Motion made, and Question proposed;
That a sum, not exceeding £1,130,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Admiralty Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1936.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Mr. GEORGE HALL
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
I see that it is suggested in one newspaper that among the matters for discussion to-day is the breakdown of the catering arrangements in the "Maine" on Tuesday last week. As far as I am concerned, I do not want to raise that matter. I want to assure the First Lord of the Admiralty that there was no need for him to have sent me a letter of apology, because I have little or no cam-plaint. The Vote is put down in order to discuss something much more important, namely, the Anglo-German Naval Agreement which was recently signed. It is not my duty this afternoon to deal with the juridical part of the agreement, because that was dealt with a week on Thursday in the debate on foreign affairs. This afternoon, therefore, while just touching on the effect of the Agreement upon our Treaty obligations, the relations of various Powers, and that idea of collective security which is given so much space in our speeches and accounts for so little in our actions, I propose to examine it to a large extent from the point of view of the effect upon the building programmes of the naval Powers of the world. This Agreement cannot be squared with the declaration of February of this year, which stated that the release of Germany from the Versailles Treaty was to be part of a general settlement of Europe, and I do not think the Government can say that they have been in any way consistent in their action in dealing with that Treaty during the early parts of this 1500 year. I do not know whether the Goverment share the view which was expressed in the "Times" in June of this year, when it said:There are parts of the Treaty of Versailles which it is best to forget aboutandThe judicial validity of the Treaty cannot be terminated except by the act of all the signatories, but those parts of it which were not meant to be permanent in their original form, and which it has not been possible to reshape by common agreement, must simply be left lying in ruins.I am not sure whether that is the attitude of the Government. If it is, it would have been as well if the Government had said so before the beginning of this year. Let me say for the party which sits on this side of the Committee that we have repeatedly urged that there should be a reconsideration of this Agreement; and we urged it at the time when the Government seemed blind to the urgent need for a frank acceptance of the principle of equality while the going was comparatively good. Obviously, too, there is urgent need for limitation of German armaments voluntarily accepted by Germany, but, in our opinion, there is no reason to assume that the limitation of German armaments could not have been agreed upon collectively. Nor has any reason been given for suddenly throwing over the method of negotiations to which we have lately pledged ourselves anew. The method employed must involve grave consequences which, in our opinion, could have been avoided.
The inconsistency of the Government in these matters is most marked. Only in March of this year we were parties to the Geneva decision which so strongly condemned Germany for repudiating the land and air force clauses of the Treaty, whereas the White Paper on defence, which was issued in the same month, referred to German armament as the reason for the standstill of the Disarmament Conference and the necessity for this country increasing her armaments. Then came Herr Hitler's speech in which he stated the naval claims of Germany. This was jumped at by the Government and accepted without any effective consultation with the other Powers with whom we had made so many declarations a few months previously; with little consultation with the signatories of the Washington and London Treaties which are exclusively naval agreements; 1501 with, I understand, no consultation at all with the Dominions; while there was no reference to the League of Nations or the Disarmament Conference. These organisations can, I think, reasonably complain that they have been rather shabbily treated in this matter. I would ask: Why the haste in accepting this offer? If it was so acceptable and agreeable, why was it not used as an opportunity for convening a conference among the naval Powers? If Germany were the only naval Power it would have been a different matter, but there are others with whom we have treaties which are expiring and which should form the subject of an international conference this year.
This matter could have been so dealt with that we should have carried the other Powers with us, not only to deal with the naval side of armaments, but to take all other arms into account. We should have made every effort to extend co-operation by using Geneva and the League which, I am afraid, are forgotten and abandoned by this Government. I would like to ask the First Lord to state whether the Government have given up the idea of a multilateral agreement and whether they are now going to depend upon bilateral agreements with all other naval Powers. I have before me a cutting taken from the influential American review the "Nation", which deals with this important aspect. It says:Having reached the conclusion that multilateral disarmament pacts are impossible under existing conditions, the new British Government apparently feels that bilateral agreements offer the only means of avoiding an armament race. It hopes that the German Pact may be followed by similar agreements with France, Italy and Soviet Russia, and that the same technique may possibly be adopted in subsequent negotiations with the United States of America and Japan.Then it points out a matter with which I am in entire agreement:One wonders, however, whether the Baldwin Government has thought through the implications of this revolutionary change in policy. The limitations of bilateral as contrasted with multilateral action are much the same in the naval field as in tariff negotiations. The issues discussed do not relate to two nations alone.The same article says,If pursued to their logical conclusion they would spell the end of all co-operative international organisations, such as the League of Nations.1502 I want the First Lord of the Admiralty to pay some attention to that, because the principle underlying the agreement which was entered into between this country and Germany does give an indication that we have given up all hope of a multilateral agreement on naval armaments and are going to deal with the problem from the point of view of bilateral agreements. I do not think it is claimed by anyone that the Anglo-German agreement will assist disarmament. I do not think it is limitation, it is rearmament with a vengeance. At one stroke it increases the naval power of Germany by four times that which was allowed by the Treaty of Versailles. All the First Lord can claim for it is that our great hope in this country is that the new agreement may remove from the minds of nations any idea of competitive naval building. It is certainly a novel idea that the creation of at least five great battleships, 16 cruisers, 47,000 tons of aircraft carriers, 52,000 tons of destroyers and again at least 30 submarines will not lead to an increase of naval construction. I said "at least" the tonnage referred to. The Agreement does not provide for 35 per cent. of the existing tonnage owned by the British Commonwealth for all time, but any increase in British tonnage will be followed by an increase in German tonnage. Clause 2 even provides that there shall be an increase in the event of abnormal building by other Powers. Paragraph (c) of that Clause says:If the general equilibrium of naval armaments as normally maintained in the past should be violently upset by any abnormal and exceptional construction by other Powers, the German Government reserve the right to invite His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to examine the new situation thus created.What are the reactions to this Agreement in the other European countries? It cannot be said that France and Italy are pleased with it. Under the Washington Agreement France and Italy agreed not to exceed 175,000 tons of battleships. This Agreement gives Germany a battleship tonnage in excess of that which was given to Italy and France by the Washington Agreement. France and Italy now have 33½ per cent. of British battleship tonnage, whilst Germany is allowed 35 per cent. The French reactions have already been seen. Almost 1503 immediately after the Agreement was announced the Naval Commission of the Chamber of Deputies passed unanimously the following Resolution:In view of the fact that the Anglo-German Naval Agreement annuls the clauses of the Treaty of Versailles and that the Washington Agreement was accepted by France only by reason of the clauses of that Treaty, the Commission considers that complete liberty in naval matters is restored to France till the conclusion of new agreements. The Commission invites the Government to take all the necessary measures to ensure that France has always in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic naval forces sufficient to assure her security.I think France is not sorry to regain her freedom and to be in a position to bring forward a programme to meet her own needs, and if France insists on increasing her naval strength then the German and British Governments will clearly also have to consider increases. We all know that Italian naval policy depends very largely upon the strength of the French fleet, and we ourselves will feel the competitive effect of the Agreement, however much it has been disguised up to the present time.
One may ask: What of the Baltic? This Agreement gives complete command of the Baltic to Germany. Russia, which was uninterested in naval matters in post-War years, has now become very much interested. The Agreement has been denounced in Moscow and other capitals, while some Powers with little or no naval tonnage are very much concerned about the new position. I am not going to deal with the very important question of submarines. As our Government have in past discussions on naval armaments raised the question of the abolition of submarines, it does seem strange that in this Agreement Germany is not only allowed to exceed the 35 per cent. provided for other naval armaments but can, after notification, or shall I put it stronger, after consultation with the Admiralty, increase her submarines to a point of parity with ours. As I understand that submarines are to be the subject of separate discussion, I shall leave the question there for the present.
One of the most depressing features of the Agreement, apart from the points that I have mentioned, is that it does not provide for a limitation of the tonnage of the ships. The new programme recently announced stated that Germany 1504 was building two 26,000-ton battleships. I know that the First Lord, in reply to a question to-day, stated that these battleships were laid down at the end of last year, but that did not prevent those responsible for negotiating this Agreement from endeavouring to come to an agreement on the size of battleships. In 1930 the then Government declared that battleships, owing to their size and cost, were of doubtful utility and that they would work for their abilition. Even this Government, in July of 1932, submitted to the Disarmament Conference an offer to reduce the maximum size of any battleships to 22,000 tons and the maximum calibre of the guns carried to 11 inches. I am of the opinion that this Agreement will make it impossible to secure a reduction in the tonnage of battleships. Then there are to be cruisers of 10,000 tons each, with 8-inch guns. That is also very bad, for it will make it impossible to secure even European agreement on a lower maximum for cruiser tonnage; for here is Germany leaping in one bound from the 6,000-tons limit allowed by the Peace Treaty to the maximum limit decided upon at the Washington Convention.
This new programme clearly indicates the desire of Germany to build up a fleet of powerful, offensive units, which I think will give a fresh impetus to other Powers to follow suit. Then what an excuse it will be for the Admiralty to go out for extensive building of all classes of ships by this country. This will lead to a policy of expansion in all navies, as regards both the numbers and the size of ships. The First Lord, speaking at the 1900 Club, in the presence, I think, of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), reminded his hearers that the Navy was on a regime of treaties, which had resulted in What was fashionably called to-day a slimming diet. May I suggest that it was a very satisfactory diet, and that there ought not to be much complaint about it. From 1920 until the present time no less than £1,000,000,000 have been spent on the Navy of this country. The position reminds me of the story of the farmer who consulted a doctor about his health. The doctor suggested that the farmer should go in for dieting, presented a diet and asked to see him in three months' time. When the farmer called again at the end of three months very little improvement was apparent. 1505 The doctor inquired whether he had kept to the diet, and the farmer answered, "Yes, sir, but my difficulty has been to fit it in with my other meals." I think that that might be the position as far as the Navy is concerned.
There are, I think, very few people in this country who are aware of the benefits which this nation has had as a result of the naval holiday which was provided for in the Washington and the London Agreements. It will probably shock the world when it becomes generally known that between 1936 and 1942 the number of men-of-war belonging to the five Naval Powers that subscribed to the Treaty, and which will pass the age-limit and become due for replacement, comes to the total of something like 720 ships. I saw an estimate in the "Daily Telegraph" last year by the naval correspondent that it will cost no less than £800,000,000 for the replacement of overage battleships under the Washington and the London Naval Treaties. And here we have a Treaty which, in my opinion, can never take the place of those multilateral treaties which were then agreed to. The Anglo-German Agreement does not limit the German tonnage, as I have already pointed out, to 35 per cent. of the existing British tonnage. As our Navy and other navies expand, so will the German navy increase.
Who is there in this House or in the country, outside the Admiralty or the Government, who has been informed of the Naval programme of this country? I was very interested in the reply by the First Lord of the Admiralty to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) to-day, as to why it is that the programme could not be communicated to this House and the country. The communique issued at the close of the second part of the Anglo-German naval talks stated that there had been a full and frank exchange of views on programmes of future naval construction. The Germans have been shown our programme, and we have been shown the German programme. Not only that, but the British projected programme has also been shown to the French, the Italian, the Japanese and the American experts, but it has not been disclosed to Parliament or the country. Why this secrecy? Why is it that this very important matter has been kept from the House of Commons? If disclosed to other nations, why 1506 not disclose it to the people who will be responsible for paying for these armaments? Quite apart from the feeling on this side of the House in connection with this matter, the disclosure of this programme should be insisted upon from every quarter of the House. Is it that the Government and the Admiralty are committed to a vast programme of naval expansion, and that the Cabinet is afraid of public opinion? One high naval authority recently said that in the last four years the Admiralty had to swim against a strong current of opinion. We all know that there are a number of Admiralty representatives who would willingly scrap the existing agreements. Some members of the present Government never favoured the London Agreement, and would willingly see it lapse.
