battleship fleet in modem vessels. We were told by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon that it is a good agreement for France, because it gives her a superiority of 43 per cent. over the German Navy—which I query—against an inferiority of 30 per cent. before the War. France and England had before the War made a naval agreement which almost amounted to a naval alliance, by means of which the French fleet was transferred to the Mediterranean, and we agreed to look after the northern shores of France. We were holding the German fleet with our immense Navy at that time, while the French fleet was in the Mediterranean. There is no naval agreement with France to-day, but there is an agreement with Germany, and as a result of that agreement the "Times," I notice, sees fit to utter threats to France by saying, "If you increase your navy, Britain and Germany will have to consider increases also." Not only has the agreement done that, but it has tremendously weakened the position of the League. It has weakened our position with regard to Abyssinia, and it has increased German prestige throughout Europe. Messages which have passed the censorship show that the Germans are jubilant as a result of the treaty. In my view, the agreement was a tragedy and almost an act of bad faith. It is one of the most unfortunate things that has happened in modern affairs.

This is not the time to go into the technical details of the Treaty, for we shall have an opportunity of doing that on another occasion. It contains many of the features of a naval alliance. For instance, we alone can give the German nation permission to increase its fleet above the 35 per cent. if it so suits us. It seems to me that with that concentrated fleet in the North Sea—because it is always said that our fleet is none too strong—the British Navy in future will be unable to carry out its obligations to the League in distant waters. The "Times" yesterday said:: The British and German naval strengths rise and fall together. The naval strength of Germany has been linked to that of this country. Does this mean that the pro-Hitler party in this country, which has always favoured the Hitler policy in Germany as being the enemy of Socialism and Russia, and is blind to the fact that such a policy is ultimately against the interests of this land has at last captured the Cabinet? If that is the fact there is no reason for us to suppose that the big increase in our Air Force is made in reply to the German Air Force, but rather may it be intended to keep the ring for Germany when the attack on the east or the south occurs. If that be so, if credits are given by the Bank of England to aid Germany to build up arms, and there is more rearmament of Germany from this country, it is the duty of Socialists to say that, although we are prepared to support the Army, Navy and Air Force in order to carry out the obligations of collective security under the League of Nations, we shall oppose all increases in the armament Estimates for the purpose of furthering a pro-Nazi policy. I hope that is not true. I hope this is not an indication of a pro-Nazi force which is conquering the Cabinet, but only something which has been done as a mistake and which will not be repeated. I hope the Government will see the peril that confronts us and the world if such a policy is pursued, and that they will go back to support, and support fully and sincerely, the idea of collective security, remembering all the time that the greatest menace to the world to-day is the presence of a strong naval and military power in the heart of Europe, animated by ideals and principles which, as I have tried to show, are incompatible with the maintenance of peace.

8.46 p.m.


I will not detain the Committee more than a very few minutes during my excursion into realism. I have listened, in common with many Members of this House, to scoldings of the Government, to demagogic orations destined to have repercussions outside this House, and to some constructive remarks, notably perhaps those which fell from the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) and from the speaker who followed him. I do not presume to be constructive to-night, but I would like to state things as I see them. Italy is going ahead, perhaps because it is the fate of a dictator, as it was once that of the priest of Nemi, to slay or himself be slain. Nothing will stop Italy. No Debate in this House will be reported there. Not even the weighty speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State will reach more than a few ears in Rome. Nothing will stop a nation guided by the hand of he whom the gods have perhaps stricken mad. France will not lift a hand. It is, if I may say so, very special pleading to say that she will not lift a hand because she is annoyed with us about the German naval agreement. In another capacity I should say that was nonsense. It is because she is bound by her declaration of friendship with Italy.

Abyssinia is in the unfortunate position of being the object of Italian expansion. They can no longer release their surplus population on to the shores of Ellis Island in America; no longer send them over here to Soho in various capacities with the same facility as formerly. That expansion will carry Italy through the lowlands of Abyssinia, that expansion will dash those troops against that mighty plateau which rises in the centre of Abyssinia, and which is a fatal wall for Italy. It was nearly a fatal wall for ourselves on a former occasion. It depends, I suppose, on whether or not modern warfare can overcome the walls of that natural fortress. There is no access to it excepting, perhaps, by one railroad, a very few roads and mainly by the courses of the torrents which fall down its precipitous walls. That is the position as I see it to-night, at the risk of being called a pro-Italian Tory, which I am not. I want more than anything else to safeguard the future of the League. I think the time has come when we should invest the League with a new view. I have already said that I shall be called a die-hard Tory, so I will come out with what I think. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) gave a most delightful quotation this afternoon from Dr. Johnson. May I add another from Dr. Johnson:

  • "Geographers in Afric maps,
  • With savage pictures filled their gaps,
  • And o'er uninhabitable downs,
  • Placed elephants for want of towns."
That is a pretty true description of civilisation in Abyssinia to-day. It is the plain duty of this country to face these facts and to consider the question of suggesting, through the League, a mandate to Italy for that portion of Abyssinia which borders Eritrea and Italian Somaliland, so that by means of a mandate the Abyssinian rights could be safeguarded as they can never be safeguarded by any form of sanctions. It is a question of grasping the nettle. It is a question of the ultimate well-being of the Abyssinians themselves. I should like to touch for a moment on the fact that the Abyssinian view of slavery is not ours. We must never judge it as if it were ours. Slavery is a recognised state in Abyssinia, but in consequence there are numerous appalling difficulties in connection with the suppression of the slave trade on our side of the Abyssinian frontier. Whether or no Italy would consider such a suggestion remains to be seen, but there is nothing in the Covenant of the League of Nations which stands in the way of some sort of concrete suggestion. The League was never intended to be a machine, the League remains an ideal. It was so conceived in 1919, and the Covenant to-day contains the same ideals as it did in those beginning times. We cannot complain that there are two sides to collective security, one which means that the united action of Europe is required before, shall I say, war is allowed, the other that we cannot any longer act alone, as we have done in the past, for the policing of Europe. It is not that the League has failed; we are testing the League, and we should be able, in the light of those tests, to augment its strength. We can never do so by using, it as an instrument for war.

May I say why I consider that we have the right to go to the League of Nations with a concrete suggestion of this sort? We opposed the entry of Abyssinia into the League in 1923, a candidature which was strongly supported by France and Italy. We have never changed that viewpoint in regard to the admittance of a State which is forgetful of the world and by the world forgotten. There is another circumstance which has been passed by in the hurry of the last few days. For the last 12 or 13 years we have been trying to persuade the Abyssinians to agree to a scheme of works on Lake Tsana under which a barrage would be constructed to control this natural reservoir of the Blue Nile. Without the red dust of volcanic deposits which the Blue Nile brings down from that mighty plateau, the soil of Egypt cannot be renewed. Only the other day the Abyssinians came to the Government with a favourable proposal. I would remind the House of the action of the Government in the present circumstances. My right hon. Friend the Minister for League of Nations Affairs said, in reply to a question: On 10th May the Abyssinian Government invited His Majesty's Government and the Governments of Egypt and the Sudan to send representatives to a conference at Addis Ababa with the object of concluding an agreement on this question. His Majesty's Government did not, however, wish to take any step which might aggravate the present unfortunate controversy between Italy and Abyssinia at a moment when they were using their best endeavours to secure a solution."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th July, 1935; col. 156, Vol. 304.] That surely is evidence of our clean-handedness. That entitles us to say that something which we had sought to get for the benefit of Egypt for the last 12 or 13 years had to be turned down when it was offered to us the other day, because we wanted to have clean hands in the matter of this negotiation.


Does the hon. Lady think that it would be a good way of maintaining the authority of the League to reward Italy for a flagrant violation of the Covenant of the League by giving her a new mandate, and would Italy's threats of aggression against Abyssinia be a hopeful augury for good relations between the mandatory nation and the country placed under it?


We are up against such facts as are likely to result in a far worse state for the Abyssinians than would befall them if they were under the guardianship of a mandate from the League of Nations. I would apologise to the Committee for this downright speech. May I ask the Committee to remember that it is the human side of the League which counts. Machinery will kill the League. If we continue to look on the League as living, and as an organism capable of expansion, there is some hope for the future peace of the world.

8.59 p.m.


I shall not attempt to follow the hon. Lady in the line she has taken in her interesting speech, either in regard to the matter or the manner of the subject which she was discussing. The matter which I propose to put before the House is of extreme importance, and I hope that the Committee will give me a certain amount of indulgence in listening to me, because I feel very deeply on the subject. The League of Nations was designed as a league of peoples throughout the length and breadth of the world, understanding each others' difficulties and endeavouring, in the spirit of that understanding, to clear up all those difficulties. That ideal is something to which we can give the full strength of our help. Are we not ourselves a great League of Nations wherein all races and all creeds mix together in a common understanding and where there is no distinction drawn between persons of different race or because of the creed that a person may have adopted or into which he may have been born.