Again, may I say that what has been disclosed to some of the other nations ought to be disclosed to the House of Commons and the country. Our naval programme was disclosed to America in June of last year, and a statement appeared in the American press in that month. A correspondent wrote:The British Government in the recent naval talks with the United States representatives at No. 10, Downing Street, proposed a great increase in British naval strength.… Mr. Norman Davis transmitted to Washington after last week's naval talks certainly informed the United States Government that the British Government wanted 70 cruisers in order to guarantee our Empire sea routes. This, it may be recalled, was the very demand made by the present Lord Bridgeman at the Three-Power Conference in Geneva in 1927.It was this demand which wrecked the Conference at that time. We insist, as far as it is possible, that the programme which the Admiralty has in mind should be disclosed to this House. There is no question that the Admiralty has revived its claim to 70 cruisers. The First Lord should let the House know, and also how far this demand is one of the chief obstacles in obtaining an agreement with the other Powers. As I have already pointed out, this was the obstacle to an agreement in 1927. I know there are hon. and right hon. Members who blame the Labour Government for the London Agreement, which fixed the cruiser strength of this country at 50 cruisers, but I wonder whether there is any truth in the rumour that there were some very highly-placed officials at the Admiralty 1507 who were of opinion long before the London Naval Agreement that 50 cruisers were sufficient if an agreement could be obtained. The Anglo-German Naval Agreement will not make it easier to obtain any agreement at all, for whatever increase is granted to us, a proportionate increase will be given to Germany. I must say that I am not hopeful, that is, if the Government continue their present attitude, that there will be a Naval Conference at all. If there is some prosepct of obtaining a Conference, I would that the First Lord should take the House into his confidence. It is seven months since the last Naval Conference was adjourned. At that time the Home Secretary, who was then Foreign Secretary, in a broadcast talk dealing with that Conference, expressed the very strong hope that the Conference would reassemble in two or three months' time. Seven months have elapsed, and there is very little prospect of the Conference being convened.
I would again ask the First Lord whether he will, in the course of his speech, tell the Committee what progress, if any, has been made in getting the nations together to deal with this important matter? What does he himself desire? Does he desire freedom for building? I well remember, when he introduced his Estimates of 1932, he said that it was his dismal duty to introduce a low Estimate, and in a recent speech he said he was very pleased to say that there had been an increase in the Navy Estimates by 20 per cent., as compared with the time when he took office. I suppose that had the increase been 50 per cent. he would have been even more pleased. I realise the amount of propaganda that is going on at the present time for scrapping the Treaty. I have heard a good deal lately about the age of this country's battleships. Perhaps hon. Members will be good enough to look at the reply to the question I put to-day in which it is shown that the average age of our battleships at the present time is as low as that of any other naval Power in the world. Then, of course, we are being prepared for a very heavy programme of replacement. There has already been a very heavy cost for repairs, and we are being prepared by propaganda for a very large increase in the number of cruisers. I think that the Anglo-German Agree- 1508 ment will be used by a number of these propagandists for the purpose of endeavouring to achieve what they really desire.
I do not think that the public in this country is fully seized as to what the increase in armaments, which, in my opinion, is inevitable if the policy of the present Government continues, will cost the country. During the present financial year, with the Supplementary Estimate which is to be discussed later in the day, the proposed expenditure on armaments this year is £130,000,000, equivalent to an Income Tax of 2s. 8d. in the pound, while the projected programme of aerial and naval expansion for the next three years, if the Government get their way, is bound to lead to still higher expenditure, unless a change speedily can be effected in Europe and the Far East. We are increasing expenditure in this country at the present time much more rapidly than in the years immediately before the Great War. In the five years 1908 to 1913, armament expenditure in this country increased by £14,000,000, whereas this year our expenditure for the same purpose is £23,000,000 more than it was in 1931. In 1913 we spent £72,500,000 on armaments; this year it is to be £130,000,000, or £58,000,000 more than it was in 1913, although we are now on sterling and not on a gold basis. A very real danger at the present time is the increasing threat to our financial stability by a return to the war spirit and preparation for war. Hon. and right hon. Members have spoken of the threat to financial stability by misrepresentation of the speeches of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). This is a very much more dangerous threat to stability than anything my hon. and learned Friend cared to say or cared to do if he had the power. In 1908, when the last armament race really gathered speed, we had a National Debt of £700,000,000, some of which was money borrowed for the Napoleonic wars. To-day our debt is nearly £8,000,000,000. In 1908 we collected from indirect taxation £70,000,000; this year it is £295,000,000, exclusive of a levy upon bread—wheat—another £7,000,000.
I would ask the Committee to allow me to deal with the difference in the cost of naval construction to-day from what it was in pre-war days, and I am sure my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, 1509 who has some experience in construction, as he was First Lord at that time, will see the tremendous changes which have taken place in costs to-day as compared with the time when he was at the Admiralty. The "Warspite," a battleship of 31,000 tons, launched in 1914, cost £2,500,000. The "Nelson" and "Rodney," completed in 1927, cost £7,000,000 each. Battleship construction has gone up from an average of £78 per ton in 1913 to £178 per ton for the last battleships. The cost of constructing light cruisers has gone up three times—from £71 per ton to £228 per ton for 1932–33, though last year it was down to £209. The cost of constructing submarines has gone up three times what it was in pre-war days. The same can be said of all other naval construction. It is as well to remind this Committee that in 1931 there was a committee appointed which was called the May Committee. The Government of the day accepted almost all the recommndations of that committee, and applied them in so far as they reduced wages and unemployment benefit of the poorer people of this country.
§ Mr. DAVID MASON
While I am very much impressed with the figures the hon. Member has given us, he will, of course, hear in mind the change in the value of the pound.
§ Mr. HALL
I assumed that my hon. Friend would have known that without being told. The May Committee reported in 1931 and recommended that before the next Naval Conference the Government should appoint a representative committee to inquire into the whole subject of naval design and to consider whether any modification might be adopted, with or without international agreement, such as would lessen the cost of naval defence without endangering naval security. That recommendation has been before the Government for four years. They must be aware of the very large increase in the cost of construction, and I would therefore like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is the intention of the Government to appoint a committee to inquire into the matters referred to in that recommendation. Even those hon. Members who are desirous of building a very large Navy are concerned about the question of where the money is to come from. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping wants, I feel sure, 1510 to go in for a programme of replacement of battleships. I am not sure what his view is concerning the London Treaty, which limited the number of cruisers to 50. I know he is very anxious, while wanting replacements and expansion of the Navy, that the cost should not be met out of the current revenue. I think it was on 27th June this year, and in the presence of the First Lord of the Admiralty, that he said that he did not want to shock the right hon. Gentleman, but that the only way in which we could deal with this situation was to have a defence loan.
§ Mr. HALL
In that he was supported by the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes). There is a gathering round the idea that, instead of placing a burden upon the taxpayer at the present time, in which case he might be made aware of what armaments are to cost, there should be a defence loan, spread over 30 years. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping knows something, and so does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), about loans which have been raised for naval purposes. I am not sure whether they had not something to do with the old Naval Works Act, 1895 and 1905; if they had not, they had something to do with the payment of interest upon the money which was borrowed during that time. It was argued that, owing to the very heavy cost of naval works at that time, the cost should be met out of loan. It is interesting to read what seine of the Chancellors of the Exchequer said about it. Sir William Harcourt, speaking on the Naval Works Act in 1895, reported a speech of Mr. Goschen, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1888, with which he said he entirely agreed. When dealing with borrowings, Mr. Goschen had said that he was glad that the hon. and learned Member had called attention to the subject of borrowing, because it enabled him to say once more and most clearly that the present purpose of the Government could not be drawn into a precedent for building ships by means of loans. He should himself much deplore the fact that if this were in any way turned into a precedent for meeting the needs. The needs should be met out of the revenue for the year. If there is 1511 to be a very large expansion, I trust that the taxpayers will know what the expansions will cost them.
On this side of the House we look upon the Anglo-German Naval Agreement with a great deal of apprehension. We can see no prospect of disarmament or limitation of armaments; in our opinion, there is going to be a very large expansion of armaments. The Government should take note of what was said by two very eminent statemen in this country with very large experience in the building up of armaments. I refer, first, to the late Mr. Gladstone, who as far back as 1860 said:We have no adequate idea of the predisposing power which an immense series of measures of preparations for war on our part has, in actually begetting war. They familiarise ideas which lose their horrors. They like the inward flame of excitement, of which, when it is habitually fed, we lose consciousness.Similar words were used by Lord Grey in 1914, who said:Every country had been piling up armaments and perfecting preparations for war. The object in each case had been security. The effect had been precisely the opposite of what was intended and desired. Instead of a sense of security there had been produced a sense of fear which was yearly increasingly.… Such was the general condition of Europe. Preparations for war had produced fear and fear predisposed to violence and catastrophe.Our view is that, unless the present policy of the Government is materially changed, both in regard to its foreign policy and its building up of armaments, the words uttered by those two very eminent statesmen, almost on the eve of war, may be said to be the position of this country.
§ 4.22 p.m.
I have very little criticism to make concerning the Anglo-German Naval Agreement. It is probably the best arrangement that can be made in the circumstances. I hope that the Government are correct in their forecast that it will be of the greatest importance at the future Naval Conference. I feel that the Agreement is liable to be misinterpreted and misunderstood, especially in this country. Simply taking the fact that we have agreed to the German nation building up a navy of 35 per cent. of our tonnage sounds as though the superiority of our Navy over 1512 the German navy will be very large and marked, but is that really so? During the War, if we simply take tonnage versus tonnage, our superiority on many occasions was such that we might have expected many great victories, but we did not always obtain them.
Take the case of the Battle of Jutland. In the opening phases of the Battle of Jutland, our superiority in tonnage was very great, and yet we lost two vessels, while the enemy lost none. Similar circumstances prevailed throughout that battle. Tonnage superiority was greatly in our favour, but the German ships were superior to ours in construction and very often in performance.
People assume nowadays that no nation builds ships or other warcraft but for defence purposes, but we have to build our ships for the defence of a vast Empire which is spread all over the world. Germany has no overseas possessions and only requires to build ships for defence in home waters. That is a great handicap against us, because with a ship that is only required for home waters the question of radius of action does not need to be taken into account in the way it does when we lay down and build our ships. Furthermore, with ships which are required to be continuously at sea or to go for long voyages, such as our ships have to do, there must be proper accommodation for crew, provisions and so forth. That does not apply to ships which are built only to go to sea for two or three days at a time.
What does the new Naval Agreement amount to? By it Germany is given a brand new navy. Anybody who attended the magnificent Naval Review last week will agree, on the other hand, that a great deal of our Navy is not what you might call new; in fact, it is verging on the obsolete. Germany will be able to build cruisers, destroyers and other vessels, making full use of the latest inventions of science and of engineering skill, while we, presumably, will be going on with our old policy of spending millions of pounds trying to bring up to date our old ships or even recent ships such as the cruisers of 1928 and 1929. We are going to be very seriously handicapped, compared with what the Germans will be able to do, unless some fresh naval agreement is reached when all the nations of the world are assembled round 1513 the conference table. Even if an agreement is reached, it appears that the new Germany Navy will put many of our ships prematurely obsolete, apart from those ships that are already getting on that way. We seem to be faced with the necessity for a large shipbuilding programme. If I am correct in my deduction, the sooner the country realises that we shall have to build a large number of new ships, the better it will be. The country should be told in plenty of time, so that they may realise the reasons and the necessity for it, should the occasion arise. It is bad to spring these things on to the public before the public have had time to appreciate the whys and wherefores.
I do not believe that there is any such thing as a war party in this country, yet we have something which is almost worse; we have what I may call a "my-country-always-wrong" party, who are only too pleased to twist round and misinterpret as many facts as they possibly can. That brings me to the question of submarines. From what I have read, I feel that some of the statements that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has made concerning the abolition of submarines has given food for what I call the "my-country-always-wrong" party. I have never had any doubt but that the Government have pressed in every way they could for the abolition of all submarines, provided always that every other nation agreed. Be that as it may, the submarine is essentially an offensive weapon. It cannot be looked upon as a defensive weapon. Even the keeping off of ships from close blockade as it used to be maintained in the old days, can now be done by aircraft and by electrical and wireless-controlled boats. Though submarines might be useful as well, they are certainly not necessary or essential, and that is not a reason which justifies their existence or our not continuing to press for the abolition of submarines.
I should like to ask the First Lord if he can tell us why Germany requires more submarines than she had in 1914? Submarine warfare is one of the most inhuman methods of warfare yet evolved. During the Great War I was many times called upon to pick up drowning women, children and civilians out of the water as a result of submarine activities, and 1514 on other occasions I was sent to the help of hospital ships which had been torpedoed by submarines. I feel very strongly that, on both moral and humane grounds, we should continue to press for the total abolition of submarines. If we have to fight, I hope we shall always fight clean and not hit below the belt, which is necessarily what submarine warfare amounts to.
If the my-country-always-wrong party do not believe that the present Government wish to abolish submarines for moral and humane reasons, perhaps they will agree that submarines should be abolished on the principle of self-preservation, which I imagine is a thing about which most of that party think a great deal. This country nearly lost the last war through the activities of submarines. We should have been nearly starved if we had not been able to bring the War to an end. At one period our food supplies could not have been maintained for more than a very limited time, and thousands of battleships at Scapa Flow or Rosyth would not have availed us against the submarine menace. If, therefore, that party look at the question from the point of view of self-preservation, they will see that, apart from the fact that there are very high moral reasons for the abolition of submarines, it is actually in the interest of a nation which is so dependent as we are on long lines of communication, and which is rendered such splendid service by its Merchant Navy.
I cannot help thinking that this Naval Agreement with Germany is going to end up in a new naval armaments race. It may not necessarily be a race in tonnage; it may be a race in regard to the design of ships, a race to make one ship superior to another. But, even if that be so, and fighting power is maintained, it will mean increased expense, and will amount to the same thing in the long run. What can be done? I realise that we must face things as they are in the world to-day, and that we as a great nation must build up ships, tanks, aeroplanes, or whatever may be required in the present conditions for the defence of our great Empire. At the same time, I feel that we should have in mind something more—that we should be looking forward to the world as we hope it will be in the future, when nations will live together in peace and security. We hear a great deal nowadays 1515 about collective security, and personally I feel that we are on the right road in dealing with the question of collective security. In fact, I believe that, as the world gets smaller owing to increased and improved means of transport, we shall eventually live in the world as nations live to-day, with their own courts and their own police forces, and that eventually we shall have something in the nature of an international police force, including an international Navy such as was suggested by the late President Theodore Roosevelt before the last war. I do not say or imagine that such a thing is practicable at a day's notice; I very much doubt whether many Members of this House will live to see it; but I believe that eventually it will be possible, and, in view of that possibility, I feel that, when naval agreements are made, we should not only think of the present, but should always have our eyes on what we are aiming at for the future.
As regards the immediate present, I cannot help feeling that the only solution of the very grave and difficult naval problems with which the world is faced is that the two great English-speaking nations, the British Empire and the United States of America, should co-operate ever more closely and in such a way that the world may be told that, in the event of any nation attempting to break the Kellogg Peace Pact, the navies of the two great English-speaking nations would stand together as one, as they did in 1917 and 1918. This arrangement for co-operation would be no threat, and need cause no jealousy in the world, because the two great English-speaking nations affectionately dislike each other sufficiently to make it quite certain that neither of them would go one better than the other. I feel that, in order to make sure that a naval armaments race shall be prevented, these two navies should co-operate to a closer extent even than they do now to maintain the future peace and security of the world, pending an all-round settlement among all nations combined.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. COCKS
We have all listened with great interest, as we always do, to the hon. and gallant Member for Burnley (Vice-Admiral Campbell), whose gallant deeds in the war will always remain a glorious record. I agree with him that 1516 there is a danger that this Anglo-German Naval Agreement might be misunderstood by the British public, and that its full significance will not be appreciated. We all know that, under the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was placed under certain naval, military and air limitations. As far as the Navy was concerned, she was forbidden to build more than a certain tonnage, she was not allowed to build capital ships over 10,000 tons, and she was not allowed to construct submarines at all. We know that during the last year or so she has been breaking that agreement and has been seeking to re-arm, and that for some time past she has been constructing submarines. We have heard from the First Lord of the Admiralty that at the end of last year she laid down two warships of, I think, 26,000 tons, or, at any rate of a tonnage far exceeding her limit of 10,000 tons under the Treaty of Versailles. The news that she was re-arming became general property.
Accordingly, on the 2nd February we had the London Declaration, which has been referred to by the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall), but there is something in that Declaration to which I would draw the attention of the Committee. By that Declaration France and Britain agreed, in return for a general settlement which would include an Eastern Pact and a Western Pact, that, when Germany returned to the League,there would be simultaneously established an agreement regarding armaments which in the case of Germany would replace Part V of the Treaty of Versailles.I would draw particular attention to the word "simultaneously." It will be seen that this agreement suggested a bargain that, in return for Germany giving new security to Europe by joining the League again and signing an Eastern Pact, we would agree that Part V of the Treaty of Versailles should be replaced by a general armaments agreement. Consequently, it follows that the giving to Germany of the part of the agreement which she wants weakens the bargaining power of the other nations in regard to the part of the agreement which they want, and, therefore, makes the prospect of a general settlement more remote. Moreover, under that agreement the two Governments state that they are agreed that neither Germany nor any other Power whose armaments have been defined by the Peace Treaty is entitled by 1517 unilateral action to modify its obligations, and at Stresa, when Italy came in, it was stated that:The three Powers … find themselves in complete agreement in opposing by all practicable means any unilateral repudiation of treaties which may endanger the peace of Europe and will act in close and cordial collaboration for this purpose.Finally, there was the famous meeting at Geneva, when the Council of the League laid it down 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.It will be noticed that the word "parties" is in the plural. It seems to me that this agreement goes quite contrary to all those three resolutions—the resolution of the League of Nations, to which we were a party, the resolution at Stresa, and the London resolution of February last.
What happened? On the 21st May, Herr Hitler demanded a naval strength equal to 35 per cent. of the British Navy, and it has already been announced that he had been constructing submarines. As a result of that, we had certain naval discussions, after which the whole of Herr Hitler's claim was conceded without any modification. It was conceded on the 18th June, an historic date—the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo; and it has been suggested on the Continent that that date was fixed by the German delegates because it was the date when the Prussians and the English were fighting against the French. Certainly it has been made use of in propaganda on the Continent. I would like to ask the Government why they were in such a hurry to sign that agreement. We informed the French Government that discussions were going on, and the French Note was only received on the morning of the 18th June, having been delayed owing to the fall of the. French Government and the formation of a new Government. The French Note objected to the agreement, and desired that it should be further discussed, but a few hours later, without acceding to the French request and without any delay at all, we hurriedly signed the agreement.
We have been told by the Government that, if Great Britain had insisted on prior consultation with her friends or with the other nations, the Agreement would have been lost. What does that 1518 mean? It means that we were faced by a German ultimatum: "Either sign this or we will go away and build up to greater strength." As a result, the British Government surrendered; apparently there was no bargaining whatsoever. No doubt there were points that the British Government would have liked to be brought into the Agreement. For example, as I pointed out to-day at Question Time, we cannot begin to replace obsolete battleships until January, 1937, and, therefore, we should have tried, if we were going to have this agreement at all, to get the German Government, in consideration of our agreeing to a settlement with them, to delay the construction of their battleships, so that we should all be able to start fair—[HON. MEMBERS: "They had already laid them down!"]—They could have stopped going on with them if we had made a bargain of that kind.
Then there is the question of supervision It has always been suggested in all these agreements that there should be some kind of supervision so that we can see that the different categories are not exceeded. That was all the more important in this case seeing that Germany, as we now know, has been building submarines and large ships about which nobody in this country apparently had any correct information. Unless we have supervision, therefore, it is possible that the same thing may happen again. Then there is this arrangement about submarines. Germany is not only to have 45 per cent., instead of 35 per cent., but she can build up to parity with us without our consent, merely by notifying us of her intentions. It has been stated on behalf of the Government that the German Government have a minimum requirement of submarines apart from the number that we have. Therefore, if as a result of some naval conference it were agreed or proposed that our submarines should be cut down in number by one-half, that would mean that the German Government would consider then that 35 or 45 per cent. of our strength would not be sufficient. If they are to make a stipulation of that kind—as has been stated on behalf of the Government—that makes any international arrangement about the limitation of the number of submarines practically impossible.
Further, we were not allowed to consult our friends. We were told that the Agreement had to be signed there and 1519 then or not at all. There has been a good deal of controversy as to who won the battle of Jutland, but there was no doubt as to who won the victory in concluding this Agreement on 18th June. It was won by Herr Ribbentrop and his delegation. It was not only a defeat for our own interests but a defeat also for the collective system and a defeat for the principles embodied in the agreements we have made. In my view other countries are justified in considering that the signing of this Agreement was an act of bad faith. It is contrary to the Treaty of Versailles, which is still a legal document, and therefore in my view it is illegal and ultra vires; and, if there were any international tribunal which had the power to settle this thing—and I am not sure that there is not such a tribunal in existence—I think it would have no alternative but to say that that was so. The Foreign Secretary has said in defence of this Agreement that it was to the advantage of other naval Powers, that it would not leave the Baltic States to the mercy of Germany, and that in his opinion it would further a general agreement for the reduction or limitation of naval armaments. I want to examine for a moment these particular points. Take the argument that it would not leave the Baltic States at the mercy of Germany and that it would be to the advantage of other naval Powers. On 6th July, 1935, there appeared in the "Times" a long article from their Scandinavian correspondent in which he discusses the effects of the naval Agreement upon sea power in the Baltic. These are some of the things he said:The German rearmament admitted by the Anglo-German Naval Agreement upsets the naval equilibrium in Northern Europe which dates from the end of the War. That equilibrium gave Sweden. Finland, Norway and Denmark 17 years of effortless security, during which they began to feel that they only among European States had solved the problems of peace and disarmament. By this agreement to her naval rearmament, Germany in the Swedish view more than recaptures her pre-war position in the Baltic.The article goes on to say that a Swedish Liberal paper, whose name I will not attempt to translate, says:The German Fleet will now be in unchallenged control of the Baltic. Every new unit added to the German Fleet makes Sweden's position so much the worse. Even before 1914 our position was better as then 1520 the Russian and German Fleets about balanced.The article goes on:Commenting upon Sir Samuel Hoare's statement in the House of Commons last week the same newspaper, one of the most responsible organs of Swedish opinion, goes on to say: 'Since England has allowed the Baltic and the Skagerack to be alienated from the sphere of British interests we have only France to look to for our support.'It goes on to discuss the position of Denmark and says:It means that the problem of Danish National defence will have to be considered afresh. Moreover, British superiority in the North Sea is now believed to be at an end.Then with regard to Finland:In Finland the revival of German naval strength will prove an encouragement to the irresponsible Nationalist element, who, in spite of the constant official discouragement, seek in Russia a legitimate field for expansion. The first effect of the Naval Agreement has been to strengthen the hands of all those who are in favour of naval rearmament and air force extensions … The days of disarmament are over in Sweden.It is quite certain that other States not mentioned in the article, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania feel themselves greatly in danger by the Agreement because in the Baltic they will be placed at the mercy of German naval power.
Then let us take the case of France. France is a country with two sea-boards—the Mediterranean and the Channel—and she has a large Colonial Empire to defend. Yet under this Agreement I understand that Germany will be allowed to construct 166,000 tons of new battleships whereas the present strength of France in modern battleships, including not only those built and building but those which are projected, is only 154,000 tons. That would give the German battle fleet a superiority over the French. That will certainly lead to a big increase in the French Navy. It was suggested the other day that before the War the French Navy was in a position of considerable inferiority to the German Navy and that by this Agreement Germany would be placed in a position of inferiority to the French. But it must be remembered, as I have pointed out previously, that before the War we had a naval agreement with France under which France was able to transfer ships to the Mediterranean while we defended the Northern coasts of France in the North Sea. That agreement does not exist to-day, and France 1521 can no longer rely on the British Navy to defend her Northern coasts. Instead of that, we have an agreement with Germany. It seems to me that the only Powers who will be helped by this Agreement are Japan in the East, and Italy in the Mediterranean—because it seems to me that the French Fleet will have to be concentrated in the North Sea, and the British Fleet as well, and that we shall leave Italy in mastery of the Mediterranean. So far as the Far East is concerned, Japan will be supreme there.
As for the general agreement suggested by the Foreign Secretary, so far as I can see the only result of this will be an armaments race which will be to the benefit of the armament firms in every country in the world. What about the effect on our own country? As was mentioned this afternoon at question time, in two years' time practically all our battle fleet will consist of old and obsolescent vessels. I think the position is that in two years' time, when we are released from the provisions of the Treaties of London and Washington, we shall have only three battleships under 20 years of age. All the others will be over 20 years old. By that time some of these new German ships will possibly be ready—certainly before we have finished building our new ships. We were told that seven months ago the Germans had laid down a programme of two 26,000-ton battleships; two 10,000-ton cruisers; 16 very large destroyers of 1,625 tons displacement with 5-inch guns, practically equivalent to light cruisers; 20 submarines of 250 tons, six of 500 tons and two large submarines of 750 tons. She is laying down now in this year's programme more submarines than she had when the war broke out in 1914. Perhaps the First Lord will tell us what the ultimate battle fleet of Germany will be under this Agreement and under the arrangements now being made? It seems to me that under the tonnage allotted to her Germany will have five battleships of 26,000 tons in addition to the three ships of the "Deutschland" class that she has already got. These vessels will be supported by a very large fleet of cruisers, destroyers and submarines. Many of these ships will be in commission before any of our modern ships will be ready.