There was a very striking illustration of that in my constituency during the Jubilee celebrations. When those celebrations were taking place there was a spontaneity of rejoicing among the Roman Catholics who form a large constituent body in my district, among the Jewish people, the Protestants and others; each section indicated that they realised that in this great Empire there is the basis of liberty, there is a basis of understanding among men which commends itself to all mankind. That is why I say at this moment that I know the Committee will consider it appropriate that some reference should be made to the unhappy fate of minorities who are suffering such terrible distress and degradation in Germany. One would have hoped that when a nation was making a plea for recognition and equal treatment she would have based her claims upon her own equitable outlook and the proper treatment of her own nationals. While no one will deny the right of each nation to be granted just and reasonable rights it obviously cannot be considered out of place if a similar claim is made for civilised and humane treatment of the various communities whose destinies are controlled by the claimants. The Church, the Roman Catholic community and the Jewish community are being constantly and persistently attacked and the new paganism which is being declared by the Nazi leaders can hardly be accepted as a step in the right direction of creating good feeling between people.

I hope the Committee will forgive me if I deal for a few moments with the lot of the Jewish people in Germany. The situation is becoming more and more burdensome and terrible for them. Speeches of a violent nature are made from time to time by the National Socialist leaders, and there can be no doubt that the people of the country are being incited to acts which must result in violence and probably in bloodshed. That this should be the fate of a body of men one of whose number, Herr Haber, literally saved the German people from complete disaster at the time of the war, is indeed a sad reflection on the misguided activities of the Nazi rulers. Thousands of Jews fought in the German Army during the Great War, as had their predecessors before them in other wars on behalf of Germany. They fought side by side with their fellow Germans. No question was raised in those times of distinction between race and race and creed and creed. No question was raised whether a man was a Roman Catholic, a Jew, or a Protestant when a padre stood at the graveside or on the field beside a dead man; he did not question whether the victim was a Jew or a Gentile. On the contrary, all stood for one common end so far as the action of the whole people was concerned. All stood side by side.

This new theory of race is an insult to the memory of the heroes who fought and fell. It endeavours to degrade the children and grandchildren of valiant Jewish ex-service men who fought in common with the rest of their fellows. Day by day regulations and edicts are passed, and an effort is, indeed, being made to reduce the Jewish community to that state which the Nazis themselves would have those to whom they are preaching believe it really is at present. Children in the schools are being taught a bitter hatred against young, innocent, Jewish fellow-pupils. The "Stűrmer" Press is rousing flaming passions and hatred in its readers by lying and deceitful messages. The edition of that paper, which was specially dedicated to spreading the infamous blood libel, has been followed by publication after publication of a sordid and vicious nature. This attack is not merely confined to Streicher's immediate subordinates. General Goering, at the request of Streicher, addressed a group of 200,000 recently at the Franconian Nazi Pagan Rally on the Hesselberg Hills near Niiremburg. A special fire initiation ceremony was held, at which 10,000 Hitler youths repeated a vow made by Streicher to dedicate themselves to the hatred of Jews. In the meanwhile it is necessary for them to spread propaganda throughout the world in order to explain away this apparent uncivilised action by the Nazis. Every form of propaganda attack is used, whether open or covert. No money is spared. Where the money comes from nobody knows, but in practically every country in the world this insidious propaganda is going on. In spite of the fact that no country wants it, this persistent attack on the minorities is being continued in one country 'after another. Herr Hitler himself stated in his infamous book: It is not the business of propaganda to weigh the rights and wrongs of a question. Its object is to present its own side. Propaganda does not exist in order to search for truth so far as it may be favourable to opponents; nor has doctrinaire impartiality any part in what propaganda offers to the masses. The "Voelkischer Beobachter" recently declared that: National Socialism knows no such things as impartial research. History must be written, not objectively, but in the spirit of German faith. I am sure the Committee will understand that it is not an easy matter for a Jewish person himself to stand up on such a grave occasion as this to speak on these matters, but I know the Committee will appreciate that I should consider it very short of my duty, in view of the deep and bitter feelings that are being created throughout the length and breadth of the world, if I did not say the few words that I have said, in order to let those, if I may use the expression, villainous pervertors of the truth realise what is felt in this country. Let me give one more quotation. The "Jewish Chronicle" of the 5th July last contained the following report:- Last week saw the beginnings of a concerted attempt to transfer to Berlin the extreme anti-Jewish feeling hitherto characteristic of Julius Streicher's realm of Franconia. Within the space of a few days numbers of Jewish shops and vendors' stands were wrecked; quantities of anti-Jewish labels stuck on shops, electric standards and elsewhere; revolting Stuermer bills plastered on trees, and placards posted up in many industrial undertakings attempting directly to incite the German working class against Jewish doctors, lawyers, and merchants. Last, but not least, Dr. Goebbels, at the Berlin Nazi district rally on Sunday, openly proclaimed a new local anti-Jewish onslaught. Writing as an eye witness, the Berlin correspondent of the 'Manchester Guardian' describes a typical case of Nazi hooliganism in the working-class district of Neukölln, where Streicher's Brownshirt followers closed down a Jewish ice-cream store. 'Crowds were standing in front of the store, which had been locked up earlier in the day,' the correspondent writes. The windows had been plastered with sheets torn out of the Stürmer containing hideous caricatures of Jews, and fastened down at the corners with printed labels bearing the words: To buy from the Jews is to be a traitor to Germany. A patrol of three uniformed Nazis walked slowly up and down the street in front of the shop with copies of the Stürmer. At each end of the street copies of the Stürmer were also on sale. I did not, however, see a single copy sold to the un-uniformed working-class people in the streets,' the writer continues. 'The ordinary people, as is customary, talked in undertones. They contented themselves chiefly with looking at the Stürmer cartoons in silence. I saw no sign that they approved of the closing of the shop. The only comment made to me was by a woman: When is this lunacy going to be stopped?' I ask the same question: When is this lunacy going to be stopped? The Jewish people, who, after all, have their good and bad among them equally with every other people, claim very little, but at least they claim to be loyal to the countries in which they happen to be resident and of which they happen to be citizens. For 1,000 years some of these Jewish families have been living in Germany. To-day Germany is asking, as she is rightly entitled to ask, and I do not suggest that she is not entitled to make the claim, that she should be given proper treatment; but, when she is asking for that, when she is seeking equity, she must do equity and come with clean hands. I hope that, when negotiations are taking place between this great Empire of ours and the German rulers, they will be given to understand that that type of action is abhorrent to the British people, irrespective of what race or creed they belong to, and that we expect from Germany the same consideration which she expects from us to be shown to her nationals

9.13 p.m.


The last speaker will excuse me if I do not refer to the details of his most eloquent and moving appeal, but I have very little time at my disposal, and I want just to get in one point which I consider to be of immense importance. I have listened in this House to practically every debate on foreign affairs, and every debate makes me feel more depressed about the future of this nation and of the world. In every debate there is a sense of frustration, a feeling that all the work done by successive British Governments, all the energy and enthusiasm of such bodies as the League of Nations, all the intense desire for peace among millions of people in Europe, is breaking down, is frustrated—and that the weapon of collective security and the League has broken, or is breaking, in our hands. I feel that, if that is the case, it is possible that we may not be dealing with the real, deep cause of the troubles of the world—that there is some flaw in our proceedings, and that we must seek that missing cue to the troubles which afflict us to-day.

Who are the nations which are potential breakers of the peace, or, at any rate, whose policy causes us disquiet? They are Germany, Italy and Japan. Are there any symptoms common to these three nations? If there are such we may get the cue to the trouble. I suggest that there are. In each case you have a country very heavily populated, and in two cases a country with very slender resources for growing food. The second point is the enormous increase of population year by year—in Japan 900,000 a year, in Italy 400,000 a year, and in Germany nearly 300,000 a year. That means that these nations, whoever rules over them, can only keep up a proper standard of life if they can export their manufactured goods and services to pay for their increasing requirements of food and raw materials for their industries. Already in Germany and in Italy the standard of life has been lowered again and again because of the difficulty of importing their necessary raw materials and foodstuffs. I believe it is the fear of the lowered standard of life which has caused the dictatorships.

We have been asked by the Secretary of State to put practical proposals forward and warned by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) of the difficulty and danger of a back-bencher doing so. There must be a solution of this question. There are three lines of approach. I do not think the granting of colonies to these nations is going to solve their difficulty. It may assuage the pride of Germany or Italy, but it will not solve the economic difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) may say, "Establish universal Free Trade," but that is impossible. In the world to-day economic nationalism has come to stay, because it is a recognition by the backward agricultural nations that modern machine efficiency with unskilled labour enables them to produce more and more wealth. I think the third line of approach is, by possibly temporary 'measures, to establish some easily functioning system of international money. We have already begun to do so by establishing a sterling area, and the nations in the sterling area are far more prosperous and happy than those outside it. I suggest that we should fix the rate of exchange, first in the sterling areas, for two or three years and invite the other countries to come in. The second and most important thing is to establish the principle that an exporting nation is paid for its goods in the currency of the importing nation. If you established that principle, I think you would solve the greater part of the economic difficulties of the world. At present international trade is hindered by the fear of nations getting more and more into debt and by the fear of their currency being broken and battered down. We have in the world to-day vast masses of food and raw material. We read of some of it being destroyed from time to time.

Here are these three great Powers which are likely to give trouble, whose policy has to-day caused trouble, with rapidly increasing populations, with a deficiency in essential raw materials—Italy with no coal, Germany with no iron—and here are these abundant raw materials in the world. I feel that, as a practical step to get a peace atmosphere, some such measures as I have not had time to outline would do more even than the success of the Disarmament Conference. I feel that that is the key. You have three contented Powers in the League, France, with a vast colonial Empire, ourselves, with a great colonial Empire, and Russia self-contained. There is no fear that we cannot get raw materials. The rulers of Japan and Germany are in constant fear that the machine Rill starve for want of imports. If the machine starves, the people starve, and, if the people starve, Governments crash in bloodshed and civil war. I may be told that these hurried proposals I put forward are not practicable. I believe they are the only practicable approach. These three nations have the feeling that their position in the world is not just. We have to rectify that injustice. We have to give them the feeling that they will have access to the raw materials of the world in abundance, and, if we do that, we can establish a League of Nations on a foundation of justice, a League to which individual nations will be prepared to surrender part of their sovereign rights, and a League which will succeed in preserving the world from war. If we neglect that economic aspect, I believe that disaster will fall upon us and upon the world.

9.21 p.m.

Captain McEWEN

I should like, in the first place, to congratulate the Secretary of State on his speech. The times are undoubtedly out of joint, and the right hon. Gentleman may well be justified in crying out on the unkind fate which calls upon him to put them right. I have little doubt that, given time, he will be able, we all hope with success, to cope with the new job that he has undertaken. I believe with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), who made a very striking speech, that the speech of the Secretary of State will have a very considerable effect abroad when it is read to-morrow. I agree also with what the right hon. Gentleman said with regard to the wider sphere. He said, if I understood him rightly, that he believed that what this country should do was to go to Geneva and state publicly that we adhere to our obligations under the system of collective security, and then ask the other members of the League, which in fact amount to France, "What are you going to do about it?" It seems to me that there are two alternatives. In the first place France may say, "No, thank you," in which case in all probability the League fades out altogether. On the other hand, France may say, "Yes, we will come in with you," in which case equally the people of this country are going to get somewhat of a shock, because they will find themselves let in certainly for a kind of war.

I am primarily, and always have been, concerned for the maintenance of peace, and of the League of Nations, because I have believed, and still believe, that it is a means whereby that peace can be maintained. If by any chance it should so happen that the League, owing to actions outside the scope of her own powers, should in its present form disappear, we in this country would certainly have to continue to work for the maintenance of peace. It is no good the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) to say that we have in effect a stranglehold upon France, or saying to her that if she did not support us in this matter we on a subsequent occasion, if she were attacked by Germany, would not come to her support, because that simply is not the case. We are perfectly well aware, and we might as well face the fact, that if there were any question of Germany attacking the Channel ports again we should find ourselves in exactly the same position that we did in 1914.

As I see it, the greater part of the disquieting facts of the international situation to-day are merely symptoms of one underlying misapprehension, which is that we can obtain all that we want in foreign affairs by ourselves, and without the wholehearted co-operation of France. I know very well that the popular view is rather that by keeping our freedom of action and indulging in opportunist and, if necessary, unilateral agreements, we shall get our aims. While it is perfectly true, and should never be forgotten, that in international affairs this country is far more often right than any other country in the world—our understanding of such matters geographically as well as for historical reasons being infinitely keener in these matters than other people's—yet if Europe and the world are to achieve peace and security, in my opinion it is by Anglo-French co-operation that they will do so. I cannot elaborate that point, and I will conclude by saying that I would impress most earnestly on the Secretary of State at the outset of his undertaking the importance of having as the very basis of our foreign policy the closest and most continuous understanding with France. After having consolidated that, I can assure him that all other things will be added unto him.

9.27 p.m.


I confess that after having listened to most of the Debate to-day I have gained little other than a sense of great despondency at the condition of affairs which we have to contemplate in the world to-night. Were it not for two speeches my mind would be overwhelmed with a sense of dismay. One of the speeches was that delivered by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus). He, too, confessed to a sense of dejection, and I think that sense of dejection must be universal in the House. He spoke of the sense of frustration which is present in the minds of all of us, but he gave one justification for feeling some sense of hope when he directed our attention, so properly, to what underlies so many of these international difficulties and complexities, namely, the economic issues that lie at the foundation of them. I agree with the hon. Gentleman as to much that he said concerning the urgent cry of some countries for a greater place for their people to earn their living more fully and more completely than is now obtainable by them. It is true that Japan's population is pressing for more room to live, and whether his remedy is acceptable or otherwise is immaterial for the moment. It is right that he should point to the fact that we will not be able to restore peace to the world until we have examined afresh the economic problem with which the world is confronted. [Interruption, due to light failure.]

In the face of this new perplexity I was never more moved to pray for light than I am at this moment—if I may venture to trust my memory I will do my best until light comes from elsewhere. In the course of our discussions this afternoon one thing has emerged. I think I should be right if I said that everybody this afternoon has been very concerned as to what the answer to this question shall be: Where exactly does our own country, indeed the world, stand in relation to the League of Nations and its future? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), in the most interesting and attractive speech which he delivered, said truly that the peril to peace at this moment is greater than since the end of the Great War. I do not think that any Member in the House will deny that proposition. It is self-evident. Indeed, the interest and the anxious attention devoted to this problem in this Committee to-day is ample proof of the fact that deep in the minds of us all is this apprehension as to what is to be the future of peace in the world.

I wonder if hon. Members will forgive me if I recall this, because it is important to recall it. It is not 20 years ago yet since young people in the world were invited to shed their blood in defence of the principle of the sanctity of agreements. It was held, and held quite rightly, that when an international treaty was violated, that became in effect a crime against civilisation, and in order to vindicate that principle millions of people in all parts of the world rallied to the forces of the various countries; and as they went statesmen in all parts of the world uttered one pledge. I remind you of it this evening. It was this: "Never again." And when statesmen in all countries, on both belligerent sides, used these words they were pledging themselves to redeem that promise the moment war had passed from our minds.

I am prepared to admit that within certain limitations, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs indicated to us this afternoon, an attempt was made to fashion an instrument so that that pledge might be redeemed. As a consequence all, or at any rate most, nations of the world became members of the League of Nations. You cannot be a member of a League of that sort without in the course of time becoming committed to covenants, pacts, understandings, agreements, treaties, call them what you will, and the question that arises in this discussion is: Are the covenants, agreements, pacts into which we have entered sacrosanct, as was the Treaty in respect of the violation of Belgium? If so—and I believe the answer would universally be, "Yes, they are sacrosanct"—then the question is how far are we actually being loyal to commitments in respect of various covenants and pacts by our conduct in the course of the last year or two within the League of Nations?

I must ask this question. I do not ask it particularly for a party advantage, but I make the point because I think that it is justified. Why is it that in the last four short years the authority of the League of Nations has so obviously declined? It has almost become, to our great regret, a thing of derision or of despair, and it is not good for the world that such a fate should overcome the only alternative there is to the method of war of settling international disputes. I am not so sure—and I hope that the Foreign Secretary will forgive my saying this—that this followers, or those who are intense believers in the League of Nations, will be excessively grateful to him for the tone of some of his remarks in the course of his speech this afternoon. I have no doubt that later on in our proceedings we shall have another presentation of the point of view of the Government. That is one of the advantages of having two Foreign Secretaries, a diarchic system, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) put it. This afternoon we had the Government in working clothes, hobnailed boots and all, and this evening we shall have the Government in ceremonial dress, no doubt, presenting a more acceptable view of the international commitments of the Government.