Another point is that many people believe that there is some naval agreement between Germany and Japan. These two 1522 powerful nations are now outside the League and now own no allegiance to the Covenant. It is quite certain that the new German Fleet combined with the Japanese Fleet will be much stronger than the British Fleet. In addition, the German Fleet, being all concentrated in the North Sea, will prevent the British Navy from fulfilling in distant waters its obligations under the League Covenant if ever it is called upon to carry out those obligations. The British Fleet will be concentrated in the North Sea and there will be naval ports constructed in the North Sea. Rosyth and other ports, harbours and dockyards used in the war will be re-opened, and all this will lead to more reconstruction and more expenditure. I see that the "Berliner Tageblatt" says that this Agreementwill give Germany strength to assert her mission in the North Sea and the Baltic.It seems to me very strange that the Admiralty should have agreed to that plan which is so greatly detrimental not only to our own interests but to the system of collective security in the world.
It is also true that this Agreement contains many of the features of a potential alliance. For example, the British Government can tell the German naval authorities that if they wish they can increase their navy above the 35 per cent. if they feel they are threatened by increases in the French Navy. That can be done without consultation with any other nation at all. If the Germans say that they are in danger through re-building on the part of France, we ourselves can give the German naval authorities permission to increase their fleet. There are tendencies in this country in the newspaper Press and even in the Government to favour the Nazi regime in Germany, and these are having a great influence over the Admiralty and the Foreign Office. I agree that this matter should have been dealt with as suggested by my hon. Friend who opened this discussion. I think we should have stood for our collective security and said that any building by Germany beyond the terms laid down at Versailles would be illegal unless approved by general agreement, and we should have warned her that, if she did not conform to that general agreement, the other Powers would have to organise themselves and confront her with such a superiority that, even with her increase, she would be placed in a position 1523 of hopeless inferiority. Instead of doing that, the Government signed an Agreement which broke the Stresa Pact, and repudiated the collective front and will lead to an expansion of armaments and an increase of the power of the Nazi Government. Speaking for myself, I have always been ready to support expenditure to keep the Navy efficient for the defence of our shores and upholding international obligations and upholding the League. Also speaking personally, I am not prepared to vote a penny for ships that are to be used merely to carry out a policy of making Nazi Germany the predominant Power in Europe.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Colonel GRETTON
The two hon. Members who have spoken from the Opposition benches have made a most powerful indictment against the whole policy of the Government in their naval Agreement with Germany. I endorse what they have said. It is a deplorable position in which this naval Agreement has placed us. We have made it behind the backs of those with whom we have undertaken to act. Hitherto, the word of England has been taken to be reliable and true. In making this Treaty, we have gone behind the Agreement that we made at Stresa and the resolutions that we were parties to at Geneva. Nothing could be more deplorable. There must be most unfortunate reactions on the whole of our foreign policy. It places this country in a highly dangerous position in naval matters. It ties our hands, but it does not necessarily tie the hands of Germany. The Prime Minister the other day stated that there is the greatest difficulty in getting information about armaments, whether naval, military or air, in autocratic countries whereas in democratic countries that information is almost public property. That is true. Germany is governed by an autocracy and has all the elements of secrecy in the carrying out of her naval policy. What is to bind Germany to this Agreement? We are bound, and, if we broke it, we should be accused of having broken an agreement. I will ask another question. What Treaty or engagement has Germany kept since the War? Germany has become almost a professional treaty-breaker. Yet you have nothing but the word of the German Government to 1524 guarantee the fulfilment of this Agreement, which you cannot accurately check and which you are obliged to accept by the Treaty because, if you say, "We believe the German Government has not kept its engagements, and we must have an increased programme," you will immediately cause diplomatic repercussions.
What are the British Admiralty going to do about this? They showed us at Spithead the other day a most admirably managed naval review, but, when analysed, the position is not satisfactory. Allusion has already been made to our deplorable position as regards battleships. We shall have to deal with that question, because it is unthinkable that there should be a compact, completely modern and ultra powerful, if small, fleet of battleships stationed at naval bases close to our shores of which we had only too great experience in the great War. We are forced for our own safety to take immediate measures to meet the modern vessels which Germany already has under construction. There has been no proposal made, and we have had too much experience of late years of the dilatory methods of the Admiralty in laying down a few keel plates in the financial year for which construction has been authorised and spreading construction over a very long period. It is the same with cruisers. What are we going to do about cruisers? A very large proportion of the cruisers now figuring as effective will be obsolete in two or three years. If we are to be safe on the seas, immediate steps will have to be taken to construct modern cruisers. Yet we are tied by the London Agreement, which was made greatly to our disadvantage, restricting our replacement of worn-out vessels but allowing the other parties to the agreement to replace their vessels at a much earlier date. There is in that treaty an escalator clause. If we find that, by reason of the construction of other countries, the naval position warrants it, we can claim to increase the number of our cruisers. That becomes extremely urgent at the moment because ships of the "Hawke" and "Frobisher" class are due to be put out of commission and thrown on the scrap heap. They are, however, effective ships and are urgently needed.
The position in regard to submarines is even worse. After all, cruisers and 1525 battleships take time to construct, but submarines can be constructed with great rapidity. Their parts can be made in different factories scattered over a wide area, and they can be quickly assembled and launched. In fact, a very large increase of submarines can be made secretly, and they can be in the water almost before anyone knows anything about it. Yet the Admiralty agreed to this enormous increase of German submarine power, far beyond anything that the other Powers would be disposed to agree to, and contrary to the policy for the suppression of submarines, which they have always declared to be their desire and which most Englishmen desire. What does Germany want with this immense submarine fleet? She had experience of the use of submarines in the War. Does anyone think that that experience is going to be allowed to lie idle and that she will not make use of it? What is this fleet for? Obviously, it is to bring pressure upon other naval Powers, particularly upon this country. Germany is out to repair the damages of the War. If we have not a fleet which can hold its own, we shall have to submit and pay blackmail to German pressure when she is ready. We want in these days a firm, patriotic, naval policy, We have not had it from recent Boards of Admiralty, and I trust that my right hon. Friend will be prepared with such a declaration.
Finance is a difficulty. We are driven into a corner. We cannot finance the necessary replacements brought about by the neglect of earlier Boards of Admiralty by the ordinary method of charging it against revenue. The time has come when we shall have to face a naval loan. There are great advantages in a naval loan with payments spread over a reasonable term of years. It can be done very cheaply now. It will immediately find employment on a large scale in the shipyards and the works of Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham, and elsewhere, and it will keep together a band of skilled workmen whom we may need at any moment and who are gradually being dispersed. There is every reason why we should have a sufficient naval loan launched at the earliest possible date to enable us to make good these alarming and dangerous naval deficiencies which are driving some of us almost to despair. England has always depended on her Navy. The time has not come when she can cast her 1526 Navy aside. A Navy which is not equal to its task and not able to keep us in peace and security in face of other Powers which desire to be aggressive is a delusion and a waste of money. On all grounds, I urge upon the Government to realise what they have done by this naval Agreement and what it means to Germany and to ourselves, and to take the necessary measures for our security and protection.
§ 5.13 p.m.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I have listened to a good part of the Debate. So far the speakers on both sides are in complete agreement with one thing, that is, in disapproving the Anglo-German Agreement, some from one point of view and some from another. I regret to have to strike a different note myself. It was to me quite incomprehensible. It was very strange certainly coming immediately after the Stresa Conference, which was summoned for the purpose of denouncing the unilateral rearmament of Germany without the consent of all the signatories to the Treaty of Versailles. There was no point in that Conference unless it was summoned for the purpose of considering a definite breach of the Treaty in disarmament. Herr Hitler had announced that he proposed to build up a great army and that he was building a great air fleet, and he also said he was building submarines. The Stresa Conference met to deal with that situation. It brought together statesmen from various countries in Europe to denounce that breach of the Treaty. Not satisfied with the meeting at Stresa, there was a second meeting at Geneva to consider what should be done in the event of that process going on, and what sanctions could be applied. A committee was appointed to consider that question, and the British Government invited the Germans over here to consider what measure of rearmament was to be permitted to them in view of the departure from the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. This was a bilateral conference. Other Powers were not present, the Powers represented at Stresa not being assenting parties. First you condone the breaches of treaty which had already been committed. But you are not satisfied with that. You proceed to arrange for further departures: an increase in the battleships of Germany, an increase in her destroyers, and, most 1527 fatal of all in my judgment, an increase in submarines. I can understand the feelings of Italy and of France when those negotiations were proceeding, and a part of the Agreement which especially dismayed me was the light-hearted way in which we not merely condoned the number of submarines constructed, but actually arranged with Germany that she be allowed to construct a great many more—I am speaking from memory, but I am not sure that it is not twice as many as she has already constructed—and under certain conditions that she should increase her armaments not by the 35 per cent., but up to a limit of 100 per cent. under certain conditions. Having regard to our experiences of the War in reference to submarines that was an extraordinary proposal.
We heard a very striking speech from the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Vice-Admiral Campbell), and I entirely agree with that speech, when he recalled the incidents of the War and how near we came to being beaten by the submarine. I may say we were more nearly beaten by the submarine than by the German guns, the German air fleet or the German army. It came very near. We were within a few weeks of starvation, and if we had not devised some means to check the destruction of our merchant ships we should have been beaten, the Allies would have been beaten, and Germany would have been triumphant. She thought that she was winning, and anybody who goes through the figures can see how, month by month, she was sinking our ships. The aggregate of ships, taking those of the Allies as well, that had been sunk to April, 1917, was something like 8,000,000 tons. It was a terrible figure. When you take all that into account, you begin to realise that the Germans had some reason to believe that they were going to pull it off. It is quite true that we were able to devise means of counteracting that, but what always happens between attack and defence is, that attack wins first of all, and then the defence finds some means of checking it, then the attack begins again and finds some other measure of getting round the defences. Luckily before that could take place the Germans were beaten, but I would not like to say that the last word in the power of the 1528 submarine was uttered in the War of 1914–18.
I agree with the hon. and gallant Admiral that it was on the whole the cruellest method of war. It was an attack upon civilians. Their ships were sunk, sometimes scores of miles away from the shore in very rough weather, especially in the Atlantic off the coast of Ireland, and they had a very poor chance of the boats getting alongside. The losses of our sailors through submarines were almost equal to the losses of those who were engaged in the Navy in proportion to the number of people in the Mercantile Marine. You cannot go to any seaport town now and see the lists of those who fell in the War without being staggered at the number of sailors—in every little seaport town along the coast—who were drowned by these submarines. I cannot understand why three months after Stresa the Government agreed not merely to condone the action of the Germans, but agreed that they should increase the number of their submarines, and that, under certain conditions, they could even treble them.
I have had no explanation and I cannot comprehend it, especially as there was an opportunity afforded, at any rate, for another attempt to abolish the submarine altogether. There is no difference of opinion between the right hon. Gentleman opposite and myself as to the fact that the Germans were prepared to co-operate for the abolition of the submarine, and I should have thought that before we had entered into a bilateral agreement, we should, at any rate, have made another effort to put an end to the submarine altogether. It may be said that we had already attempted it. The Government of which I was the head tried to do it, but the French refused. I am not sure whether the Japanese refused then or not, but the conditions are different now from when that proposal was put before us. I have never doubted that it was to our interest, as the hon. and gallant Admiral said, to abolish it. I never doubted that we should be only too delighted to abolish it. The whole point was, when there was an opportunity of co-operation with Germany in an effort to abolish it, why we should have agreed with them to increase the number before making another attempt to abolish it altogether.
1529 When the French refused to agree, the conditions were very different. The Germans had no submarines. The French, therefore, had nothing with which they could bargain, and bargaining with us did not matter. They did not want to build submarines against us, and they knew perfectly well that we did not want to build submarines against them, but the Germans were starting to build submarines. They were building a formidable flotilla, and, after all, they are the masters of the submarine. I do not want to say a word about the French Navy, but they were not comparable to the Germans in the matter of handling the submarine, or to ourselves in the method of dealing with the submarine. They had the most wonderful Army in the world. But here were the Germans beginning to build, people who knew how to handle submarines and had experience in handling them, and had done it with infinite, deadly and diabolical skill. It would have been worth while making another effort when the French knew that if the Germans built submarines they were in a fairly precarious position. They might very easily be cut off from their Colonies, a very serious matter for them. Their building of submarines is of very little use in checking submarines, and, whatever the number they may build, it will not enable them to protect their mercantile marine and their troopships against the German submarines.