My main complaint against the Government is that they do not seem to be able to make up their mind as to what their attitude should constantly be in respect of the League. I will give one or two illustrations of this. Let us take the Anglo-German Agreement as a case in point. May I say, first, that I did not quite understand what the Foreign Secretary meant when he said that it always had been understood that the naval question was always treated as a thing apart. If that is the point of view of the Government, it is a pretty perilous one, because the whole question of armaments, naval, military and air, are all part and parcel of the same problem, and it would be a fatal thing if we, because we happen to be a naval Power primarily, should insist upon regarding the naval problem as something entirely different from other problems of armaments on land and in the air. The right hon. Gentleman said that experts had assured him that the Anglo-German Naval Agreement was safe for the Empire. I wonder if those same experts assured him that it was equally safe for the world. It may be safe for the Empire, but I wonder if it is equally safe for the world.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping quite properly advanced a legitimate argument against the conduct of the Government in this matter. We agreed with Germany that there is to be a certain proportion—100 to 35—and we permit thereby an open violation by Germany of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, and we permit it of our own volition. It was done within a very short time indeed of the meeting of some three Powers two or three weeks before.

Let me come back to the question of security for the world. Can it be denied that one of the possible effects of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement is that complete mastery is granted to Germany in naval matters within the confines of the Baltic? What would the Government say if another member of the League of Nations, namely, Russia came to them and said, "Your agreement with Germany now places our naval position in jeopardy"? What would you say? You have no answer at all. I do not know that Russia will seek naval increases within the confines of the Baltic, but if she did you have no answer at all whereby you can logically argue against it. More than that, what is to be the position of France in this matter? For I believe that France and Russia have a very close understanding. It may not amount to an alliance, but France has entered into an understanding with Russia because of her apprehensions about Germany. Will not her apprehensions now be increased, and may not she therefore argue that, "since you permitted a certain naval establishment to Germany by this agreement, you must permit a consequential increase in our naval armaments." If that be so, I suggest that, while the right hon. Gentleman may be entitled to argue that it may be good for the Empire, it is thoroughly bad for the world at large.

I come to another case which occurred within a very short time of the meeting at Stresa referred to this afternoon. On what possible ground of logic or justification can the Government argue that they were entitled to go to Stresa and, in common with two other representative nations, denounce Germany for violating the Treaty of Versailles by announcing conscription, when within a few weeks they enter into this private arrangement with Germany, also in violation of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. You have no ground on which to denounce Germany on the one hand if you proceed to do the same thing a comparatively short time afterwards. That shows that the Government do not know what their attitude ought to be in regard to the League of Nations.

The Government supporters a year or two ago used to throw scorn upon us for calling attention to what was happening in the Far East. The present Prime Minister, on the public platform, complained that we were accusing himself and his friends of wanting war. His friends did not hesitate to accuse us of wanting war when we called attention to the Far East. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who said so?"] Who said so? Over and over again in this House we were accused of wanting to go to war with Japan. It was not true. We never have wanted to go to war with Japan or with anyone else. What we have asked is this, that since we are members of the League of Nations we should regard our covenants with others within the League as just as binding as we told millions of young men in 1914 to regard the Treaty of Belgium as binding. But the Government will not do that, and the result is that not merely Manchukuo but Jehol and even Mongolia itself are being threatened by the machinations of Japanese agents. All these things, the result of indifference to our commitments in the League of Nations, may mean the complete destruction, to put it in a selfish way, of our trade relationships with that part of the Far East.

It is time that the Government made up their minds what is to be their attitude in relation to the League. I do not see the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) in his place. He may be there for all that I know; if so, I cannot see him. He made great play with the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs about quoting the Stresa Declaration. He asked: "What would you do?" and he anticipated the answer by saying: "If you meant anything at all, you could only have meant war." That is his accusation against the right hon. Gentleman. May I return to the question? What did his supporters mean by the Stresa Declaration? Did they mean anything by it, or were they speaking with their tongues in their cheeks? The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs read out the important phrase from the Stresa Declaration to-day, to the effect that the three Powers concerned agreed to take action in certain eventualities. Therefore, the right hon. Member for West Birmingham has no right to accuse other people of being insincere when his own friends and his leaders committed themselves to a Declaration that in certain eventualities they would apply themselves to certain action against any aggressive power. The Lord President of the Council keeps shaking his head, or he seems to be doing. He did not take the trouble of denying that statement when it was read out. He was conspicuously silent at the time. Why is he so garrulous now? Why did he not speak when that document was quoted? His silence must be taken as an admission that it was an accurate reading of the document. Does he deny that it was an accurate reading? I ask again, was it an accurate reading from the document? There is no answer. We need more candles on that side of the House.

The trouble is, that the Government cannot make up their mind what their attitude should be in regard to the League of Nations. They were too late in China. They were too late in Germany. They are almost too late again in regard to Abyssinia. The reason is pretty plain. The Government are prepared to be vigorous and assertive with respect to smaller nations, but let some big bully come along, speaking blatantly enough, and the right hon. Gentleman and his friends quickly run away. The consequence is that any statesman in Europe to-night or in the world, if he be nominally an adherent to the League of Nations, can always be sure of getting away with it so long as he speaks in sufficiently emphatic terms. We were accused this afternoon of not being sufficiently constructive in our ideas. That is not a new accusation. I want to put this proposition to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. There can be no League of Nations worth mentioning unless all the members inside the League enjoy complete equality the one with the other. When I say equality I do not mean equality in armaments but I mean that each individual member inside the League should be regarded as equally important and of equal authority inside the League.

But the moment one uses the word "equality," people have difficulty about Germany. The trouble is that equality in regard to Germany has been wrongly granted. You can grant equality in armaments either by rearmament or by disarmament. The method of disarmament was the method of the Covenant. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs reminded us of the pledge made by Clemenceau on behalf of the Allies in that respect. It was the method implicit in the Covenant. In spite of that, however, our own Government, in common with others, have taken the line of granting equality in rearmament, and we say that equality in rearmament will lead to rivalry in armaments in various parts of the world and will lead to inevitable disaster through the medium of war.

Let me put this question to the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for League of Nations Affairs. Is it impossible for them to bring pressure to bear so that there may be a reassembly once again of the Disarmament Conference at Geneva, under the same aegis as before, the League of Nations. If you like, begin de novo. Scrap the previous discussions if you like, but at any rate give the world evidence of the belief that you really have not given up the idea of disposing of this dreadful instrument of death in the world—war. The Prime Minister told us two years ago that in his judgment the hope of the world lay with the young of the world. That is abundantly true. In this country to-night there are millions of young men who are feeling apprehensive as to what the present trend of events may portend for them and their future. The Foreign Secretary said this afternoon that the key to the situation still remains the League of Nations. Let us make quite sure that that key does not become blood rusted, because a blood rusted key will fail to open the portals of the future to the young men of to-day.

9.56 p.m.


May I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) on a very remarkable performance. It is clear that he speaks by some inner light and has no need of external illumination. I am grateful to the electricians of the House for saving me from a similar trial. Everybody is conscious of the intense seriousness of the international situation, and nobody would desire to embarras the Foreign Secretary, who has so recently assumed office, in his conduct of these difficult problems. In selecting this subject for to-day's Debate we on these benches had no idea of causing him any embarrassment or passing any vote of censure, but we did so rather with the object of obtaining illumination in the form of a statement from the Government. Every one will agree it was highly desirable that such a statement should be made, because the whole face of foreign affairs has been changing so rapidly that it has been almost impossible to keep up with it.

We have the statement, and I should like to congratulate the Foreign Secretary on the scope of his speech and on its universal benevolence. He travelled all over the world, touched at nearly every port, and had a kind word to say in every one. I wish that he had added to his benevolence a little more precision on one or two points. The hon. Member for Caerphilly was rather unfair in complaining about his hobnailed boots. To me the Foreign Secretary seemed rather to be wearing skates, on which he is quite used to gliding easily from one point to another with great rapidity. The first point on which I could have desired more precision is with regard to the Air Pact. When the Government, through the present Prime Minister, made an announcement of its intentions to increase the Air Force it received support which it does not always receive from hon. Members on these benches. I have been criticised widely in my constituency and subjected, indeed, to a certain amount of misrepresentation on the ground of that vote. I do not repent it in the least, but I would recall this, that we gave that vote because of the new fact which had appeared in the international situation. That new fact was the air fleet of Germany. That was not a programme to be met by another programme, but a fleet in being, which could only be met, as long as it existed, by another fleet.

But that was not the only new fact which appeared at that time. Another fact, equally important, was the remarkable speech made by Herr Hitler, in the course of which he announced his willingness to come to an agreement which would have resulted in limitation. We ask that these two facts should always be borne in mind together. If we are to go on building against this air fleet in being we should also take diplomatic steps to meet the offer of Herr Hitler, in order that this expansion of armaments, which may not be limited to the present proposals, but which may go on indefinitely, might be brought to a conclusion. What we had hoped for from the Government to-night was some definite information as to the steps they are taking to meet Herr Hitler, as he has every reason to suppose would be made from the Prime Minister's speech. All we know from the speech of the Foreign Secretary is that nothing has been done yet. We do not know from the Foreign Secretary whether any plans have been made for doing anything in the future. We have been told the reason for the delay; that France desires to have the whole matter treated at once. Are we going to regard that as an insuperable objection? Are we going to accept that as an impediment to further progress? If that is so, then the race in air armaments has begun, and the prospect which we have hoped for of limiting it to reasonable proportions has practically vanished from the horizon. I should not like to believe that this is the case, and I hope that the Minister for League of Nations Affairs will be able to give us some further information on this point.

I come to another point on which we have not been given that exact information which we desire. When we come to Abyssinia we are on common ground in this House on a good many points. We are not concerned with the merits of the dispute between Italy and Abyssinia. There may be a great deal to be said for the Italian case, and we have no business at present to say that there is not. It may be that it was a great pity that Abyssinia was ever admitted to the League, but that is not the point now. Abyssinia was admitted to the League, it became a member of that great international association, and up to the present moment it has behaved according to the rules. It is threatened with war, and has demanded the intervention of the League to protect it against another member. We have to decide what we are going to do about it. All we have heard from the Foreign Secretary is what we are not going to do. He was quite informative about that. But what he said on that point is worth saying.

Nobody here fails to recognise that the League exists to make collective decisions, and that the imposition of collective sanctions does not impose on its members any obligation to undertake individual knight errantry for the rescue of the Abyssinian maid. But we have to consider whether within our obligations to the League we are prepared to play our part. What are we going to do? If anybody asks me what I should do—it is a reasonable question—I would merely refer them to the remarkable speech made to-day by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). If that statement had been made from the Front Bench, I should have been completely satisfied, and I shall be glad to hear from the Minister for League of Nations Affairs whether he can endorse the statement which has come from an eminent previous Foreign Secretary.

It is no small matter that is at stake; it is not the future of Abyssinia only; it is the future of the League and of the collective system which we have tried patiently to build up, which has had its successes and its failures, and which, I believe, still remains the hope of mankind. I would say to my right hon. Friend that, unless something is done in this matter, he is in grave danger of finding himself literally a Minister without a portfolio, because the subject matter of his office may well have gone. If that happens it will be a very bad prospect for the peace of the world. I do not complain, and I want to make this clear, of any effort the Government may have made to try and settle this dispute. If they were parting with territory of ours, even so I believe that with our resources we could have afforded it, and to have given an example to the world that we were ready to make sacrifices for peace would have been all to the good. Unfortunately, all that we know is that the offer failed. It has been suggested that it was bound to fail. I confess that I agree to some extent with the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), that the precise method of presenting an offer of this kind was not all that could be desired. In saying that I am not for a moment suggesting anything against the Minister for League of Nations Affairs.

I am perhaps being rather reactionary in having a preference in some matters for the employment of the old methods of diplomacy. It seems to me that this kind of peripatetic diplomacy from one capital to another is open to certain objections. It is unfair to the right hon. Gentleman himself. If he fails, as anybody may fail, we only know the fact of his failure. He is not at liberty to tell us what he said to Mussolini, and what Mussolini said to him, though I have no doubt it would be very entertaining to listen to. We do not know the manner in which he batted. We only know the fact on the score sheet that he was bowled. It seems to me to have this other objection, that foreign capitals get used to dealing with a particular ambassador, but that after having the same Minister going from capital to capital, making reassuring statements in Moscow, Warsaw and Paris, they may be all pleased with the words they hear but they must have some wonder as to what was said in the other capitals. It seems like the case of a witness who has made a statement to the solicitor on both sides and whom neither is particularly confident of calling. This method of approaching foreign affairs may be overdone, and I think in some respects the older method is preferable.

I want to refer to the Anglo-German Naval Pact. I fully realise the motives which caused the Government to close with that offer when they were faced with a prospect of almost infinite rearmament in various directions as a result of the decision of Germany to ignore the Treaty of Versailles. They had the opportunity to limit that rearmament in a particular sphere, and they had reason to believe that if they did not close with it at once the offer might not be presented again. The reasons for closing with that offer in those circumstances were very strong indeed. But I must express my great regret that this could not have been done without causing a serious misunderstanding between ourselves and France. I do not know whether it could have been avoided, or whether it was inevitable, but I desire to record my conviction that on a good understanding between ourselves and France, the peace of the world still rests, and that there can be no greater danger than a misunderstanding in that respect. We have criticised French statesmen in the past. We believe that since the War they have missed opportunities. French statesmen doubtless have criticised us. But behind these disagreements there does lie, I believe, a much broader basis of real agreement. We have the common experience of our trials in the last War. We have a form of democratic government which is the same in principle. We have the same admiration for liberty and freedom of speech, and I believe that these bonds of union should be strong enough to survive any temporary disagreement. If they are not, I tremble for the future of the world.

The worst thing I can imagine is that we should drift or be forced into a new and unnatural alliance. Already it is said in Europe—I am not putting it higher than that—that we are drifting into the same camp with Germany. The Government's answer will be, of course, that we are not in any camp except the League of Nations. But even to be supposed to be in the same camp with certain Powers against others makes it easier ultimately to arrive. If you find that your approaches to Berlin and Warsaw are always smooth and cordial, and that your approaches to Paris and Rome are stiff and cold, it is difficult not to drift insensibly into one camp from the other. That is a danger which I should desire this nation to avoid. I admire the German people, and I desire to be friends with them if only I could find them, but it is rather difficult in these days to find the German people behind the German Government. Any political alliance which put us in the same camp with Germany against other nations would accord with no British interest, would satisfy no British aspiration, and would make no contribution to the peace of the world.

I have never before intervened in a Debate on foreign affairs, but I feel that I can voice the inarticulate anxieties of the man in the street who also does not know very much about these things, and so frequently is not even allowed to choose the kind of war that he would be killed in. He is not consulted on foreign affairs, but finds that he must pay the price of any mistake. I am much more afraid of unconscious drift than I am of any deliberate error of policy on the part of our Government or any other. I believe this Debate will have been fully justified if, by a combination of the speech of the Foreign Secretary And the speech which the Minister for League of Nations Affairs is to make, and by the remarkable utterances which have occurred in between, they may find something to allay these great anxieties.

10.13 p.m.


I feel sure that the Committee will have appreciated the manifest sincerity of the speech to which we have just listened. If this is the first occasion on which he has spoken on foreign affairs, I am sure I am expressing the view of all Members when I say that I hope we shall have opportunities of hearing the hon. and learned Member again. I should like also to associate myself with the congratulations which have been paid to the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) on his truly remarkable performance in speaking through the night, a feat which was truly worthy of our Parliamentary traditions and which I trust will be observed overseas. This Debate has ranged over a wide number of subjects, and I propose to confine myself to trying to meet criticism and answer questions upon three main topics—the Naval Agreement, the Air Pact, and the Italo-Abyssinian dispute. I will also try to meet the criticisms of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) with reference to the Stresa Conference and the Geneva resolutions which followed it. I would like to give one reassurance to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). He was anxious about internal affairs at the Foreign Office, and was afraid we should suffer from diarchy. Perhaps his long association with the India Bill has resulted in his being obsessed with diarchy. In actual fact, no such system exists and no such system is contemplated. There are no two Kings of Brentford on one throne. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is king, and I am very proud and privileged to be allowed to work with him.

May I now turn to the subjects which have been raised, taking first the Anglo-German Naval Agreement? Let me make it clear that His Majesty's Government do not admit that the conclusion of that Agreement is contrary to the principle of co-operation which was embodied in the London communiqué of 3rd February, and in the Stresa Resolution, to which the Government remain firmly attached. There has been no question, I ask the Committee to appreciate, of our making it possible for Germany to do something which she would not otherwise have done. On the contrary, the purpose of this step has been to circumscribe, by agreement with Germany, the ultimate consequences of the unilateral decision to which Germany had already begun to give effect.