Therefore, it would have been worth while, when the Germans came along and said: "We are going to start building submarines, but we are willing to enter into a pact with other nations to abolish them altogether," taking advantage of the suggestion. I ventured to put a question upon the subject, but I was referred to reports in the Press. I am sorry that when I got my notice from the hon. Gentleman over there I was not present. I was in the country at the time. It adds neither to his dignity nor authority to suggest that I was afraid. I am not going to run away in this House. I will just say what the reports were to which I was alluding. Two of them appeared in papers that are supporters of the National Government, and others apeared in papers that are not supporters of the National Government. I will quote from the papers that support the National Government. I had not got them by me when I spoke in the Central 1530 Hall, and I was very general. So that there should not be any possible mistake as to what I meant, I instantly sent a copy of this document to the Press to make quite clear what it was to which I was alluding. Here is the "Scotsman," an out-and-out supporter of the National Government, never failing from the very first moment they came into existence:Indeed, I learn that during the initial stage of the recent Anglo-German talks, the German delegates suggested the insertion in the agreement of a clause pledging Germany to support any effort by Great Britain to secure the abolotion of the submarine. Our Government, however, refrained from including such a clause in the exchange of notes, lest it should be resented by France as aimed at herself, as the chief European champion of the submarine.That appeared in the "Scotsman." I will give another paper which is quite consistent in support of the Government, and that is the "Liverpool Post":I understand, indeed, that during the critical stage in the recent Anglo-German conversations the German delegates, when discussing the undertaking to refrain from unrestricted submarine warfare, proposed the insertion in the agreement of a clause pledging their country to support any British move for the abolition of the submarine altogether. Our Ministers, however, out of consideration for France, who is the chief European champion of this weapon, did not agree.I refrain from quoting other passages from papers which are critical of the Government. Here you have the "Scotsman" and the "Liverpool Post" making these categorical statements. Those two paragraphs appeared six days before I alluded to the matter in my speech. I said that I sincerely hoped that those statements were incorrect, because I still think it was a fatal error not to have postponed assenting to the construction of submarines by the Germans, until, at any rate, another effort had been made to abolish submarines altogether. Six days passed after those statements appeared. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, in his reply in the House, said that everybody knew it except me. When was a contradiction of those statements made? They are both highly reputable newspapers, and I have no doubt that the Admiralty have a full record of every reference to this subject in the Press. They must have a very careful press cutting agency for the purpose of collecting any reference to their work. Therefore, these statements must have been there.
1531 Was the attention of the right hon. Gentleman called to those statements? If not, why for six days were they left uncontradicted, seeing that he said, in answer to the hon. Member for Rusholme (Mr. Radford), that it was most mischievous that foreign countries should be under the impression that we turned down an offer of this kind to suppress submarines. His view was that it was mischievous. Were the statements made by these newspapers corrected? If so, I have not seen the corrections. Six days after the statement appeared in those newspapers. I put my question in reference to it. Lest it should be suggested that I meant that the Germans proposed that if we dropped submarines they would drop them, let me say that that never entered my head. I was discussing the question of international agreement with regard to abolishing bombers, and then I came to submarines. I sent these quotations to the Press to make it clear what I was quoting, and I ask now why was not that statement contradicted if it was so very mischievous?
But what is far more important than any personal issue between the right hon. Gentleman and myself is that we should have agreed to enter into a Pact with Germany, the master of the submarine, who sunk millions of tons of our ships; that we should have entered into a pact with her not only condoning what she had done, but agreeing to her increasing the number of those deadly weapons, and in certain conditions agreeing that she was to treble the number. I am not surprised that there is no one in this House who has got up to defend those weapons. The right hon. Gentleman, even in his pretty careful reply, admitted that the matter was mentioned at the Naval Conference. According to the "Scotsman," the Germans made the actual proposal that a clause should be inserted in the Agreement for co-operation on the policy of submarines. The right hon. Gentleman does not deny that the Germans were quite prepared to co-operate. Herr Hitler said so in his speech. I am at a loss to understand, with all the recollections that I have of the terrible anxiety this country went through, and the appalling peril at one moment, why the Admiralty and the Government should have agreed to this 1532 particular clause in the Agreement, which recreates the same danger we had before.
§ 5.35 p.m.
The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) brought forward the Amendment ostensibly because of the German Agreement, but in the course of his speech it was evident that his chief anxiety was not so much the German Naval Agreement but that this country would be forced to reconstruct her naval forces and to increase those forces above their present strength. The right hon. Member for Carnarvan Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has drawn the attention of the Committee to the question of submarines and their total abolition. There is no hon. or right hon. Member, there is no one in this country who does not agree that if the abolition of submarines were a practical suggestion, the Government and everybody in the country would do everything in their power to bring it about. But is it not a fact that the French have always stood out against the abolition of the submarine? Have not the French consistently stated that the submarine was not an offensive but a defensive vessel in war, and is it not a fact that the French will not abolish submarines? We all agree in theory about the abolition of submarines. We as a nation have more to lose from submarine warfare than any other nation. We have more to gain by the abolition of submarine warfare than any nation. I ask the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs if he really thinks that it is a practical suggestion, which will be carried out, and that France willl agree to the abolition of submarines.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Having regard to the fact that Germany is beginning to build submarines, it would be a wise step on the part of France to enter into agreement to abolish them altogether. She has far more to lose by submarines than she has to gain, once Germany begins to build. The further answer to the hon. and gallant Member is that before we agreed to allow Germany to build submarines we ought to have made another effort, and have put off this Agreement.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his answer, but the point really is this: have we not consistently stood for the abolition 1533 of submarines, and has not France consistently refused to agree to the abolition of submarines? The point is now put forward by the right hon. Gentleman that because Germany has started to build, France may change her opinion. I am afraid that I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman on that point.
It might have been worth trying, but we have been trying from the first day that submarines were constructed. In 1898–99, when the first Holland submarines were ordered by the American Government, we have been trying to abolish submarines. Up to that time we had stood out against the construction of submarines because we realised that our strength lay upon the surface of the water, and that immediately underwater attack was brought in we should be the nation to suffer most. It was not until the Americans ordered the first submarine that we started the construction of submarines in this country.
I would ask this question in regard to the Naval Agreement, and particularly in regard to Germany constructing submarines, which we all deplore. What action would the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members who take his point of view adopt if Germany continued to build submarines as well as other vessels of war? Germany has constructed an army, and an air force, and she intends to construct a navy. What action would those who are opposed to such construction take in order to stop Germany from doing it? That is a question which deserves an answer from those who oppose this Naval Agreement. It has never been answered. It is no good talking unless behind your talk you intend to act. What action do those who are opposed to this Agreement propose to take? What action could they take? How would they start to take action? There is only one possible way in which Germany could have been stopped from constructing her forces, which she has constructed to such a large extent up to the present time, and that is by going to war with her. There is no other way. She will not listen to argument. She insists on having her forces. She has already got most of them, and nothing 1534 but warlike action would have stopped her.
The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs shakes his head. What action would have stopped her? There is a great deal of argument in the country and in the House about collective security. Collective security is a very good thing in theory, a very excellent thing, but it is not a practical possibility. You will never get the nations to act collectively against any other nation at the dictation of the League of Nations. They will not do it. The whole of the Sanctions Clauses of the League of Nations break down. They will not be put into operation. No nation will do it. Japan on the question of economic sanctions left the League. Germany left the League. If there is any question of economic sanctions, which would have to be backed up by armed force, against Italy, she would at once leave the League. The collective security of which we talk so much, would not be put into operation. Would the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs suggest that this country should go to war with Italy to stop her from doing what she proposes? If not, what other action would he take? What could he do? These are questions to which I want an answer from the Opposition.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do not like to interrupt, but I have dealt with that question. I spoke at great length on that question last week. It is very difficult to answer a question in debate in this way, but I am not shirking it. I dealt with that question on the Floor of the House, and I am perfectly prepared to do it again.
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has said that. I was present throughout the whole of his speech on that occasion and he was asked categorically by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) what action he would take. He was interrupted and invited to say what action he would take, and he gave no answer. And he cannot give an answer to-day.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
If the hon. and gallant Member will look at the official report of my speech he will see that I gave an answer.
With all due respect, I disagree.
Another point in regard to submarines has been brought to the notice of the Committee by the right hon. Gentleman. He said perfectly truly, as all those who were at sea realised to the full—I happened to be one—that the gravest danger to this country during the late War was the unrestricted submarine warfare instituted by Germany in her submarine sinkings of merchant vessels, against the admitted rules of the sea, which up to that time had never been broken in warfare. We were not prepared for that submarine war. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs will agree that it was the lack of preparations to counter this submarine warfare that nearly led to this country being forced to sue for peace. That is not the position to-day. I trust that we have learned a lesson from the submarine warfare during the late War. It is true that when you have attack and defence, the projectile and the armour for example, it is always war between the two. First one gets on top, and then the other; one is always a little in advance of the other. Both sides to-day have advanced. The submarine has undoubtedly improved, but the methods of countering the submarine have also vastly improved, and I cannot conceive that we in this country will ever again be placed in the perilous position we were in during the late War owing to our entire lack of preparation for meeting the submarine menace, which no naval authority, or anyone else, had foreseen would be carried out, and which reacted like a boomerang on Germany.
There is another aspect of these attacks on merchant ships which is very serious, and that is attack by aircraft. There is to-day, at any rate, a convention, not signed by all the nations, that submarine warfare in future shall not be unrestricted, that there shall be some consideration for the people on board. But there are no rules whatever governing attack by aircraft. Aircraft carrying torpedoes, or guns, can do immense damage to merchant ships, perhaps not as certainly or effectively as a torpedo 1536 from a submarine, but they can and undoubtedly will attack merchant ships in probably the same way as the submarine attacked them in the late War. There is nothing to stop them, and we know the immense strength and menace of the air forces of foreign Powers. Are we adequately equipped to deal with that very serious menace? My point is this, that it is not only a question of the danger to our merchant craft from submarine warfare, but also the extreme danger from aircraft attack to which the Government will have to pay particular attention. No doubt they have done so; I do not suggest that they have not, but it is a question which is often forgotten.
The Debate to-day has centred on the position of our naval forces, and very rightly so, but in my opinion there is a considerable danger, due to the propaganda in the Press, and the Debates which have taken place in this House stressing the inferiority of this country in the air, that the public may be led to believe that, provided the air forces of this country are sufficiently strengthened, provided that we have such air forces as are necessary, all is well with us and our security. There is a danger that the public will be led to believe that the air is going to replace the Navy and carry out the duty of our cruisers in the protection of trade. The result is that the urgent need for a reconstruction, and bringing up to date, of our naval forces is likely, so far as the public are concerned, to recede into the background as a question with which to-day they are not primarily concerned. That is a very considerable danger. Of course it is not true.
The air forces can only be used for certain purposes and within certain limits. There are limits beyond which air forces are perfectly useless so far as the protection of trade is concerned; and, so far as the security of this country and the Empire from invasion is concerned, an air force can never stop it. The only possible way of giving security to this country and the Empire is by having such naval forces as are necessary for that security; it cannot be obtained in any other way. It is true that there must be co-operation between all the three services, but the Navy to-day is the key-stone of Imperial defence, as it has been in the past, and if we are to have security there is not the slightest doubt 1537 that we shall never get it, unless we reconstruct our Navy and bring it up to date and maintain it at a strength such as is necessary for the security of this country and the different units of the Empire, and for protecting the sea routes connecting all parts of the Empire.
The Naval Review to many people may have been a wonderful sight, but I say quite frankly that to me it was a very sad sight. It was a terrible thing for a naval officer to see the ships assembled at Spit-head representing the might and naval power of this great country, which has at all times depended entirely on sea power. Only two battleships and one battle cruiser will be under age on 31st December, 1936—all the others obsolete; the cruisers very insufficient in numbers and not of the design we require—entirely due to the Washington Conference and the London Naval Agreement. We were not able to build the ships we required. We started building 10,000-ton cruisers, which we do not want, because of the Washington Treaty. They are too big to work with the battle fleet, and much too large to put on the trade routes. They are weak in their hull and badly armed. They are poor ships. We did not want them but we had to build them; 10,000 tons was the limit for cruisers and all nations built them. We cut down our numbers. We have had to be satisfied with 50 cruisers, although we know that those who are in the best position to judge have said over and over again that 70 is the minimum number of cruisers we require. We have not got them and so far as I know we do not know that we are going to have them—at least the Government have put forward no programme.
Public opinion has been mentioned. It has been said that it would not stand for an increase in our naval power. I entirely disagree. I am prepared to stand on any platform in the country, before any audience, and am quite certain that I would carry the majority of the audience if all the facts were clearly put before them and it was known that we had no security now, and that the navy as it is to-day cannot give them security. I am sure you would get an overwhelming majority in favour of this country, not only having a naval force equal to that of other countries, but a naval force of the strength which is necessary for the security of this country and our Empire.
§ 5.54 p.m.
The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Sir Bolton Eyres Monsell)
Before I answer any of the detailed criticisms which have been levelled against the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, let me bring the Committee back to the position under which we are working in regard to the navies of the world. Briefly the position is this. After December, 1936, all the naval agreements under which we have been working for 16 years come to an end, and unless we can put something in the place of these treaties and agreements, all navies for the future will be entirely unrestricted and unlimited. This comes about primarily because Japan has denounced the Treaty of Washington. Many hard things have been said about these naval treaties and agreements, but I do not think that anything but good can be said of the Treaty of Washington. The Treaty of Washington, in my opinion and in that of the Government, and I think also in the opinion of the majority of this House, has conferred enormous benefits on all maritime powers, because it has prevented a race in naval armaments, cut down expenditure and saved the taxpayers of every nation which has a navy.
But it has done something far more important than that. It has maintained the peace for the last 16 years, and it has maintained peace because the ratio adopted under that treaty provided a standard of defence appropriate to the defence needs of the Powers concerned, and at the same time gave no Power such a preponderance in naval strength above any other as to make it safe for that country to risk aggression. Those are the benefits we have gained under the Treaty of Washington—greatly reduced navies, giving us the defence we require, and peace, because no Government has such a preponderating navy as to make it worth its while to go to war. I am sure that I shall have the whole Committee with me when I say that we must do our utmost to try to perpetuate that state of affairs, to get regulation and restriction in naval armaments, always maintaining the principle that adequate defence must be given to every country.
Unfortunately, if we are to do this—and I can assure the Committee that we are working heart and soul to do it—we shall have to do it by some means other than the Treaty of Washington. That is because the principle of ratio has had to 1539 be abandoned. We have had to give up any idea of ratio for the future because some countries felt it wounding to their national pride to have to accept a naval strength permanently inferior to that of some other country. We, therefore, have had to abandon the principle of ratio and instead of asking naval Powers what the ultimate strength of their navy was going to be, we have to ask, what size navy do you propose to have in 1942? That in fact is the date we have taken. As I say, we have had to abandon all ideas of ratios in trying to perpetuate the state under which we have been living under the Treaty of Washington, and we have gone in for a system of programmes, because some countries think it against their national dignity to accept permanently a ratio much below that of any other country. We, therefore, go to all those countries and say, "What fleet do you intend to have in 1942?" and if we can then, having pooled all the replies, by agreement accommodate all these various naval strengths in such a way as to provide adequate defence for the country, making it, as a corollary to that, exceedingly unlikely that any country can attack another with any chance of ultimate success, we have achieved something of enormous and almost unparalleled beenfit to the taxpayers of all countries concerned. We shall have done far more—we shall have cotnributed very greatly to the general pacification of the world. That is the object in view.
Sir B. EYRES MONSELL
Yes, we cannot go on with ratios because some countries do not like them. We, therefore, go in stages—one step enough for us. We, therefore, say: "Let us have another conference in 1942 and try to take it on by stages." The Committee will agree that if by this means we can hold the peace of the world till 1942 it is pretty good.
Sir B. EYRES MONSELL
Yes, but I have not mentioned Germany. This is the general agreement we are trying to 1540 arrive at by the Conference that we hope to have.
Sir B. EYRES MONSELL
No, Germany is included. With this object in view we have been having bilateral and confidential conversations with a good many countries, with France, Japan and America. These bilateral conversations are not, as some people fall into the error of conceiving, conferences at which you can settle anything which is going to be generally agreed by all. They are bilateral talks which pave the way for the Conference that we hope may be held at the end of this year. My hon. Friend opposite who opened the Debate said: "In putting forward these programmes you must have given some sort of idea of your programme to other countries. Cannot the House of Commons know what that programme was?" Anyone who knows me knows that I have always stood up for the rights of the House of Commons as much as anyone in this House, but I should like to say this: If these programmes that are purely hypothetical and depend upon the programmes of other countries are discussed in this House, if the confidential bilateral talks are openly discussed here, it will be absolutely impossible ever to arrive at a general agreement.
I do ask for the indulgence of the Committee on this matter. I will not go so far as to say that the public interests of the country are endangered, but I do say that it is against the public interests and the peace of the world to discuss these things, and I do ask the House not to press me in this direction. I would add this: The House of Commons has everything entirely in its own hands. Suppose that we do come to some general agreement at the Conference. The House can turn down that agreement if it chooses. But it has got something much more powerful than that; it has got absolute control of anything that the Government does in this way, because every year the First Lord has to come to the House with the Navy Estimates, and the House has absolute and perfect control of all expenditure and all programmes.
International agreement is not an easy thing to arrive at. Everyone who has tried it knows that perfectly well. You 1541 make it, in the opinion of the Government, absolutely impossible unless we are allowed to have the confidential talks with other Powers. It is exceedingly difficult to arrive at any agreement. I have compared it with putting together the pieces in a jig-saw puzzle. That is especially so with these naval conferences. But it is not the ordinary jig-saw puzzle. It is a jig-saw puzzle in which the pieces are continually altering in shape and size and colour. Until recently it has proved almost impossible to get any two pieces together. I have felt that if only we could get two important pieces together a start would be made towards finishing the whole puzzle.
For this reason, the Admiralty welcomed the proposal of a great country like Germany to fix her navy for ever at a point in relation to our own which we could view without undue anxiety. We would much rather Germany had not increased her fleet. But we can accept this 35 per cent. without undue anxiety. The Committee must remember that the general agreement which we hope to arrive at by a conference, an international agreement on naval affairs, would not be any good at all unless Germany were in that agreement. I am astonished at what I may call the very internationally-minded Members who are horrified at anything we have done in this direction, and especially at any arrangement come to at all after the months and years of talks we have had. We have done something, and that we have done it quickly seems to have horrified them still more.
I have tried for the past few years to face up to realities, and I have received the querulous condemnation of a good many persons in this country. The Committee must realise that we have to face up to realities, especially when dealing with dictators. The Committee must not forget, when they talk about allowing Germany to do this or that, that Germany has laid down this programme and that the ships are on the stocks. She has started it. She did not ask us, and we did not give her permission. I want to put a question to the critics who have spoken this afternoon. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) would answer this question: What would he have done? How would he have stopped Germany building? What would he have done if Germany had asked for 50 per cent.? 1542 Germany might have done that; she might have asked for a 100 per cent. navy. I ask the Committee to face up to the facts. Suppose that Germany had asked for that, what are the two alternatives before us? My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) is the only one who has faced up to the position at all. There are two alternatives. One is to prevent Germany by force from doing it. Is anyone prepared to do that? Is the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs prepared to do it? The other alternative is to carry out a great expansion of our own Navy.
Let the Committee realise what I believe is perfectly true. Although this country may temporarily forget its Navy—and it has done so—the need for a Navy is bred in the bone of the British people. They know that every source of their national wealth depends on the Navy, and, if they should ever think that our Navy is incapable of fulfilling its duty, they would force an expansion on this country, no matter what Government might be in power, which would be very much more than we want and a wasteful expansion, and that is the very last thing that the Admiralty wish to see done. Therefore, I say that when Germany came forward with an offer of 35 per cent. we could accept it without undue anxiety. I think it was of great benefit to ourselves and to the world in general when we closed with that offer.
I have been asked: Why was not all this done through the League of Nations, through the Disarmament Conference? It has been said that this is a blow to the League of Nations. I entirely disagree. The Naval Treaties have never had anything to do with the League; they have been entirely outside that body. How then can it be said that we are dealing a blow at the League? The League exists for limitation, if you cannot get a reduction of armaments. Surely anything that is done in that direction, by limitation, must redound to the prestige of the League. It has been said also: Why has not this been done in conjunction with other Powers? That has been said to-day by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs and by others. Very hard things have been said across the Channel in this respect, but not by all, not by everyone. The President of the Senate Foreign Affairs Com- 1543 mittee pointed out a short time ago that there is nothing in the Franco-British Declaration of 3rd February to prohibit Great Britain from making a preliminary bilateral agreement with Germany, any more than it prohibits Italy taking separate action in Africa, or France doing the same with regard to Soviet Russia. He said further, and this is very important:Have we not perhaps irritated our friends for the last few years with our everlasting mania for linking into a whole all the questions under discussion in order not to solve any of them? If the 'Multilateralism' dear to our bureaucrats has hitherto resulted in nothing but trivial arguments, is it not understandable that the British should prefer less dilatory methods than those which have resulted in the re-armament of Germany on land, not to 35 per cent. but to 130 per cent. of the French Army?I do ask those hon. Members who have spoken to-day as if we had committed a sin by making this Agreement because we did not do everything together, whether they think we should have waited till everything could be done together. My answer is that if we had waited for that, nothing would have been done. What has this "multilateralism," which is not my word, cost Europe? In January, 1934, Germany was prepared to accept 300,000 military effectives and under certain conditions 200,000. To-day it is 550,000. It is the same with the air. I put it to this Committee that we could not afford to have this same sort of thing happen with regard to the Navy. Our responsibilities are too great, responsibilities not only to our own country and Empire, but to the world. There are two things that I have found in my discussions that it is possible to get international agreement about. The first is that no one thinks that the British Fleet can ever conceivably be used for aggressive purposes, and the second is that the ability of the British Fleet to fulfil its historic function in this world is the greatest factor for peace that the world has.
I now come to the point that has been raised of the superiority that France is given over Germany by this Agreement. In the old days before the War France had an inferiority at sea as regards Germany of 30 per cent. To-day we have given her over 40 per cent. superiority, and it is a permanent superiority, over Germany. The hon. Member for Brox- 1544 towe (Mr. Cocks) said that before the War we had alliances. I would ask if Locarno means nothing to our friends over the Channel. Let us look at the figures. We are to have 100, France 50, and Germany 35. This means that under Locarno, France would have 150 to Germany's 35, a superiority of over 400 per cent., which I should have thought security enough. In conclusion of this part of my speech, I would remind the Committee to consider the position of this country if we had turned down the offer that Germany made, and I was standing at this Box defending the rejection. I should be very sorry to be doing that. I should have had the same opposition, and I think it would probably have come from exactly the same quarters. It is not that I should have minded that very much, but what I should have minded is that a Board of Admiralty which gave advice to a Government to reject this offer, and a Government which accepted that advice, would sooner or later stand overwhelmingly condemned by humanity at the bar of history.
I now come to the point more or less of detail raised by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. I have worked for many years with the right hon. Gentleman and I have worked against him. I worked just as hard for him as I worked against him, and even when I have been working against him, I have never been able to repress a feeling of admiration for the right hon. Gentleman. One of the reasons, among very many, is that when he wants to make a thing clear, he is a master of clarity, but when he wants to make a thing a little confused, he is an artist. The right hon. Gentleman's intervention in the Debate to-day has, if anything, by bringing in personal opinions and statements, made confusion even a little more confounded. If the Committee will forgive me, I should like to go back to the genesis of this argument. If we start at the beginning, we see that the right hon. Gentleman on the 2nd July said he was told that Germany offered to abolish submarines altogether and that we were not prepared to accept this: was this true? That was not the statement that was in the "Scotsman" I understand, though I never saw it, and I will make two observations about that. I will use the right hon. Gentleman's adjective. He 1545 said it had been called a pernicious statement. I think it is a reasonable word to use, because a statement of that sort is bound to affect our bona fides vis-a-vis foreign countries, and bound to weaken what we are trying to do in the way of peace. That little question at the end cannot absolve the right hon. Gentleman for making that insinuation. I am not a lawyer, but I am told that if somebody says: "I am told Mr. Jones murdered his wife. Is that true? I hope not, but I should like to know if it is true," that does not help him if Mr. Jones goes for a libel action.
The second observation that I would make is that the insinuation is really entirely without any foundation. We have tried—and we have been laughed at by many hon. Members in the House who have said, "Of course you have tried"—from the beginning, and we are going on trying, we are trying every day, to abolish submarines. It was started, I think, with the Treaty of Washington; it was put in the forefront of the programme that my right hon. Friend who is now Home Secretary made in a speech at Geneva in February, 1932, and, as my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council said, it was fought tooth and nail all through the London Conference, and we are going on fighting it. Do not let the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs think we have dropped it. We are going on fighting, and it stands in the forefront of Britain's naval requirement to abolish the inhuman weapon of the submarine. I took the opportunity which was given me the next day of denying very emphatically that statement, and I am rather afraid the right hon. Gentleman thought it was too emphatic.