His Majesty's Government have always maintained—and here I answer the hon. Member for Caerphilly—and the late Labour Government also maintained, that naval armaments differ in certain respects from land and air armaments in that naval armaments are already subject to and limited by the Naval Agreements previously entered into at Washington and London. But clearly we could not admit—and this is the point which I wish the Committee to appreciate—that such discussions, affecting the future of those agreements which are shortly to expire, could be held up and the possibility of their favourable outcome deliberately deferred pending the conclusion of an international agreement in regard to land and air armaments. It was our intention and purpose to press on with all three branches of this necessarily inter-connected subject, but we regard this Anglo-German Naval Agreement as an essential preparatory step and a direct contribution to "the conclusion"—to quote from another communiqué—"of agreements regarding armaments generally." That was recommended in the London communiqué of 3rd February and reaffirmed at Stresa.

Let us be clear what the criticism is. The criticism is, first, that there has been a lack of co-operation and that the parties to the London and Stresa Resolutions must not conclude bilateral agreements for the purpose of advancing a general settlement. That criticism that we must not make treaties or agreements, two by two, applies equally to the Franco-Russian Treaty. In fact, however, we have ourselves no desire or intention whatever to criticise that Treaty, nor have we done so, nor shall we do so. Furthermore, so far as naval armaments are concerned, Germany is prepared from now onwards to exchange, on a reciprocal basis with other naval Powers, particulars in regard to dates of laying down and characteristics of future warships, even in advance of the conclusion of a general naval treaty. We may be sure that this result would never have been achieved without the prior conclusion of the Anglo-German Agreement.

Then, the criticism is sometimes made abroad that we are chiefly concerned to reach agreement on naval armaments because the sea is the element which most directly concerns us; in other words, that our motives have been frankly selfish. Let me answer this charge by putting a question as to our own attitude. Should we object if other Powers concluded similar arrangements, in regard to land and air armaments, with Germany; arrangements similar to that which we have just concluded in respect of naval armaments? The answer is, surely, that, far from objecting, we should regard such separate agreements as an important step in the direction of peace and appeasement, provided, of course, that our own liberty of action remained unimpaired, just as the liberty of action of other foreign Powers would remain entirely unimpaired by the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, and provided that the purpose of that agreement was to facilitate the general settlement referred to in the London communiqué of the 3rd February.

I had a personal experience in this matter which I should like to recall to the Committee. In February of last year I was instructed by His Majesty's Government to go to Berlin, one of those journeys that have caused anxiety, to see the German Chancellor and to discuss with him the proposals which we had laid down in January of last year, to attempt to secure agreement upon them, and to find out from him what was Germany's attitude to our own memorandum of the 29th January, and generally to learn what proposals he was prepared to accept in respects of armaments limitation. At that time Germany was prepared to agree to a 10 years' convention, to an air force which, for the period of that convention, would not exceed 50 per cent. of that of France, and to an army on a parity with France, at a figure of 300,000 men. The French Government at that time, for reasons which I do not criticise—they may have been good reasons, but for whatever reasons—rejected that offer. Is not that an arrangement upon which we, all of us, would be only too anxious to agree to-day? Believe me, there is no policy which is more costly, both to the taxpayer and to peace, than a policy of missing the bus.

It may be argued that the size of the programme which it is now revealed that Germany is already engaged upon is an argument against entering into fresh agreements with her; but surely the reverse is the case. The very fact that Germany is shown to have rearmed so much already is the strongest possible argument for accepting her offer to limit the future course of her naval armaments. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs instanced the growth of the German army, and I fully agree with him as to the seriousness of that expansion. Germany now asks and is organising an army of 550,000 men. In February last year she was prepared to agree to an army of 300,000 men. Would it not have been a tragedy for this country and the world had the history of land armaments been repeated on the sea? I come to another argument which has been made. It has been suggested by the hon. Member for Caerphilly that our action was calculated to diminish the prestige of the League of Nations. I cannot, I confess, follow him in that argument.

This agreement which we have concluded is, in our judgment, an essential step to the general limitation of naval armaments. Had it not been taken by His Majesty's Government, all foreign Powers, wherever they may be situated must have suffered from the race in naval armaments which would have resulted. As it is, other naval Powers know the limits of German naval expansion as regulated by this agreement, and they can regulate their programmes accordingly. One of the primary purposes of the League of Nations is to limit and, if possible, to reduce world armaments, and the League can only gain in influence and authority if, as the result of this agreement, which we regard as a useful contribution to a general settlement between all the naval Powers, the threatened race in naval armaments can be prevented. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limehouse and the hon. Member for Caerphilly severely criticised this agreement. They said that they could not welcome it, and I want to ask a question of His Majesty's Opposition. Are we to understand from the speeches to which we have listened today that the Socialist party as a whole is opposed to this agreement? Would it have wished us to reject this offer for the limitation of naval armaments? I pause for an answer. I think the House can draw its own conclusions.

I turn to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), which, I think, the Committee appreciated as fully responding to the appeal of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary for constructive criticism. He has asked us certain questions in connection with the Air Pact which I will attempt to answer. He complained that the Government were wrong to admit the inter-connection of the various problems mentioned in the communiqué of the 3rd February. His reasoning was that what we have done with naval armaments we should do in the air, and that we should do what we could piecemeal because in the past we had failed by trying to do too much. Some of us may have sympathy with the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman in that respect, and we may appreciate his point of view, but it is necessary to understand the position of others. There are certain Powers which definitely take the view that these subjects are interdependent, and that an agreement on any one of them can only be reached simultaneously with an agreement upon all the others. If we deny that thesis, the possibility of arriving at an air pact at all is lost.

Pacts by their very name require participation, and if we are to insure participation we have to go some way to meet the various points of view upon this subject. That is exactly the object of the negotiations upon which we are engaged—and they are very difficult—at the present time. There have been exchanges of views with the Powers concerned on two matters affecting an Air Pact. The first of these is the general procedure for the negotiation of an air pact and the relation of that procedure to the negotiations on the other questions—the Eastern Pact, the Danubian Pact and so forth—which are under consideration. That is one set of subjects about which we are now in negotiation with other Governments. The second matter on which the views of Powers have been exchanged is the general form which the Air Pact might assume. Those exchanges are now being actively pursued, through the diplomatic channel, I hasten to assure the Committee. They are as yet by no means complete. I regret that I cannot at this stage give the House any further news upon them save to answer the question of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) as to supervision. It is certainly our view that any air pact that can be negotiated will require some form of supervision, the form of which will have to be determined in the course of the negotiations.

Now I will say a word about the speech of the right hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee). I confess that I somewhat resented that speech. It seemed to me to be one long sneer. The right hon. Gentleman said that we have reduced the League to a farce. He said we had made no attempts to fulfil our pledges. He said we had run away on every occasion. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, Has the Government run away from its extremely arduous responsibilities as a member of the League in respect of Danzig? My right hon. Friend performed the most important task of rapporteur when he was Foreign Secretary. Has the Government run away from its responsibilities in the Bolivia-Paraguay dispute? Was it not we who proposed the embargo on arms and saw it was carried through? Is it not now generally admitted that it was in part a result of that embargo that this conflict was at last brought to an end? May I remind the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs that though it is quite true that the agreement now reached was reached as the result of the intervention of the South American States, and we welcome it, that that intervention was on the basis of the work which the League Committee had already previously done, and the terms of agreement they have reached are almost identical with the terms the League Committee had suggested for a settlement a little time ago.

Did we run away, were we false to our obligations, when we proposed the formation of an international police force to go to the Saar? Again, did this Government neglect all its League responsibilities when it instructed its representative to act as rapporteur in the dispute between Hungary and Yugoslavia; or were we false to our obligations last May when the Abyssinian dispute came before the Council of the League? Can it really be said of us that we are pursuing an Imperialist Power Policy when we have offered a contribution of a part of British territory towards the solution of an international dispute? The right hon. Gentleman complained that the speech of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was not the speech of a supporter of the League. If he will say that he will say anything. The essence of my right hon. Friend's speech was that membership of the League of Nations is the key of our foreign policy.

I turn from the right hon. Member for Limehouse to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. I, in common, I think, with all the Members of this House of my generation, the war generation, have a very sincere respect and admiration for the services which the right hon. Gentleman rendered to this country at a time when we were overseas. That we shall never forget, and for that reason I regret the more the contribution which he made to the Debate to-day. Since eighteenth century literature is in fashion to-day I recall a quotation from the "Tatler" which I have recently read—the old "Tatler": How often have I wished, for the good of the nation, that several good Politicians would take any pleasure in feeding ducks. I look upon an able statesman out of business like a huge whale that will endeavour to overturn the ship unless he has an empty cask to play with. Now I come to the details of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. First, there was a reference to the Stresa Conference and the Geneva resolution that followed. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that at Geneva it was said that economic and financial sanctions should be applied. Then he said to us, "What are you going to do about it?" With all respect to him, the Geneva Resolution said nothing of the sort. What the Geneva Resolution did was to register the breach of an agreement. The first item of the Resolution declared that Germany has failed in the duty which lies upon all the members of the international community to respect the undertakings which they have contracted, and condemns any unilateral repudiation of international obligations. That is a registration of a breach of which I should not have thought anybody in this House could complain.