Sir B. EYRES MONSELL
He should have been the last to complain of that. I denied it at once. The right hon. Gentleman immediately saw that he had been lamentably misinformed by somebody, and he adopted the tactics that one of our destroyers would undertake when by bad manoeuvring it has allowed itself to come under damaging fire. A destroyer turns away and emits a smoke screen, and the right hon. Gentleman did very much the same thing, hoping that many people would say: "There is no smoke without fire." That same evening, in a statement to the Press, the right hon. Gentleman completely altered his tactics. 1546 He now claimed to have definite information that the German delegates expressed their readiness to subscribe to a clause to be inserted in the recently completed agreement, the effect of which would be that Germany would support the British Government in any attempt by the latter to bring about the abolition of the submarine, and that this suggestion was not entertained by the British Government. The Committee will observe the complete change of ground of the right hon. Gentleman. He abandoned the insinuation, as well he might, that we had opposed the abolition of submarines, and the new allegation was that we refused to incorporate the common accord of England and Germany for the abolition of submarines in the recently published agreement.
The new allegation was equally without foundation. I explained to the Press on the 4th July that at no time was it suggested that any such clause should be inserted in the agreement and that, as I said, had been confirmed by the German delegation. I got their permission to say so. I explained that what the German delegation had done was to express themselves as in accord with us in our desire for the abolition of submarines by international agreement, and with the assent of the German delegation I quoted the relevant passage from the record of our talks:Germany supports the Brtiish Government's desire for the complete abolition of submarines, and if it could be achieved would be prepared to scrap the submarines they might have built or building at the time."At the time" means the time of the International Conference, and I cannot help thinking that there has been confusion of thought on the part of the right hon. Gentleman and also of my hon. Friend who opened this Debate by confusing these bilateral talks which lead up to a conference with the conference itself, because we cannot know until the conference takes place if we can get general agreement on this question, and without general agreement neither Germany nor England is prepared to abolish submarines. We cannot know if we can get general agreement until that conference takes place which these bilateral talks are working up to. The right hon. Gentleman, in a further statement to the Press, continued to assert that, in spite of my statement to the contrary, the 1547 Germans had suggested the insertion of a clause of that kind in the recently published agreement, and he again asked why that clause had not been inserted. My answer, already made on the authority of both delegations—and they were the only people present—which I now repeat, is that no such clause was ever suggested or contemplated by anybody. An agreement that set out to deal with one thing, namely, the ratio between the naval forces of Germany and ourselves, was not the proper place for such a clause. We have talked about many things and agreed about many things, while some remain to be agreed or disagreed. Very many important things were discussed, such as qualitative limitation, but all these things, as the result of these talks, can only be put forward when we get round the table with other countries. We are very glad to have Germany with us in our attempt to abolish submarines. I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman has been misinformed and I am afraid that, having seen that he has rather tried to confuse the issue.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I have waited until the right hon. Gentleman finished on that issue before interrupting him because I understood he wanted to make a full statement. With regard to the clause which it is suggested the Germans proposed, that is a definite statement made both by the "Scotsman" and by the "Liverpool Post."
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I refer to reports in the papers, but the question which matters is this: Did the Germans, either at preliminary talks or at the formal conference, actually intimate to the Admiralty that they were prepared to co-operate with us in any efforts we initiated to abolish the submarine? [HON. MEMBERS: "He said so."] If he said so he can say it again for himself. Did we turn it down on the ground that France and the others would not accept it?
Sir B. EYRES MONSELL
I have said over and over again that we raised the question with them, that they said they would co-operate with us, and that we decided to put it forward when we got the general conference, when something could be done.
Sir B. EYRES MONSELL
How would the right hon. Gentleman have prevented Germany from increasing their submarines? Unless he is prepared to answer that question, it seems to me to be futile making a remark of that kind. We made every effort, we are prepared to go on making every effort, and we hope we shall be successful; and we shall have a better chance because we have Germany to help us. Will the right hon. Gentleman excuse me if I say again that he has tried to confuse the issue because he knows that there are a great many people in this country who say, if you go on arguing long enough about a thing, there must be something in it. I say categorically—and the right hon. Gentleman ought to take the testimony of both delegations—that there is nothing in any of the allegations he makes, and, I think I am safe in saying, in any allegation he throws out in future. If the right hon. Gentleman will not believe me and will not believe the Germans, but somehow relies on some supernatural source of information, then I have nothing more to say.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The First Lord said the other day on a festive occasion that he had passed a great many years in zones of silence on the benches of the House of Commons, but I think that any of those who have heard him this afternoon will be sure that in those years of silence he was most carefully acquainting himself with all the Parliamentary arts, because certainly the speech to which we have just listened was one of the most successful ministerial utterances that we have heard for a long time. He has for the first time put the case which led the Admiralty into making this Anglo-German Agreement into the public view so that it may be contrasted with the various arguments which have been advanced against it from many parts of the Committee. Let me congratulate 1549 the right hon. Gentleman upon his speech, and at the same time say with how much regret we have all heard that it is his intention not to be a Member in the next House of Commons. Perhaps even at the eleventh hour it is not too late for him to reconsider his decision.
I do not take a very keen or excited part in the controversy between the First Lord and my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). It is not because the quality of the combatants on both sides and the explosive material employed were not such as to give a prospect of a certain liveliness whenever it occurred, but, frankly that there is a great element of unreality in the arguments about German co-operation in the abolition of the submarine. The Government dwelt upon this as one of the arguments to recommend their agreement to the public, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs turned the argument against the Government by suggesting that they had not gone the full length in meeting the German offer for co-operation. I have never felt that there was very much in this offer which the Germans made to co-operate with us in abolishing the submarine. I should have thought it was a very safe offer for them to make—for any country to make—when the condition attached to it was that all other countries should agree at the same time and when it was perfectly well known that there was not the slightest chance of other countries agreeing. The First Lord says we cannot tell now whether other countries will agree or not. Does he really suppose that at this forthcoming multilateral conference, to which he is looking forward, and which must take place in some form or other before the end of 1936, there is the slightest chance of securing a world agreement on the abolition of the submarine? I should have thought that the French, the Italian, and the Japanese view would all be absolutely averse to it. If that be so, it seems to me that the Germans have not run any great risk of diminishing their facilities for making war at sea by offering to co-operate with Great Britain in securing this abolition.
Another statement which was made on the subject of submarines was that the Germans were willing to subscribe to the terms of the international agreement 1550 which many of the Powers have signed restricting the use of the submarine in such a way as to strip submarine warfare against commerce of its inhumanity. I am bound to say that I feel very great difficulty in being entirely reassured by that. Lord Beatty said the other day that the battle fleet was now practically secure against submarines if properly protected by its flotillas, etc. I believe that to be correct. Submarines are not needed, then, for attack upon the battle fleet. If they are not needed for that purpose, and the Germans are not going to use them, in the only way in which they can be effectively used, against commerce, it seems to me strange that they should dwell with so much reiteration on the importance of having not merely 35 per cent., but 45 per cent., and, in the long run in some cases, up to 100 per cent. If neither of these spheres of activity for submarines is to be used by them, it seems strange that they should attach so much importance to the possession of this weapon, which they have begun to construct in considerable numbers in flat defiance of the Treaty. If we are to assume, as we may for the purposes of this discussion, the hideous hypothesis of a war in which Britain and Germany would be on opposite sides and the British blockade is being enforced on the coast of Germany as it was in the late war, who in his senses would believe that the Germans, possessed of a great fleet of submarines and watching their women and children being starved by the British blockade, would abstain from the fullest use of that arm? Such a view seems to me to be the acme of gullibility.
I do not want particularly to concern myself with the dispute between my right hon. Friend the member for Carnarvon Boroughs and His Majesty's Government upon that point, but to concern myself rather with the more general aspects which were raised by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton), and which were brought forward in a speech of great calmness and study by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks). I do not entirely find these arguments met by the speech of my right hon. Friend the First Lord. The great argument which has been put forward from many quarters has been that all of a sudden the Government broke away from the course on which they were proceeding in European affairs, 1551 namely, Stresa, Geneva, and the collective disapprobation of the breaking of treaties, and made this side arrangement with Germany. Nothing that the right hon. Gentleman said at all freed the Government policy from the reproach of inconsistency in that respect. Certainly it was a new method. Hitherto, the right hon. Gentleman was looking forward to a general conference at the end of 1936 of all the naval Powers except Germany, and he hoped that Germany would come, too. He was having tentative bilateral discussions with all these Powers, and no doubt, as each point of agreement was reached, note was to be taken that that part of the jigsaw puzzle would be satisfactory as long as it was not affected by something else. I do not understand why the German bilateral conversations could not have been treated on that basis, and why it could not have been said that in all other circumstances, if everything else fits in, this kind of arrangement will be satisfactory to both sides. The matter could then have been referred to the general conference on naval matters, as it will have to be referred. Obviously, everything is affected by that general conference because, if as a result of it our construction has to be increased, there will be a propportionate increase in the German naval construction.
Therefore, I do not quite see why Germany should have been singled out for such exceptional treatment in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman asked what would have happened if we had refused? I do not suggest that it should have been arbitrarily turned down and that we should have said there was no question of our ever making any agreement with Germany. The suggestion which is put forward by the critics of this policy is that the proper course would have been to say that this Agreement involves a breach of the treaty, that we have joined with other Powers in condemning breaches of the Treaty and unilateral action, and that we must, while noting all the facts, refer this matter to other nations with whom we have so recently joined in expressing a decided and definite view. I do not believe that if that had been done the position would have been worsened. The position is very bad. Do not let us underrate the position. The German fleet which is to be 1552 constructed under this Treaty is to be 35 per cent. of the British fleet. We have seen the first year's programme of its construction, which programme would undoubtedly be described, in our ordinary language in dealing with these affairs, as the programme of 1934, and not of 1935. It is already far on the way; even the battleships are laid down. I am bound to say that I do not know how the Admiralty were without information that even battleships were being laid down, contrary to the Treaty, before the end of 1934. I am astonished at that, astounded at such a thing. We always believed before the War that never could battleships be laid down without knowledge being obtained. [Interruption.] So that there was a slip. The Germans were entitled to build 10,000-ton ships according to the Treaty, but they, by a concealment which the Admiralty were utterly unable to penetrate, converted these into 26,000-ton ships. Let us be careful about gullibility when we see all these extremely awkward incidents occurring.
It seems to me that we have now before us the first year's programme of the new German fleet. What I want to know is—the right hon. Gentleman probably will not tell us, but I think we ought to know as soon as he can get permission to inform Parliament—in how many years do the Germans propose to complete the building, the laying down, of that 35 per cent. The year 1942 has been mentioned in another connection. I was not clear from what the right hon. Gentleman said whether it was in this connection or not. But it seems to me that if they have four programmes of the size that they announce—the 1934 programme—if they have four successive annual programmes of that size, they will practically come up to 35 per cent. of the British fleet as it exists to-day by the year 1939 or 1940. I do not say we must be told this afternoon, but we must be better informed upon these matters. Nobody wants to hamper the right hon. Gentleman or the Government in having tentative, informal, bilateral discussions and getting as many combinations together as possible and then making the super-combination in a general conference, and nobody would ask that all the offers and counter-offers which are put forward in the course of those negotiations should, while the negotiations are still in an unformed and 1553 unsettled condition, be made public. I agree with the claim the Government make in that matter, but in a reasonable space of time we have got to know what is to be the rate of German construction, if that is known to the Government, what are to be the annual programmes which His Majesty's Government consider necessary for the British fleet.
Take this question of the German fleet. In my view if, in four or five years, the Germans have built or laid down 35 per cent. new construction, we shall in that period have to lay down or build, at the same rate pari passu certainly 50 per cent. replacement of our own fleet. That is to say that in the period during which they will be building 400,000 tons, we will say, of new navy, we shall have to rebuild practically the half of our existing navy. Otherwise our position will be a most perilous one, a most dangerous one, as it is. Let me say one word about France. It is true that if we take mere tonnage the First Lord is able to show a satisfactory arrangement for France in the percentage of superiority which she would possess, but what is to be the position of the French navy if the Germans in the next four years build, by four programmes, a fleet 35 per cent. of the British fleet? The entire navy of France, except the latest vessels, will require to be reconstructed. The new German navy, although somewhat behind the French in the matter of percentages, would undoubtedly be overwhelmingly superior from the point of view of matériel. Therefore, we cannot feel at all reassured about this position unless we know the programmes, and it seems most dangerous to continue month after month, and even year after year, because I gather it may not be till next year we can be told, with the House of Commons not knowing these vital programmes on both sides, although they are known in all Cabinets of the various nations with whom we have had these conversations.