What happened at Stresa and Geneva? The Council was asked precisely the same question as the right hon. Gentleman was asked this afternoon: "As this has happened, what are you going to do about it?" The right hon. Gentleman did not answer the question but the Council of the League had to answer, and it tried to answer. It has answered by attempting to deal with the problem of economic and financial sanctions. The Committee will know that there are in existence to-day several points of view about sanctions. There are people who say: "You can enforce economic and financial sanctions without the danger of war." There are others who say that "You cannot enforce economic and financial sanctions unless you are prepared to go to war." There is a third point of view which says: "I do not care whether you enforce economic and financial sanctions or not, but they are no good." It is possible, however, that they might be useful, and an examination has been undertaken by the Council of the League against any future breach of treaty. That work is now actually taking place, and the Committee of Thirteen which was then set up is now in operation.


That is in accordance with the Resolution.


It is carrying out the Geneva Resolution, but it is not what the right hon. Gentleman said earlier this afternoon.


I actually quoted from the Resolution one of the three items. A Committee composed of—the right hon. Gentleman says of 13—is set up for the purpose of— rendering the covenant more effective in the organisation of collective security and to define in particular the economic and financial measures which might be applied, should, in the future, a State, whether a member of the League of Nations or not, endanger peace by the unilateral repudiation of its international obligations. That is the third point.


The point I wish to make to the Committee, and which the right hon. Gentleman did not make, is that Stresa did not decide that we should apply economic and financial sanctions.


Geneva did.


Geneva did not decide that we should apply them. Geneva said: "We will see whether we can apply them." There is all the difference in the world. There can be no accusation against this Government of not knowing its own mind if it initiates an inquiry of that kind. He cannot make any complaint that we have not already applied sanctions when we have ourselves set up an inquiry in order that that examination may be carried out.

I pass from that to another of the statements of the right hon. Gentleman. We had again this afternoon the old story—I am sorry, but it is as old story, and a fabrication—about bombing. That discussion, I would remind the Committee, arose out of the Draft Convention submitted by His Majesty's Government, the Draft Convention to which the right hon. Gentleman rightly referred as the MacDonald plan. That article is one out of 96 articles which the Convention contained.


Article 34.


Article 34, but Article 35 is an even more important article. It says: The Permanent Disarmament Commission—set up under another article of the Convention—shall immediately devote itself to the working out of the best possible schemes providing for (a) the complete abolition of military and naval aircraft, which must be dependent upon the effective supervision of civil aviation to prevent its misuse for military purposes. The reservation, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, did not take up any considerable part of the time of the Conference—actually four hours out of some three years' work. The truth is that this question of bombing has not been treated by any country just as a simple proposition: Will you or will you not abolish bombing? The question was related to all kinds of other factors. Some countries related it to the abolition of aircraft carriers, others to the control of civil aviation, others still to the abolition of bombers. All countries related it to some condition, and I would draw the attention of the Committee to the position as it was revealed many months later in November. This is the report of the Rapporteur of the Air Committee, who was asked to go round the various nations to discover what the chances were of getting some agreement upon this problem of air armaments and the abolition of bombing. This is a summary from his report—an official document—made in a Progress Report to the Bureau of the Conference on the 24th November. Time had then elapsed, and, if we had done any harm, it would have shown itself. That is why I want the Committee to appreciate this summary: Several delegates refused to take up any definite position in the matter of air armaments, taking the view that these problems could only be solved in the light of the general political situation and of the questions raised in other spheres. While the United Kingdom delegation announced that, in the event of general agreement on the Convention, the police bombing reservation would be withdrawn, the Japanese delegation made its consent subject to the abolition of aircraft carriers, the French would not discuss air armaments separately, and demanded notification of construction programmes as well as supervision, the Italians refuesed to consider any amendment to the United Kingdom draft Convention.

That shows clearly that at that stage there was no thought in the mind of the Rapporteur that it was this entirely insignificant little reservation that was holding up the work. The truth is, and I must say this to the Committee in all sincerity, since I was there throughout these negotiations, that that reservation never had the smallest international significance. The only importance it has ever had has been for the purpose of partly politics at home.


I also hold in my hand an official document of the Committee. It is dated the 24th May, 1933. There were two or three Amendments proposed by various members of the League of Nations, including Germany, which proposed the abolition of these words. The Germans proceeded to propose the complete abolition of aircraft. That was in May. The Committee adjourned, I believe, in June, and nothing had been concluded then. By the time the Committee had reassembled, Germany had withdrawn from the League. She withdrew from the League, I believe, in October, so that by November she was not there at all. At that time she was supporting the abolition of these words, and several others as well. It cannot be quite accurate to say that the reservation played no part at all, when I have here in the official document the actual Amendments moved by several members of the Committee.


I never denied what the right hon. Gentleman says. There was a discussion of four hours and Amendments were moved, but we were engaged on a first reading and no decisions were taken and none asked for. I made it quite clear in the House in July that there would be no question of our holding up the proceedings. There is another argument with which I wish to deal, and that is the suggestion that the October proposals—another inaccuracy of the right hon. Gentleman—as the result of which Germany left the Disarmament Conference, were our proposals. They were no such thing. They were not exclusively British proposals. They were proposals agreed upon by the United States Government, the French Government, the Government of Belgium, the Government of Italy and ourselves. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was the spokesman for those Governments that time and the proposals were generally approved in the bureau, but Germany, we know, would not accept them.

Let me deal with one or two questions which have been asked about Abyssinia. The first charge brought against us is that we are interfering in a dispute with which we have no concern. This Government, and other Governments which have preceded us, have repeatedly declared that they founded their foreign policy upon their membership of the League. If this is not merely an empty declaration, it is impossible to maintain for a moment that this dispute is no concern of ours, for it is an essential feature of the Covenant that any dispute between two members of the League which threatens to disturb peace is a matter of concern to all Governments. If, then, we found our foreign policy upon the League, this dispute is and must remain a matter of immediate and vital concern to us. We have recently been reminded, in the manifesto of the Council of Action, that a mere profession of interest in peace and of attachment to the League of Nations is not enough. I quite agree. It is, indeed, my chief criticism of this manifesto that it contains nothing else. If professions of interest are not enough, if this dispute is, as in fact it must be, a matter of concern to us, what are we to do about it?

In this connection I should like to say a word or two about the offer that I was instructed to put forward in Rome, about which there still seems to be some misconception. The purpose of the offer was to obtain a final settlement of the dispute between Italy and Abyssinia. The object was to give some quid pro quo to Abyssinia for territorial and economic concessions by her which the settlement of the dispute with Italy might entail. Had it been welcomed, the next step would have been to lay the facts before France, as the co-signatory of the 1906 Treaty, before Abyssinia and before this House. Nothing was further from the mind of the Government than to go behind the back of anyone. When a new proposal is being ventilated it must be referred to someone first, and it was natural that the original inquiry should be made of the Italian Government. For, if the Italian Government did not look favourably on it, obviously there was no point in referring it to anyone else. We fully realise and we fully respect our obligations under the 1906 Treaty, but those obligations cannot and should not prevent us from having any ideas of our own, nor is it a breach of a Treaty to mention ideas to other parties to a Treaty. Certainly we had a full right to make the suggestion, just as the other Powers retained the full right to prevent them from being carried into effect if they saw fit to do so.

I referred just now to territorial and economic concessions. It would be foolish to ignore the significance of these economic questions in relation to this problem. It is one of Italy's complaints that the economic relations with Abyssinia, which she maintains she wished to create, which she argues that she has herself fostered by building roads and harbours, which she claims that the Treaty of 1928 foreshadowed for her, and which she argues Abyssinia by her attitude has brought to an end—that these economic conditions play an important part in this dispute. What kind of economic concessions, the House may ask, had we in mind? In the circumstances I shall not be expected to go into details, but the Committee may be interested if I give two examples. At present Abyssinia has a large number of foreign advisers. She has not one Italian adviser in a single important post. It might have been possible to improve on this position from the Italian point of view.

Secondly, it is conceivable—though I cannot say that agreement would necessarily have been reached on this subject—that Abyssinia would have been willing to allow in certain conditions, the settlement of the inhabitants of foreign countries in some portions of her country. I only mention these two examples to show the Committee what sort of economic concessions we had in our minds, and to show that it would be quite untrue to suggest, therefore, that ours was either an unfruitful or an empty offer. On the contrary, in an issue of this kind you have got to seek to find some solid basis of negotiation. By this means we sought to provide such a basis. It might have been possible for us thus to have contributed to a solution which would have given Italy a considerable measure of satisfaction, and which would still have been acceptable to Abyssinia.