Lord Beatty said the other day that we ought to be grateful to Germany for not having asked for 50 per cent., and the First Lord indicated that she might have asked for 100 per cent. But would our answer have been the same? I hope not. But the reasons by which it would have been defended would have been the same. You would say: "What could we do? We could not control them. Nobody is going to war to prevent them." 1554 Even after hearing the able statement to which we have listened, I must say that I regret that we have condoned this flagrant breach of the Treaty. It would have been far better, even though we could not get complete assurances in regard to the ratio of Germany with ourselves, to have carried these matters forward to the League of Nations and endeavoured to use this further breach of the Treaty by Germany as a means of gathering forces for a policy of collective security among all the nations of the world.
I do not believe for a moment that this isolated action by Great Britain will be found to work for the cause of peace. The immediate reaction is that every day the German fleet approaches a tonnage which gives it absolute command of the Baltic, and very soon one of the deterrents of a European war will gradually fade away. So far as the position in the Mediterranean is concerned, it seems to me that we are in for very great difficulties. I agree with very much that my right hon. Friend said when he spoke of the position in the Mediterranean. Certainly a great addition of new shipbuilding must come when the French have to modernise their fleet to meet German construction, and the Italians follow suit, and we shall have pressure upon us to rebuild from that point of view, or else our position in the Mediterranean will be affected. But worst of all is the effect upon our position at the other end of the world, in China and in the Far East. What a windfall this has been to Japan—I am not saying the Naval Agreement, I do not put it on that, because it is foolish to blame the evils which come from the growth of German naval power upon the Naval Agreement. But observe what the consequences are. The First Lord said: "Face the facts." The British fleet, when this programme is completed, will be largely anchored to the North Sea. That means to say the whole position in the Far East has been very gravely altered, to the detriment of the United States and of Great Britain and to the detriment of China.
§ Sir AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to intervene? I do not follow his thought. At what period of our recent history—modern history—was a great part of our 1555 fleet not, to use his phrase, anchored to the North Sea? It was so before the War.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am dealing with what has occurred since the War. The evils that have arisen in the Far East have arisen largely since the War; the injury to British interests has come since the War. Since the War we have certainly had a mobility for the British Fleet, such as it was, consisting, indeed, of old ships, which was very much greater than we possessed during the years of the German danger before the War. But that mobility is going to pass away, and the whole position of our having a great naval base at Singapore upon which a battle fleet can be based, if necessary, to protect us in the Indian Ocean and to maintain the connection with Australia and New Zealand, for that is the purpose, is greatly affected by the fact that when this German fleet is built we shall not be able to have any appreciable portion of the British fleet so far from home. Those are serious reactions. I do not say that they are reactions from the Naval Agreement, but from the fact that Germany is breaking treaties and re-establishing her naval power.
I regret that we are not dealing with this problem of the resuscitation of German naval power with the Concert of Europe on our side, and in conjunction with many other nations whose fortunes are affected and whose fears are aroused equally with our own by the enormous development of German armaments. What those developments are no one can accurately measure. Have we any measure of those activities? We have seen that powerful vessels, much more powerful than we expected, can be constructed unknown even to the Admiralty. We have seen what has been done in the air. I believe that if the figures of the expenditure of Germany during the current financial year could he ascertained, the House and the country would be staggered and appalled by the enormous expenditure upon war preparations which is being poured out all over that country, and converting the whole mighty nation and empire of Germany into an arsenal virtually on the threshold of mobilisation.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
That is another point, but I entirely agree that if the slightest British financial support is given under present conditions it is absolutely wrong. In the face of that great danger I believe we should do well, by every means in our power, to try to knit up again those connections with the other Powers with which we were associated at Stresa and the other Powers with whom we have been working on the League of Nations at Geneva—to knit up those associations as well as we can and to endeavour to secure a common front as far as possible against infractions of treaties. Let me say that, above all, we ought to take the necessary measures in good time. Face the facts, yes. The facts are that we have to rebuild the fleet with great rapidity. The "escalator clause" should be invoked. Not a day should be lost in getting on, as far as we may, with the freedom we have under present treaties. If we may not build battleships till 1937, it is all the more necessary to bring some of the cruiser construction to the fore in the interval. That step must be taken. An hon. Member opposite spoke about a loan. I am sorry that the Messiah of the New Deal has left, the House for the moment, because I notice that in his programme, which I am giving myself the pleasure of studying, together with the able repartee, there is a proposal for a very large national loan, a very large use of national credit, and I think it very satisfactory at this juncture that the pundits of Liberal financial orthodoxy should be of opinion that no serious damage would be done to our financial structure and no serious violation of the canons of finance would occur if a very large use of the excellent credit we have were put into operation at the present time.
If that be so, there must be a large measure of agreement on the subject—almost national agreement—of the issue of British credit for British need. Let the defence of the country be the first charge on that loan. Let the rebuilding of the fleet and the necessary steps in the other forces be a first charge upon the use of British credit; and let the necessary measures be taken without the slightest delay, or else you will find that, whether you have an agreement or not, whether you reach multilateral unanimity or have to go on in a fortuitous concourse of bilateral agreements 1557 —whatever you may have you will find that the only real security on which you can rely is the secure defence of this country which has not been properly regarded up to the present time.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I do not propose to keep the Committee many minutes, but there are one or two things which I and my friends require to be said. Personally, I have no interest in the controversy between the First Lord and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and I should like to join in the compliment that was paid to the First Lord by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). If you want a case in which you believe made good, I think the right hon. Gentleman would take a lot of beating in making it. The other night when we were discussing policy the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) said that he had never listened to a more depressing Debate, and never felt so depressed as he did towards the end of it. I daresay hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will say that it is in the order of things that a person like myself, holding my views, should have felt depressed that night and should feel depressed this afternoon. I should think every man and woman in the Committee to-night must feel that the condition of the world and the condition of our country are very terrible indeed.
We have got right back to the days before 1914, when everyone had war in their mind. I remember about 2½ years ago the taunt was flung across the Floor to us that we were always thinking in terms of the danger of war, and that by talking about war and preparation for war we were making war inevitable. Today, we have discussed nothing else, and the other night we discussed nothing but preparation for war. When the War ended the people of this country were told that we had won a great victory over German militarism. The German Fleet, or the bulk of it, was at the bottom of Scapa Flow. The Treaty of Versailles had laid it down that Germany was to be disarmed and the whole nation looked forward to a period when that disarmament would be followed by the disarmament of the rest of Europe. Today the challenge has been flung to us, "What would you have done to stop Germany?" That challenge ought not 1558 to have been made to my friends here, but should have been made to those who made the Treaty and led the peoples of the world to believe that German militarism was at an end, and who in the years that followed failed to implement the promises made not only to Germany but to the peoples whose sons and fathers had fallen in the Great War.
The attitude of mind to-day really amazes me—that we can calmly be telling our people that the cost of preparing our defences because of the danger of another war is so tremendously heavy that it must be met, not out of revenue, but by raising a huge loan. That is a confession of abject failure on the part of the Government. They have had four years and I appeal from their own point of view to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who disagree with me about pacifism. How many times have Ministers and hon. Members got up and told us that conferences have been held and that we were on the road towards an agreement which would lead to disarmament? And at the end of these four years we are now confessing that the civilised world must start this, mad race—what Lord Rosebery called "relapsing into barbarism." We are considering it calmly and apparently without any feeling. We are going to hazard the lives of millions of our people. The Government, through the First Lord, tell us that there was nothing else to be done. I join with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping in saying that, able as was the defence of the First Lord, he was not able to give us any reason why this agreement extenuating the breaking of the Versailles Treaty by the Germans should have been made at the very time that, after Stresa, a committee had been appointed with other nations to determine what should be done. Someone said, "Go to war." I do not want to be understood on behalf of my friends as asking that we should go to war, but I think that we might have waited a week or two until that committee, which we assisted to appoint, could have reported and the League itself been called together to consider that report.
To-day proves conclusively that so far as the League of Nations is concerned the Government have given up all faith in the League, all faith in sanctions of any kind, all belief in the validity of that scrap of paper. I am not one of those 1559 who want to charge either the Japanese or the Germans alone with tearing up treaties. Governments do that kind of thing when it suits them, and when it suits them they go to war in defence of them. The Covenant of the League has been torn up by the Germans. The Treaty imposed on her has been wiped out. The Germans left the League of Nations and the Covenant has been in effect torn up by the Government. If that is not so, why was not action taken through the League? It is said we had to make haste; we must move swiftly because the Germans were moving swiftly. Could we not, even now, get the representatives of the nations together, the German representatives as well? She is not a member of the League now, and it may not be possible to bring the matter to the League, but why should we not call the nations' representatives together and ask whether we cannot get a standstill in this matter? The Germans have had to have a standstill, or rather a moratorium, with regard to finance. Why cannot this be done? When you ask us what we would do in present conditions, the first thing we should have done would have been that. We should have called together all the Powers who are interested in this matter, and should have put our proposals for disarmament before them.
I do not believe that the military, naval and air authorities really believe that an agreement for disarmament is a practical proposition. The First Lord says that the Government have tried very hard. I am not going to blame our own Government for all that has been done. They must take their share of the responsibility. The Governments of Europe have failed. We have failed. It is no good the First Lord shaking his head. The
§ Committee, when it divides on our Amendment for the reduction, will register the fact that the Government are admitting the failure of the Disarmament Conference, the failure of the League of Nations, the failure of the Versailles Treaty and the failure of the Great War. The Great War was fought to destroy militarism. The Great War, we were told, was a victory won, and Germany was, as it were, put in her place, no longer a dominant Power but simply one of the Powers of Europe. To-night we are going to register the truth of these things, and I say that that is the most depressing message to send out not only to Britain but to the world. This great country of ours is now sure that we cannot uphold peace without tremendous armaments. The Tory Government, masquerading as the National Government, which won a great victory because we could not afford to maintain the unemployed and treat them decently, are now going to embark, whether by loan or otherwise, on a tremendous expenditure. What for? For the defence of the nation. I say the greatest defence of the nation will be found in following the views of the hon. Member for Lowestoft, a Tory Member of this House, given in this House, and taken no notice of by those who replied on the Debate. No one bothered to answer the speech in which he asked the Government to take steps to call the Nations together to consider, not how to prepare for war on a large or a small scale, but to get rid of the economic causes of war. This Vote, I repeat, is a message of despair to the people of this country, and to the peoples of the world.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,129,900, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 44; Noes, 247.1561
|Division No. 281.]||AYES.||[7.18 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Gibbins, J.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. Clement R.||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)|
|Cape, Thomas||Grundy, Thomas W.||Thorne, William James|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merloneth)||West, F. R.|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Daggar, George||Kirkwood, David||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lawson, John James||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Davies, Stephen Owen||Leonard, William||Wilmot, John|
|Dobbie, William||Lunn, William|
|Edwards, Sir Charles||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Mr. Groves and Mr. D. Graham.|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n)||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Goff, Sir Park||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Gower, Sir Robert||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Albery, Irving James||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Graves, Marlorie||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Greene, William P. C.||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Ramsay T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Grigg, Sir Edward||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Grimston, R. V.||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Baillie, Sir Adrlan W. M.||Gulnness, Thomas L. E. B.||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Balniel, Lord||Hales, Harold K.||Remer, John R.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Harbord, Arthur||Rickards, George William|
|Beit, Sir Alfred L.||Hartington, Marquess of||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Hartland, George A.||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vanslttart||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir Edward|
|Bower, Commander Robert Tatton||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Boyce, H. Leslle||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Hore-Bellsha, Rt. Hon. Leslie||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Horsbrugh, Florence||Salt, Edward W.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. H.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Samuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Burghley, Lord||Jamieson, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Selley, Harry R.|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Shute, Colonel Sir John|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Campbell, Vice-Admlral G. (Burnley)||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Law, Sir Alfred||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Leckie, J. A.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Smithers, Sir Waldron|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Levy, Thomas||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Lewis, Oswald||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Liddall, Walter S.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. Gr'n)||Storey, Samuel|
|Cooper, T. M. (Edinburgh, W.)||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||MacAndrew, Major J. O. (Ayr)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Cross, R. H.||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gt'n, S.)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Maitland, Adam||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Thompson, Sir Luke|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Meller, Sir Richard James (Mitcham)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Dickie, John P.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Wallace, Sir John (Dunfermilne)|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. Anthony||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Moreing, Adrian C.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymg[...]our-|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)||Whiteslde, Borras Noel H.|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Morrison, William Shepherd||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Mulrhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Munro, Patrick||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Withers, Sir John James|
|Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingslay|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzle (Banff)|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Orr Ewing, I. L.|
|Ganzo[...], Sir John||Patrick, Colin M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Pearson, William G.||Sir George Penny and Lieut.-Colonel|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Percy, Lord Eustace||Llewellin.|
|Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C.||Peth[...]rick, M.|
§ Original Question again proposed.1562
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.