There is one more criticism with which I must deal. It seems to be maintained, even by some Members in this House who have no objection to the offer, that there was an error in the method of presentation; and that it should not have been put forward by a Member of the Government but left to His Majesty's Ambassador in Rome to put forward himself. Two main considerations moved the Government in their decision. The first was that the primary object of my visits to Paris and Rome was to give the French And Italian Governments certain explanations about the Naval Agreement and to discuss with them how progress could be made with the Air Pact and the other items mentioned in the London communique. It would have been possible, I suppose, to visualise a meeting and conversations with Signor Mussolini about these other matters without any mention of the subject of Abyssinia at all. But I think the Committee would agree that there would have been a certain unreality in such a procedure since none of us can ignore the fact that the course of this dispute cannot but profoundly affect the course of European events.

His Majesty's Government, therefore, considered that the occasion of my visit should be used to sound Signor Mussolini as to the suggestions I have described as a possible basis for settlement. They decided to do it because they wished to underline to Signor Mussolini by a direct message from a Member of the British Government the gravity of their concern at the course events were taking. After most careful consideration we came to the conclusion that the chances of securing by negotiation upon these proposals the basis of agreement in Rome would be to some extent enhanced if the offer could be made in this way. In an issue where the stakes are so important, no effort should be spared which might, to however small an extent, enhance the chances of success. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping was very kind and very generous when he begged me to be careful of myself. But I think he will agree that what was at stake here was not whether the Government or individual Members of the Government should be taken care of, but whether a settlement of some kind could be arrived at. In the circumstances we were bound to take risks which, perhaps, in other circumstances I should not have been very happy to take myself.

Finally, one other argument. It is said that it is a bad precedent—it is the argument of the right hon. Gentleman—to give away parts of British territory to solve the situation. I need perhaps hardly add that the Government fully realise that this proposal possessed certain disadvantages of which that one was the most serious. But we thought that they were small compared with the immense gain of a peaceful solution. If it should be thought in any quarter of the Committee that the making of this suggestion indicates that it can be regarded henceforth as a feature of British policy that British territority is to be given away whenever the accommodation of a difficult situation is sought for, then let me at once emphatically deny any such interpretation. Let me say here and now, such is not the policy of His Majesty's Government, and that it is indeed drawing a very false conclusion to think that, because in one particular instance there was a positive territorial contribution we were prepared to suggest which might have secured peace, this could in any way constitute a precedent. There is no such precedent, though in practice had the present proposal been accepted and allowed us to find a basis for a settlement, let us not forget that Great Britain stood to gain as much as any other nation.

In the last minute of my speech may I say a word about the future. The conciliation machinery set up by the Council last May appears unhappily to have broken down. We have yet received no official confirmation, but we are already considering the situation. In addition to this, of course, are the wider aspects of the dispute. In this connection we have been in consultation with the French Government. I must emphasise what my right hon. Friend has already referred

to. I state definitely that at no time in the conversations which we have had with the French Government on this vexed affair has there been any foundation for any suggestion on our part that the French Government should join with us in economic action. That is quite a fair statement of the position. Our endeavour has been to discover whether the French Government had any constructive suggestions they could make towards a settlement of the dispute. We felt that we had made our contribution, and that it was their turn to make theirs.

In conclusion, I must put to the House one of the broader aspects of the reasons why the dispute causes anxiety. We want to make progress in Europe with all the items of the London Communiqué of 3rd February under which Europe may enter upon a new era. The world is too small to-day for us to live in a water-tight compartment, and the reaction of events in distant Africa may be felt in Europe. It is for this reason that I give to the Committee this assurance. His Majesty's Government will strive constantly and persistently for a settlement of the dispute, for upon a happy issue in this matter may depend the future or the peace structure which we have laboured so hard to build up in these post-war years.

Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £108,800, be granted for the said Service."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 40; Noes, 236.

Division No. 268.] AYES. [11.0 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Edwards, Sir Charles Lunn, William
Attlee, Rt. Hon. Clement R. Foot, Dingle (Dundee) McEntee, Valentine L.
Banfield, John William Gardner, Benjamin Walter Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)
Batey, Joseph George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Mainwaring, William Henry
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea) Maxton, James
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Nathan, Major H. L.
Cape, Thomas Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding) Parkinson, John Allen
Cleary, J. J. Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Jenkins, Sir William Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Cove, William G. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Tinker, John Joseph
Cripps, Sir Stafford Kirkwood, David Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Daggar, George Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Wilmot, John
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Lawson, John James
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Logan, David Gilbert TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Mr. Paling and Mr. D. Graham.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J. Boulton, W. W.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Bower, Commander Robert Tatton
Albery, Irving James Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.
Alexander, Sir William Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar Bracken, Brendan
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd) Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Brass, Captain Sir William
Anderson, Sir Alan Garrett Beit, Sir Alfred L. Broadbent, Colonel John
Apsley, Lord Bernays, Robert Brocklebank, C. E. R.
Aske, Sir Robert William Blaker, Sir Reginald Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)
Bailey, Eric Alfred George Blindell, James Brown, Rt. Hon. Ernest (Leith)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Boothby, Robert John Graham Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)
Burghley, Lord Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Percy, Lord Eustace
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Walter Perkins, Walter R. D.
Burnett, John George Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Petherick, M.
Butler, Richard Austen Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston) Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly) Hornby, Frank Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh-pt'n, Bilston)
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Howard, Tom Forrest Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Carver, Major William H. Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Potter, John
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Procter, Major Henry Adam
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.) Hume, Sir George Hopwood Radford, E. A.
Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Christie, James Archibald Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford) Ramsbotham, Herwald
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Iveagh, Countess of Ramsden, Sir Eugene
Clayton, Sir Christopher Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)
Cobb, Sir Cyril James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Reid, David D. (County Down)
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Jennings, Roland Remer, John R.
Colman, N. C. D. Joel, Dudley J. Barnato Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Cook, Thomas A. Ker, J. Campbell Rickards, George William
Cooper, T. M. (Edinburgh, W.) Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose) Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
Copeland, Ida Kerr, Hamilton W. Ropner, Colonel L.
Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger Rosbotham, Sir Thomas
Cranborne, Viscount. Kirkpatrick, William M. Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Craven-Ellis, William Law Sir Alfred Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir Edward
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.) Runge, Norah Cecil
Crooke, J. Smedley Leckie, J. A. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Leech, Dr. J. W. Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Salmon, Sir Isidore
Crossley, A. C. Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe- Salt, Edward W.
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Dalkeith, Earl of Llewellin, Major John J. Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lloyd, Geoffrey Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery) Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. G'n) Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Loder, Captain J. de Vere Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Danville, Alfred Loftus, Pierce C. Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Dickie, John P. Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Lyons, Abraham Montagu Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.
Eastwood, John Francis Mabane, William Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Eden, Rt. Hon. Anthony MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Spens, William Patrick
Edmondson, Major Sir James MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Bassetlaw) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Stevenson, James
Elliston, Captain George Sampson McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Emrys- Evans, P. V. McKeag, William Strauss, Edward A.
Entwistle, Cyril Fullard Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton Strickland, Captain W. F.
Essenhigh, Reginald Clare Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Ford, Sir Patrick J. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-
Fraser, Captain Sir Ian Marsden, Commander Arthur Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Fremantle, Sir Francis Martin, Thomas B. Tate, Mavis Constance
Fuller, Captain A. G. Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Fyfe, D. P. M. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Ganzonl, Sir John Mellor, Sir J. S. P. Thomson, Sir James D. W.
Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C. Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.) Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Tree, Ronald
Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.) Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Graves, Marjorie Mitcheson, G. G. Turton, Robert Hugh
Greene, William P. C. Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Wallace, Sir John (Dunfermline)
Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Grigg, Sir Edward Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr) Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Grimston, R. V. Morgan, Robert H. Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Watt, Major George Steven H.
Gunston, Captain D. W. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties) Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-
Guy, J. C. Morrison Morrison, William Shepherd Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Hales, Harold K. Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J. Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Munro, Patrick Wills, Wilfrid D.
Hanbury, Sir Cecil Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertt'd)
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry North, Edward T. Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Hartington, Marquess of O'Donovan, Dr. William James Worthington, Sir John
Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Sir Cuthbert Orr Ewing, I. L. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Patrick, Colin M. Sir George Penny and Sir Walter
Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Cheimsf'd) Peake, Osbert Womersley.
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Pearson, William G.

Resolution agreed to.

Original Question again proposed.

It being after Eleven o'Clock and objection being taken to further Proceeding, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.